Stratford Bird Festival to return after 10-year absence – Middletown Press

A snowy owl sits on a stone jetty near Long Beach West, in Stratford, Conn. Dec. 14, 2021.
STRATFORD — Town officials are inviting the public to break out their binoculars later this month for the relaunched Stratford Bird Festival, an event showcasing and celebrating the region’s wide variety of birds.
For the first time in a decade, the free festival will be held between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 at Stratford Point on Prospect Drive, according to Karin Doyle, the town’s economic and community development coordinator.
“With miles of riverfront, several hundred acres of tidal marsh, Connecticut’s longest barrier beach, and a beautiful shorefront on Long Island Sound, Stratford has been coined one of the best birding locations in Connecticut,” Doyle said in a statement.
Doyle said the event will feature a series of walking tours hosted by professional birders and educators with the Connecticut Audubon Society, a Fairfield-based nonprofit that works to protect the state’s wild birds.
Two of the tours will take place at Stratford Point, while one will be held on Long Beach. Doyle said festival-goers interested in a walking tour should pre-register for a tour online. Each tour is capped at 25 participants.
The once-popular festival regularly drew residents interested in the region’s winged wildlife. But waning interest ultimately led the town to abandon the annual event after the last festival was held in 2012.
David Wright, the town’s historian and an experienced birdwatcher who is helping organize the festival, said officials began considering reviving the event after a rare juvenile snowy owl was spotted on a town beach last fall.
Crowds quickly flocked to the shore for a chance to catch a glimpse of the creature. The enthusiasm prompted concern from local conservationists worried the birdwatchers might disturb the vulnerable animal, but it also convinced the town there might be enough interest in a new bird festival.
Wright described the upcoming festival as a kind of experiment that will feature an array of family-centered activities, including a presentation he will host about the safest methods to feed birds.
The festival will also include a children’s craft tent, food truck and presentations by Skyhunters in Flight, a showcase demonstrating the power of hawks and falcons, and a Secret Life of Owls, which promises to offer a closer look at the life of owls.
According to Wright, about 300 different species of birds either live in or pass through Stratford in any given year. The list is made up of common birds like house sparrows, starlings and pigeons, but it also includes more interesting animals such as cardinals, blue jays, northern flickers and red-bellied woodpeckers.
He said Stratford’s wide variety of birds is largely due to its uncommon geographical features which allow for a diverse number of habitats that can support different species.
“Because Stratford is a very long and narrow town, you have shoreline birds that you would see in Lordship that you wouldn’t necessarily see in the north end,” he said. “It really is unique.”