Due to continued COVID-19 precautions, there will be no formal led field trips in 2021.

See below for a listing of past and future field trips.

    Welcome to the     

Yakutat Tern Festival



Please review and observe the following recommended and locally appropriate guidelines, adapted from Mindful Birding and Audubon Ethical Birding Guidelines.

                                                     Use your bird’s-eye and be bird-wise!

Particularly in Yakutat, where the Aleutian Terns are nesting, it is important to. Disturbance can keep birds from their nests, or cause them to abandon the nest completely.

  • WATCH YOUR STEP: Aleutian Terns nest right on the sand, and their nests are not always obvious to the naked eye. Bird viewing on the spit should be done with caution and utmost attention.


  • Refrain from using flash when photographing birds.


  • Use binoculars or spotting scopes to observe the birds.


  • Share your lunch ONLY with other humans.


  • Respect private property; do not enter without express permission.


  • Practice Leave No Trace: Pack out any trash and do not disturb the natural habitat. 


  • Wear muted colors to lessen the visual impact you have on the birds.


  • You are in beautiful Yakutat, Alaska, and birds are not the only wildlife here to see! Please be respectful of all wildlife around you.


  • Yakutat is bear country. Keep an eye out for bears and bear signs, and follow bear safety recommendations from your trip leader. DO NOT WANDER off alone!


  • Move slowly, avoiding making any sudden movements, and keep any noise to a minimum. 

    • Walk in single-file where you are able to do so.

    • Stay on designated paths.


  • Be courteous to other group members: Stay with the group and pay attention to the trip leader(s).


  • Our field trip leaders are volunteers and donate their time and knowledge to the festival. Please be respectful and thank them.




Charter boat based Monti and Yakutat Bays:
Time: 4 hours 
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Transportation: Saltwater Charter Boat
Description:  This trip will depart via Yakutat based Charter Boat from the Yakutat Boat Harbor, and explore the inshore waters of Monti Bay and Yakutat Bay.  Species will be similar to those listed under the Ankau River and Ocean Cape trip.  Each charter boat will accommodate 5 passengers plus captain and trip leader/guide. Advance registration and down payment is required (by May 1st, please see registration form on this website).  This trip is contingent on interest and advance registration, and is also weather dependent.  


Time: 4-5 hours 
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Transportation: Van, kayak
Description:  Weather permitting, this trip will depart via kayaks from the mouth of the Situk River.    The area is a magnet for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.  Watch for Yellowlegs, Semi-palmated Plovers, and Whimbrels. Black Sand Spit, site of an Arctic and Aleutian Tern nesting colony, will be viewable, and Aleutian and Arctic Terns can be observed foraging in the estuary.  Late migrating shorebirds such as Dunlin and Western Sandpiper may be viewed along the tidal flats. Space is limited due to limited availability of kayaks: advance registration recommended (please see registration form on this website).  This trip is contingent on interest and advance registration, and is also weather dependent.  This trip is recommended for participants with basic kayaking skills/experience.  


Tern Viewing:
Time:  3-4 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation:  Passenger vehicle and foot, possibly watercraft 
Description:  This trip will encompass one or more sites offering views of Arctic and Aleutian Terns.  The largest accessible breeding colony is generally at Black Sand Spit, but other areas such as the mouth of the Lost River and meadows along the Lower Landing Road and Forest Highway 10 offer viewing opportunities as well.  Actual sites visited will depend on weather, nesting phenology, current occupancy status of sites, access considerations, and interest level. 

Morning Songbird Walk:
Time:  2 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation:  Passenger vehicle and foot (short walks roads and/or trails)
Description:  These early morning birding trips will include short walks on roads and/or trails to  focus on songbirds by sight and sound.  Birding areas will be close to town, and may vary throughout the festival to allow for a variety of birding opportunities.  Common song-birds include Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Varied and Hermit Thrushes, Wilson�s and Orange-crowned Warbler, and Fox and Lincoln�s Sparrow.

Harlequin Lake:
Time: 4 hours 
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation: Van, foot
Description: This trip will travel out Forest Highway 10 to the Dangerous River Bridge and Harlequin Lake Trail.  A short (3/4 mile) hike from here ends at the southern shore of Harlequin Lake.  The scenery alone makes this trip a must-see!  Harlequin Lake is the headwaters of the Dangerous River.  Massive icebergs, calved from Yakutat Glacier, can be seen floating from shore.  Yakutat Glacier is visible across the lake. Mew Gulls sometimes make their nests on the ice.  Possible bird observations include Cliff Swallows nesting under the bridge, Arctic Terns diving for fish, molting Canada Geese, and Red�necked Phalaropes.  Extensive willow thickets along the lake shore in this relatively inland area are good places to look for interior-dwelling species like Gray-cheeked Thrush.  Gulls may be observed near the shore as well passerine species like Varied Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Those not wishing to hike have the option to stop at the Dangerous River Bridge, which also offers views of the outlet of the lake and icebergs (occasionally floating down the river!).  Time permitting, this field trip will also stop at various habitats along the way back to town. 

Town/Monti Bay:
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy
Transportation: Foot and/or passenger vehicle
Description:  This trip will encompass good bird viewing sites in town such as Sandy Beach, Yakutat Harbor, the Lagoon trail, and the lower road system 
adjacent to Monti Bay.  Sandy beach offers (you guessed it!) sandy beach habitat near the cannery which attracts large numbers of feeding seabirds, primarily gulls.  Monti Bay is a great place to view seabirds, such as a variety of gulls, scoters, and cormorants.  Common loons are abundant year round, and Pacific loons are common migrants.  The Totem Park/Lagoon trail weaves through conifer forest where one may encounter thrushes, kinglets, and even brown creepers.  Waterfowl and shorebirds are common in the lagoon and along the shoreline in spring and fall.  A stop at the harbor may yield murrelets, sea ducks, cormorants, gulls, and eagles.

Ankau River and Ocean Cape:
Time: 3 hours
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Transportation: Passenger vehicle and foot.
Description: This trip will start at the Ankau River, including a hike along the river up to the open waters of Monti Bay. For those not wishing to walk far, a short walk to the beach from the parking area will yield spectacular views and bird viewing opportunities in Monti Bay.  A variety of waterfowl species are viewable in the Ankau River, with Arctic terns nesting and foraging nearby.  Monti bay is a great place for viewing seabirds, such as a variety of gulls, scoters, and cormorants.  Common loons are abundant year round, and Pacific loons are common migrants.  Watch for rarities such as Kittlitz�s murrelet and Yellow-billed loon.  Keep an eye out for the famous Yakutat surfers here, as well as marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, harbor porpoises, and sea otters.  On a clear day, the scenery alone makes this trip worthwhile, offering a spectacular view of Monti Bay and the Mt. St. Elias Range.




Mike Denega

Tern fest logo no background.png

Brought to you by the Yakutat Nature Society

YNS Logo no background.png
  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
The festival is a celebration of the natural and cultural resources of Yakutat, Alaska.
Jun 01, 2023, 9:00 AM AKDT – Jun 04, 2023, 4:00 PM AKDT
429 Forest Hwy, Yakutat, AK 99689, USA

5% off AK AIR
Use code:


Stay tuned for 2023 Announcements...