Family Adventure Outdoor Adventurer Birding

The Snow Goose Festival: A Birdwatcher's Delight

Expe­ri­ence the Snow Goose Fes­ti­val of the Pacif­ic Flyway

The annu­al Snow Goose Fes­ti­val of the Pacif­ic Flyway based in Butte Coun­ty fea­tures much more than geese. Hun­dreds of bird watch­ers con­gre­gate at the base of the foothills to observe thou­sands of birds and hun­dreds of species as they find their route along the Pacif­ic Flyway.

Cen­tered in Chico, the fes­ti­val puts togeth­er 80-some work­shops, field trips, and infor­ma­tion­al pre­sen­ta­tions for the pub­lic to enjoy. Out-of-town­ers are pro­vid­ed mul­ti­ple oppor­tu­ni­ties to flood 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 two events from the long list of offer­ings: 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 selec­tion of edu­ca­tion via sight and sound and a bur­geon­ing Mec­ca of infor­ma­tion. Seri­ous­ly. I promised myself that I def­i­nite­ly would return the fol­low­ing year and do the event jus­tice try­ing to expe­ri­ence more of what was offered. I had arrived com­plete­ly unpre­pared for all that await­ed but was deter­mined to right that wrong for the next festival.

The 2019 event repeat­ed the fat offer­ing of dozens of field trips up and down the north­ern coast, from the heights of Sier­ra to the flat­lands below Sut­ter Buttes. Over 20 free events and a dozen work­shops made the event avail­able to any­one inter­est­ed. 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.

It was excit­ing for the par­tic­i­pants to view sev­er­al bald eagles so close-up,” said Oroville boat tour guide Craig Roth, one of dozens of tal­ent­ed and informed guides par­tic­i­pat­ing in the fes­ti­val. The var­ied stages of grow­ing up for an eagle can be con­fus­ing but I hope enough point­ers were dis­cussed that the par­tic­i­pants left with a bit more con­fi­dence. I tried to impress the point that bird watch­ing is pure obser­va­tion — size of bird, type of bill or beak, habi­tat, how it flies, the sound it makes, col­oration, the list goes on.” 

And tru­ly it was a won­der­ful day full of eagle sight­ings on the water and the hills bor­der­ing. See­ing the Pere­grine Fal­con was awe­some,” said Roth. Most peo­ple saw it in the spot­ting scope. When it took flight to hunt the Com­mon Gold­en­eye it was a thrill for all to wit­ness. It struck out on that kill but it’s a tough life for all birds. Some­times it’s hard to make a living.”

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 .

The Snow Goose Festival: A Birdwatcher's Delight

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 9am to 4pm. 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.”

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.