Shorebirds- large flocks of them in graceful formation just flu low over our skiff and all around us as we left the harbor with a load of supplies going home to the island. What a treat to be surrounded by their amazing presence and beauty! They are mostly smallish brown birds, sometimes hard to tell apart, but many have magnificent breeding plumage this time of the year, and they arrive in Kachemak Bay by the thousands within days, twenty or more different species of them. I have always been most impressed with the journey of the Pacific Golden Plowers, who cannot swim – yet fly 3000 miles non-stop from Hawaii to breed in the Alaskan tundra. In May Homer becomes a Mecca for over 200 bird species and a world-renowned destination for Birders.
I remember the first Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival held in 1993, a small grassroots event with a big dream of education about habitat, migration and introducing Homer as a serious destination for bird watchers from around the world. Two years later I found myself coordinating the shorebird festival and, as it grew into an internationally recognized annual event, it became my focus and passion for ten years of migration excitement, working with many wonderful people, including some of the greatest birding experts in the world, and witnessing the dedication of Kachemak Bay as part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.
The mudflats at the head of the Homer Spit are one of the key staging areas for shorebirds. The disappearance of this habitat can be life threatening to them. They heavily rely on the rich and plentiful food they pick out of the mud with their long beaks. On their migration route to the breeding grounds, these staging areas are often hundreds of miles apart and the shorebirds’ fascinating GPS like senses let them find the critical (diminishing) feeding stops year after year.
The variety and diversity of birds around Kachemak Bay is truly marvelous. I now live across the Bay among eagles, king fishers, marbled murrelets, three-toed woodpeckers, hummingbirds, just to name a few of our feathered neighbors. Every day is a celebration of life, watching these ancient descendants of the dinosaurs, that come in so many sizes, colors, and specialized niches they found to survive in their habitat.
What can we do – each of us, to help these magnificent birds succeed, as they face the ongoing threat of diminishing habitat?