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Birders Flock To San Diego For 20th Annual Bird Festival

Snowy Egret flies over Santee Lakes, 2012.
Milan Kovacevic
Snowy Egret flies over Santee Lakes, 2012.

Birders Flock To San Diego For 20th Annual Bird Festival
Birders Flock To San Diego For 20th Annual Bird Festival GUESTS: Jeffrey Gordon, president, American Birding Association Jen Hajj, festival coordinator, San Diego Audubon Society

This is KPBS Midday Edition and I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Whether or not you can tell a Siegel from a songbird there are plenty of reasons to look forward to the 20th annual Bird Festival starting this week in San Diego. For one, our region has one of the most diverse diverse populations in the Western Hemisphere and the festival brings an added birders from all over the country. Or another, the Audubon Society is a leader in working to preserve the environment and national habitat in San Diego. And then there's the opportunity to learn while burning -- to learn why birding is a top activity in the United States. Joining me is Jeffrey Gordon president of the American Birding Association. Jen Jajj is the festival coordinator San Diego Audubon Society. What is a rockstar birder? I guess it's a big fish in a small pond with a guitar. [ Laughter ] It's funny, I certainly would help anyone who is using a term like rockstar birder has there tongue pretty firmly in cheek. We do have people, for example right in San Diego County there is Favre Carlson who in 2013 saw more birds in San Diego County than anyone has ever seen in a year in any county in the American birding Association area. That the rocks are right there. Jeffrey got this region as you pointed out, is apparently a really important region for birdwatching. Can you tell us a little about that? Yes there is pretty simple -- yes. Is a pretty simple equation. Biodiversity which includes the number species of birds will go up as you get closer to the equator. And then the coasts are very important as well. And you might as well throw in the mountains. And what sounds, from a US Canadian perspective what sounds like close to the equator, not as an ocean, San Diego County. It is really to use a cliché a perfect storm of great birding conditions coming together. And there's a fantastic community there in San Diego County that really find interesting birds, on top of things, communicate about it and work like San Diego Audubon to conserve those birds. It's just a paradise for birding. Jen, there were approximately 220 different species of bird identified in the annual count last December. Are there types of birds here in this region that are difficult to find in other areas of the country? Yes. Many people come to our Bird Festival precisely to see some of the California coastal scrub birds like the California Nat Katcher, and these birds may seem somewhat common to someone living here. But the sullenly outside California, it is like the golden bird. [ Laughter ] Some endangered birds, Jen, live in the Mission Bay wetlands, with the San Diego Audubon society is working to restore. What is the state of the wetlands Bucs We have the re-wild program, I am not the professional and that because I managed the festival, however, we are very active in working towards making the habitat therefore hospitable for the species that use that area and need that area in order to survive That's what I was mentioning. Is the kind of connection for not into birdwatching can use to think about this Bird Festival as an important thing to San Diego, because the Audubon society is very active projects like that which benefit everybody. Very much so. Now Jeffrey, for people who are unfamiliar with birdwatching, what does it mean to go birding? What do you do? Well, I think, really, one of the crazy things about it but one of the great things about it, it is very hard to define your -- is hard to define. You might be talking about going for a walk on your block, you might be talking about hiking, you might be talking about climbing BirdingMount Everest. Burning is kind of similar -- is kind of similar and one of the fantastic things for people in your area, it's like interesting -- it's like getting people interested in art or fashion and you live in Paris, it's easy to just get out and go to your local park, look for people who are out and maybe they have binoculars. Say hello and asked them. You can go online. You can go to ABA.org and this week you can go to the festival, they have a special day for locals to come down and get introduced. What are some of the popular birding sites in San Diego? There are many. There is the ants Abrego desert and it has a wide array of brick -- -- there is the desert in San Diego that has a white array of birds we have the lagoons all along the coastline that had amazing birdlife. Usually any species of text can be seen there. More than just the Mallard that you know from your pond near your house. They are very interesting beautiful birds. The family who -- La Jolla is a beautiful place to see birds. They are right there on the rocky cliffs and you can see several different kinds of birds, Brown pelicans, seagulls, and you can see