Spring Wings, the valley’s largest festival to recognize the importance of birds and their habitat, takes flight Saturday with a variety of activities ranging from tours to classes.
Now in its 18th year, Spring Wings celebrates migratory birds returning on their northward journey. A full day of events is scheduled from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Churchill County Fairgrounds’ multi-purpose building on Sheckler Road. The first 50 people arriving at the door will receive a Spring Wings gift bag that includes custom wildflower seed mix from Comstock Nursery in Gardnerville and other donated items.
According to Susan Sawyer, visitors service manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Stillwater NWR complex, Saturday begins with a tour at 7:30 a.m and wraps up with a second tour at 3 p.m. Among the highlights are viewing hawk and owl nests, checking out the wood duck boxes and visiting a heron rookery.
Those interested in taking either tour must sign up online by today at 5 p.m. at www.springwings.org or at registration on Saturday before the tours begin. Sawyer said registration is first come.
The drought, though, has reduced the number of tours throughout the wetlands.
“Guided tours are limited this year due to the drought so as not to disturb or stress birds competing for limited resources,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said scheduled exhibits and activities include information from Lahontan State Park, Bureau of Reclamation interactive water knowledge game, Mason Valley Beekeepers with their see-through hive, Carson Valley Trails Association, Fallon Paiute Shoshone tribal wetlands, Wetlands & Wings Youth Outdoor Program, Truckee Meadows water systems, Vella Torvik’s wildlife photography; Stillwater Wildlife Refuge and kids wild-craft activities; live Birds of Prey; Pacific Flyway Decoy Association, Naval Air station Fallon Natural Resources; Carson Watershed Subconservancy District with their new water flow model, Lahontan Valley Claybreakers youth trap club; Rising Sun Art Gallery and a children’s art activity and more.
Sawyer said special free presentations include Meet the Bats, Nevada Dept. of Wildlife, noon; Basics of Bees with Jane Anderson at 1 p.m.; and live falconry with Marie Gaspari-Crawford at 2 p.m.
A popular workshop, carving a decorative shorebird decoy, is led by the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association whose members are more artists than hunters these days, Sawyer said.
“Decoy carving is an original American art form beginning with waterfowl hunting decoys in the early 1900s,” said Bob Joseph, Fallon resident and current President of the PFDA. “However, what started out as being functional for sport has evolved to include all North American birds such as waders, shore, raptors and songbirds. The carvings have elevated to an artistic level where the bird appears alive.”
Joseph said his group hosts workshops in California, but the only one held in Nevada is at Spring Wings. PFDA also puts on an annual Wildlife Art Festival competition in July in Sacramento, and those who carve at Spring Wings are eligible to enter in the Bench Class category at no charge, no matter the skill level.
Sawyer said the festival offers the public a chance to learn about and carve their own version of a local favorite, the Greater Yellowlegs and learn about the history of decoy carving at a special free seminar on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the multi-purpose building .
Sawyer said the PFDA artists provide personal instruction and all materials to complete their carving during the workshop, which runs from 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Seats are limited, register now at www.springwings.org before Saturday.