Southeast Alaska boasts the highest density of Marbled Murrelets and Bald Eagles in the world. Tens of thousands of shorebirds migrate through on their way to the Arctic. Many Arctic-nesting species move south to spend the winter in the protected waters. With more than 350 species observed throughout Southeast Alaska, it can be an exciting birding destination for those who know where to look.
So where are the best places to view birds? And what is the best time of year to go? Audubon Alaska has just started a project to create a birding trail for Southeast Alaska. Similar to birding trails in other states, this will be a virtual trail connecting the best birding locations in the region.
As is often true of Alaska, creating a birding trail here presents challenges unique to our state. The first challenge will be choosing a set of sites among the countless places that birds congregate. Second, due to the disconnected island landscape, birders will travel to sites through a combination of air, ferry, and road access. Third, many of the region’s small communities do not have the services needed to support large numbers of ecotourists; sites will need to be within communities with adequate interest and infrastructure, or those that wish to increase their visitorship.
The Southeast Alaska Birding Trail project has two phases. During the first year, Phase 1 will be to design the trail concept. That includes working with partners to identify good birding sites, and assessing access and services for those sites. In the second year, Phase 2 will focus on engagement. We will involve community leaders to gauge their interest in participating as a birding community, and prepare materials for the public on how to navigate the trail.
We are currently putting together a group of birding experts and agency representatives for Phase 1. If you would like to contribute ideas, contact our Director of Conservation Science, Melanie Smith.