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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

KLAMATH BASIN NWRC: Klamath Basin Refuges Support 35th Winter Wings Festival

Region 8, February 16, 2014
USFWS biologist Dave Mauser (center) leads a
USFWS biologist Dave Mauser (center) leads a "behind the scenes" tour of Lower Klamath NWR during the Winter Wings Festival held in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Feb. 14. - Photo Credit: n/a
Participants at the Winter Wings Festival were treated to many wildlife viewing opportunities on Klamath Basic refuges.  Here, a group spots various waterfowl on Lower Klamath NWR.
Participants at the Winter Wings Festival were treated to many wildlife viewing opportunities on Klamath Basic refuges. Here, a group spots various waterfowl on Lower Klamath NWR. - Photo Credit: n/a
Snow Geese, Tundra Swans and various other waterfowl crowd a north unit on Lower Klamath NWR, Friday, Feb. 14.
Snow Geese, Tundra Swans and various other waterfowl crowd a north unit on Lower Klamath NWR, Friday, Feb. 14. - Photo Credit: n/a
A rough legged hawk hunts from  fence post on Lower Klamath NWR, Feb. 14.
A rough legged hawk hunts from fence post on Lower Klamath NWR, Feb. 14. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Jon Myatt

Planners and organizers were satisfied with the turn-out for this year’s Winter Wings Festival held at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon over President’s Day weekend this February.

According to the sponsor’s website, “despite a rainier than usual weather pattern and below average water levels, the intrepid birders, nature photographers and local residents that joined us took it in stride and managed to have a wonderful experience in the field.”

While the four-day birding festival is coordinated by a team of organizers and sponsors from various governmental and non-governmental agencies in Oregon and northern California, it is also a major outreach program for the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Klamath Basin Refuges. A record 130 volunteers and more than 650 festival program attendees -- some from as far away as Minnesota -- descended on Klamath Falls for four days of seminars, workshops and birding trips to the four nearby national wildlife refuges.

As a major sponsor and supporter, Klamath Basin Refuge staff view the festival as an opportunity to highlight the importance of wildlife refuges to a community and a region.

Dave Mauser, a recently retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist at the Klamath Basin complex, led numerous trips to the refuges for attendees that were focused on the “behind the scenes” of refuge operations.

“The festival began back in the 1980s when it was focused on the bald eagle,” he said. “But over time it has expanded into one for all birds and interested people from all over the world come here to experience the basin, birds, habitat and wildlife during the wintertime.”

“We used these programmed visits to talk about refuge management, wildlife management and habitat management,” Mauser said. “Of course we show them the birds and the wildlife we produce on the refuge, but most importantly, we focus on the ultimate value of the work we do.”

For birding enthusiasts, it was an opportunity to see places on the refuge not normally open to the public. “Bald eagles are a big hit, but the large waterfowl concentrations – the swans that are here at this time of year, as are the snow geese -- are all things participants want to see,” he said.

According to event co-organizers Anne Wenner and Diana Samuels, Winter Wings regularly draws 500 to 700 attendees, which puts the Klamath Basin festival in the top 10 of birding festivals in the United States.

Many of those attendees were treated to rare sightings of birds and other wildlife during trips to the Lower Klamath NWR and Tule Lake NWR, explained Stacy Freitas, a wildlife biologist for the refuge complex, who coordinated the refuge tour portion of the festival.

“We want to reach out beyond the serious birding community and touch people locally,” she said. “We hope that people will take the information presented here back to their families and friends in their communities, so that they develop a sense of ownership and create an interest in what we are trying to accomplish here.”

“Developing advocates for our wild lands is not only important for our wildlife, but for our future and the future of our children and grandchildren,” she said. “That’s why these environmental festivals are important.”

Other staff that supported the event included: Wildlife biologist John Beckstrand, Pathways biologist Megan Solus, Pathways park ranger; Hallie Rasmussen, and Stephen Rooker, interprative specialist.

-- FWS --

 

Festival highlights from the sponsors:

  •  Gray owl seen at the Klamath Marsh NWR “Owl Prowl”
  •   Waterfowl photography during the “Behind the Scenes” refuge tours on Lower Klamath NWR.
  •   Filling the Oregon Institute of Technology auditorium with families for the High Desert Museum’s “Raptors of the High Desert” presentation
  •   Breaking the 34-year birds species record count on Klamath Basin Refuge Complex
  •   Learning to photograph birds in flight with Kevin Karlson
  •   Number of quality hands-on activities at the Family Day area and the hundreds who participated
  •   A festival record 130 volunteers from the local community

Contact Info: Jon Myatt, 916-414-6474, jon_myatt@fws.gov