Registrations almost open for Crane Festival

The festival is March 25-27 and this year's theme is Ice Age floods.

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OTHELLO -- Registrations open Friday for the 2011 Othello Sandhill Crane Festival, which runs March 25-27 in Othello.

This year's theme is Ice Age Floods and there will be several lectures on that topic, as well as discussions on local birds, bird songs, long-billed curlews, emperor penguins, burrowing owls, sagebrush conservation, history of the Potholes area and more.

The festival had previously been canceled due to lack of volunteers, but has been put back on the schedule after the city staff stepped in to help out.

This year's keynote speakers are Jack Nisbet and Ken Bevis.

Nisbet will talk at 8:15 a.m. March 25 about Scottish naturalist David Douglas and the plants he encountered and discovered during his explorations of the area in the early 1800s.

On March 26, Bevis will present "The Saga of Washington's Fish and Wildlife: In Picture, Words and Song" at the festival banquet, which begins at 7:30 p.m. His talk will include testimonials, pictures and original songs. He currently works for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as a watershed steward for the upper Columbia region.

Nisbet is the author of several works that explore the human and natural history of the Inland Northwest, including "Purple Flat Top," "Singing Grass Burning Sage" and "Visible Bones," as well as two books about fur agent and cartographer David Thompson, "Sources of the River" and "The Mapmaker's Eye." His book "The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest" was named one of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2010 Books of the Year.

Many of the speakers are returning favorites, who have designed new talks to educate those who attend on the wildlife, geology and cultural history of the Othello area.

A variety of tours are also planned, including scouting trips through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prior to the weekend of the festival. For information on the trips throughout the month, contact the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuges complex office at 509-546-8300.

Tickets to the banquet and silent auction are still avaliable. Donations this year include a touring bike valued at more than $500.

Chris Bonsignore, manager of conservation programs, will be a keynote speaker on Saturday. Bonsignore's discussion begins at 1 p.m. and will include wetland conservation projects completed by Ducks Unlimited and its partners in eastern Washington during the past 10 years. He will discuss how these projects are initiated, funded and completed and the benefits they provide to waterfowl and other wildlife. Specific project examples will also be described.

Other speakers include geologists Brent Cunderla and Bruce Bjornstad, birding guide Brian Bell, biologists Steve Bouffard, Gary Ivey and Mike Denny and ecologist Gordon Orians.

There will also be two aviculturist presentations and bird called Nicole Pettetta, who has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Also presenting this year is renowned wildlife artist Bart Rulon, whose works have been exhibited in many of the finest exhibitions, museums and galleries displaying wildlife and landscape art in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Japan and England. He is also the author of a variety of books featuring his art work.

This year's tours include the Potholes area, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Lower Crab Creek, Wahluke Slope, Drumheller Channels and more. There are also crane and burrowing owl viewing tours.

More information is on the website and in the registration brochure. Those who have attended the festival in the past should watch for the brochure in their mailboxes. To request a copy of the brochure or to register for events, call 866-726-3445.

For more information, go to othellosandhillcranefestival.org.

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