Wildlife enthusiasts are prepared to soar this weekend.
The 16th annual Spring Wings festival kicks off today with activities at the Churchill County Fairgrounds and Stillwater Wildlife Refuge.
Susan Sawyer, USFWS visitor services manager, said the annual event brings individuals from throughout the state and country. The event celebrates the migratory patterns of shore birds, who travel thousands of miles on their journey north.
“In good years, we’ll get anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 million birds,” Sawyer said. “These birds pack on some miles — twice a year — and we’re right in the middle. It’s a great stopping place for them.”
Many of the birds, Sawyer added, are currently nesting so tours such as the Wood Duck tour limits the number of participants to avoid distrurbing the birds.
The festival, though, offers a plenty of options for visitors. Tours, work shops, movies and more.
“The festival features expertly guided tours,” Sawyer said. “They are small tours because that’s the best way to get up close.”
Today’s featured workshop is a decoy-carving seminar by the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association. In addition, the “Heavy Metal Birds” tour will navigate the Top Gun Naval Weapons Training Center at Naval Air Station Fallon for a behind-the-scenes look at various planes and helicopters from the flight line control tower.
“It’s sold out and very popular,” Sawyer said. “They get to be on the flight line, up in the control tower and talk about flight. The Navy is very gracious in opening up the base and allow one of our groups to come in.”
The newest tour added to the lineup is the “People of the Marsh” tour. Sawyer said the event is in conjunction with the Churchill County Museum and discusses the life of the Paiute tribe.
The tour visits Hidden Cave anad Stillwater Marsh to show guests how the Paiute’s survived off the land for hundreds of years.
“We’re talking about the life of the Paiute people,” Sawyer said. “It’s a cool tour as well.”
In addition, today’s other events include an Owl Prowl from 2:30-5:30 p.m. and a presentation by master falconer Marie Gaspari-Crawford from 7-8:30 p.m.
Other stops include the Navy’s flight museum and nature trail.
On Saturday, the festival kicks off at 7 a.m. with a Churchill County bird tour. At 10 a.m. the fairgrounds doors open to numerous activities for children and adults. Children crafts, activities and nature fair displays by the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension Office, Pacific Flyway Decoy Association, NAS Fallon Environmental Division, Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribal Environmental Division; the Nevada Junior Duck Stamp, Churchill County Museum plus many more will provide insight to various topics.
Also on Saturday, a “Duck-umentary” will be shown at 11 a.m. The PBS nature film is 55 minutes and details duck’s mastery of the water and air and displays the animals’ diving abilities.
At noon, Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist Jennifer Jeffers will present the public with local birds of prey.
Other activities on Saturday include a Martin Meyers’ photography of his three-year journey hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. Also, Cabela’s optic expert Mike Aiazzi will discus the best scopes or binoculars for birding. Guests can register to win a $200 pair of binoculars.
Sunday’s events include the second Churchill County bird tour at 7 a.m., a tour of the Carson River wood duck project, where guests will check nest boxes and band ducklings. The tour runs from 7:30-10:30 a.m.
For more about Spring Wings, visit www.springwings.org.