America’s Largest Bald Eagle Festival is President’s Day Weekend 2007 in the Klamath Basin of South Central Oregon
Klamath Falls, Oregon
December 19, 2006
America’s national symbol, the bald eagle, will be celebrated at the Annual Klamath Basin Winter Wings Festival, February 15-18. The nearby National Wildlife Refuges are home to North America’s largest wintering population of bald eagles, and are renowned for the “dawn flight” when hundreds of nesting pairs take to the air at once. This high desert region, home to myriad species of raptors, songbirds and waterfowl, is one of the country’s best sites for bird watching.
The Klamath Basin of South Central Oregon and Northern California is home to over 350 species of birds throughout the year. It is world famous for spectacular flocks of waterfowl on the lakes, numerous raptors and songbirds frequenting the high-desert mountain region of the nationally known Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, of which there are six. (www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/)
But no other time of year is quite so distinctive to visit than when the wintering bald eagle numbers peak in mid-February, with the Klamath Basin populations ranking as the largest recorded in the contiguous United States. (Only Alaska has a larger population count of bald eagles). It is difficult to imagine over 1,000 bald eagles choosing to stop for their migratory winter season in this region just south of Crater Lake National Park, near the southern Oregon town of Klamath Falls. But with over 450 wildlife species having been observed in the Basin, there is much for the wintering eagles to find for food and resources.
The Annual Klamath Basin Winter Wings Festival coincides with the ominous presence of wintering waterfowl and eagles. It is today considered one of America’s largest Bald Eagle Festivals of its kind. Festival participants not only enjoy these magnificent birds, waterfowl and raptors on outdoor guided tours, but are able to attend valuable lectures and workshops led by professionals. The purpose of the Festival is to share recreational information, increase awareness of this region’s unique Pacific Northwest wildlife resources, and especially to celebrate the uniqueness of the Klamath Basin at this time of year.
After 25 years as the Klamath Basin Bald Eagle Conference, the event has grown to be called the Annual Winter Wings Festival of Klamath Falls, a four-day event that occurs now every President’s Weekend at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon — February 15-18, 2007 (www.winterwingsfest.org). The event opens Thursday evening in the very walkable downtown of Klamath Falls, with its geothermally heated sidewalks. From 5-8 p.m., arts, food, music and vendors will give families and visitors the opportunity to enjoy downtown as part of the Winter Wings Festival.
In addition, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at OIT, the Festival will offer workshops, tours, vendors, photography and art displays, and activities attractive to all ages and levels of birding experience. Special arrangements for lodging in Klamath Falls and shuttle transportation from the Rogue Valley International Airport (Medford, OR) are available by Main Source Tours & Reservations of Ashland, OR. (www.mainsourcerez.com/winter_wings.asp)
An attendee can witness the magnificence of a red-tailed hawk in flight or discover the majesty of scores of eagles flying in unison from their perches at sunlight. You can see white-fronted and snow geese soaring by the hundreds in the blue skies of the Klamath Basin, looking like snow blowing through the sky. One can take a privately guided group tour from local birding experts as arranged by Main Source Tours.
In addition to the festival there will be tours to: Crater Lake National Park for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, Klamath National Wildlife Refuges for birding, and Lava Beds National Monument for caving and rock art. The Klamath Basin is rich with things to do in winter and is a winter wonderland of beauty.
For information on the region, contact Bill Silliker, Jr., a professional photographer and author recently published in Backpacker, National Wildlife and Outdoor Photographer, has commented, “The Bald Eagle Conference (Now Winter Wings Festival) provides the opportunity to not only learn more about these wondrous birds and the challenges that they face, but also to watch them in the wild. And both are a sure thing. That’s a rare combination, in my experience. We all need to learn more about how to protect these special birds, a bird unique to North America and our national symbol … so that we may have bald eagles forever.”
Submitted by M. Kim Lewis an avid birder, photographer and author residing in Ashland, Oregon, with his wife Ginny and golden lab Reilly. Kim and Ginny are co-owners of Main Source Tours, creators of the unique “Birding to the Bard” tour featuring four days of birding capped by an evening of theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
M. Kim Lewis can be contacted for more information on birding in the Pacific Northwest region at 541 482-9852.