Birding

17 Fabulous Fall Birding Events

From watching hawks on the wing as they funnel south to attending action-packed birding festivals, avian activities abound in autumn.

Whether you prefer to stick close to home or make like a migrant and hit the road, there are birder-friendly events aplenty this season all across the country. 

If you’re looking to see new species, explore new areas, and meet other birders, check out a nearby festival. Birders of all skill levels flock to these events, which brim with field trips, educational talks, field-sketching lessons, and more. Tip: Sign up now for festivals to get the best shot at the events that take your fancy.

If solo outings or smaller gatherings are more your style, consider visiting a museum, a photography exhibit, or using your avian know-how to contribute to a community science project. Mark your calendar now, and get ready for fantastic fall adventures.  

Audubon Photography Awards Traveling Exhibition

Various locationsongoing
In the Summer 2018 issue, we unveiled the winners of the ninth annual Audubon Photography Awards. The celebration of exceptional avian photographs continues with the traveling exhibition of dozens of stunning shots submitted to the contest. The exhibit, which is sponsored by Canon, will stop at Audubon centers in Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Colorado this fall, with more stops throughout the rest of the year. More info here.

Audubon Photography Award images on display at the 20th Annual Fall Festival and Hawk Watch at the Audubon Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. Photo: Angus Mordant

Autumn Migration Hawk Watch

Kittatinny RidgePennsylvania;daily
Birds of prey are already on the move, which means counters are out every day at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’s famed North Lookout, tallying the some 18,000 hawks, eagles, and falcons that fly past each fall. Bring binoculars or rent a pair from the visitor’s center, then climb atop a rocky outcropping for an unobstructed view of one of nature’s great migrations. More info here.

Wonders of Wildlife: Year of the Bird Exhibit     

Springfield, Missouriongoing
The joint museum and aquarium has partnered with Audubon and Ducks Unlimited on this exhibit that celebrates the Year of the Bird and the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Explore the history of the law, prints of John James Audubon’s work, maps of migration routes, and this year’s Audubon Photography Award photos. More info here.

A History of Conservation: A Bird's Eye View 

Tampa, Florida; ongoing

The Tampa Bay History Center and Audubon Florida have brought together a testament of people's long love affair with birds, from 3,000-year-old Egyptian hieroglyphs to feather-donned Victorian hats. The exhibit traces the conservation movement in Florida, with drawings from early naturalists and the beginnings of the National Wildlife Refuge System. More info here.

October Big Day

EverywhereOctober 6
Go birding. Wherever you are, head outside for 10 minutes or spend the whole day scouting and jotting down the species you see. Then log onto eBird on your phone or computer to record your sightings. For four years, tens of thousands of birders have digitally tracked their findings on a single day each spring; now you can join the action for the inaugural fall count. More info here.

Whether you're logging a Blue-and-Yellow Macaw or a Black-capped Chickadee, every report matters on Cornell's Global Big Day. Photo: Devin Belliston/Audubon Photography Awards

BentFest

Southbury, CTOctober 7
The event-filled afternoon at the Bent of the River Audubon Center will feature bird banding demonstrations, a bluegrass band, food trucks, a bird of prey show, bird walks, and hay rides. If you still haven’t had your fill from these activities, you can always explore 15 miles of trails winding through the preserve’s fields and forests. More info here.

Birding and Nature Festival

Tampa, FloridaOctober 11-14
The four-day festival is jam-packed with dozens of field trips, vendors, and seminars. Choose from kayak and canoe trips, wetland walks, bird-banding sessions, and boat rides for the chance to see birds like Reddish Egrets, Bachman’s Sparrows, and Florida Scrub-jays. More info here.

CraneFest

Bellevue, MichiganOctober 13-14
For millennia, massive flocks of Sandhill Cranes have traced a route from breeding areas in the Arctic to wintering grounds in the south. Catch the birds’ prehistoric trill as hundreds descend on Big Marsh Lake for the evening to rest and refuel. The cranes are the main attraction, but there’s plenty more for visitors to do: wander through artist and vendor booths, visit live birds of prey, and join guided nature walks throughout the day before the birds arrive for nightfall en masse. More info here.