some of the birds who spend so their life out at sea. You can see them relatively well from the rocky cliffs at La Jolla. No wonder it is called a bird of paradise. It really is. Jeffrey I understand you're trying to get young people involved in birdwatching. In this age of social media and video games, is it hard to get kids to be curious about birds and going out into nature. I would say that for young birders the social media age has been a huge boom forgetting his interested because when I was a kid birder back in the late 70s, there was a -- it was a long-distance phone call where the bane of my parents existence and the ability our young birders have to connect with each other, and share information and offer each other crashes -- coach -- couches to crash on[ Laughter ] . That sort of thing. Wheres and friendships that start like at our young birder camps turn into these lifelong associations and professional support groups. It is amazing. I think for birding, social media, I won't say it's 100% plus, but it has been very good. That is interesting. Jen, what kind of events can people expect at the 20th annual per Festival this week? We have a number of different events. We have about 80 different events planned throughout the week the first event start on Wednesday with a mixture -- a mixer and a program about how cranes learn how to dance. The social behaviors of cranes seen by a couple who had cranes nothing in their yard in Alaska. Thursday through Sunday we have field trips going out every morning from about 5:30 AM until about 930 from about 5:30 AM until about 9:30 AM all of those are preregistered but we still have space. So if anyone wants to join us, they should check out what we have on our website. And then Sunday is the big day. That is our family day for everything is free. And we have many events coming on from 10 AM until 3 PM in the afternoon at Marina Village. It is craft projects, you can build a birdhouse, you can learn things from local organizations that are there. We have Libra demonstration and we will have entertainment like the famous bird calling lady who knows more bird calls in anybody on earth. Like that and also hullabaloo band will be playing. It will be fun for all ages, adults will enjoy it as well. We have exhibitors from many of the optics companies and birding business showing binoculars, spotting scopes, special vests that you can wear on the field. Do you need that stuff? I mean, if you're not used to going out and birding, is there kind of an outfit that you should wear? [ Laughter ] A birder uniform. We see a lot of people in floppy hats. All you really need are good optics so you can see distant objects. Binoculars really make a difference. When I first started birding, I didn't have good optics. I was with people who had very good optics. And they were showing me things and saying look at that isn't that cool. And I had to admit that I could not see it. Go binoculars are very important. And Jeffrey, do you see a festival like this is something for people who just like words? They don't necessarily keep a log of them or they are not necessarily head over heels about being a birder, but just an opportunity for people to exercise and maybe learn a bit more about birds? Absolutely. Just like I see people get more and more aware of things like where their food comes from, or maybe they aren't of microbrews, or wine, kayaking or mountain biking, I see more and more of what I call part-time birders people who are knowledgeable and into it, birds are thing for them. But is not that stereotype, as Jen mentioned, the floppy hat wearing vest sporting crew. We love them. That is part of our core audience. But there really are a lot more people who just talk about birds the way that folks have traditionally talked about sports or movies. I think that's a wonderful thing. This seat fate and Samper festival sponsored by the San Diego Audubon Society runs Thursday through Sunday and I have been speaking with Jeffrey Gordon president of the American birding Association and Jen Hajj a coordinator for the festival. Thank you both very much. We look forward to seeing you birding you in San Diego. Thank you very much. Be sure to watch KPBS Midday Edition at 5 PM and again at 6:30 PM. Join us again tomorrow for KPBS Midday Edition annual, and if your do miss the show, you can check out the Midday Edition podcast@KPBS.org/podcast. I am Maureen Cavanaugh and thank you for listening. [ Music ]

People from all over the globe visit San Diego for the weather, the beaches, the craft beer and the birding scene. The county has one of the most diverse bird populations in the country.

The San Diego Audubon Society will celebrate local bird habitats this week at the 20th Annual Bird Festival. The festival features trips to popular birding sites, speakers and workshops.

20th Annual Bird Festival

When: March 3-6

Where: Marina Village Conference Center, Mission Bay Park

Cost: $10 Registration Fee

Jeffrey Gordon, president of the American Birding Association, is headlining the event. Gordon and Jen Hajj, festival coordinator for the San Diego Audubon Society, discuss the role birds play in the region's ecosystems Tuesday on Midday Edition.