Morro Bay bird festival swooping in this weekend

Great white-fronted geese were spotted in Los Osos this past October. As were black-legged kittiwake, marbled murrelets, hairy woodpeckers and yellow-headed blackbirds.

The official report notes that 309 species of birds were spotted in October by members of the Morro Coast Audubon Society. Add to that a swell of migratory species that fly during December and January along the Pacific Flyway and birders have a lot to celebrate.

On Saturday, birders from all over the world will flock to the area for the 16th annual Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. The event runs through Jan. 16.

Birders from all over plan their vacations to attend the festival as well as hike, count and listen to birds in the wild, and attend lectures about birds.

The keynote speaker is Jon Dunn, who will warble about the diversity of wood warblers of North America.

“Jon is one of the primary experts on field identification in North America and is a tour leader for Wings Birding Tours,” said Ruth Ann Angus, publicity chairwoman.

“His ‘Field Guide to Warblers of North America,’ co-authored with Kimball Garrett, is in the Peterson Guide series since 1997,” she said, “and is considered the definitive work on that identification topic.”

The festival is an event that is good for all ages.

For at least three years, Jan Surbey and her organizing committee have dedicated efforts to expand family activities. Children 12 and younger are admitted into the festival for free. There is a fee for the van and boat tours, however. Most activities happen all day Saturday at various locations.

An introduction to birding and habitat begins at 9:30 a.m. with a short walk from the Morro Bay Museum of Natural History. Children will learn how to use binoculars to recognize and count bird species and habitats.

Another workshop at the same time teaches tracking.

At 10:30 a.m., it’s touchy-feely time with the reptiles, or if birding is more to kids’ liking, there is a kayaking trip on Morro Bay. In addition, children are encouraged to drop by the community center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and make a bird-related craft.

At 1 p.m., children can choose to assume the identity of a bird-friend and experience its history, feathers and habitat. Some adventurers might prefer the critter crawl to learn about bugs, insects, spiders, reptiles and, of course, birds.

Always a favorite for children and adults is Pacific Wildlife Care’s Meet the Raptors from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Morro Bay Veterans Memorial Building.

Several birds of prey — including a great horned owl, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, peregrine falcon and Mr. Handsome, the turkey vulture — will be accompanied by their wildlife rehabilitators. A $2 donation is requested for admission.

Janice Peters, former mayor and chairwoman of the festival, suggests advance registration and soon because workshops are limited. Fourteen new events have been added to the adult and family focused annual festival.

Check out workshops, times, locations and registration fees at www.morrobaybirdfestival.org.

Reach Judy Salamacha at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.