Fall Migration

On Willapa Bay, Bird-Watchers Get a New Festival

It's a weekend-long birding nerd-out with events that span the Long Beach Peninsula—by kayak, bicycle, foot, and even 4x4.

By Sydney Dauphinais September 18, 2018

Image: David Ryan

Are you a fan of cormorants and caspian terns? A sucker for sanderlings and the sooty shearwater? All about that albatross? Now's the time to dust off your binoculars and pack up your field guide, because right now, on the coast, fall bird-watching season is getting started.

On the Long Beach Peninsula, fall's annual southerly bird migrations are such a big deal that one Washington state-based nonprofit, the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, is making an event of it. Witness the inaugural Wings Over Willapa Festival, taking place across the 100-mile-long peninsula from September 28–30.

“Birding in general might seem like an antiquated hobby,” says Thandi Rosenbaum, owner of local lodge the Sou’wester. “But this festival takes a subject matter and brings it to life in this really multi-dimensional way.”

That means a full weekend of bird-watching tours, naturally—by kayak, bicycle, foot, and 4x4—along with wildlife tracking classes, a "pelagic tour" by boat over the Columbia River bar with an on-board naturalist, a seasonal cranberry bog walking tour with Washington State University-Long Beach professor Dr. Kim Patten, launching from Long Beach's Cranberry Museum, and even a beer-fueled acrylic pouring workshop at North Jetty Brewing.

Rosenbaum doesn't seem to be the only one excited by the opportunity to peep birds and learn about the peninsula's unique ecology; registration for individual events is mandatory, and some tours are already sold out. (General admission tickets for the whole festival are $20; additional events, like the keynote with noted Audubon ornithologist Joan Walsh, come with extra costs.)

And should you want to travel with a flock, there's a trolley on hand all weekend to transport attendees to events up and down the peninsula. A good way, we'd think, to make a few new feathered friends.

Wings Over Willapa Festival

Sept 28–30, Long Beach Peninsula, $20 general admission

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