The 19th annual Wings Over Water NW Birding Festival will begin Friday, March 19, in a virtual format. The annual festival spotlights migratory birds that pass through the Blaine area on the Pacific Flyway from Alaska to Patagonia.
“It seems like I’m excited about something every day that’s different,” said festival coordinator Debbie Harger. “I’m excited for some of the live video events but I’m also excited about the pre-recorded videos because I think it highlights our area so beautifully.”
Harger said festival volunteers decided to make the event virtual in August to play it safe after last year’s festival was canceled because of the pandemic. “This will be our 19th festival and we wanted to keep the festival in people’s eyes,” she said.
This year’s festival will include live webinars, video bird walks and virtual activities for kids.
The virtual format has allowed people to participate from across the U.S., and from as far as Ireland, Macedonia and India, Harger said.
Wildlife author and photographer Paul Bannick will feature a new keynote presentation, “The Great Gray and Snowy Owl, comparative visual natural histories” that will dive into the similarities and differences of the two owls, using research from new books he’s written. Bannick’s work has been featured in The New York Times and NBC Nightly News.
The festival will begin Friday morning, March 19, with a virtual welcome that will provide an overview of the festival and involve prize drawings. The first day will also consist of children’s story time with the Whatcom County Library System; a bird walk of Semiahmoo Spit from North Cascades Audubon Society’s (NCAS) Paul Woodcock and Phil Calise; and the Salish Sea School’s presentation on the endangered tufted puffin. The day will end with a happy hour with a recipe to make the festival’s new signature cocktail, Birds of a Feather. At the happy hour, featured artists Megan Bloom and Wendy Bloom of Bellingham-based Rainbow Orca Designs will present their artwork and its connection to nature.
The second day, Saturday, March 20, will include the festival’s only non-virtual event – a socially distant children’s activity hosted by Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2.
Festival attendees will also be able to listen to bird guide author Richard Crossley’s presentation on the Crossley Bird ID Method; learn about the benefits of ornitherapy from Holly Merker, who says birdwatching helped her beat cancer; attend a guided bird walk of Birch Bay State Park from NCAS’ Woodcock and Pam Borso; participate in a NCAS presentation on identifying common backyard birds and then tune into the keynote presentation.
The festival will end Sunday, March 21, with a presentation on using citizen science to help bird conservation; a bird walk of Blaine Harbor by local bird watcher Joe Meche; Sardis Raptor Center’s Hunters of the Sky live raptor presentation; and will wrap up with a presentation from NCAS’ Borso and Woodcock on identifying Salish Sea birds and their environmental threats.
“We want attendees to be inspired and get outside,” Harger said. “We want them to learn something about the birds we have here locally.”
The festival is free to attend, but donations are encouraged to help the festival continue in future years.
People who register for the festival will be able to watch event videos after they air, except for the keynote event, through Thursday, March 25. To view the festival’s schedule and event times, visit bit.ly/3eeQZky and to register, visit bit.ly/3qp2J6i. Once registered, festival participants will have access to the events’ links.