By Mike Benbow Special to The Herald
STANWOOD — It isn’t often that a community festival focuses on visitors from far away, but that’s what the Port Susan Birding and Snow Goose Festival is all about.
In its eighth year, the Stanwood-area festival on Feb. 23 and 24 will focus on geese, swans and other shorebirds from the far north.
The event is a birder’s delight, offering expert speakers and a variety of guided and unguided trips to the area’s top sites for birding.
And the best part about it is that attendance is free.
Speakers include Charles Duncan, executive director of the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, and Rob Butler, an expert on shorebird conservation. Their visit to the area acknowledges the region’s recent designation as a site of importance to the survival of shorebirds. Some 20,000 shorebirds migrate to the deltas of the Stillaguamish and Skagit rivers each winter.
Duncan will talk about his organization and its work. Butler will talk about the importance of protecting shorebirds and tell the story of the migration of the sandpiper.
Back for the third year in a row is Vasily Baranyuk, a senior scientist with Russia’s Wrangel Island Nature Preserve, the breeding ground for the snow geese that visit this area. Baranyuk has studied the snow geese for 20 years.
There will be seminars on identifying shorebirds and waterfowl, and basic information about bald eagles.
In addition to seminars, talks and videos, there are field trips, including visits to the Nature Conservancy’s property on Port Susan Bay, which just underwent a major restoration project.
Kat Morgan, Port Susan program manager for the conservancy, said the $4 million project finished last fall basically pared down an existing dike. The project returned about 150 acres of marginal farmland to the Stillaguamish River estuary, where it will provide more habitat for salmon and shorebirds.
There will be two tours of the property each day of the festival, and Morgan said she will be leading some of them to show people the work and talk about what it’s intended to accomplish.
There will be other guided tours to look at shorebirds, a bus tour to see snow geese and swans, and a trip to Iverson Spit on Camano Island. Visitors will be steered to local birding sites for self-guided trips.
Registration online is required for many of the trips. Go to www.snowgoosefest.org.
Snow goose festival
Speakers, seminars and trips about a variety of birds.
When: Feb. 23 and 24.
Where: 27108 102nd Ave. NW, Stanwood.
Online: www.snowgoosefest.org. Trips fill up fast, so register early.