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Out & About: Swan, crane festivals celebrate migrations

Sandhill cranes stop near Othello, Wash., and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in late March and early April during their spring migration. (Craig Goodwin)
Sandhill cranes stop near Othello, Wash., and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge in late March and early April during their spring migration. (Craig Goodwin)

OUTCOMING – The recent weather melt off makes spring bird migrations easier to fathom.

Birds already are shifting gears in the hemisphere and some will be flying through this region soon.

Two upcoming bird festivals help focus attention and education on migrations.

Tundra Swan Festival, March 4, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., will be based out of the Camas Center for Community Wellness on the Kalispel Tribe reservation north of Newport, Washington.

The event features a bus tour for swan viewing, pot-roast lunch and two seminars related to the Pend Oreille River.

The Pend Oreille River Valley is a regular pit stop for tundra swans traveling from wintering areas such as Mexico and California to breeding areas in the arctic tundra regions.

The tundra swan is distinguished from the larger trumpeter swan by just a bit of yellow above the bill and an erect neck posture observed during takeoff and initial flight.

Speakers at this year’s event include Stan Mrzygod of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club. He’ll look at paddling the river with a focus on its geology.

Mike Lithgow, information and outreach coordinator for the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resource Department, will highlight improvements to the new 2017 Water Trail maps for the river.

Register by calling (844) 767-8287 or online at

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, March 24-26, will feature seminars, programs and tours focusing on a variety of wildlife, a banquet and kids activities based in Othello and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

The festival is in its 20th year of celebrating the return of Sandhill cranes through the Columbia Basin.

The Friday evening speaker is a returning favorite – Nick Zentner from Central Washington University, famous for his “2 Minute Geology” videos.

Saturday afternoon’s speaker is award-winning photographer and author Paul Bannick with his presentation on his new book “Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls.”

Saturday’s keynote banquet speaker is Dr. Gary Ivey of the International Crane Foundation, speaking on cranes, colts and trumpeter swans.

Special programs are scheduled for kids and exhibitors will have displays at Othello High School.

But the highlights of the three-day festival are the field trips to view sandhill cranes, ground squirrels, geology and more. On Saturday, local experts will be talking related topics such as drone use in agriculture (one of the area attractions for migratory birds) to area reptiles and growing mushrooms.

The Washington State University Raptor Club is bringing hawks, owls, eagles and falcons.

Register for field trips at

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