We at Audubon Alaska are excited to announce a new way to bird with the help of technology—the Southeast Alaska Birding Trail mobile application available now in the Apple App Store or Google Play! The app was launched on Saturday, June 3, at the Yakutat Tern Festival in Yakutat, Alaska by its developer and Audubon Alaska GIS Analyst Victoria (Tory) Elmore as announced in an April Juneau Empire article.
“The outdoor industry and nature-based tourism, which both rely on healthy, intact ecosystems, are already major components of the economy in Yakutat and across Southeast Alaska. Our goal is to contribute to the growth of these local economies by bringing attention to birding opportunities and helping people plan trips that incorporate bird watching,” Elmore says. “Attending the Yakutat Tern Festival and speaking with community members has made me excited for the future of the trail and the mobile application. I am inspired to incorporate more robust trip-planning features into the app and to partner with local businesses, like guides, tour operators, and equipment rentals. There are many opportunities for collaboration and cross-promotion that will improve the experience of the Southeast Alaska Birding Trail.”
What’s a birding trail? If you don’t know already, it’s a virtual guide to birding hotspots within a specific geographic region. The Southeast Alaska Birding Trail is a curated list of nearly 200 birding sites found among 18 communities throughout Southeast Alaska. Think Strawberry Point (known for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds) in Yakutat to Bear Paw Lake (where Trumpeter Swan abound) in Hoonah to Ward Lake (spot the different owl species) in Ketchikan.
The region, which includes the Tongass National Forest, the Mendenhall Wetlands Important Bird Area, Glacier Bay National Park, and the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, boasts more than 350 bird species. It features the highest density of Marbled Murrelets and Bald Eagles in the world and is a spring stopover for hundreds of thousands of shorebirds on their way to breeding grounds in the Arctic. Birds found nowhere else, like the Queen Charlotte Goshawks and Prince of Wales Spruce Grouse, also inhabit the region’s old-growth and mature forests.
Since its conception in 2017 as a partnership between Audubon Alaska, Juneau Audubon Society, and the U.S. Forest Service, the Southeast Alaska Birding Trail has been a place where expert birders and casual visitors alike can see diverse bird and wildlife species, landscapes, and ecosystems. Now with the mobile application, travelers of the Southeast Alaska Birding Trail may explore everything the trail has to offer conveniently from a mobile device. After downloading from the Apple Store or Google Play, participants will open the app and be prompted to download the mobile map package which initiates maps, site details and directions, species checklists, and more regardless of internet connection or cell service.
In other words—download the Southeast Alaska Birding Trail app once, access forever.
“The response to the trail and the new application from Yakutat Tern Festival attendees—birders, local businesses, Tribal members, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service employees, and others—was amazing,” Elmore says. “People in Yakutat are downloading and using the app to explore the remarkable and unique birding opportunities in their community. I had no cell service or data for the duration of my trip, but I visited seven different sites on the trail, using the app to navigate and to keep track of bird sightings.”
The Southeast Alaska Birding Trail results from a collaborative effort with significant engagement and support from individuals, organizations, and agencies. Dozens of community members, public servants, small business owners, and local experts contributed their knowledge and expertise to developing the trail. The Juneau Audubon Society, the U.S. Forest Service, and the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game each provided significant contributions through all phases of the development of the trail.
Happy birding in Southeast Alaska!