The Willcox Nature Association was determined not to cancel the 28th Annual Wings Over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival and, instead, has found covid-safe alternatives to its popular, in-person event. The festival has been shortened to two days of the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, Friday and Saturday, January 15-16, but will still have plenty to offer.
“We’re calling this a hybrid birding festival,” said WOW festival chair Homer Hansen. “It will be a combination of live tours and activities as well as online presentations. This will give those who are not traveling due to coronavirus precautions an opportunity to at least participate online while those who are already here or planning to visit Arizona in January can attend guided tours.” Those tours will be small to allow social distancing and masks will be required. In fact, festival facemasks are already being designed with cranes and other birds!
Guides will be on hand for birding walks throughout both days at Cochise Lake in Willcox and the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near Elfrida. A handful of self-drive, small-group tours (8 persons or less) will visit a variety of locations including Texas Canyon and other popular birding areas. Online webinars will be hosted on both days, including a featured presentation by internationally known author and world birding guide Rick Wright.
One notable difference from past WOW festivals will be the absence of the Nature Expo at the Willcox Community Center. In its place, an educational exhibit at Whitewater Draw will be open throughout the day, allowing people to visit on their own schedules.
For those who want to see a sunrise crane flight and not endure the chilly weather or early-morning drive to the site, there will be opportunities to watch online. Festival registrants will be given an access code to log in and watch live educational broadcasts; pre-recorded talks can be viewed by festival participants at any time during the weekend.
The Willcox Nature Association feels that they have developed a great alternative to their usual in-person festival that will ensure birder and guide safety. It will keep the festival alive and thriving until the 2022 festival can return to its full spectrum of activities.
Prior to the festival, keep up with bird sightings at tour locations via eBird at:
Lake Cochise and Twin Lakes: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L266875
Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L168765
Cave Creek Canyon: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L128939