Festival showcases unique birding area, features boat tours

January 15, 2001|STAFF REPORT

Jet boat tours will be one of the many events offered during this year's Salton Sea International Bird Festival in California's Imperial Valley and surrounding region.

The festival is designed to showcase one of the country's most unique birding areas.

"Even though it may seem desolate to outsiders, there are some 384 different species of birds here throughout the year and a lot that stay here," said Erin Craig, a volunteer with the festival committee.

From what Craig has read in different birding magazines, the Salton Sea area is in the top 10 or 15 birding areas in the U.S.

The festival has been scheduled for Presidents' Day weekend, Feb. 16-19, and again will feature tours of the Salton Sea and surrounding habitat as well as lectures, a birders' fair and the Bird's Nest, an educational program for youngsters.


The festival, founded five years ago by an all-volunteer committee, annually draws hundreds of birders from more than 25 states as well as Canada and Mexico.

"A lot of people do come from very far away to see just one type of bird that may not be found in any other part of the country," Craig said.

Keynote speaker for this year's banquet will be Paul Konrad, an internationally known wildlife biologist and journalist who works with the Minnesota office of the National Audobon Society. He is a former editor of Wildbird Magazine and has traveled worldwide, visiting 42 countries to study birds.

Joining Konrad in presentations during the festival will be Steve Horvitz, superintendent of the Salton Sea State Park; Sheri Williamson and Tom Wood, a husband and wife team who co-founded the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory; John Robinson, an expert in using computer databases to track birds; Judy Davis, an international bird tour guide and Mel Gabel, a leading expert in desert birding and wildlife.

The Barbara Worth Golf Resort in Holtville will be the festival headquarters and the location for all seminars, the keynote banquet, the free birders' fair and live bird show.

The staging area for all guided birding field trips is the Imperial Valley Expo in Imperial. Each tour to known birding "hot spots," including the Salton Sea, agricultural areas and surrounding desert, will be led by a birding guide as well as a knowledgeable community leader.

New this year is the birding tour of the Salton Sea by jet boat along with specialty tours to the Colorado River and Borrego Springs area.

The Salton Sea, California's largest lake, is considered one of the premier bird watching areas in the United States.

It teems with bird life because of its location along the Pacific Flyway and because it provides one of the few wetlands remaining in the state. More than 90 percent of the wetlands in the region have been lost due to urbanization and other reasons.

Birds are attracted to the Salton Sea because of its rich and numerous food sources. Fish-eating birds such as the endangered brown pelican, the double-breasted cormorant and various species of terns and gulls make-up large and visible populations of the sea.

Some scientists have called the Salton Sea California's "crown jewel of avian biodiversity." There are nearly 400 species of birds that visit or live at the sea or in nearby agricultural fields.

Registration deadline is Feb. 1. Cost is $75 and reservations may be made by contacting the Salton Sea International Bird Festival, P.O. Box 156, Imperial, Ca. 92251 or by calling 344-5FLY. The festival's Web site address is

Salton Sea wildlife information can also be obtained at the Salton Sea Authority web site,

The festival is cosponsored by the Salton Sea Authority, Valley Independent Bank and the Imperial Irrigation District. It receives financial support from a number of other Imperial Valley businesses and organizations.

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