Update: Morro Bay Winter Bird festival cancelled for 2022
Update posted Jan. 10, 2022:
Festival pivoting to a virtual event, details of which have yet to be announced
–The Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival was canceled this week due to the upsurge in COVID-19 cases. Refunds will go out to all who had signed up but will take time to be processed. The festival released the following announcement in regards to the cancellation:
Dear birding friends,
It is with great regret that we must inform you that the board of our parent organization, Morro Coast Audubon Society (MCAS), has voted to cancel in-person events at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival (MBWBF). As the conditions of the pandemic changed in San Luis Obispo County, the MBWBF Board struggled over the last couple days with strategies to continue the festival while keeping its participants and the Morro Bay community safe. This has been our overriding goal in addition to providing an amazing birding adventure in a lovely Central Coast location. This decision is incredibly difficult if not heartbreaking to say the least.
As a responsible mitigation, the San Luis Obispo Public Health Department encouraged the MBWBF Board to postpone until a later date. This is not as easily done with a birding festival of this size. With that in mind, we are pivoting to a completely virtual festival event via zoom this coming week of which the details will come later.
All registration fees will be refunded. With over 600 registrants and over $100,000 in receipts, it will take some time to process. We will send you an email confirmation once your refund has been processed.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns at email@example.com. The board of MBWBF has been planning this event for over two years, so the disappointment is real for all of us! We intend to return to wonderful bird-watching festivals in the coming years once this covid crisis is behind us.
Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival Board of Directors
Original story posted Jan. 6, 2022:
Column: Contemplative bird watching in Morro Bay
– Buddhist mindfulness is a popular practice of meditation and contemplation involving awareness, attention, and openness to everything, all aspects that are vital to another popular practice – birding!
Hundreds of people attend bird festivals in the United States and the Central Coast is no slouch in this with the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival held every year over the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend. COVID kept the event to virtual offerings in 2020 and 2021 but this year with restrictions requiring proof of vaccination and masks in place, over 500 people are expected to come together to enjoy a series of outdoor field trips throughout the county from Thursday Jan. 13 through Monday, Jan. 17.
What does mindfulness or contemplation have to do with bird watching? People have often been known to spend time, sometimes years, secluded in nature with like-minded individuals who make up a community of contemplatives. In a way birders do this too and the practices of contemplatives are not dissimilar to the requirements for good bird watching.
A contemplative person pays attention to their surroundings. They are aware of all things. They are silent and listen. And they are open to all that the natural surroundings display. Have you ever watched a group of bird watchers? They do the same thing.
Should you decide to attend this year’s festival it might be helpful to undertake a lesson in contemplative birding. Here is how it goes: Be respectful of everyone in the group. Be silent. Many good sightings of birds occur because of listening for the calls of birds and it is exciting when you first hear the voice of a bird.
Have you ever heard the call of a great blue heron? Most of the time you will see them standing tall along the shore in low water, still, and searching for prey. Undisturbed they will stand like that for long periods of time, or they may slowly walk a few steps forward before stopping again. However, should someone come along the shoreline and disturb them, they will take to flight emitting a low “Cronk Cronk” call as they fly to a more secluded location.
Least sandpipers forage along the edge of the water or on patches of mud in the bay. We don’t often think of sounds coming from these little birds, however practicing contemplative birding, and remaining silent might just give you a chance to hear the trills and high pitched “creep” call they make.
One of the rules of good birding has to do with clothing. Choose an outfit or jacket that has muted colors and more importantly something that makes no sound. The rustling of certain kinds of fabric can be just loud enough to scare off a flock of birds that your companion contemplatives in your group would like to see.
Birding like contemplation requires awareness of your surroundings. Slowly search a tree line for a sighting of a red-tail hawk or small birds that may be roosting in the foliage. When a bird is seen, be sure to let other know quietly. Pointing up and whispering is best. Being open to the group’s needs makes for a successful contemplative birding experience.
Birding is not just a group activity. Hopefully, you will find time to sit quietly in a place such as along the boardwalk in the estuary or on one of the benches at Tidelands Park to just observe practicing your birding mindfulness and contemplation.
You can obtain more information on available field trips for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival at www.morrobaybirdfestival.org.
By Ruth Ann Angus