14th Annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival March 11-13, Blaine, Washington

by Joe Meche

The perfect activity to comple­ment winterspring is the Wings Over Water Festival in Blaine, the origin of which might require a little foreword. It was just over fourteen years ago that I hosted a meeting with members of the board of directors of the North Cascades Audubon Society and a small contingent from the Washington Brant Foundation in attendance. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of putting together a festival or celebration of some sort to raise public awareness to a unique species — the Pacific black brant. Parts of this contingent eventually met with representa­tives from the city of Blaine to lay out a game plan that would accomplish a variety of goals for everyone involved.

Fast forward to 2016 and you’ll find a thriving festival that has become a major part of the land­scape that includes Blaine, Se­miahmoo, and Birch Bay. With Community Development and Tourism Coordinator for the City of Blaine, Debbie Harger, leading the way, this festival has become a big part of the annual spring calendar of events for birdwatch­ers – young and old, experienced and novice. This year’s festival spans a three-day weekend when the greatest concentrations of birds are expected on local waters between Blaine and Birch Bay.

For the second year in a row one of the main events will be an offshore cruise aboard the MV Salish Sea, complete with an on­board naturalist to help with bird identification. New to the festival this year will be a guided field trip to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, west of Ladner, British Columbia. The plan for this day-long birding adventure will involve a chartered bus to take us to the refuge where we will break up into small groups. Each group will have an experienced birder leading the way to all the hotspots around the refuge. Both of these activities require advance registration and have trip limits so make sure to sign up early.

Most of the events and activi­ties will be centered at the Blaine Middle School with presentations taking place in the adjoining Blaine School Performing Arts Center. Everything at the festival is kid-friendly so load up the car and take the entire family out for an exciting day filled with arts and crafts, nest-box building, vendors, exhibits and a live raptor presen­tation. One of the more popular activities is a short cruise between Blaine and Semiahmoo on the foot passenger ferry, the MV Plover. For more details about this great festival visit the Wings Over Water website at www.wingsover­waterbirdingfestival.com. We’ll see you there.