By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
For birders, Del Norte County tops 18 states and nine Canadian territories and provinces for the number of birds found.
Four-hundred seven species have been spotted here, according to Alan D. Barron, who's written a bird-finding guide about the area.
It's part of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, which is a "globally significant" concentration of biological diversity. The World Wildlife Fund has termed the area "the Galapagos of North America."
Del Norte County also boasts the second-largest seabird colony in California. Lake Earl Wildlife Area is the West Coast's largest coastal lagoon area for birds.
Birdwatching, now a $7 billion per year industry, has swelled in popularity in recent years.
Chamber of Commerce-Crescent City-Del Norte County President Chris Howard, by profession a biologist, chose his life's work because of his love of birdwatching ¬Ė something he'd been doing since he was 6 years old.
"For us it's not a hobby, it's an adventure, Howard said.
"In my case it led to a career, but there's some real nut cases out there," he said. "They keep life lists, and travel to states to record birds."
Howard theorizes that's because of the retiring Baby Boomer generation.
"Most of the people I've been taking through the forest might be 55 and older, and they're all the wine and cheese crowd, they have money," he said.
Sandra Jerabek, co-founder of the Aleutian Goose Festival, decided long ago that she doesn't "need another list in my life."
"I'm a generalist nature nut," she said. "If I did, I'd probably have hundreds on it."
Among the goose festival's goals, Jerabek said, is to bring birders in with the festival and "let them add birds to their lists."