Morro Bay Bird Festival 2024

Written by Estero Bay News

January 19, 2024

Kelly Vandenheuvel of Pacific Wildlife Care at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival opening reception with her 13 year-old Red Tailed Hawk, Denali. Denali was featured on the front page of the Estero Bay News five years ago. Photo By Dean Sullivan.

More than 1,000 participants, leaders, and volunteers attended the Morro Bay Bird Festival this weekend. Visitors from 30 different states enjoyed five days of beautiful, clear weather and the 209 species of birds that graced the festival. Highlights included a black skimmer seen at the Marina Boardwalk, two harlequin ducks seen from Estero Bluffs, and a burrowing owl. Morro Rock’s resident peregrine falcons were also extremely popular with festival attendees. 

“Out of state participants raved about our gorgeous local scenery and coastline,” said Festival Chairperson Jeanette Stone. “Visitors also commented on how kind and welcoming the Morro Bay Community is to the birders.”

Community Family Day was attended by more than 150 local children and their families. The kids enjoyed fun crafts like making bird feeders and owl hand puppets, nature journaling, and dissecting real owl pellets. Local conservation non-profits also presented informational activities to help introduce young citizens to nature and conservation topics. Pacific Wildlife Care brought several of their Wildlife Ambassadors, including a raven, Virginia opossum, American kestrel, and gopher snake.  Parents and grandparents enjoyed browsing the vendor bazaar which featured beautiful art for sale, as well as four optics companies selling binoculars and spotting scopes.

Bestselling Author Jennifer Ackerman gave three presentations about birds, on topics like bird intelligence and owls. Ackerman’s keynote speech at Cuesta College CPAC was all about owls and current research on these intriguing birds. Her presentation included photos and videos of owl species from across the world. 

Renowned birding expert Jon Dunn led many walks throughout the weekend and impressed festival participants with his encyclopedic knowledge of bird taxonomy and identification. John Muir Laws taught a master class on nature journaling and closed the festival out with a presentation during the closing dinner ceremony. 

Laws encouraged everyone to slow down and use three questions when looking at birds or out in nature; “I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of.” These questions can serve as prompts for deeper study and wonder when exploring the world around us.

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