‘Potholes and Prairie’More than 60 birders from around the country have signed on to this year’s Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival to be held in Jamestown June 3-7. In its sixth year, the birding festival is hosted by Birding Drives Dakota. Festival Coordinator Deb Alber said the number is down from last year, but “considering all the bad national publicity about flooding in North Dakota, it’s pretty good.”
By: Toni Pirkl, The Jamestown Sun
More than 60 birders from around the country have signed on to this year’s Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival to be held in Jamestown June 3-7.
In its sixth year, the birding festival is hosted by Birding Drives Dakota. Festival Coordinator Deb Alber said the number is down from last year, but “considering all the bad national publicity about flooding in North Dakota, it’s pretty good.”
Although water is a problem throughout the festival birding area, Paulette Scherr, Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge biologist, said the number of birds, particularly waterfowl and shore birds, is probably higher right now.
“Three of our specialty birds are usually found in wetter habitat,” Scherr said.
As for getting there, the tour guides are well-known among birders in the state and are from the area. They’ll be scouting out the best routes to take to Horsehead Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Chase Lake, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center and birding sites in Kidder County. Arrowwood is also on the tour list, but the refuge is underwater.
“They won’t get to Arrowwood proper, but they can get near it,” Scherr said.
Despite the drawbacks, Alber said the sixth festival is going to be one of the best.
“There will be lots of field trips to birding hotspots, educational seminars and social events,” she said. “We still have room for the local people. It’s an opportunity they shouldn’t miss.”
It’s mostly too late for out-of-state birders to get in on the festival. But, it’s not too late for local and state people. Alber and BDD Board President Ann Hoffert believe this year’s festival is the perfect venue for anyone who’d like to explore birding with expert help. It’s not just an experience focused on intermediate and expert birders.
“There’s a variety of tours and several of them have broad appeal,” Hoffert said.
Bill Thompson III, editor of “Birdwatchers Digest,” and his wife, Julie Zickefoose, artist and naturalist, will be back again. They’ll be heading up specialty and general tours, as well as jamming at the Frontier Village Amphitheater the evening of June 4.
“Bill and Julie are one of the biggest reasons the area is considered a national and international birding destination,” Hoffert said. “They’re also very accomplished musicians so bring your instruments and jam with them. It’s free and open to the public.”
Thompson leads a beginner birding tour called “Bird Watching for Dummies,” named after his book.
Hoffert said that, although she’s been birding most of her life, she took Thompson’s tour last year and found it informative and fun. The tour is Sunday, June 7, and some local youngsters are already registered for it. It starts at 7 a.m., unlike the expert tours for serious birders, which start at 4 a.m.
“It’s a good tour for people who are interested, but not experienced,” Hoffert said. “It’s great for beginners but the tour is a lot of fun and awesome for experienced birders, too. Bill is very entertaining and knowledgeable.”
Another Thompson tour is called the “Big Day” and the object is to see as many species as possible. It’s an opportunity to take a fast-moving trip through the area, scoping out birds with binoculars. It, too, starts at 7 a.m.
“He’s hoping to see over 100 species,” Alber said. “If you’re impatient, that’s the tour for you. If you’re not, one of the slower-paced tours might be better.”
Sharon Stiteler writes Birdchick.com, considered one of the most popular birding blogs on the Internet. Her specialty is digiscoping, which is taking pictures by attaching digital cameras to spotting scopes or binoculars. She’ll be teaching a seminar on using a digital camera and binoculars to get photos of birds as well as leading a digiscoping tour. She’ll also be teaching birding by ear.
For anyone local who’s interested in the festival or even one or two tours or seminars, the cost can be half price to attend. Just become a member of Birding Drives Dakota for $25. Call the toll free number at 1-888-921-2473 or go online to www.birding drives.com for more information.
“There’s something for every age and level in the festival,” Alber said.
The festival is not all about getting up in the middle of the night to view birds. There’s a full slate of social events as well. There’s a social along with registration Wednesday, June 3, at the Holiday Inn Express. Thursday, June 4, is a buffalo dinner at the National Buffalo Museum followed by the amphitheater jam session. A wine tasting social at the Arts Center is Friday, June 5, and the birders banquet is at the Reiland Fine Arts Center. The festival ends Sunday with an ice cream social at Lakeview Meadow Resort.
The banquet features a portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt to add a history experience to the evening.
“We’d like to see more local participation. The people who come here want to learn about North Dakota as well as go birding,” Hoffert said.
Sun reporter Toni Pirkl can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org