Heads up, birders! The 11th annual WildWings Nature & Arts Festival is kicking off this weekend! The festival runs throughout the weekends of October and is a great opportunity to explore parts of the Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail while also getting to learn about the history of Somenos Marsh, the local and migratory birds of the area, and the traditions of some of the Cowichan Tribes through interactive tours and workshops.

Coinciding with the return to the Cowichan Valley of the iconic Trumpeter Swans, North America’s largest waterfowl, WildWings came to life in 2009 through the hard work of the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society and their partners. The festival is a way to bring attention to the important ecosystems of the Cowichan Valley, with the Marsh and surrounding areas as a background to celebrate the interconnectedness of nature, art, culture, and community.

Please note that many of these events require a pre-registration for both logistical and COVID-19 safety reasons. Proper physical distancing and mask-wearing in some instances will be expected.

Kicking things off Sunday, October 4th at the Somenos Open Air Classroom is the opening event, Celebrate Somenos. Stop by between 12 – 3pm for self-guided tours along the trails and boardwalks with opportunities along the way to listen and watch presentations from local speakers ranging from nature specialists, photographers, bird experts, members of the Quw’utsun tribe, and representatives from the nearby Pacific Northwest Raptors bird conservation centre.

Other events to check out include:
Afloat In Your Own Boat – Saturday, October 10th, 10am – 3pm
A boatload (or two) of naturalists and other knowledgeable people will be leading a flotilla of small kayaks and canoes on a circumnavigation of Somenos Lake, to speak about birds, fish, and S’amuna’ pre-colonial and post-colonial history. Bring your own boat and take a float! Pre-registration is required.

Cowichan Make A Difference Day – Sunday, October 18th, 10am-3pm
The first annual ‘Cowichan Make a Difference Day’, based on the world-wide celebrated World Make a Difference Day, will give opportunities for members of the local community to clean up Bings and Menzies Creeks in the Somenos watershed, in hopes of reducing the contamination of these important trout and salmon streams. 

WildWeaving Workshop – Sunday October 18th, 1pm-6pm
Led by Jan MacKirdy, a student of now-retired Maria Curtis, learn how to weave coil baskets using invasive plant materials that can be found in Somenos Marsh.

If you can’t make any of the events, be sure to check out the two exhibitions that will be held throughout the month of October (starting on the 4th) and open to the public for viewing: Wildwings Nature Artists Exhibition which will have art inspired by nature on display from Southern Vancouver Island artists, and The Nature Of Cowichan Photo Contest, in which nature photographers from the CVRD will showcase their works with voting from the public to decide the People’s Choice Award.

If you’re interested in visiting the Cowichan community to participate in any of the above events, please head to the official WildWings Festival website for more information on locations, donations, and pre-registrations.