The Big Sit

Various locationsOctober 14
The rules are simple: Birders remain in a small circle from dawn to dusk, recording every species they see or hear from its confines. Sit beside tall prairie grass in Denton, Nebraska, at a wetland preserve in Boise, Idaho, or find a gathering closer to home. Participants are welcome to join a circle for any length of time, but you might want to bring a chair if you plan on staying for a while. More info here.

You'd be surprised by how many species you can see without ever having to get up. Photo: Courtesy of Audubon Nebraska

Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival

Outer Banks, North CarolinaOctober 16 – 21 and December 7-9
With 99 trips along a hundred miles of coastline across six wildlife refuges, there’s no shortage of opportunities at Wings Over Water. View estuary birds from the vantage of a standup paddleboard, join a nighttime kayak paddle, or head out on a van ride to spot as many species as you can. Trips offer the chance to see rarities like 'Great White' Herons (an uncommon form of the Great Blue), Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Golden Eagles, Eurasian Wigeons, and Great Horned Owls. Camp overnight tucked in the dunes or stay in slightly more luxurious accommodations along the shore. More info here.

Ohio Young Birders Conference

Columbus, OhioNovember 3
You don’t have to be young to attend this conference, but you will choose from a mac-and-cheese bar for lunch, regardless of your age. The day is full of talks from young birders, sketching workshops, and birding outings, capped off with lively bird trivia. More info here.

At the 2017 Ohio Young Birders Conference, participants pose outside at the Aullwood Audubon Nature Center. Photo: Courtesy of Black Swamp Bird Observatory

Fall Migration Celebration

Augusta, MichiganNovember 4
Spend the afternoon along Wintergreen Lake as you search the skies for Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Redheads and other migrants. Find experts with spotting scopes stationed along the shore or visit the sanctuary’s resident hawks and pheasants. No matter how many species you identify, hot cider will be waiting for you at the end of the day. More info here.

Waterfowl Weekend

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VirginiaNovember 22-25  
Thanksgiving weekend is the only time visitors can drive the seven-mile loop around a wetland at this refuge on a barrier island three hours southeast of Washington, D.C. A big draw for birders are the elegant Snow Geese, which overwinter at the refuge in the thousands. More info here.

Alaska Bald Eagle Festival

Haines, AlaskaNovember 7-10
A salmon run in late fall attracts the largest gathering of Bald Eagles in the country to Haines, Alaska—and naturally birders follow. The festival celebrates our national bird with presentations, a film festival, poetry readings, music, and a banquet dinner at the site of a raptor center and natural history museum. A photography workshop runs alongside the festival, offering five days of trips to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, which Audubon Alaska was instrumental in establishing. More info here.

Release of a juvenile Bald Eagle at the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center for the 2017 Alaska Bald Eagle Festival. Photo: Bill McRoberts

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

Harlingen, TexasNovember 7-11
Straddling the Mexican border and the Gulf of Mexico, Harlingen provides a jumping off point to visit a diverse array of habitats: the dry desert to the west where Zone-tailed Hawks, orioles, and Greater Roadrunners dwell; bluffs over the Rio Grande with Muscovy Ducks and Red-billed Pigeons; a ranch the size of Rhode Island home to the most Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls in the country; and islands along coast where Snowy Plovers, American Oystercatchers, and Clapper Rails overwinter. More info here.

If you've never birded the Rio Grande Valley, make it your top priority this fall. Photo: Courtesy Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

Bird Fest of the Santa Monica Mountains

Calabasas, California;November 10
Only a half-hour from downtown Los Angeles is a celebration in the Las Virgenes valley where you can meet two rehabilitated California Brown Pelicans and a Peregrine Falcon, go on guided bird walks, and listen to a panel of young birders talk about their inspiration for taking up the hobby. More info here.

Central Valley Bird Club Symposium

Stockton, CaliforniaNovember 15-18
If you’re looking to tally around 100 species on a single trip, this is the symposium for you. Over the course of four days, participants will visit a variety of habitats, from old farmlands to riparian forests, oak savannahs to wetlands, and even a cemetery. More info here.

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