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Springtime in Alaska is an ideal time for birdwatchers, thanks to the state’s diversity of habitats, location along migratory routes and widespread wild lands. A variety of festivals offer ways to enjoy these unique opportunities.
The 20th anniversary of the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival will take place May 10-13, and the Kenai Birding Festival takes place a few days later, May 17-20. In Interior Alaska, the Upper Tanana Migratory Bird Festival, now in its 11th year, has become a welcome tradition in Tok, the first major stop for travelers driving to Alaska from the Lower 48 along the Alaska Highway. Constructed during World War II, the Alaska Highway celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2012.
Among the newest in the birding line-up, the second annual Yakutat Tern Festival celebrates one of the largest and southernmost breeding colonies of Aleutian terns, from May 31 to June 3. Yakutat is located in the northern part of the Inside Passage and is a town famed for fishing and — surprisingly enough — surfing. Events during the tern festival include field trips, cultural events, art show and more.
Later in the season, the Tanana Valley Alaska Sandhill Crane Festival will offer generous birding and photography opportunities in Fairbanks. The Aug. 24-26 celebration includes nature walks, crane-calling contest, photography and art workshops, kids’ events and more.