FAIRFIELD — This year’s 18th annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival looks likely to take place amid weather well-suited for ducks.
The celebration of birds and local history returns to Mare Island on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Forecasts from the National Weather Service on Thursday called for the first sustained burst of rain in more than a year to continue through Sunday.
But the Flyway Festival and its array of hikes and outings will go on.
“The rain festival,” is how organizer and Vallejo resident Myrna Hayes described this year’s edition.
Hayes noted that the event headquarters with the Wildlife Expo is indoors. More than 65 nonprofit groups, natural resource agencies and vendors will have displays and slide shows. The headquarters will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Building 223, 500 Connolly St. on Mare Island.
Heavy rain could cause some noise, though. Hayes said the 1920s-era warehouse has a tin roof.
The Flyway Festival has dozens of hikes and outings both on Mare Island and throughout the region. They range from self-guided hikes in the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve to guided bird-watching hikes. They also include guided hikes through the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard to see the historic dry docks, warehouses and other structures.
Wet weather can lead to some spectacular sights, Hayes said. For example, she mentioned being on top of the hill in the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve at a time when the clouds part and the sun breaks through. The hill has views of San Pablo Bay.
“Only very heavy rain and consistent rain cancels any of the outdoor outings,” Hayes said.
The Bay Area in 2013 had the driest calendar year on record, with data extending back until 1849. This January was one of the driest on record. The drought has had an effect on the environment.
For example, seasonal wetlands didn’t fill with rain this winter, as is typical. Hayes said the festival depends on these wetlands to give people close-up views of shorebirds and water birds.
“I have a hunch that definitely by Sunday, there will be some water,” Hayes said.
Also, the drought has stopped the growth of grasses that voles feed on. Hawks and owls feed on voles. Hayes said there are fewer voles this year.
“We’ve been really praying there are enough hawks,” Hayes said.
But the festival has guides who are experts at finding birds, she said. And there are places that bird-watchers can reach that will have water, even if the rainy season has been mostly dry up until the past few days.
“People are guaranteed to see birds,” Hayes said.
Go to http://sfbayflywayfestival.com to see a schedule of the many events offered at the Flyway Festival.
The Flyway Festival is scheduled during the peak of the migration season for various ducks, shorebirds, hawks and other birds.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.