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Othello gears up for Sandhill Crane Festival

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The headline attraction at the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival has already arrived for the March 27-29 series of programs, field trips and banquets based out of Othello, Wash.

Founded in 1998, the festival highlights the spring return of migrating sandhill cranes that stop over to rest at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge and feed at surrounding farm fields.

Of course, plenty of other birds, including long-billed curlews and waterfowl, are enjoyed by viewers on festival field trips.

Sign up in advance, since many of the trips and sessions will fill up. Info: (866) 726-3445.

The festival is an excellent wildlife experience indoors and out. For example:

Field trips include a Potholes Reservoir boat birding tour and other birding tours at Lower Crab, the Columbia Refuge plus several tours geared specifically to seeing sandhill cranes.   One of the crane tours is for bicyclists.

Seminars by experts touch on more than 35 different topics such as songs birds sing, native plants for the garden, dragonflies, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, pollinators of the shrub-steppe, butterflies, trumpeter swans, burrowing owls, Ice Age floods, ground squirrels and one not to be missed — arachniding.

  • A film about raising a young sandhill crane also will be screened.

Banquet speakers include:

  • Friday, Roy Lowe — Seabird conservation on the Oregon Coast.
  • Saturday, Scott Burns — Cataclysms on the Columbia: The Great Missoula Floods.

Sandhill Crane Festival set with birds, speakers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Organizers have assembled a collection of field trips and speakers while nature is supplying the wildlife for the 16th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival.  Sign up in advance on the website; many activities fill quickly.

Events kick off Friday (April 5) with boat tours on Potholes Reservoir and a “biking for cranes” tour.

Saturday’s events include tours of burrowing owl/ground squirrel habitat, tours that feature geology shaped by prehistoric flooding, tours of prime crane viewing locations, and dozens of lectures at Othello High School. Lecture topics this year will cover everything from crane biology to wildlife photography.

  • Idie Ulsh, master birder and former president of Seattle Audbon, will be the banquet speaker on Saturday night during the silent auction. 

Vendors, children’s activities, and the opportunity to view raptors up close and in person will be also available throughout the day on Saturday. More tours will be available on Sunday.

The Othello farming community plays a central role in supporting crane migration each year. Cranes and other migrating birds feast on corn and grain left over from last year’s harvest, and some fields are left open through the migration season to allow birds the chance to rest during their travels.

Celebrities flock in for Othello Sandhill Crane Festival

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The headline attraction at the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival has already arrived for the April 5-7 series of programs, field trips and banquets based out of Othello and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

More than 1,000 sandhill cranes were at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge last weekend, said Spokane outdoor photographer Craig Goodwin.

Of course, plent of other birds, including long-billed curlews, and waterfowl, are enjoyed by viewers on festival field trips.

EWU student wins Othello Sandhill Crane Festival art contest

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A graphic design student at Eastern Washington University has captured the grace of the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival's featured attraction in artwork that has won the $500 top prize in the festival's annual art contest.

Xengyeng Xiong's computer-generated design, inspired by traditional origami cranes, will be featured on brochures and posters for the April 5-7 festival based out of Othello.

“I knew that one of (the committee’s) main goals was to attract a wide range of audience, so I wanted to make the poster modern…that’s how I ended up with a very geometric and clean layout design for the poster,” she said.

Biologists, geologists, birders, local farmers, authors, and historians will be leading tours and lectures at the annual event, which highlights the annual migration of the large cranes through the area.

The theme for this year’s festival will be “Migration” in honor of the dozens of bird species that travel through central Washington every spring and fall.

The Othello Sandhill Crane Festival is a nonprofit event chaired by an all-volunteer committee, and proceeds generated by the event go toward providing the following year’s festival activities.

15th annual Sandhill Crane Festival set at Othello

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Another great assortment of field trips and programs is being organized for the 15th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, March 23-25 based from Othello, Wash., and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

The festival highlights the spring migration of large, lanky and gorgeous sandhill cranes that pass through the Eastern Washington gleaning food from the region's agricultural fields and resting on the protected refuge lands.

The Northwest Profiles TV segement above, produced by KSPS-TV, is a nice introduction to the festivals.

Check out the schedule of events that should be posted soon on the festival website, and sign up for events and field trips early.