Six Fabulous Festivals for Bird Watching

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Fall is the perfect season for bird watching. Whether this is your first birding experience or you’re a professional ornithologist, experiencing a festival at one of your National Wildlife Refuges or other federal lands during fall migration presents the opportunity to witness one of nature’s wonders and learn more about birds. With migration reaching its peak in the coming weeks, we’re providing our recommendation for six incredible festivals to take in the show!

Birdfest and Bluegrass Celebration (October 2, 2021)WASHINGTON

Cooper's hawk taking flight from a tree branch at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Duane Hymas, Share the Experience)

The Annual Birdfest and Bluegrass Celebration brings attention to the migration of the Sandhill Crane to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This event was 100 percent virtual in 2020, and this year the event will still mostly be online, with some in-person in-town events, including vendors and music in Downtown Ridgefield, and a self-guided Refuge hike.  Keep in mind that a visit to the Refuge is free!John L. Borom Alabama Coastal Birdfest (October 6 – 9, 2021)ALABAMA

White Ibis
iStock Photo

Birders and nature lovers from across the United States and Canada flock to south Alabama every year to experience one of the prime birdwatching opportunities on the Gulf Coast during fall migration. Registration for the 17th Annual John L. Borom Alabama Coastal Birdfest, a premier event centered around birds, is now open!

The four-day event also includes workshops on subjects such as hummingbirds, the basics of birding, monarch butterflies, and this year for the first time, a workshop on how to choose and plan national or international birding trip. Plus, you can enjoy a family-friendly Bird and Conservation Expo on the campus of Coastal Alabama Community College.Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival (November 10-14, 2021)TEXAS

A Cooper's Hawk at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (Steve Sinclair, Share the Experience)

Located in and around Harlingen, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival includes field trip destinations to Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges. The Festival will offer over 120 field trips for the five days, keynote speakers, afternoon presentations, a rousing trade show (called Birders Bazaar), a whopping silent auction, a souvenir booth, and the fabulous art and photographs from local students. Look for the great kiskadee, green jay, Altamira oriole and plain chachalaca.Crane Fiesta (November 18 – 20, 2021)NEW MEXICO

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Two sandhill cranes on a field
iStock Photo

Bosque del Apache Refuge National Wildlife Reserve, located about an hour south of Alberquerque, is the winter home for thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese. The annual Crane Fiesta celebrates this migration and welcomes all nature lovers to learn more about these majestic creatures. This year’s virtual event offers a mix of programming, such as the Expo Tent, photography and birding webinars, along with the popular Wildlife Zone.Chincoteague Waterfowl Weekend (November 25-28, 2021)VIRGINIA

Two dueling egrets face off on a branch on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (Yatt Ng, Share the Experience)

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge will offer guided walks, tours and other special events to mark the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge. Some tours will be in areas normally closed to the public. The refuge provides habitat for greater snow geese and many other migratory birds. The refuge is on the Virginia end of Assateague Island and includes more than 14,000 acres (5,666 hectares) of beach, dunes, marsh and maritime forest.Ding Darling Day (Rescheduled for April 24, 2022)FLORIDA

White ibis perched against a bright blue sky at J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Ann Hubard, Share the Experience)

Save the date for the 33rd annual “Ding” Darling Day. Enjoy a week of fun-filled and informative programs, bird walks, tours, biking opportunities, and family activities at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel. Look for Anhingas and try to spot the refuge’s BIG 5 bird species during your visit. 

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