May and early June are like Christmas for Southcentral birders. There's one festival or another every week at some of Alaska's most productive viewing locales as millions of migrants make their way back to Alaska to chow down and expand their families. Dust off those spotting scopes and binoculars.
Among the highlights:
• Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival: "This is where you go for avian tonnage," organizers say. Guests include keynote speaker Amy Gulick, a nature writer and photographer. Also on hand, shorebird biologist Samantha Franks and a presentation of the Alaska Hummingbird Project by Kate McLaughlin. Major Marine Tours is offering a special birding boat trip across Prince William Sound from Whittier to Cordova. May 5-8.
• Campbell Creek in Anchorage: Tuesday morning bird walks with Bureau of Land Management or Anchorage Audubon staffers to witness the songbird migration through Campbell Tract. 6:30-8:30 a.m. May 5, 12, 19, 26 in Campbell Creek Science Center parking lot. Info: 267-1241.
• Goose Bay marshes: Dan Crowson will lead a hike into the Knik Arm marshes. May 8.
• Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival: Typically Alaska's largest birding festival, as birders flock to Homer for the weekend. There are field trips, seminars and several speakers, including Kevin Karlson and Dale Rosselet. www.kachemakshorebird.org. May 12-15
• Kenai Peninsula Birding Festival: In addition to its signature Kenai River birding float trip, there's a 24-hour Midnight Sun Big Sit and the popular Kenai River Viewing Platform. Keynote speaker Lynn Barber, the author of "Extreme Birder: One Woman's Big Year" broke the Texas big year record with 522 species. She is doing an Alaska Big Year now. May 19-22.
• Spring Pro-Am Birding Tourney at Westchester Lagoon: Experienced Anchorage Audubon birders will team with rookies for a 30-minute contest to find the most species on Westchester Lagoon. Bring a dish to share, binoculars and birding tales. 6 p.m. May 26.
• Yakutat Tern Festival: Alaska's newest birding festival celebrates one of the largest and southernmost breeding colonies of Aleutian terns on the Situk River Flats. Worldwide, the population of the Aleutian tern — which has a limited range throughout Alaska and eastern Siberia — is believed to be declining. June 2-5.
• Potter Marsh-A-Thon Birding Smackdown: How many species can you pick out from roads and trails in the Potter Marsh area from 8 a.m.-noon. Teams of two to six people must remain within voice or sight contact and fit into one vehicle. Organizers dub this "the anti-social event of the ornithological season. If another team won't tell you where they just saw a pectoral sandpiper, you are totally allowed to use 'enhanced interrogation techniques.' This is not your mother's birding contest." $20 per team. June 11.