Wings Over Water festival takes flight

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By Steve Guntli

The Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival is returning to Blaine and Birch Bay bigger and better than ever.

The bird-watching festival has been an annual tradition since 2002. Each year, bird watchers travel from all over to observe a huge variety of seabirds. Blaine and Birch Bay are located on the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory path for hundreds of species. The National Audubon Society recognizes Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay as Important Bird Areas, and are considered vital habitats for bird conservation.

The three-day event will include a wide range of activities from bird-watching tours of the Salish Sea to lectures from birding experts.

The festival starts off at Semiahmoo Resort on March 13. From 5 to 7 p.m., the resort will host a wine tasting. The reception will also include a display of wild bird photography and a presentation by featured artist Lorna Libert.

New this year is a birding cruise aboard the Salish Sea, a 50-foot vessel that will take passengers on a two-hour tour of local waters on Saturday, March 14. Naturalists will be onboard to point out various species of birds and aquatic animals. The ship will make two trips, one at 10 a.m. and another at 12:30 p.m. The Salish Sea can carry 56 passengers. Tickets cost $47.50, and are available at wingsoverwaterbirdingfestival.com.

On Saturday, an all-day birding expo will be held at the Blaine Middle School and Performing Arts Center and will features seminars, workshops, field trips and exhibitions.

Guest speakers include Paul Bannick and David Hancock. Bannick is a renowned wildlife photographer and speaker. His work has appeared in dozens of publications, including the New York Times, Sunset Magazine and Nature’s Best Photography Magazine. Hancock is an author, conservationist and lecturer. He has written books on a wide variety of topics, from bald eagles to indigenous cultures of the northwest.

Representatives from the Sardis Raptor Center will make a presentation from noon to 1:30 p.m. Sardis, based out of Ferndale, is the largest bird-of-prey center in the Pacific Northwest. The center rehabilitates injured hawks, owls, falcons and eagles. This presentation will allow visitors to get up close and personal with birds of prey.

On Sunday, the focus shifts to Birch Bay beginning with a Breakfast for Birders at CJ’s Beach House. A full buffet and presentation by writers and photographers Craig and Joy Johnson will cost $15.

Photographers Wayne Diaz and Eric Ellingson will head up a wildlife photo shoot tour of Birch Bay while bird expert Paul Woodcock will lead a bird-watching tour of Birch Bay State Park and Terrell Creek. The festival will conclude with a talk about indigenous species of Terrell Creek at the BP Heron Center.

For a detailed schedule of events, visit wingsoverwaterbirdingfestival.com.

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