Sandhill Crane festival this weekend in Othello

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File photo Washington State University students in the Raptor Club brought raptors large and small, including this golden eagle, to last year’s Othello Sandhill Crane Festival. This year’s festival begins today.

OTHELLO — Birdwatching tours, bird and nature classes, and even some real birds are among the attractions at the 21st annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, beginning tonight and continuing Saturday and Sunday.

The festival always includes a plethora of classes about nature in general and birds in particular, tours throughout the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge and the Othello area, crafts, information and merchandise booths.

Featured speakers are scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Cathy Novak, a biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, will talk about sandhill crane populations in northeast Oregon. Her presentation is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Friday, at the Stevens Funeral Home, 340 South 7th St.

Craig Simpson, manager of the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District, will be talking about the effect of irrigation on wildlife and bird migration at noon Saturday at Othello High School.

Stefan Schlick is the speaker at Saturday night’s banquet. Schlick is a longtime birdwatcher who has traveled the world; his presentation will focus on the 13 species of cranes outside North America.

Tours start Friday, most by road, some by bike and boat. Tours continue both Friday and Saturday.

A tour is scheduled for the Puget Sound Energy windmill facility near Vantage. Other tours feature crane viewing spots, a daylong tour of Palouse Falls, a hike through Dry Falls, a look at the geology of the Lower Coulee. An “urban walk” is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday from OHS to Kiwanis Park; walkers will get a look at urban wildlife.

Lectures start Saturday morning and continue all day. The lectures cover a variety of subjects, from sandhill crane management to tips on wildlife photography to using birdwatching databases. Other subjects include geology, wildlife conservation, wildfires and their impact, range fire prevention, feral fish and regional amphibians, and other bird species from albatross (on Midway Island in the Pacific) to sage grouse.

Larry Schwitters will discuss his “Vaux’s Happening” project at 1 p.m. Saturday. Schwitters has collected data on bird migration for more than 20 years. Photographer Bart Rulon will talk about techniques and tips for wildlife photography.

The Raptor Club from Washington State University will bring some of the birds in their care. The birds and Raptor Club members will be in the OHS gym to answer questions and club members will be among the lecturers. The nature documentary “Earthflight” is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at Reichert’s Showhouse, 130 North Broadway Ave.

The Othello Rotary chapter will sponsor breakfast from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The Othello Senior Center will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The annual festival banquet is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at OHS Saturday night.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at

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