Wings Over Willapa pelicans

Photo by David Ryan

Photographer David Ryan took this shot of brown pelicans and made it available to the organizers of Wings Over Willapa Festival to help promote their Sept. 26-29 event. Birders from all over the region are expected to attend the trips, workshops and fundraising silent auction.

WILLAPA BAY — There are two kinds of bird enthusiasts. People who occasionally venture outdoors and those who lug their binoculars with them everywhere they go.

Retired medical educator Dianne Fuller is in the latter category.

“Birding really gives me a connection with my environment. It grounds me,” Fuller said. “When I am outside, I enjoy looking at the birds and the trees. It appeals to the scientist in me. Even if I go to a meeting in Chicago, for instance, I take my binoculars with me in case I have a chance to walk along the lake.”

Fuller volunteered to coordinate the second Wings Over Willapa Festival. The Sept. 26-29 event is organized by the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and, as with last year, it is timed to coincide with the start of fall migration along the Pacific Flyway.

Registration is underway online and for some specific tours and events the number of attendees is limited.

The event was dreamed up last year by longtime birding enthusiasts Bob Duke and Erin and Dave Ryan, with the enthusiastic support of Jackie Ferrier, project leader from the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.

Connecting nature, people

The idea is to connect people with birds, nature and art while celebrating the refuge.

As well as the Friends group, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, city of Long Beach and Port of Ilwaco are key supporters. The Pew Charitable Trust is a contributor.

Organizers hope to raise about $12,000, Collier said. The money will boost the non-government funding component of the refuge’s new headquarters, which are being built at the east end of 67th Street near the south end of Willapa Bay. The new refuge offices are being constructed with government funding, but the Friends group is also raising private money to fund a community educational center.

The refuge was established in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect migrating birds and their habitats. The second largest estuary on the U.S. Pacific coast represents the largest remaining area of tidal mudflat habitat and coastal salt marsh habitat in southwestern Washington.

Guided tours, artist workshops and presentations are planned during the festival. Events include trips to Oysterville-Leadbetter, Bay Center, and Cape Disappointment State Park. The Port of Ilwaco will serve as a starting point for various tours and Sea Breeze Charters is offering a $150 trip.

Art events will be hosted by the Picture Attic and the Brownlee Studio in Long Beach, the Bay Avenue Gallery in Ocean Park, and the North Jetty Brewery in Seaview.

Free children’s events at the Cranberry Museum Sept. 28 include bird nest box building, face painting, dance and activities for “junior naturalists.” No advance registration is required.

A “Willapa on Tap” lecture series about ecology, research and habitat issues affecting Willapa Bay will kick off at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 at the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach. Refreshments will be served. Attendees must be registered for the festival.

Wings Over Willapa Caspian tern

A Caspian tern with a fish in its beak is captured in flight by photographer David Ryan. Organizers of the second-annual Wings Over Willapa Festival have arranged expeditions on the Long Beach Peninsula Sept. 26-29, inviting bird enthusiasts to don their hiking shoes and bring their binoculars.

The centerpiece of the weekend will be a silent auction at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum. Hors d’oeuvres will include salads, sliders, vegetables and desserts. Beer from North Jetty Brewing and assorted wines will be available. Admission is $50 and attendance is limited to 100.

Welcome to ‘Subirdia’

Keynote speaker will be John M. Marzluff, professor at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. His talk is entitled “Welcome to Subirdia.” It is also the title of one of his books.

Marzluff’s research has demonstrated how human effects on the environment has detrimentally affected wildlife habitat. And yet he notes that suburbs and city parks can be rich in bird diversity. He plans to talk about how small acts of individuals can mean big gains for native birds.

“By diversifying the vegetation on our farms and yards, by keeping cats indoors, and by making our windows more visible, we can all help conserve birds,” he said. “While my talk draws extensively on research from the suburbs, I have also studied farms from Nebraska to Costa Rica to better understand how to make agriculture sustainable for native birds.”

Marzluff has written books and scientific papers on bird behavior and wildlife management and is leading the federal Fish and Wildlife Service recovery team for the endangered Mariana Crow.

His latest book, “In Search of Meadowlarks,” will be published in January.

Dancing ‘Crow’

As additional entertainment, author and professional dancer Mary Lou Sanelli will offer a literary/dance combination called “Crow.”

She said it was choreographed in tribute to Washington birds and inspired by watching two crows build a nest outside her window in Seattle.

Wings Over Willapa Mary Lou Sanelli


As well as being an author and newspaper columnist, Mary Lou Sanelli is a lyrical style contemporary dance performer and instructor. At the festival, she will offer a literary/dance combination, choreographed in tribute to Washington birds and inspired by watching two crows build a nest outside her window in Seattle.

As well as an author and newspaper columnist, Sanelli is a lyrical style contemporary dance performer and instructor.

Fuller said the festival has something for everyone. “I like the idea of people coming to tour the Peninsula for healthy, exciting outdoor events, and to honor the nature of the place,” she said.

Registration for the workshops, tours and auction is under way at

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