Arlington Eagle Festival takes flight Feb. 6

ARLINGTON — The eighth annual Eagle Festival here is expected to be the largest yet, adding new events around the Stillaguamish Valley.

The festival is scheduled for the first weekend in February. Dozens of activities, contests and exhibits are in the works.

Events kick off Feb. 6, and continue through Feb. 7. Arlington’s celebration comes after a month of eagle-themed festivities in nearby Skagit County. Eagles migrate south from Alaska and Canada in the winter, and many gather along area rivers. January and February good months to spot them in Washington.

The festival includes indoor and outdoor attractions, from rafting on the Stillaguamish River to poetry and art contests. Local businesses help with supplies, food and entertainment. The festival costs the city about $5,500 from its hotel and motel tax fund.

“It’s a family-friendly event focused on nature and animals,” city recreation manager Sarah Lopez said. “It’s a chance to get out in nature and view the birds, or have a close encounter.”

The most popular activities are guided bird-watching trips or raptor shows with close-up birds of prey, Lopez said.

There are several bird-watching options between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. that Saturday: a tour of the Port Susan Nature Preserve at the end of Boe Road in Stanwood; a walk-through of Arlington’s stormwater wetland at Haller Park, 1100 West. Ave.; a bird identification walk at Country Charm, 604 E. Gilman Rd.; and eagle viewing at Squire Creek Park, 41415 Highway 530. A full list of tours and other events is at www.arlingtonwa.gov/eaglefest.

Sarvey Wildlife Care Center plans an open house Feb. 7 where people can learn about raptors. Volunteers with the animal rescue and rehabilitation program plan to have a bald eagle, golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, peregrine falcon and possibly two owls in the Arlington City Council Chambers, 110 E. Third St., from noon to 4 p.m. that festival Saturday.

“Raptors are individuals, kind of like people, with their own personalities and fears,” said Kestrel Skyhawk, education director for Sarvey. “They’re always going to be wild animals. They can’t ever really be tamed … so to get this close is really a great opportunity.”

The birds are rescues that couldn’t be released back into the wild due to physical and other problems, she said.

While bird-watching and raptor meet-and-greets are staples at the festival, new events are planned in Darrington.

Darrington Strong, Inc., is coordinating a scavenger hunt through the town’s businesses and an art and photography show at the community center, 570 Sauk Ave. There will also be horseback riding on the Whitehorse Trail, a tour of Fortson Mill off Highway 530, a three-mile run on the Old Sauk River Trail, crafts at the Darrington Library and poetry at Mountain Loop Books and Coffee, 1085 Darrington St.

It’s the area’s last large festival until the spring, Lopez said.

“There’s a lot of fun stuff to do,” she said. “I would encourage people to do the Darrington events, especially if they’ve been before in Arlington.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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