Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Winter Wings Expedition

I had the wonderful opportunity in the past to attend the annual Winter Wings Festival, headquartered in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and since it will be occurring again next month, I want to write about it to encourage anyone interested to make plans to attend. The 2009 festival will be held February 13-15. This will mark the thirtieth year for the event, which makes it the longest running bird festival in the nation. Activities are held throughout the Klamath Basin area, which covers thousands of acres of protected bird habitat, in both southern Oregon and northern California. The photos above show just a few of the activities that I was able to participate in during the three days I was there. The first color photojournalism article I ever had published was on hot air ballooning, so I was delighted to get to photograph a hot air balloon launch against the back drop of snow-covered fields and mountains---something I had never seen before. And something I had DEFINITELY never done before was take a dog-sledding adventure trip (that's me sitting in the sled above, waving my hand). What was unique about my particular dog-sledding trip was that my "musher" was also a physician, doing a family practice residency at the Klamath Falls hospital. "Mushing" and a kennel full of huskies was just a hobby for that family! Since the commercial operator of sled-dog trips ( was completely booked up for the always-popular President's Day Weekend activities, the physician/dogsledding family that my son knew, offered to take me out instead. It is an adventure I won't soon forget! The lower right hand photo is the brilliantly blue Crater Lake, where I went snow-shoeing with other Winter Wings Festival attendees. As enjoyable and beautiful as the snow-shoeing, was the drive up to Crater Lake Lodge, where a tunnel had been cut through the snow to allow cars to pass, was equally thrilling. It is an eerie feeling to be going up a road with snow banks taller than your car on both sides of the road! This event is as much about photographing wildlife, as just observing it, so again this year, the Canon camera company is sponsoring three separate photography activities. Another event I would recommend is the pre-dawn "Eagle Flyout" event, where participants position themselves before dawn at the site where eagles are know to roost over night, so they can see the eagles fly out at the first light of dawn. Fortunately, this was followed by a delicious, hot breakfast in a beautiful valley lodge setting that enabled one to warm up after enduring bitterly cold temperatures, awaiting the flyout. The Klamath Basin has hundreds of eagles in residence, and in fact, hosts 80% of birds that use the Pacific Flyway. So besides eagles, there are thousands of ducks, geese, and swans. With the recent publicity caused by the geese/airplane encounter that resulted in a U.S. Airways plane landing in the Hudson River in New York, you may be having second thoughts about flying into an airport within the Pacific Flyway. However, I have flown into Klamath Falls several times, and my airplane has yet to hit a single bird! That may be because the commercial airport is adjacent to Kingsley Air Force base, where military airplane training flights are ongoing, and personnel there take measures to keep wildlife off the airstrips. In the past, folks have come from as far away as Germany, England, and 35 different states to be a part of the festival, so why don't you consider doing the same? Go to their website, for registration information, and a complete listing of events. The last part of Ecclesiastes 10:20 reminds us that "a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say", so when someone asks you how you heard about the Winter Wings Fest, just say "a little birdie" told me about it. Miles of smiles! Tricia
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