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South Alabama nature festival to spur national and international visitors this week

South Alabama Land Trust

The Alabama Coastal BirdFest will throw its 17th annual festival this week in Spanish Fort and surrounding areas. The South Alabama Land Trust will host the four-day event, which will include anything from guided walking tours and boat trips to workshops centered on the state’s hummingbird and butterfly species.

Though the coronavirus pandemic caused the festival to cancel last year, the organization is excited to have the event running on an annual basis again. The BirdFest will also host new events in celebration of its return. One event includes an expert-led workshop on how to build a backyard habitat fit for conserving native plants, birds, butterflies and other wildlife species.

Communications Coordinator Diana Brewer said the festival has always garnered good reception because of the Gulf Coast’s reputation as one of the best birding locations in the Southeast. Since its inception in 2004, The Alabama Coastal BirdFest has raised more than $100,000 to preserve and protect vital bird and wildlife habitats on the Gulf Coast.

This week’s festival will also be its most popular year yet. It is expected to garner up to 400 local, national and international visitors over its four-day course of outdoor and indoor events. Brewer said she hopes visitors will understand not just SALT’s reasons for conserving Alabama land but to find their own reasons in conserving it too.

“Birders get that, they want to be able to go to places where there are plenty of places for birds to migrate to, to nest and so forth and so it’s a great connection between the work that we do in preserving the land and putting on something that will get people out and experiencing that,” she said.

Along with its ecological impact, Brewer said the festival also provides many benefits to South Alabama including local business growth.

“The economic impact is excellent. We have people coming from all over the country that I mentioned, so there’s the impact on hotel rooms, lodging and restaurants and things like that,” she said.

Registration for all outdoor events has closed. However, The Bird and Conservation Expo is free for all prospective visitors on Saturday, Oct. 9. The expo is located on Coastal Alabama Community College’s Fairhope Campus and will feature family-friendly activities including touch tanks, after shows and state vendors.

Joshua LeBerte is a news intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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