Wings Over Water festival takes flight this weekend

Photo by Eric Ellingson By Jami Makan

In just a matter of three days, you can become a skilled bird watcher.

The 17th annual Wings Over Water NW Birding Festival is slated to take place from Friday through Sunday, March 15-17, in Blaine and will offer a look at the migratory birds that pass through Blaine and Birch Bay on the Pacific Flyway, which extends from Alaska to Patagonia.

The festival will feature a variety of activities, exhibitions, speakers and more.

Local bird watcher, writer and photographer Joe Meche said, “the rich tapestry of bird life in this area attracts birdwatchers from all over the country to experience a variety of birds close at hand.”

The event kicks off by giving guests the chance to join an all-day field trip to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, B.C. on Friday. The trip costs $45 and includes the bus charter, entrance fee and bird seed. Guests will get to see many types of birds, including sandhill cranes.

In the evening, there will be a Wings Over Water opening and featured artist reception at The Vault Wine Bar, 277 G Street. Because it will be St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the event will feature a traditional Irish meal. Guests will have the chance to participate in a silent auction, view art, meet featured artist Dona Reed and listen to a “Backyard Flora and Fauna” presentation by Emily Hirsch from the Whatcom Conservation District and Pam Borso from North Cascades Audubon Wildlife.

The event continues on Saturday with a hearty pancake breakfast at the Blaine community center, 763 G Street, from 8 to 11 a.m. Guests are asked to pay $6 for adults and $4 for children to attend.

From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, the public is invited to take part in an open water birding cruise by San Juan Cruises, running through Boundary and Semiahmoo Bay for $50 per person. A trained naturalist will be onboard to help guests spot nearby birds and wildlife.

Anyone can stop by the birding expo at Blaine Middle School, 975 H Street, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The expo is free to attend and will feature live raptor presentations, wildlife exhibits, arts and crafts vendors and a slew of activities for kids. Wildlife experts will speak at the expo and guests will have the chance to participate in a birding photography workshop to capture images of their own.

Starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Blaine Performing Arts Center, 975 H Street, Tim Boyer will speak about the trans-ocean migration of shorebird species that cross the majority of the Pacific Ocean. Learn why shorebirds migrate, where they migrate and how they are able to travel so far.

The next day, Boyer will lead a presentation titled, “Bird Photography for All Levels of Experience and Interest” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club, 8720 Semiahmoo Parkway. Reservations are recommended for this free event, and can be made online.

Starting at 1 p.m., guests can experience local maritime history at the Alaska Packers Association Cannery and Fishing Museum, 9261 Semiahmoo Parkway. Sunny Brown, APA Museum Coordinator, will be available to provide information about the museum’s exhibits and this rich time in Blaine’s history.

Many more events and activities are scheduled throughout the weekend. To learn more about Wings Over Water NW Birding Festival, visit


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