First Brant Festival brings several hundred birders
Amid cloudy skies and falling rain, about 500 birders ventured to Blaine and Birch Bay to attend the first ever Brant Festival last weekend.
Several birding areas were set up at locations along Marine Drive in Blaine, Semiahmoo spit and Birch Bay State Park. The stations were contained under a tent and manned by volunteers and there were scopes available for public use. The most popular stations, however, were located in Birch Bay, where the Brant seemed to be.
�They�re (Brant) over here now. I was looking over in Drayton Harbor for them and there are a few, but most of them are located right here,� said birder Sam Stanton, pointing his binoculars in their direction. �They sure are beautiful birds.�
Some birders were in search of other birds, however. Stephanie Hammond, a birder from Vancouver, came down on Saturday to view the birds. �Well, I�m not really here for the Brant, I�m here to see the other birds. I have read that there have been a lot of loons around here, so I wanted to see them.� Hammond, an avid birder in British Columbia, heard about the Brant Festival from the Brant Foundation�s website, www.washingtonbrant.org. �They have one (festival) in B.C., and I�ve been to that one. So I thought I�d come down here as well.�
She also commented on the areas being designated as important birding areas. �It�s nice to see that places in your backyard are being listed as special places,� she said. �I know I will be here more often. It�s so close, there is gorgeous landscape and it�s just across the border.�
Other birders had come from the Seattle and Olympia area. Gerard Cooper, of Redmond, saw an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last month regarding the upcoming festival and the amount of birding activity in Blaine and Birch Bay. �I marked it on my calendar right away. I go out to the Olympic Peninsula and Mount Ranier areas quite a bit looking for certain birds, eagles and hawks specifically, but I really have never thought about looking for brant,� he said. �So to view brant was one reason for me coming here, and also, look at the area, it�s beautiful.�
Event organizers were happy with the festival�s first-year activity, however they did say numbers were lower than expected, and perhaps the rainy weather and short notice were factors.
The rain, Cooper stated, would not be a deterrent for him. �If you�re serious about birding, then raindrops shouldn�t bother you,� he said. �We live in Washington. It always rains here.�
Joe Meche, a volunteer at the Brant Festival, and member of the North Cascades Audubon Society, said the festival went well, considering the short preparation time and weather.
�I think it went as well as it could have, considering the relatively short amount of time we had to work on our respective roles,� he said. �Keep in mind, this was a first-time effort.�
Plans are already under way for next year�s festival, which will be called the Blaine-Birch Bay Brant Festival. The local birding committee, comprised of business owners, residents, city officials and bird experts will be meeting next week to discuss the outcome of the festival.
�I think the new name will help place the festival geographically, and make it easier for people,� Meche said.
As for economic impacts, several businesses stayed open for the weekend, and much of the business stayed where the Brant were, in Birch Bay.
Business along Birch Bay Drive reported great business over the weekend, despite the rain, but Blaine businesses said there was no difference in business, perhaps worse.