New and seasoned birders are on their way to the West Coast this weekend to experience the Tofino Shorebird Festival. (Photo - Mark Sawyer)

New and seasoned birders are on their way to the West Coast this weekend to experience the Tofino Shorebird Festival. (Photo - Mark Sawyer)

Birders flock to Tofino for Shorebird Festival

“It’s a wildlife spectacle.”

If you’re peckish for amazement, swoop into Tofino this weekend.

Hundreds of thousands of colourful creatures are migrating from their feeding grounds in South America to their breeding grounds in the Arctic, stopping on the West Coast to rest up and refuel before continuing their journey.

The Raincoast Education Society is ready to help introduce West Coast residents and visitors to the myriad of tiny celebrities at the 22nd annual Tofino Shorebird Festival from May 3-5. A full schedule of events can be found at raincoasteducation.org.

“It’s a wildlife spectacle and it’s a great opportunity to highlight the importance of this habitat for the birds and also educate people about these amazing creatures,” RES’ executive director Mark Maftei told the Westerly News.

The festival is timed to coincide with the migration’s peak and festivities include lectures, workshops, boat trips and hikes designed to delight and educate festival-goers.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of different activities for birders of all levels and people of all ages to get them out, get them engaged, get them interested and get them excited,” he said. “In this day in age, I think, people can sometimes feel that there’s all this doom and gloom about the environment…And, while those concerns are valid, it’s also important to put a positive spin on things and to get people excited about seeing nature in all its glory. Getting people out in a place like Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island to see these beautiful shorebirds offers this inspiring vision of the type of healthy ecosystem that we want to ensure continues for us, for our kids and for our kids’ kids. And, it’s a template of what we should be aiming for everywhere else.”

He said roughly 500,000 shorebirds of around 30 different species travel through the West Coast every spring and fall and the festival helps capture the inspiration of their impressive migration.

“What we’re trying to do with the festival is to introduce people to this world, to these animals and to their stories. There’s this incredible migration that these species undertake and our hope is that people will be inspired by that,” he said. “Once they learn that story and once they learn about those characters then they’re just going to become more interested and that interest is going to lead them in whatever direction it will…For us this is about opening the doors to this fascinating world and inviting people in to celebrate it and to learn more about it.”

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andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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