It's not easy to spot a cerulean warbler. The 4-inch bird likes to stick to the top of trees during the summer months making it difficult for bird watchers below to locate one.
But on June 4-7, around 200 people will be searching Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania for the cerulean warbler - one of the rarer 27 different kinds of warblers - and other birds during the first Roger Tory Peterson Birding Festival, an event that Jim Berry, the president of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of National History, hopes to turn into an annual event.
"If this first year is a success and meets expectations, we can just continue to build on it," Berry said.
On June 4-7, around 200 people will be searching Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania for the cerulean warbler — one of the rarer 27 different kinds of warblers — and other birds during the first Roger Tory Peterson Birding Festival, an event that Jim Berry, the president of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of National History, hopes to turn into an annual event.
Photo by Scott H. Stoleson
The event could accommodate up to 400 bird watchers and people from Ohio, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Louisiana have already registered for the festival, said Linda Pierce, RTPI development associate.
"We've never had a birding festival before even though we've really wanted to," Pierce said. "Hopefully this can become an annual event."
The festival is the final event honoring the 100th birthday of RTPI's namesake, Roger Tory Peterson. RTPI has held a number of other events in celebration of Peterson's birthday already. But since they've never held a birding festival before, they felt it appropriate to hold their first now, Berry said.
Roger Tory Peterson was a famous 20th century bird enthusiast, who wrote a number of authoritative guides on North American birds. The RTPI was founded in the early 1980s while Peterson was still alive.
The festival will be a mix of both outdoor and indoor activities. During the morning sessions, groups will search marshlands, woods and forests for the birds. Berry estimates there are more than 100 different species of birds in the area during the summer, including the tiny blue cerulean warbler.
The success of a birding outing is judged on how many different species the groups find. Berry said he expects the groups to find many species when they head out, but the challenge will be to find the warblers.
"The warblers will be the most unique and hardest group to find," he said.
Birders can identify a species by sight and sound, and since it's the nesting season, the male birds will be singing. Although it takes a veteran birder to be able to pick out a bird just by the sound, Berry said.
"Birders come in all different levels of experience," he said. The festival is about "teaching and learning and you have the best of the best as the leaders and that's what makes a festival worth going to. Without them you wouldn't have a successful event, and it would all be for not."
Several different presenters will lead classes and workshops that will be held during the afternoon after the groups come back from the field. The sessions will range from a discussion on how to manage blue bird care to a class on identifying different species of warblers in the area. The speakers will be among the leading bird experts in the nation, including several locals, Berry said.