Birding organization gaining recognitionBirding in the prairie pothole region of the state, with its hundreds of different species, continues to gain recognition nationally and internationally, said Birding Drives Dakota Board President Ann Hoffert, which means an increasing number of birders are finding their way to the area.
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
Birding in the prairie pothole region of the state, with its hundreds of different species, continues to gain recognition nationally and internationally, said Birding Drives Dakota Board President Ann Hoffert, which means an increasing number of birders are finding their way to the area.
It was more than seven years ago that area birding enthusiasts began touting the bird watching opportunities in the region. The group organized Birding Drives Dakota and its first birding festival to showcase those opportunities. Because the birding area of the coteau region is so large and includes several area wildlife refuges, the group opted to design a map of birding drives rather than walks and trails. Since then the BDD booklet has gone out to thousands of people.
“This is a natural resource in the region,” Hoffert said. “It’s attracting attention from all over the world.”
About a year and a half ago, birding in the coteau region of Stutsman, Foster and Kidder counties was included in the book “Fifty Places to go Birding Before You Die” throughout the world. Around the same time the prairie pothole region was listed in “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” (in the United States and Canada). It was described as “one of the nation’s great birding destinations.”
“BDD has been established as an international destination for birding,” Hoffert said.
The latest piece on Birding Drives Dakota is in the June issue of Audubon magazine. Its field guide to birding trails in the Midwest describes the drives as “some of the most beautiful and bird-rich prairies and marshes anywhere.” The magazine has a circulation of 1.67 million readers.
“It will have a significant effect on nature tourism in this area,” Hoffert said. “The magazine has a huge readership that’s already increasing interest in the drives.”
The issue came out too late to add to the numbers attending the upcoming Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival. The festival is slated for June 3-7. However, the festival is really just the springboard for drawing more birders to the area. It’s an opportunity to showcase all the region has to offer.
“The festival has less effect than the birding drives,” Hoffert said. “The drives are there all year round and that’s what interests birders.”
From its first year, the Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival has been championed by Bill Thompson III, editor of the magazine “Birdwatchers Digest,” and his wife, nature writer Julie Zickefoose. It’s that relationship, Hoffert said, that has brought the coteau region so much highly deserved publicity. And the couple has been back for the festival every year.
“They’re very well known in national and international birding circles and go to hundreds of festivals each year,” Hoffert said. “The attention started after they were here for the first festival. Because of them other top birders have been here.”
Deb Alber, the festival coordinator, said about 300 Birding Drives Dakota booklets a month go out through state tourism. Because BDD operates on a shoestring budget the number is limited. Alber said, “We can’t afford to pay for more.” However, she said, it is a strong indication of the growing interest among birders in the coteau region, home to nearly 400 species of birds.
BDD has received a grant to build two kiosks, one at Frontier Village in Jamestown and one in Carrington. They’ll be going up later this summer. Eventually, Hoffert said BDD would like to sign the drives to help birders find their way. But for now the kiosks are the next step.
“A kiosk is a great addition to the village, with the large number of birders we experience and expect to experience here,” said Nina Sneider, director of Buffalo City Tourism.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at email@example.com