Alaska is something of a birder’s paradise, and the Kenai Peninsula town of Homer embraces birders of all ages and abilities wholeheartedly during the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, held every year in early May. This year’s festival was a special one for us, as we got to host keynote speaker Eli Knapp and his family in one of our travel vans! The Houghton College professor and author of The Delightful Horror of Family Birding spent a week in one of our vans before the festival, exploring Alaska and spotting birds and wildlife of all kinds.
Follow along on a few of their adventures in birding:
Whether it’s hosting a festival or not, Homer offers birders and campers great opportunities to spot shorebirds, birds of prey, songbirds and more. The Homer Spit extends 4 miles into Kachemak Bay and features shops, art galleries, restaurants and campgrounds. Water taxis based at the end of the Spit will take you out on the water to search for shorebirds and pelagic species (including puffins and kittiwakes), and if hiking is your thing, they’ll get you out to Kachemak Bay State Park, which offers some of the best hiking in the state.
Alaska features some 500 species of birds, including seabirds, shorebirds and birds of prey. Many are migratory, which is part of why the shorebird festival has become so popular in recent years: The birds are only here for a short time, so getting out to spot them before they move on is paramount. All across Alaska, but especially the coastal areas, it’s possible to spot trumpeter swans, snow geese, king eiders, harlequins, red-necked grebes, black oystercatchers, black-legged kittiwakes, and the ever-popular horned and tufted puffins during the spring and summer months. (Pro tip: Homer features some of the best bald eagle spotting on the Peninsula, too!)
And a campervan is, of course, the perfect way to travel around Alaska if you are a birder. You can plan your itinerary so that you will always be near the locations where birds are commonly sighted, and you also have the freedom to go where the recent sightings are (check out this map to see what’s been spotted where). Campgrounds are more likely to be near bird habitats than hotels or vacation rentals, and when you’re always outdoors and actively watching, you’ll never miss a sighting.
Traveling in a campervan gives you endless opportunity for bird spotting. Families that enjoy birding—and even families that don’t!—can have a great camping adventure exploring areas where Alaska birds and other wildlife are commonly found. Just ask the Knapp family, who saw plenty of shorebirds, and also a few moose!
By camping in a van and practicing leave no trace principles, you’re helping those species you’re here to see survive and thrive. And when you follow good camping etiquette you’re creating a healthy and safe environment for wildlife and fellow campers, and isn’t that why you’re here? Making sure you respect and care for the land and wildlife during your stay is an important responsibility for every camper, and will keep those bird species returning year after year.
Get ready to enjoy Alaska’s wildlife. Here’s to an amazing summer of birding!