Organizers are expecting several thousand tourists and birders from around the world to gather for the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival Friday through April 28.
Held near the end of April each year, the event showcases the natural spectacle that takes place in Grays Harbor County as millions of migrating shorebirds stop to rest and feed in the county’s expansive saltwater mudflats and marshes. Most of the birds make the area a stopover on their flight from South America to Arctic breeding grounds.
The festival features field trips, lectures and a banquet.
Until 3 p.m., the festival Headquarters will be at the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge Office. After that, events will be headquartered at Hoquiam High School.
Among the highlights are guided tours led by bird experts along the Sandpiper Trail. World-renowned digiscoper Clay Taylor, a naturalist market manager at Swarovski Optiks, on Friday will talk about “Team Swarovski’s Texas Birding Challenge” win in 2012. In addition, Taylor, a representative of the Austrian optics company, will discuss “Digiscoping 101,” an extension of how to use an optical telescope with a digital camera.
Fundraiser: A banquet and live auction on Saturday night is an important aspect of the festival. The proceeds from the event are used to fund the next festival and fund an AmeriCorps position at the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge.
Income from the festival also helps fund school education programs and scientific research at the refuge.
Free walks: Free guided walks at the refuge will be offered Friday from 1-3 p.m. and Sunday, April 28, from 2-4 p.m. Join a naturalist and walk along the refuge trail during peak shorebird viewing times. The trail is flat and easy walking, about 2 miles round-trip. Bring binoculars. Meet at the refuge kiosk.
Run or walk: The Shorebird Festival Run/Walk will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event includes a 2-mile run/walk, and a 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer run. You can pre-register at 360-532-5700, Ext. 240. Registration also will be open 9-10 a.m. the day of the run.
About the refuge: Established in 1990 by Congress to protect important shorebird habitat, the refuge encompasses more than 1,500 acres of tidal mudflats, salt marshes and uplands. It is west of Hoquiam off state Route 109. Drivers must turn left on Paulson Road and right on Airport Way. The Sandpiper Trail is open everyday from sunrise-sunset.
Best bird viewing: Many visitors time their visit to coincide with the tides. Many of the bird species will be most visible within two hours of high tide because birds are closer and more concentrated for better viewing. On Friday, the best time will be 12:55-4:55 p.m., 1:45-5:45 p.m. on Saturday and 2:35-6:35 p.m. April 28.
What you might see: Among the birds commonly seen during the spring migration are killdeer, marbled godwit, Western sandpiper, short-billed and long-billed dowitcher, black-bellied plover and greater yellowlegs.
Cost: The guided trips are $15-$45. Some of the lectures are $10. The Friday night presentation is $15.
Information: For festival details, go to shorebirdfestival.com. For information on the refuge, go to fws.gov/refuge/grays_harbor.