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Blaine festival March 11-13 celebrates birds of Pacific Flyway

Birders use binoculars while Paul Woodcock, center, uses a spotting scope at Semiahmoo Spit in 2009. Woodcock and Jim Jorgensen will lead a field trip to the spit on Saturday, March 11 as part of the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival.
Birders use binoculars while Paul Woodcock, center, uses a spotting scope at Semiahmoo Spit in 2009. Woodcock and Jim Jorgensen will lead a field trip to the spit on Saturday, March 11 as part of the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival. The Bellingham Herald

The Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival this weekend offers a ornithological activities for all ages and birding levels, many of them free or low-priced.

For this, the 14th annual festival, a guided field trip to a British Columbia bird sanctuary has been added, and the birding and wildlife cruises return. Other activities include local birding excursions; a live raptor exhibit; arts and crafts for children; spotting-scope viewing stations staffed with birding experts; and photography workshops, nature lectures and presentations.

“If you don’t like birds before the festival, you will after,” said Debbie Harger, Blaine’s community development and tourism coordinator. “We are located on one of the world’s premier birding sites. What we focus on with the festival is family-oriented activities.”

Festival events are Friday, March 11, to Sunday, March 13, at various times and locations. Harger said the event is becoming so popular that it draws visitors from Seattle and beyond.

New this year is a guided charter bus trip to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, B.C.

Keynote speaker is James Currie, host of National Geographic Channel’s “Aerial Assassins” and Nikon’s “Birding Adventures TV,” who will discuss his book “When Eagles Roar — Tales of an African Birding Adventurer” free from 5-7 p.m. Saturday, March 12, in the Blaine Middle School Performing Arts Center, 975 H St. Book signing and free refreshments follow.

Headquarters for the festival is Blaine Middle School, where there’s free parking and an information booth. Visitors will find food vendors, arts and craft vendors, and be able to make reservations and buy tickets for field trips and boating excursions. A pancake breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday kicks off the biggest day of events; it’s at the Blaine Community Center, 763 G St.

An opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Friday at the Loomis Trail Golf Club, 4342 Loomis Trail Road , features the pen and pencil drawings of Bev Connor of Dreaming Otter Arts in Bellingham, among other artists. Cost is $10.

New this year is a guided charter bus trip to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, B.C. , from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. More than 300 bird species have been recorded at this mile-square paradise of wetlands, trees and intertidal marshes. The $40 fee includes bus, admission fee and a bag of birdseed. Passport or enhanced drivers license is required.

Salish Sea Open Water Birding and Wildlife Cruises are offered by San Juan Cruises and the North Cascade Audubon Society from 10 a.m. to noon and from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Boat departs from Semiahmoo Resort’s Plover dock, 9565 Semiahmoo Drive. Cost is $50 per person.

Free and low-priced activities Saturday include:

▪  Noted local birders Paul Woodcock and Jim Jorgensen will lead a field trip to Semiahmoo Spit from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Bus departs from Blaine Middle School. Fee of $5 includes a snack. Waterfront stroll includes a guided tour of the Alaska Packers Association Cannery Museum. In addition to their birding experience, Woodcock is a naturalist and Jorgensen has a background in geology.

▪  $5 nature cruises on the historic Plover foot ferry, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Departures are on the hour from Blaine Harbor’s Boating Center dock, 235 Marine Drive, which is within walking distance of the school.

▪  North Cascades Audubon Society will staff free bird-viewing stations with spotting scopes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free maps to the viewing stations will be available at Blaine Middle School.

▪ Free arts and crafts, games, and face painting from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Blaine Middle School. A birdhouse-building project is from 10 a.m. until supplies are gone; suggested $1 donation.

▪  Alaska Packers Association Cannery Museum is open free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 9261 Semiahmoo Parkway.

▪  Free live “Hunters of the Sky” raptor presentations are offered by the Sardis Raptor Center from noon to 1:30 p.m. and from 2:30-4 p.m. in the Blaine Middle School cafeteria. You’ll see birds of prey up close, including owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles.

▪  “Basics of Photographing Birds” workshop with photographer Ken Salzman, free from 1:30-3 p.m. at Blaine Middle School.

Activities at Birch Bay State Park, 7878 Birch Bay Drive, are featured Sunday including a free “Birch Bay Birds & Habitat” from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the park’s BP Heron Center and a free “Art of Falconry” presentation from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at the Heron Center. A seasonal Discover Pass or a $10 day-use fee is required for parking in the state park.

Find detailed information, make reservations online and a complete list of activities at wingsoverwaterbirdingfestival.com or contact the Blaine Visitor Center at 360-332-4544 or email vic@cityofblaine.com.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-715-2805, @bhamMitty

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