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Northwest Birding Festivals


Witness the great migration

Festivals to inspire your inner birder

By Nathan Dalla Santa

Photos by David Riffle

For bird watchers, spring is a magical time of year in the Pacific Northwest. Hundreds of thousands of birds from a variety of species migrate along the Pacific Flyway all the way from Alaska to the tip of South America.

“Estuaries, where salt water meets freshwater, provide a lot of food and make an ideal stopover for many bird species,” said Paul Bannick, wildlife photographer, field guide author and winner of the Canon award in the International Conservation Photography Awards. “Farmland, open space, parks and flat, wet meadows attract all sorts of birds.”

Since Northwest Washington and lower B.C. feature these landscapes in abundance, it is one of the best places in the world to see snowy owls, tundra swans, snow geese, great horned owls and peregrine falcons.

For many, the best way to witness these birds and learn all about them is by attending one of the many fantastic birding festivals in the area. The Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival in Blaine, Washington features informative presentations from scientists and bird scholars along with opportunities to view a plethora of bird species in a concentrated area of coastline.

“Wings Over Water is great because you get to hear speakers talking about birds and within an hour you can see and photograph the birds you were just hearing about,” Bannick said.

The annual festival returns to Blaine March 14–16. Festival planning chair Debbie Harger was not always a bird enthusiast. However, 10 years ago while exploring Blaine’s Drayton Harbor, a friend gave her a pair of binoculars.

“I expected all the birds to look like ducks, but I looked out and was absolutely amazed by what I saw,” Harger said. “After that, I was hooked.”

To get a glimpse of the variety of bird species that traverse the Pacific Flyway, come to the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival and experience firsthand what makes the Northwest a premier birding location. X

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Wings Over Water Birding Festival

When: Friday, March 14– Sunday, March 16

Where: Blaine, Washington

Website: www.wingsoverwaterbirdingfestival.com

Hear from expert ornithologists, then head outside to view and photograph a huge variety of seabirds, migratory birds and raptors, all on the scenic shores of Blaine and Birch Bay.

Edison Birding Festival

When: Saturday and Sunday, February 8 and 9

Where: Edison, Washington

Website: www.edisonbirdfestival.com

Veteran birders and novice enthusiasts alike will be inspired by this fun-filled birding festivals.

Port Susan Snow Goose & Birding Festival

When: Saturday and Sunday, February 22 and 23 Where: Stanwood, Washington

Website: www.snowgoosefest.org

Every year, tens of thousands of snow geese migrate all the way from Russia to spend the winter in the Northwest. Come see them, along with some of the largest concentrations of waterfowl, raptors and shorebirds found along the entire Pacific Flyway.

Brant Wildlife Festival

When: Saturday, March 1 – Monday, April 21

Where: Parksville and Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, B.C.

Website: www.brantfestival.bc.ca

Celebrate the Brant goose with wildlife tours by Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours, bird watching and an eagle release – or just have some lunch with the birds.

Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival

When: Friday, April 25 – Sunday, April 27

Where: Grays Harbor Estuary

Website: www.shorebirdfestival.com

Come see the spring migration of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds as they make their annual journey through Grays Harbor. Spectators may even witness the fastest creature alive – the peregrine falcon.

The Great Backyard Bird Count

When: Friday, February 14 – Monday, February 17

Where: Anywhere

Website: www.birdsource.org/gbbc

Wherever you are, get outside and count some birds! Bird populations are complex and scientists rely on citizen-science projects like bird counting to help them answer tough questions about migration, population and location. Print a birding checklist and submit count results on the festival’s website.