SEQUIM — Julie Jackson remembers attending the first Olympic BirdFest shortly after she and her husband, Dave, moved to Sequim in early 2004.
Since then, Jackson — now a Dungeness River Audubon Center board member — has seen the festival grow exponentially, fueled by the burgeoning flock of bird-watchers whose pastime has soared in popularity both locally and nationally.
She tells all to grab their binoculars and join the Olympic BirdFest 2012 celebration at the Dungeness River Audubon Center at 2151 W. Hendrickson Road today through Sunday.
Events for the BirdFest, now in its eighth year, begin at 9 a.m. today and continue through the weekend until 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
This is the first year people can register for the event online, at www.olympicbirdfest.org.
Having been a newcomer herself, Jackson stresses beginners are encouraged and welcomed at the event.
She promises that experienced bird-watchers gladly will take them under their wings and show them the way.
“It doesn’t matter if somebody is a beginner,” she said.
“There are opportunities on field trips for the more experienced people who are available to help and make it easier for those just getting started.”
The event continues to grow.
“It’s been great fun just to see the growth and the changes,” Jackson said.
New to the festival this year: wine-tasting at Camaraderie Cellars near Port Angeles, two owl prowls — both of which are filled — two photo workshops, two trips to the Arnold and Debbie Schouten endangered waterfowl breeding sanctuary near Port Angeles, and more room at the gala banquet and silent auction at the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe’s conference center space in Blyn.
The guest speaker at the banquet — which will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, with a reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. — is Jerry Freilich, Olympic National Park research coordinator, who will talk about “The Importance of Birds.”
Before the banquet, the nearby Native Art Gallery and totem carving shed will be open from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. for visits.
The banquet is $35.
The waterfowl breeding sanctuary, a licensed facility managed by the Schoutens, raises 15 species of sea ducks — including the harlequin and long-tailed ducks, and spectacled, king and common eiders.
As of late Wednesday, spaces were available on the tours of the facility, set from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. today and from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, for $25.
Some seats on Sunday’s second cruise to Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, where 70 percent of the region’s marine birds nest, remained available as of late Wednesday.
The boat trip, set from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — and led by Dave Jackson, Julie Jackson’s husband — costs $60.
The earlier cruise, set from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., is sold out.
The Olympic BirdFest is a partnership of the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Dungeness River Audubon Center and Jamestown S’Klallam tribe.
Proceeds from the festival help support the educational programs of the Dungeness River Audubon Center.
Variety of birds
The North Olympic Peninsula harbors marbled murrelets, rhinoceros auklets, harlequin ducks, black oystercatchers, bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
Margie Palmer, BirdFest chairwoman and a member of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, said she is involved in the festival just for the joy of it.
“I have always been interested in birds and going on all the Wednesday morning bird walks,” said Palmer, a retired librarian.
On a walk Wednesday, she spotted emperor geese, native in Alaska and uncommonly seen near Dungeness Spit.
She also has seen a Rufus hummingbird at her home, a harbinger of spring on the Peninsula.
For more information, phone 360-681-4076, email email@example.com or visit www.olympicbirdfest.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.