By Jeremy Schwartz
This is news I’ve been waiting to shout from the mountain tops for a while now.
Backyard Birding will have its official Kickstarter launch at the 2019 Wings Over Water Northwest Birding (WOW) Festival in beautiful Blaine, Washington, on Saturday, March 16!
First the the four Ws, then some background on how we got here and what makes this series of events particularly special to me.
Jeff and I will be hosting a booth at the WOW Festival with demo copies of the game for all to play! We’re also working with the festival organizers to host a small panel of local birding experts and enthusiasts to discuss ways to get more people into this amazing hobby called “birding.”
The WOW Festival, now in is 17th year, is a celebration of all things birdy in the small town of Blaine, Washington, tucked in the northwest corner of the state along the U.S./Canada border.
The festival takes advantage of the relatively undeveloped shoreline of the small town of Blaine and adjacent community of Birch Bay to celebrate the abundant bird life March brings to the area. Organizers are still filling out the schedule for this year, but be sure to visit their website and Facebook page for updates. Past festivals have been packed with expert-led birding tours of the surrounding area (both by foot and by boat), speaker presentations, and bird-related vendors of all kinds.
The 2019 festival runs March 15-17, with the bulk of the organized speakers and vendor showcase happening March 16.
The festival is centered in the border town of Blaine, population 4,600, which lies about an hour and a half’s drive north of Seattle. Blaine is closely linked to the techncially larger, but unincorporated, community of Birch Bay just to the south.
Blaine straddles Semiahmoo Bay to the north and Drayton Harbor to the south, while Birch Bay borders, well, Birch Bay. Both areas play host to dozens and dozens of species of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, with dozens more perching bird species calling the wetlands and shrubby and forested interior of the area home. Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Spit, a pencil of land separating Semiahmoo Bay to the north from the harbor to the south, are both ranked as Important Bird Areas by the National Audubon Society.
Here’s where I get a little verklempt. The story begins in November, just a few weeks after we launched our Backyard Birding website and Facebook page.
A woman I’d not heard from in years, let’s call her H, reached out to me on Facebook asking about this bird game I had been posting about. I knew her from my very first job as a newspaper reporter in the small town of… wait for it...Blaine! I wrote and edited for the weekly newspaper The Northern Light from 2010 to 2012, a job I got right after graduating from a local university with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
H had been the newspaper’s office manager while I was there, but was now working for the local parks district and helping to organize the WOW festival. The festival is a big deal for these two small communities, but for whatever reason I never got to cover it for the newspaper.
Anyway, H had seen our game’s Facebook page and website and thought this would be the perfect thing to feature at the WOW festival this March. I was floored. I think my mouth might have actually gaped open for a few seconds after reading H’s Facebook message extending this offer. Jeff and I were already targeting March for the Kickstarter launch, so what H was proposing came at just the right time.
The more I thought about it, the more elated this whole turn of events made me. Working up in that small of a community definitely had its challenges, but I would not trade the experiences I had there for anything. I learned so many things that I carry with me to this day and met many people I’ll never forget.
The fact that an emerging passion of mine will bring me back there seven years after I left makes me so grateful. I have birding, and this game, to thank for that.