The annual Kachemak Shorebird Festival in Alaska features a unique bird-calling competition that attracts visitors of all ages.
Have you ever heard of a bird-calling competition before? If not, you will be surprised to know that a bird-calling competition is organized each year as part of the annual Kachemak Shorebird Festival in Alaska, according to Alaska Public Media. The festival, however, has four days of guided tours, presentations and family activities for birding enthusiasts. Reportedly, the competition has visitors of all age groups showcasing bird calls of various kinds - some beautiful, some mysterious and some wacky.
During the competition this year five-year-old Cassidy Allmendinger, the first contestant in Homer's annual bird-calling competition, walked to the mic on a makeshift-outdoor stage and said, “First I will be doing the sandhill crane. Coooh coooh coooh." She shared that she learned it from her grandmother. Many Homerites are familiar with this call as gold and grey cranes return to mate on the shores of the Kachemak Bay. There was a huge crowd outside the Homer Brewing Company and they all cheered for each contestant. Many of them returned from kayak trips and birding workshops as part of the Shorebird Festival.
Another contestant Marina Steffany, 17, made a familiar yet distinct call of a seagull. Other bird calls included a golden-crowned sparrow and an impression of European starling. A contestant named Mr. Oystercatcher, wore red leggings and black feather boa, with a bright orange beak glued to a hat. “I didn’t plan to participate, but when you show up as a bird, people are going to have expectations. So here’s my best oyster catcher impression…Chee chee chee chee!” He added, "I hope there are points for flair." The bird-calling competition had contestants of all age groups. Some had bird-themed T-shirts and binoculars around their necks.
Four judges were seated in the front and were decked out in bright feather boas. After a lot of discussion, the judges announced the winners. The top prize was taken by Penny Gage of Anchorage, who made the eagle call. One of the judges was Cindy's mom, a bird guide and owner of Seldovia Nature Tours. “Like, everybody has a star! Look at how many we circled!” Mom said. “Yeah, it was all so good, we were like how are we going to do this?”
Steffy, who made the seagull impression, also won a prize. “I did the gray jay, I did a raven, and then I did the seagull, which is a pretty easy one. And then I did a magpie,” she said. She shared that she grew up birding on her grandparent's property in Kenai. It was the first time she participated and wanted to learn more sounds and then participate again. “I’m into a lot of birds,” Steffy said. “Because I had chickens growing up, and I have a turkey right now. But I love birds, like the robins and the chickadees, I even rescue birds now and then.”
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Many participants had ties and were runner-ups. The judges gave them specialty chocolates, bird T-shirts, and gift certificates. The rains started pouring towards the end of the competition and people dispersed for other festival events or went home as they had birds to see the next day early morning.