Both birds and people will be flocking to Mare Island in Vallejo to celebrate what has become a special annual ritual each winter: the San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival. The 3-day event celebrates the return of over one million shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, hawks, songbirds and even monarch butterflies which migrate through or winter in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This year the Festival will be held Friday, February 8th through Sunday, February 10th, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm on Mare Island in Vallejo, CA. Admission is free.
Festival-goers may choose from dozens of fun activities, including a Family Wildlife Exploration and Birding Expo with more than 60 exhibitors, guided nature walks including outings suitable for beginning birders, both families and adults, birding and wild bird demonstrations, and art and photography exhibits. The schedule will be posted online by January 28, 2019. It will include a listing of all presentations and outings on Mare Island and throughout the region, as well as the actual Flyway Festival Wildlife Expo headquarters building on Mare Island. The final location is not set at this time.
The shutdown of the Federal Government threatened to affect some of the 2017 Flyway Festival regional outings such as the Skaggs Island raptor watching tours. That year, the shutdown was averted prior to the commencement of the Flyway Festival. However, if the current shutdown continues through the Festival dates, some regional outings may be affected. All outings on Mare Island and at other non-profit organization managed properties such as the Sonoma Land Trust and the Solano Land Trust WILL take place. Media friends are requested to check in with Myrna Hayes, Festival Director, as the Flyway Festival dates approach. 707-249-9633.
For the Flyway Festival’s 24th anniversary, organizers welcome returning presenters Native Bird Connections, a wild bird rehab and education center based in Martinez, CA will once again give its “standing-room-only” live bird shows both Saturday and Sunday at the Wildlife Expo from 11:30 am-12:30 pm. A live presentation by NorCal Bats will take place on Sunday afternoon. The enthusiastic turnout for these live animal and bird visits is remarkable. Digital presentations include information about the surprising nesting of osprey in San Francisco Bay, not known to have occurred in the 20th or 21st centuries until about the year 2000; how to identify birds and use binoculars; why Ladybugs matter; the intimate life of dragonflies and the history of the Mare Island Naval Hospital which will be combined with a visit to the grounds of the hospital founded more than 150 years ago, closed as a Navy hospital in 1957, 60 years ago and now the campus of Touro University.
For the fifth season “resound migration”, an experimental sound art project created by Vallejo resident and sound artist Jen Boyd, will feature a number of other sound artists with a theme of birds and nature during the Flyway Festival. Performances take place on Saturday, February 9 at the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve Building A-168 from 3:30 pm-7:30 pm. Visit www.Re-sound.net for more details and a list and descriptions of all the participating artists.
Regional guided and self-guided outings scheduled in Contra Costa, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties
The annual migration celebration offers a range of guided and self-guided outings throughout the “north shore” region of the San Francisco Bay Area including birdwatching, natural history, and recreational hikes led on Mare Island. Many of the hikes and outings are oriented to the beginning and intermediate birders. Hawk watching outings led by experienced hawk specialists from the Sonoma Land Trust, the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and Napa Solano Audubon Society are expected to enjoy enthusiastic turnouts. Skaggs Island, the former US Navy communications facility and now a part of San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge is not normally open to the public except during escorted outings like those scheduled during the Flyway Festival.
One of the most popular attractions again this year, will be the two guided outings which are planned by the Friends of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the recently restored more than 1200 acres of tidal wetlands at Cullinan Ranch, opened to the Bay’s waters for the first time in more than 150 years in the first part of January 2015. There is also self-guided walking and even kayak and canoe access to this new marshland, as well as to a number of other National Refuge lands for birdwatching and hiking. Self-guided hiking and birdwatching can be done on California Department of Fish and Wildlife property in southern Napa County at the Green Island Unit.
A Birds of Prey hike guided by Hawk and Raptor expert Larry Broderick will take place Saturday, February 9th 10:00 am-1:00 pm at Lynch Canyon Open Space Park. Visit the Solano Land Trust website for details. Larry Broderick will guide two hawk walks at the Sears Point Wetlands Bay Trail Sunday, February 10th, 9:00 am-11:00 am and 12 noon to 2:00 pm. Visit the Sonoma Land Trust website for details and to register.
Mare Island Nature, Birding, Historic, Cultural, Recreational and Scenic Outings
For the 9th year, the Festival welcomes the Vaca Valley Volkswalkers’ American Volkswalk Association sanctioned 5k and 10k walks on a designated route throughout Mare Island.
Mare Island outings will include guided walks Friday, Saturday and Sunday by local Audubon Society hike leaders and Mare Island Heritage Trust field guides. Hikes and driving birding outings on the Island include access to the Navy’s first ammunition depot in the Pacific founded in 1857, located in an area of the island designated as the 215-acre Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve which will be open daily during the Festival from 9:00 am-sunset. Digiscoping with phones and cameras should be good in the Preserve with nesting great blue herons and possible osprey sightings. Other guided outings on Mare Island include beginning birding walks on the San Pablo Bay Wetlands Trail. Docent-led history tours of the Mare Island Naval Cemetery will be offered both Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon-2: 00 pm.
St. Peter’s Chapel, home to the most Tiffany stained-glass windows in a single site in the West, will be open for tours Saturday, February 9, and Sunday, February 10, 11:00am-3: 00 pm. The Mare Island Museum will be open on Friday, February 8, 10:00am-2: 00 pm and Saturday, February 9 10:00 am-4: 00 pm. Both require a $5.00 admission donation.
Flyway Festival Art Exhibition and opening reception
Artists and photographers will show original artwork that depicts local wildlife, wetlands, marshes, and native habitats from San Francisco Bay to the ridgetops of Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo. The show is open to all ages and skill levels and the deadline for art entries is February 2, 2019. Artists’ work will be available for purchase at the Art Show beginning with its opening reception Friday evening, February 8 at 5:00 pm and continuing through the two-day show, Saturday and Sunday, 9am-4pm.
Most Festival activities are free. Some require pre-registration. For more information and directions, call Myrna Hayes 707-249-9633 or Sarah Cain 510-579-1008 or visit sfbayflywayfestival.com.
The mission of the Mare Island Heritage Trust is to protect, preserve, restore, manage, interpret, promote as a destination and provide for an engaging visitor experience of the open space, historic, cultural and natural resources of Mare Island and its vicinity. Along with public and private sector partners, the Mare Island Heritage Trust ensures adequate funding, maintenance and public support of its purposes. The Mare Island Heritage Trust engages in comprehensive planning and the implementation of initiatives and educational and recreational programming for the public experience and enjoyment of an array of unique natural and built areas of Mare Island and its vicinity.