Plenty to enjoy at annual Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

Participants pause to hunt for birds during a walk along the Estero Bay Bluffs trail as part of the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival in 2010.
Participants pause to hunt for birds during a walk along the Estero Bay Bluffs trail as part of the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival in 2010. Tribune

The 18th annual Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival begins early Friday morning, but don’t expect to register for many of the record number 122 events. 

Although 16 new events were added, online registration closed last week, and the field trips and most presentations are essentially sold out.

Norma Wightman, program co-chair, said, “Some of our field trips fill up 10 minutes after we open registration in the fall, but there are still several opportunities to enjoy the festival. We’d like to emphasize the keynote presentations and family activities available all weekend.”

There is no preregistration for these events. The costs are minimal; some are even free for children up to age 17. 

Referring to Morro Bay as a globally important bird area on the Pacific Flyway, Wightman continued, “We hope to make our youth aware of the riches of birding around them. During the annual Christmas bird count — a national activity — Morro Bay averages 210 bird species.”

On Saturday, the Museum of Natural History offers free admission for kids. Children will find out how to use their binoculars while bird tracking and learning about bird habitat. Introductory and intermediate birding workshops and a Blue Herron puppet show are included.

Always a favorite, Pacific Wildlife Care will present two shows featuring live raptors — owls, hawks and falcons — Saturday at 1:30 and 3 p.m. at the Morro Bay Veterans Memorial Building. The red-tailed hawk, great horned owl and other raptors are educational birds that can’t be rehabilitated. The volunteers share these beautiful creatures and their stories with their audiences. 

The donation is $2.

Collaborating with the Monday Mind Walks that occur January through March at the Morro Bay Veterans Memorial Building at 10:15 a.m., Glenn Stewart, director of the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, will describe efforts to repopulate the bald eagle species, which had left the Central Coast in 1989. 

The results restored a population of 26 nesting pairs of bald eagles between the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Barbara. Stewart’s group continues to work on peregrine falcon population recovery in the Pacific states. 

Both keynote presentations are open to the public for a $10 fee at 7 p.m. at Morro Bay High School. On Saturday, Kimball Garrett, the Ornithology Collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, will present “But it Doesn’t Look Like the One in the Book.” On Sunday, Jon Young, author, famed birder and naturalist, will discuss bird language based on his research in his book “What the Robin Knows.”

For more information, check www.morrobaybirdfestival.org

The public is invited all weekend to explore the free bazaar of bird books and collectibles at the Morro Bay Community Center.