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Festival of the Birds Coming May 5 thru 7, 2017

By dgross March 10, 2017

Festival of the Birds at Presque Isle

The Festival of the Birds is timed to showcase the peak of songbird migration through Presque Isle State Park in Erie. This event is timed well with spring songbird migration on May 5, 6, and 7, 2017. The event offers desirable migrant species without large crowds of spectators. This year’s keynote speaker is Scott Weidensaul. Every full-weekend registrant will receive a copy of Weidensaul’s book, Return To Wild America. The festival offers field trips, workshops, dinner, and Weidensaul’s keynote address: The Story of Project SNOWstorm, a venture that uses cutting-edge tracking technology to study Snowy Owls. Many Pennsylvanians have been involved with the Snowy Owl project, which is based at the Ned Smith Center and involves many ornithologists and organizations on a continental scale. Although rare winter visitors, Snowy Owls visit Presque Isle as often as any place in the state. This is an intimate festival limited to 150 attendees. The park offers multiple and distinct habitats, all hosting a wide assortment of avian life. It is certainly one of the best birding spots in the state, offering a bit of the Lake Erie shore, wetlands, woods, and scrub. You never know what you will see at Presque Isle! Register and pay online for the festival. Details about the schedule and leaders as well as registration information can be found at

Pennsylvania native Scott Weidensaul is well known for writing excellent books and articles for numerous magazines including Audubon. A few of his books to whet your whistle are: Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; The Ghost with Trembling Wings, about the search for species that may or may not be extinct; and Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding. His latest birding book is the Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean, which was published in 2015. In addition to writing about wildlife, Weidensaul is an active field researcher whose work focuses on bird migration. He is a co-director of Project Owlnet, a collaborative effort among nearly 125 banding and research stations across North America studying owl migration, and is a co-founder of Project SNOWstorm, which uses cutting-edge tracking technology to study snowy owls. Scott recently was awarded by the American Birding Association for his contributions to American birding. See more about Scott at

Scott Weidensaul, a nature author from Schuylkill County, handles a barred owl at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Albany Township. 2/11/03 Photo by Bill Uhrich

All of this news about Scott should be very intriguing to the state’s birders because of their support for saw-whet owl projects including “Project Toot Route,” a survey of breeding saw-whet owls, the 2nd Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas that documented owls, and the several saw-whet owl banding stations across the state. Many people have been introduced to the magical charisma of saw-whet owls through the Project Owlnet banding sites. And, interest in Snowy Owls has risen lately due to the recent visit of a Snowy to a remote farm in Bradford County and occasional but regular sightings through the years at Presque Isle.

Return to Wild America by Scott Weidensaul

Festival field trips at Presque Isle State Park include the following:
Dead Pond Trail
Fry’s Landing
Gull Point
Long Pond Trail
Pine Tree Trail
Sidewalk Trail
Bird Banding Station at Niagara Boat Launch
Bird Banding Station at Fry’s Landing
Pontoon Boat Birding in the Lagoons
Pontoon Boat Birding in the Bay / Gull Point Hawk Watch

Birding by pontoon boat at Presque Isle

Workshops that will be offered include the following:
Birding for Beginners
Waterfowl identification
Creating stopover habitats
Bird Identification
Shorebird Identification
Bird Photography

Birders on Presque Isle field trip

Some of the field trip leaders and presenters:
Shawn Collins
Julie Dell
Bonnie Ginader
Mark Lethaby
Drew Mortensen
Sarah Sargent
Susan A. Smith
Donald Snyder
Sam Stull
John Tautin
Shannon Thompson

Birders and photographers concentrating on their targets at Presque Isle State Park.

Be sure to bring comfortable shoes or boots for walking and any birding gear you desire. The average high temperature in Erie in May is 56 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures at Presque Isle are often lower than on the mainland. Be prepared for cold & damp, rainy weather. Presque Isle is home to deer ticks so you may want to bring insect repellent and plan to tuck your pants into your socks when using the trails on the park.

And, bring along a big bag of curiosity and good cheer to this remarkable birding event!

Presque Isle Audubon Society and Doug Gross, Pennsylvania Game Commission

Friendly birding at Presque Isle State Park.