January 24 – January 27, 2013
By: Liz Gardner
Thursday, January 24 through Sunday, January 27, 2013 the 14th Annual Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway arrives in Chico. The Snow Goose festival has firmly established itself as the outdoor winter destination and something different to look forward for the North State and far from the hustle and bustle of the holidays now behind us.
What better time to get outdoors with your family to witness the center of all things avian. It all takes place here! Chico is situated in the northern most tip of the Valley, a unique part of the globe when from late October and through March, thousands of migrating snow geese pass through the region on their way south for their warmer season.
The SGF is almost entirely accomplished single handedly by volunteers – new, devoted and long time Chicians. And this year there is more dedication than ever! For locals, it has become a mid winter tradition. And for families, a new experience every year. For others, who come from the Bay Area and Southern California to attend, it can be a chance to observe wildlife up-close without having to travel and spend a lot of money or energy. Although the majority of attendees live in the Golden State, the event has had participants attend from across the Big Pond and beyond.
In 1999 the Snow Goose Festival started as a one-day symposium and has spread into a four-day, very diverse, fun filled event. Headquartered at the Masonic Family Center fieldtrips and special events are planned to celebrate this winged migration of the snow goose but also for hundreds of bird species, native and foreign: Bald Eagle, Snowy Egrets, Blue Heron’s, Sand Hill Cranes and many more.
“Last year over 120 bird species were documented” Jennifer Patten said during a recent phone interview. It is well know that California’s central valley was once rich with winter wetlands and the more recent the more recent addition of agriculture has continued to provide a refuge for avian wildlife. For millenniums this land has offered a resting place where migratory birds may rejuvenate before taking flight and continue their southward journey.
The unique winter birding season (many a Chico residents ear is primed skyward for the familiar honk and squawk of flocks of happiness heard overhead) occurs for many weeks. The yearly festival is a time to gather in celebration of this phenomena as well as an opportunity for individuals from far and wide, to learn from local organizations and governmental agencies just how diverse habitats rely on this migration to co-exist in this sacred and natural world: California State Parks, California Conservation Corps, Sacramento River Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), Altacal Audubon Society, Chico Creek Nature Center, California Native Plant Society, Yahi Sierra Club, Sacramento River Preservation Trust. Vitally, all of these these organizations provide experienced staff and well-trained volunteers to help the SGF with guided fieldtrips, nature talks, and hospitality. Integral to the success of the event is comes from local agriculture like Lundberg Family and Llano Secco Ranch who team up with the SGF to offer guided tours.
Jennifer reinforced that “…the most popular programs for families are the free Nature Crafts…” on Saturday and Sunday, January 26-27 from 10am to 3pm at Masonic Family Center. The Masonic Center also acts as the SGF headquarters. As well as “…The Owl Prowl, All About Bats, and the family friendly, easy walks at Tiechert Pond and a very doable hike to Upper Bidwell Park.” She also added “these are just a few of the fieldtrips that fill up quickly, so be sure to get your tickets early.”
Look for online registration in the beginning of December. Check the website at www.snowgoosefestival.org for more info or join the email list at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530.345-1865.
Festival pricing varies: Free to $45. Check local listings.
A few of this year’s highlight:
Friday, Jan. 25 Art Reception at Avenue 9 Gallery
Saturday, Jan. 26 “Gathering of Wings Banguet”, Keynote & Silent Auction, CSUC BMU
Sat., & Sun., Free Activities at the Masonic Family Center
SGF Fieldtrips kickoff Thurs., Jan. 24 and continue thru Sun., Jan. 27.