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Flock to Fall and Winter Birding Festivals

An osprey with its prey at the J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Walt Kaesler, Share the Experience)
An osprey with its prey at the J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Walt Kaesler, Share the Experience)

Picture a sky blanketed with birds this fall and winter erupting into flight, filling the air with calls and the sound of thousands of wings beating together. For a fun, inexpensive way to find out more about birds, experience a birding festival at one of your National Wildlife Refuges or other federal lands.

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Alabama

Festival of the Cranes - January 12-13, 2019

Sandhill Cranes take flight at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. (Steve Minor, Share the Experience)
Sandhill Cranes take flight at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. (Steve Minor, Share the Experience)

The Festival of the Cranes will be at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, southeast of Decatur. See thousands of wintering sandhill cranes as well as whooping cranes and white pelicans. Considered the easternmost refuge in the Mississippi Flyway, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. During the festival enjoy refuge tours, birding workshops, nature walks, live raptors and kids’ activities. Did you know that the refuge is just one of many sites on the North Alabama Birding Trail?

California

San Diego Bird Festival - February 27- March 3, 2019

Common merganser, San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS)
Common merganser, San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS)

The San Diego Bird Festival includes birding workshops, an optics expo, pelagic (open sea) birding, art and cultural activities and field trips to mountain, shore, desert and wetlands that include coastal San Diego Bay area national wildlife refuges. The refuges protect a rich diversity of endangered, threatened, migratory and native species and their habitats in the midst of a highly urban coastal environment at the south end of San Diego Bay. To get a sense of the number and variety of bird species in the area, refer to this complete listing of species (PDF) seen at the 2018 festival.

Florida

Ding Darling Days - October 12-14, 2018

White ibis perched against a bright blue sky at J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Ann Hubard, Share the Experience)
White ibis perched against a bright blue sky at J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Ann Hubard, Share the Experience)

Save the date for 30th annual "Ding" Darling Days. Enjoy a week of fun-filled and informative programs, bird walks, tours, paddling, all-free refuge tram tours and family activities at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel. Look for anhingas and try to spot the refuge's BIG 5 bird species during your visit. Download the free Ding Darling game app and play the Wildlife Drive trivia game! Be sure to share field tips, photos and record the birds you see.

Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival - January 23-28, 2019

Roseate spoonbills resting and preening at  Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida (Jonathan Milak)
Roseate spoonbills resting and preening at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida (Jonathan Milak)

Eastern Florida State College in Titusville hosts the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, billed as one of the largest and best birding and wildlife festivals in the U.S. You’ll find festival trips and events at numerous sites in and around the Space Coast area including Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Choose from a variety of activities to participate in including presentations, field trips, classroom and field workshops, exhibits and demonstrations.

New Mexico

Festival of the Cranes - November 14 - 17, 2018

Sandhill cranes bathed in morning light and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. (Share the Experience, Doreen Miller)
Sandhill cranes bathed in morning light and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. (Share the Experience, Doreen Miller)

Attend the Festival of the Cranes and see wintering sandhill cranes and snow geese by the thousands. The festival is held at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge outside of Socorro, approximately 1.5 hours south of Albuquerque. Enjoy workshops, tours and other events at one of the most celebrated bird festivals in the country. The 57,331 acre (23,201 hectares) refuge straddles the Rio Grande River at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert. Use this 2018 festival brochure to help you plan your visit then come enjoy the Land of Enchantment. Read this article about bird band #599-05468 about a crane with some serious frequent flyer miles. You can watch this video about wintering cranes at Bosque del Apache.

North Carolina

Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival - October 16 thru 21, 2018 (main session) and December 7 thru 9, 2018 (WOW Encore session)

Snowy egret at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (Matthew Karns, Share the Experience)
Snowy egret at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (Matthew Karns, Share the Experience)

Head to the Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival this fall. Near the Outer Banks of North Carolina, this multi-day festival features field trips to six national wildlife refuges: Pea Island, Alligator River, Mattamuskeet, Pocosin Lakes, Currituck and Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuges, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Jockey's Ridge State Park. Also included: classroom programs, bird walks, paddling trips and talks about wildlife photography and natural history.

Oregon and California

Winter Wings Festival - February 14 – 17, 2019

Eight bald eagles in one tree at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the California-Oregon border. One eagle is partially obscured. (Dave Menke, USFWS)
Eight bald eagles in one tree at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on the California-Oregon border. One eagle is partially obscured. (Dave Menke, USFWS)

The Winter Wings Festival requires advance planning and it’s definitely worth it. Activities for everyone fill this four-day event in southern Oregon, near Klamath Falls. Birdwatchers, photographers and families will enjoy learning about nature during this event. During the festival, be sure to visit nearby Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, or Crater Lake National Park and these birding hotspots (PDF) in the Klamath Basin to add to your birding life lists.

Texas

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival - November 7-11, 2018

A Cooper's Hawk at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (Steve Sinclair, Share the Experience)
A Cooper's Hawk at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (Steve Sinclair, Share the Experience)

Located in and around Harlingen, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival includes field trip destinations to Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges. Events include lectures, workshops, birding trips and other guided tours. Buses and minivans will transport festival-goers. Look for the great kiskadee, green jay, Altamira oriole and plain chachalaca.

Virginia

Waterfowl Weekend - November 22-25, 2018 (Thanksgiving Weekend)

Great egret at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (Alan Grugg, Share the Experience)
Great egret at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (Alan Grugg, Share the Experience)

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge will offer guided walks, tours and other special events to mark the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge. Some tours will be in areas normally closed to the public. The refuge provides habitat for greater snow geese and many other migratory birds. The refuge is on the Virginia end of Assateague Island and includes more than 14,000 acres (5,666 hectares) of beach, dunes, marsh and maritime forest.

Washington

Ridgefield Birdfest and Bluegrass Celebration - October 5-7, 2018

Western tanager, the 2016 Ridgefield Birdfest Bird of the Year (Linda Powell, Share the Experience)
Western tanager, the 2016 Ridgefield Birdfest Bird of the Year (Linda Powell, Share the Experience)

The 18th Annual Birdfest and Bluegrass Celebration, along the lower Columbia River, offers guided bus tours, Audubon bird shows, live music, arts and crafts, and activities at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a full-scale replica of a Native American structure found in the old town of Cathlapotle within the Carty Unit of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

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