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For the love of birds

It's a plane!

It's a balloon!

Actually, it's a peregrine falcon, a powerful and fast-flying bird of prey that was once almost exterminated from North America by pesticide poisoning.

Now it's sighted regularly, thanks to extensive restoration efforts.

A stunning sight, the peregrine falcon is just one of more than 100 species of birds that might be seen during the 2009 Olympic Peninsula BirdFest April 3-5.

With rain and snow showers one day followed by sunny warmth the next, some migratory spring birds haven't been spotted this year yet. They include Caspian terns, orange crown warblers, white crown sparrows, and Savannah sparrows, said Bob Boekelheide, Dungeness River Audubon Center director.

Violet green swallows, tree swallows, turkey vultures and rhinoceros auklets, on the other hand, have been recorded frequently.

"The weather definitely affects the birds," Boekelheide said.

"The early spring birds are a little delayed with this cooler-than-average weather and some of the birds that nest in the mountains haven't made their move back up from the lowlands yet."

Nonetheless, organizers expect to see and identify dozens of birds at this year's festival.

"We are in such a great place for bird-watching," Boekelheide said.

"There are so many birds to see and our mission is to get out and see all of them."

Birding trips, boat cruises, free raptor presentations, a silent auction, a nature photography workshop and a salmon dinner are just a few of the activities that will kick off Friday morning and continue through Sunday afternoon during BirdFest.

From wandering leisurely down the beach to hiking actively through the woods, BirdFest has opportunities for bird watchers of all levels and ambition:

_ Downtown Sequim will get in on the hype Friday, April 3, as art galleries, artists, the Museum and Arts Center and a handful of other alternative art venues team up for the First Friday Art Walk from 5-8 p.m.

_ Always a popular lecturer, Jay Moore, director of the Northwest Raptor Center, will share stories of injured mammals and birds - including eagles, hawks and owls - and how she nursed them back to health during a free presentation at the Sequim High School cafeteria 7-8:30 p.m., Friday, April 3.

_ Saturday evening, members of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe will host a salmon banquet at the tribal center in Blyn. Keynote speaker Julia K. Parrish, professor and associate director of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington, will speak on "Biodiversity, Biomass and Behavior: Forces Affecting Seabirds in Washington Waters."

Guests are invited to visit tribe's gift shop and carving shed and participate in the silent auction before dinner, from 5-6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $30.

_ Dedicated birdwatchers plan to stay up late for the evening owl prowl 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m., Saturday, April 4.

_ Festivities will conclude Sunday with boat trip around Protection Island from John Wayne Marina.

A complete list of events, demonstrations, classes and activities is available online at www.olympicbirdfest.org.

For more information, call the Audubon center at 681-4076.



Ashley Miller can be reached at ashleyo@sequimgazette.com.



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