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Snow geese have company

Artist Christine Mac Shane guides a Snow Goose Festival patron during an overflowing workshop the second day of the festival at the Mac Shane’s Studio 561 in Chico on Jan. 24. Photos by Mari Erin Roth

The annual Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway based in Butte County featured much more than geese. Hundreds of bird watchers gathered to observe thousands of birds and hundreds of species as they made their trek along the Pacific Flyway.

Centered in Chico, the festival offered dozens of workshops, field trips and informational presentations. Out-of-towners flooded wildlife sanctuaries and landscapes from Sacramento to Red Bluff for a view of avian vistas.

January 2019 was my second year at the festival. I was invited in 2018 and signed up for a painting class and a visit to Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. I arrived expecting a walk around a swamp and lots of fresh air. What greeted this reporter was an overwhelming opportunity and a burgeoning Mecca of information. Seriously. I committed to myself that I would return the following year and do the event justice trying to experience more of what was offered.

The 2019 festival featured 80-plus field trips from Red Bluff to Sacramento; from the heights of Plumas County to the flatlands below Sutter Buttes. There were a dozen workshops and over 20 free events. Youth were specifically invited to 45 of the activities.

I started off with a pontoon boat tour of Lake Oroville where dozens of bald eagles of varying ages filled our binoculars. We even saw a peregrine falcon dive and strike a goldeneye duck over the water hoping for lunch. Later that evening I returned to paint a “Heron in Cattails.” The event at Studio 541 was so enjoyable in 2018 I had to try for a repeat and now carry a hope for another in 2020.

The following morning a couple dozen birders met with Dr. Roger Lederer at Bidwell Park and were treated to a perfect day filled with sights and sounds. Lederer was an ideal guide having written a handful of books, including “Birds of Bidwell Park.”

A family-oriented Owl Prowl rounded out the night from 7 to 8:30 p.m. that started and ended at Chico Creek Nature Center.

Saturday started with a lecture at Chico Masonic Family Center on “Garden as Habitat” with John Whittlesey, owner of Canyon Creek Nursery and Design. Also an author, Whittlesey presented great suggestions and ideas of how to create an environment with less lawn and more wildlife.

A huge exhibit filled a large room at the family center with activities for all ages, all day long. There were even live bats and falcons on hand (well on the handlers hands) for photos and viewing. Interactive displays and presenters kept the action going from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bird watchers scour the trees in Chico’s Bidwell Park.

For me, a tour on the history of Sutter Buttes followed but I thought it was a lecture so I missed it, something for me to look forward to doing next year.

Saturday evening was the big banquet “Gathering of Wings,” featuring keynote speaker, naturalist and birding guide David Wimpfheimer. The topic was Point Reyes and the Farallon Islands: A Mecca for Birds and Birders.

This interesting talk was filled with facts and great photos. Did you know puffins are found off the coast of California? I traveled to the other side of the planet to view the cute buggers. Little did I know I could have just headed west!

My Sunday lineup was “Understanding Bird Language” and a presentation by Quincy birder Colin Dillingham titled “Ranges, Movements, and Migration of Peregrine Falcons in Plumas County.” What a great way to end a perfect weekend filled, no, bursting, with birds and fine birders of all ages.

A couple thousand people attended the Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway in January 2019. I know at least one human that will be returning for the annual migration again in 2020.

A young birder from Chico adds field experience.

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