Bird enthusiasts will be gathering this weekend for the fifth annual Roger Tory Peterson Institute Birdfest.
Friday and Saturday, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute will be inviting the public to participate in a series of four birding excursions as well as a banquet. The banquet will feature guest speakers including Jeff Gordon, president of the American Birding Association; Noble Proctor, professor emeritus of biological sciences at Southern Connecticut State University; and Patrick Lynch, senior digital officer at Yale University, author, and digital illustrator.
"This year the event is going to be significantly different from the past," said Mark Baldwin, education and exhibits director. "We've made it much simpler. The festival is two days. There are four field trips - a morning and afternoon trip each day - with a buffet lunch at the RTPI. Our banquet is Friday night in contrast to what we've done in years past where we've capped the event with a Saturday night banquet."
According to Baldwin, in past years the field trips were run concurrently, sometimes with as many as three or four choices during in the same time slot. This year, however, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute has chosen to run all of their trips consecutively with no overlaps.
"Anyone who registers for the entire festival will have a chance to do everything that we offer this year," said Baldwin.
Past years at the festival have also included a number of different events like family ornithological activities, although those have been cut in favor of a simplified approach this year.
Friday's field trips will cover the subjects "Birds of Allegany State Park," led by Tim Baird, and a tour of the Akely Swamp state game lands, led by Don Watts.
Saturday's field trips will focus on "Where Maine Meets Tennessee," led by Terry Mosher, and "Warblers of Allegheny National Forest," led by Scott Stoleson.
"There are going to be a lot of good birds to be seen and heard," said Baldwin. "I think that all of the field trips are going to be good. Each one of the four trips goes to a different kind of habitat where we hope to target specific bird species which you might not see on another trip."
Three of the trips have been offered in years past, but the Saturday morning expedition, led by Mosher, is a first for Birdfest.
"This one will be great, especially for folks that have been to this festival before since it's going to be something different," said Baldwin. "It's going to be focused on the Allegheny escarpment. In that escarpment there is a property that is a biological field preserved owned by the Faculty Student Association at the State University of New York at Fredonia. We haven't offered a trip there before, and Terry Mosher is a top-notch field trip leader. I've been on a lot of trips with him and he's a fantastic."
In years past, participants have had to rely on either vans or carpools to go on the trips, but this year, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute will be providing a bus for all of the attendees. According to Baldwin, the maximum capacity of the bus is roughly 50 people, and there are currently around 40 registrants for all of the field trips, so there is still room for more people to sign up.
"When we kicked this off five years ago, we had a couple hundred participants," said Baldwin. "It was a much bigger affair. This year we're keeping it a little smaller, but it's still definitely something that we can do well."
Costs for the event vary based on how many events are being attended. On a per excursion basis, morning field trips are $45 per person, and evening field trips are $35 per person. Day passes, which include both field trips and lunch, can be purchased for $85 per person. An all-inclusive pass, which includes all four field trips, lunch on both days and the banquet on Friday night, can be purchased for $180. Tickets to the banquet can be purchased for $40 per person, or $30 per person when purchased with a day pass.
The Roger Tory Peterson Institute is located at 311 Curtis St. For more information, call 665-2473 or visit www.rtpi.org.