Story and photo by Joe Meche
Birding festivals are a great way to enjoy bird watching in fantastic settings. They offer the added bonus of meeting people who share your passion for our winged wonders. Birding festivals began not only as a way to celebrate birds but also as a means to increase public awareness of birds and the need to protect and conserve the critical habitats necessary for their survival.
In 2001, a small group of local birding enthusiasts met to consider the idea of a birding festival in Blaine. The importance of the area as a gathering place for thousands of wintering birds was realized when the Drayton Harbor/Semiahmoo area was designated as one of 53 important bird areas in Washington state.
Shortly after that, the same locale became the anchor leg of the Cascade Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail. With significant data to support our efforts, in 2002 a festival was born. In 15 years, the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival has grown to include an array of events and activities to suit bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts of every age and level of expertise. This year, the event takes place March 10–12.
Expect field trips and excursions led by knowledgeable birders, which include a day trip to the George Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia; a two-hour open-water cruise on the 50-foot Salish Sea; and shorter cruises on the Plover ferry from Blaine Harbor to Semiahmoo.
For those wishing to stay closer to the heart of the festival, the all-day birding expo will feature photography workshops, arts and crafts, wildlife exhibits and speakers and lots of kids’ activities. Everyone is invited to the festival opening and artist reception at Semiahmoo Resort on Friday evening from 5 to 7 p.m.
Meet featured artist Kay Dee Powell, enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar and featured presentation titled “Celebrating Drayton Harbor’s Bounty” for $15. All will be delighted by featured keynote speaker Paul Bannick’s presentation, “OWL, A Year in the Lives of North American Owls,” on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. in the Blaine Performing Arts Center for free.
A full day of activities will take place on Sunday at Birch Bay, beginning with a birding breakfast buffet and speakers at the BP Heron Center in Birch Bay State Park. For a complete list of activities and events or to register for one of the field trips, visit the festival’s website at
(Joe Meche is one of the founders of the Wings Over Water NW Birding Festival as well as a favorite speaker at the festival. A birder for over 60 years, Joe knows this area intimately as a premiere birding destination. His efforts were instrumental in Drayton Harbor and Semiahamoo being designated by Audubon as an important bird area as well as the anchor to the Cascade Loop portion of the Washington State Birding Trail.)