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Galt Winter Bird Festival gearing up for sixth year

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Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 7:18 am, Sat Jan 5, 2013.

Several years ago, Mike Savino led Galt City Council members and their families on an interpretive hike of the Cosumnes River Preserve.

The group kicked around the idea of holding a bird festival similar to Lodi's Sandhill Crane Festival.

"We realized Galt had a fabulous resource next to them in the Cosumnes Preserve that was underutilized," Savino said of the 46,000-acre site along Franklin Boulevard in south Sacramento County.

They also realized there were few festivals held in the winter.

And so the Galt Winter Bird Festival was born.

Savino and his organization, Save Our Sandhill Cranes, have been active in festival planning since its inception six years ago.

This year's event is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at McCaffrey Middle School, 997 Park Terrace Drive. It is a joint event among the city of Galt, the Cosumnes River Preserve and Galt Joint Union Elementary and High School districts.

It is both an exciting and educational opportunity, as many migratory and resident birds call Galt their winter home.

Participants can enjoy speakers, tours, camera classes, free youth activities and more. Savino said it's a great place for families.

Last year, approximately 600 attended, according to Jennifer Cannell, executive assistant to the city manager, who helps organize the annual event.

"It started off very modest," Savino said. "We're at a point now in Galt that we should make this more than one day. I'm hoping next year we'll take it up a notch."

He said there are many people responsible for both the start and continuing success of the festival in Galt, including sponsors such as PG&E, Ducks Unlimited and the Galt Herald, who pay the bills, and the school districts, which involve children and their families.

"Major credit goes to the Galt City Council and the Cosumnes River Preserve who, by partnering on this effort, have made this festival possible," Savino said. "Save Our Sandhill Cranes is proud to have had a small part in the start of this festival, which has grown and prospered thanks to the leadership of the Galt City Council and the Cosumnes River Preserve."

Save Our Sandhill Cranes, commonly known as SOS Cranes, is a Sacramento-based nonprofit organization formed in 2005.

It is dedicated to maintaining open-space habitat and the conservation of the Central Valley's Sandhill crane populations through education, outreach and community activism. Of particular concern to the group is the threat to the remaining suitable winter habitats in the Central Valley of California, according to Savino, who is also active with Lodi's annual Sandhill festival.

SOS Cranes believes pending urban development and the shift from corn and rice production to vineyards is likely to dramatically diminish what little remains of the winter migratory habitat of Sandhill cranes in this region, according to its website.

The organization partners with the Sacramento Audubon Society to conduct free Sandhill crane viewing tours each winter at the Cosumnes River Preserve. The last ones this year will be held on Jan. 27 and Feb. 23 and 24.

For general information about the festival or to purchase tickets, call 209-366-7115. Tour space is limited.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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