Through the thick gray fog, flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese circle the waters of the Cosumnes River Preserve in Galt. Nearby, Sandhill cranes can be heard trumpeting to one and other in the flooded agriculture fields. In the pond off Franklin Road, a Great Blue Heron snatches a fish out of the water.
The fourth annual Winter Bird Festival brings out bird enthusiasts and nature lovers — and also teaches Galt students about the area around them. The Jan. 29 festival, sponsored by the city of Galt, Cosumnes River Preserve, and Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, has a youth art show, kids tour, presentations on bats, wild animals, and the migratory birds that grace the Galt and Lodi areas.
The event will be held at the McCaffrey Middle School and will also include free activities. Galt High School art students will be offering a variety of nature art and craft projects for kids of all ages, such as making wild animal masks, crafting bird nests and cookie decorating.
The Galt High School Booster Club will be serving breakfast and lunch to raise money for their organization this year.
The festival is rounded out with a variety of more than 20 vendors that range from educational to artistic. Many vendors offer hands-on exhibits for all ages. A new vendor this year will be the Reptile Education Club from Salida Middle School. REI of Stockton, one of the event sponsors, will also be there with a S'mores tent. The tent will have a fake fire and kids will get to roast marshmallows to make S'mores.
Tours will begin at 5:45 a.m. and range in prices from $10 to $20 per participant, and some tours offer free admission for those 18 and under. Storer Coachway buses will be used this year to provide comfortable transportation on the tours.
Tours of the Cosumnes River Preserve will be offered, as well as tours to the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant's Bufferlands, which runs from the Sacramento River across I-5 to Franklin Blvd. Tours will also be held at Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, which is located just south of Sacramento.
"We are expecting around 500-600 people here at the Preserve this year," said John Durand, Service Learning Coordinator at the Cosumnes River Preserve. That number is up from past years, but depends on the weather.
Durand explained that there are about 250 different varieties of birds found in the Preserve. "There is tremendous diversity here. In the December bird count, there were 90,000 birds. Currently there are tens of thousands of Greater White-Fronted Geese in the area," he said.
Visitors to the wetland preserve can expect to see ducks, Sandhill cranes, hawks and swans. Bald Eagles have also been sighted in the Cosumnes River Preserve, according to Durand.
He reminds people to dress appropriately for the weather and being outdoors. Parking is free at the Preserve, and the trails are very accessible.
"The City of Galt is privileged to have the opportunity to offer this event to not only our residents, but people from all around the region," said Jason Behrmann, Galt city manager. "It has been a valuable tool in acquainting the region with the Galt area. Galt prides itself on being a family-oriented community, and the festival strives each year to make this day one that everyone will enjoy."