PUBLISHED: 8:12 PM on Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Haines celebrates 13th annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival
HAINES - Like birds to prey, visitors flock to the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival in Haines.

Celebrating the 13th annual festival, people can enjoy a variety of events ranging from wildlife workshops, classes, tours and live raptor presentations. Daily busses take visitors to the Alaska Bald Eagle Preserve along the Haines Highway to witness the "Gathering of the Eagles," where over 3,000 eagles feed on a late run of salmon. The festival takes place from November 7-11.

Highlights of the festival include the "Flight for Freedom," where a rehabilitated eagle is released into the wild.

The event also offers an auction honoring the act, and raises funds for statewide educational programs having to do with the American Bald Eagle and the preservation of its habitat in Alaska.

This year's MC and keynote speaker is Al Batt of Hartland, Minn., writer, speaker, storyteller and humorist. He's best known for his thoughtfully funny quotable quotes such as, "the secret of happiness is to make others believe they are the cause of it," as well as his cartoon strips "Dennis the Menace," "Marmaduke" and "The Lockhorns."

Hosting a radio show titled, "Birding With Batt," he is also contributor to nature and birding magazines and newspapers. He has been named Birder of the Year by "Wild Bird Magazine," and has written jokes for a former U.S. President, radio and movies.

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  A bald eagle rests near Haines, where the 13th annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival is being held.
As featured Photographer of the Year 2007, Arthur Morris is a free-lance nature photographer and writer specializing in birds. For eight years he conducted the shorebird survey at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for The International Shorebird Surveys, Manomet, Mass. Out of 19,000 entries, two of his images were awarded prizes in the 1997 BG plc Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, and another was similarly honored in the 2000 contest, according to sources.

More than 11,000 of his photographs have been published in "American Birds," "Audubon," "National Geographic," and more as well as in books and calendars. Morris is also is a popular lecturer, having presented more than 250 slide programs during the past 15 years and currently photographs, travels, speaks, and teaches extensively in North America, according the festival's Web site.

For interested visitors, Morris will be giving digital photography classes during the Festival.

Teaching a wildlife workshop on orthinology is speaker David Hancock, a noted biologist, conservationist, writer and publisher. Hancock has spent most of his life studying West Coast and Arctic wildlife. Specializing in northern raptors, he has published scientific and popular books and papers on whales, seals, seabirds and grouse. Hancock recently completed a book on eagles, "The Bald Eagle of Alaska, BC and Washington" and another book on the northwest coast Indians, "Tlingit: Their Art and Culture." Currently he is undertaking studies of the Bald Eagles on the northwest coast and working on a Sandhill Crane breeding project.

Featured Artist of the Year is Randall Compton, of Fairbanks, who's work is considered "outstanding - a refreshing change from the 'two birds on a twig ' style so rampant among young artists these days" and presents "a full environment with the birds belonging in it," according to internationally acclaimed wildlife artist Robert Bateman as stated on festival's Web site.

His interest in the study of wildlife and migratory birds has led him to Florida, Newfoundland, and Alaska, where he has observed for firsthand knowledge, the habits of his subjects.

Generating over a quarter of a million dollars for Ducks Unlimited International, Randall produced the first Alaska Ducks Unlimited print of the year in 1985. He has shown in the prestigious "Leigh Yakey Woodson Birds In Art" exhibit.

Randy is partial to birds in their native Alaska environment - especially the birds if prey. "I have been a falconer for many years, even back in the days before high school. I still keep peregrines for falconry and study," he said on Website.

Special wildlife presentations during the festival include live bird presentation from Anchorage Bird TLC and the Juneau Raptor Center.

Naturalist guided bus and walking excursions to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve with a park ranger on-site to answer questions, will be available twice daily. The expedition includes a fully narrated journey past ancient Tlingit village sites to the Eagle Council Grounds 21 miles up the Chilkat River Valley north of Haines.

Subjects include bald eagle winter ecology, current eagle population, local nesting mortality, special adaptations, size of the fish runs, identification and tracks of other birds, eagles, wildlife and other small mammals in the snow and mud, the history of Haines, the creation of the Preserve, and the fascinating history of three Tlingit village sites en route, (two are abandoned). Old photos are used to show the geologic, biologic and social changes to the area over the last century.

Tours are three hours with moderate activity level, including two miles of outdoor walking. Dressing warmly for the weather and packing cameras, extra film, batteries, binoculars, and a snack are recommended.

Powerful spotting scopes, interpretation, restroom facilities, transportation from the visitor's center to the preserve with drop-offs at lodging and other festival venues upon return are provided.

Tour costs are included in festival registration; non-festival participants pay $20 a trip on the bus.

For more information on schedules and registration, go online to