Nervik said after some tweaking, the festival is better than ever.
"We spread ourselves a bit too thin when we first started the festival," he said, but feedback and observation have helped "evolve the event to a quality outing."
By asking participants to fill out comment cards, Nervik said his office has improved the experience to keep the event fresh and birders coming back for more. Half of the visitors, Nervik said, are new to the festival, and the rest are familiar faces.
"The rather arduous trek up Snowy Mountain kind of petered out," said Nervik. "We found a lot of people want to go to relax, not kill themselves."
Driving safaris and shorter hikes are popular. When an event gets overbooked, Nervik said they'll make a waiting list in case spots open up. If the waiting list gets long enough, they can even plan a duplicate trip to accommodate all the eager birders.
Though Nervik quipped that black flies are "a very small problem; they're very tiny," the organizers warn that the pests can be a huge nuisance. Early in the festival's life, distant visitors from Ohio, Washington, D.C. and even as far away as Arizona or California complained the flies were an especially nasty surprise.
Nervik often hears from visitors that he should be charging for the trips, but said the logistics of receiving and allocating money from the festival would be a tricky task for the county. They can't accept cards or checks, and any money gained would disappear back into the general fund without directly benefitting the festival. For now, the trips remain free.
Though "we can't afford a whole lot" for pay, Nervik said they have quality guides who love what they do. The event has CPR and first-aid qualified wilderness guides along with birding lecturers who point out local species and tell visitors a little about the feathered fauna.