Amy K. Hooper
With many bird species moving south to find more food sources, North American birders have the chance to see a larger variety and/or number of birds near and far. Fall migration begins in August for some species —after the young born in previous months have become independent and after all the birds have eaten enough food to store fat as fuel for long journeys. While some species fly only as far as the southern United States, others fly over or around the Gulf of Mexico to reach Central and South America.
During September, October and even November, many birders visit locations that host migrating or winter-resident birds. Birding festivals can make it easier to find and see unfamiliar species. Even birders who prefer to go into the field alone or who typically watch birds from their patios can enjoy these gatherings of like-minded folks intent on seeing as much as possible.
Some festivals last one day, while others last four or more days. Some events take place in just one locations, and some involve multiple sites that draw different species.
Many festivals charge a registration fee as well as a fee per field trip to off-site locations. Some do not. It’s up to each birder to carefully read details found in a brochure or on a website before the event.
Some field trips involve an early-morning start on a chartered bus filled with birders. Others have a leisurely schedule and move from site to site in a van. Again, each birder needs to read details about each field trip to find the ones that suit their comfort levels and might yield their desired species.
Aside from multiple chances to see an incredible variety of birds in unfamiliar sites, what can a festival-goer gain from the event? The pleasure of meeting birders who share your passion and the joy of learning more details about the birds that hold your attention. Many festivals include social events, workshops, presentations and keynote speeches, so you can expand your activities as far as your energy level — and your wallet — allow.
Depending on where you live, you might have time to make travel plans for these September, October and November birding festivals. Then get ready to have fun!