Ladd Marsh bird viewing

In this undated photo, Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area biologist Cathy Nowak helps visitors find and identify birds.

SALEM — With an exceptionally diverse bird population, Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is hosting the 14th annual Ladd Marsh Bird Festival May 17-19. The festival offers an uncrowded, family friendly birding opportunity for expert and novice birders.

The festival occurs at peak spring migration and nesting season, and only on bird festival weekend do visitors have the opportunity to explore areas of the wildlife area typically closed to the public.

The event is free but registration is required. Optional field trips and workshops run from $20 to $40 and require pre-payment. Before joining the festival, visitors must purchase a parking permit at any outlet where hunting licenses are sold.

Festivities start Friday evening with Rob Taylor, former Midway Atoll restoration ecologist, who became acquainted with Wisdom, the oldest known living wild bird. Rob will discuss how the atoll, a military base, transformed into a refuge for birds and other wildlife. This event begins at 6 p.m. at the Union County Senior Center, 1504 Albany Street., La Grande.

Saturday activities begin at 6 a.m. with local birding experts available until noon to help visitors find and identify birds at six stations located around the wildlife area. At 1 p.m., Blue Mountain Wildlife will bring live birds of prey and discuss life history of hawks, falcons and owls. Services for the deaf are available; call Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area at 541-963-4954.

Children’s Saturday activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. include bird house building, coloring a canvas tote, and the Junior Birder program. Youth completing the Junior Birder program earn a patch and a field guide. These activities are centered at the Tule Lake registration area on Peach Road.

The Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is approximately seven miles southeast of La Grande. Festival sponsors include ODFW, Friends of Ladd Marsh, Eastern Oregon University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and several others.

Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is primarily funded from hunters and the federal Pittman-Robertson Act.

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