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Othello Sandhill Crane Festival returns for 25th year

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | March 22, 2023 12:00 PM

OTHELLO — All things natural, from animals to plants to geology, will be the subject of lectures, tours, hikes and workshops at the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival scheduled for Friday through Sunday.

This is the festival’s 25th anniversary. Sandhill cranes are the annual visitors and the focus, but the tours and lectures also feature other birds and animals from wolves to burrowing owls, as well as geological phenomena, conservation, and even the physical and mental benefits of getting outdoors.

Most of the events are scheduled for the twin venues of McFarland Middle School, 790 S. 10th Ave., and the Othello Nazarene Church, 835 S. 10th Ave.

General admission tickets can be purchased on site and include admission to the Saturday lectures. Many of the tours and hikes have a separate fee, which varies depending on the event. Tickets can be purchased on the festival website.

Participants can go out to find the cranes and other wildlife on tours Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tours are by bus, boat, bicycle and on foot; general admission tickets are required to participate.

Non-birdwatching tours will explore geological phenomena in the area, the Othello Museum, a wind farm near Vantage and the site of a fossil dig near Royal City.

Featured lectures are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday evening at the Nazarene Church, which will be the venue for all the lectures. Kaeli Swift, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, will talk about crows and related birds on Friday. Swift will discuss both crow biology and the influence of the birds on art and literature. Masks are required.

Cathy Nowak will talk about the lives of sandhill cranes, especially the learning process behind deciding how and where to build a nest, in Saturday’s lecture. Novak is a retired Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist.

The other lectures are scheduled for Saturday only and cover a variety of subjects, including burrowing owls, pygmy rabbits, swans and snow geese, California condors, wolves and bees, growing native plants and grass habitat restoration, botany and geology – such as the Ice Age floods that shaped the landscape of eastern Washington.

Children’s programs are scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the MMS cafeteria. Activities include crafts and making bird masks. Activities are free for children who attend with a paying adult.

The Old Hotel Art Gallery, 33 Larch St., will sponsor a wine tasting and local food sampler from 2 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Othello Rotary will be serving its fundraising breakfast from 6:30 to 9 a.m. Saturday in the community room at the Nazarene Church. The Othello Eagles will be offering its annual dinner fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the lodge, 127 E. Larch St. Food trucks will be providing lunch Saturday outside MMS.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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File photo

Sandhill cranes forage for food in a field near Othello. The cranes return every year on their way north and are the focus of the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival this weekend.

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File photo

Cindy Nunez of Tacoma photographs the scenery during a previous Othello Sandhill Crane Festival.

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Rebecca Pettingill/Columbia Basin Herald

Jay and Janice Berube, Kettle Falls, scan the sky for birds during the 2022 Othello Sandhill Crane Festival.