2022 Featured Artist:
Marybeth Holleman is the author of The Heart of the Sound, co-author of Among Wolves, and co-editor of Crosscurrents North, among others. She’s held artist residencies at places including Ninfa, Mesa Refuge, Denali National Park, and Tracy Arm Ford’s Terror Wilderness. Raised in North Carolina’s Smokies, she transplanted to Alaska's Chugach after falling head over heels for Prince William Sound just two years before the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Marybeth's first poetry collection, tender gravity, will be out in August 2022.
Marybeth will be leading a children's nature hike and art workshop on Saturday, June 4th.
She will also hold an art workshop for adults on Sunday, June 5th.
The twelfth Annual Yakutat Tern Festival.
The festival is a celebration of the natural and cultural resources of Yakutat, Alaska. Yakutat hosts one of the largest and southernmost known nesting colonies of Aleutian Terns, as well as Arctic Terns, and up to 200 other bird species that nest in, or migrate through the area. The festival is family friendly and offers activities for birders as well as non-birders, potentially including field trips, seminars, kid’s activities, evening banquets, bird banding demonstrations, and other programs.
Other area activities include sight-seeing, hiking, fishing, surfing, canoeing and kayaking, wildlife viewing, and beach-combing.
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Terns: An Overview
Terns are small seabirds related to gulls. In contrast to the languid gull, terns contend for the title of most superb aerialists in the avian realm. Terns are capable of hovering in the air like a hummingbird, flipping over backwards, and then slicing down into the water like a pelican. Although they may scavenge occasionally, terns prefer to hunt small fish which they spot from the air and plunge into the water to catch.
Alaska is just one stop on the long journey for terns, but it is an important one. Terns come to Alaska to lay their eggs and raise their chicks. They nest on the ground on beaches, gravel bars, and lake shores, laying their eggs in shallow depressions called scrapes. The eggs are camouflaged to look like little rocks and are hard to see.
Terns breed in several areas around Yakutat, primarily in mixed Arctic and Aleutian Tern colonies, including the largest known colonies on Black Sand Spit and near the Italio river. The Aleutian tern colony on Black Sand Spit on the Yakutat Forelands is one of the largest in the world, historically supporting up to 3,000 Aleutian Terns; current population estimates are less than 1,000, but continue to represent a significant portion of the global population. Aleutian terns were documented on the Spit as far back as 1923, and the colony appears to be stable despite apparent declining populations elsewhere within Alaska. In part because of the large population of Aleutian Terns found there, Black Sand Spit is identified an Audubon Important Bird Area.
Aleutian Terns are of special interest because we know very little about them and their breeding range is limited to Alaska and Eastern Siberia. They nest on the outer coast of Alaska from Glacier Bay to Barrow. They are by all accounts a rare bird, with a global population estimated at approximately 30,000 individuals. The breeding population estimate for Alaska is 5,500 birds.
Aleutian terns have a distinct white triangular patch on their forehead just above the bill. They also have black feet, legs, and bill. Aleutian Terns are similar in size to Arctic Terns, but stouter with a more deeply forked tail. Perhaps the biggest contrast between Aleutian and other tern species is in their call. Instead of a harsh cry, Aleutian Terns emit a musical whistling sound similar to a shore bird. Aleutian Terns are also much less aggressive in defending their nesting colonies; instead of dive bombing, they will generally hover high over the colony when disturbed by humans.
Besides limited colony counts, very little is known about the breeding ecology of this species, and information on their migration routes and wintering areas is only recently coming to light. This species is designated as a species of concern by several agencies and conservation organizations, primarily due to suspected population declines throughout their range. A dedicated group of researchers and managers are collaborating to learn more about this species including population status and trend, risks to the population as a whole, and potential future conservation actions.