Hike tour celebrates wildlife
Barely two minutes into the more than two-hour journey, several snow geese flew high over the heads of the few dozen hikers, the birds belting out their distinct and brash call.
It was a fitting start to the afternoon, the last of the seventh-annual Snow Goose Festival, a weekend-long escape for nature lovers from throughout the state. The festival is organized by the Sacramento River Preservation Trust, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.
Sunday's guided tour through a portion of the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County left hikers in anything but a foul mood, despite the gray, cold day.
Lugging heavy digital cameras and trail mix, the 30 or so “birders” (yes, it can also be a verb, as in “birding”) listened intently for any sudden chirps, quacks or squawks.
They quizzed each other on the feathered color patterns birds use to distinguish themselves.
Seasoned watchers flipped through their thick bird booklets, the pages and covers well-worn, dog-eared and rife with scribbled notations.
But any experts in the small crowd couldn't hold a match to their trusty tour guide - at least not by way of enthusiasm. If there existed a comic book in which a naturalist with the state Department of Fish and Game used her keen senses to identify wildlife in rapid-fire succession, Lori Dieter might be its superheroine.
As she easily engaged her troop, it was no secret how much she enjoys her job.
“It's just the fact that it is so diverse,” she said of her walks through the area during tour season. “You are never doing the same thing.” The rest of the year, she said, she spends a large part of her time maintaining the vast habitats.
Sunday's walk was one of dozens of field trips, workshops and other programs - all aimed at educating the public about the northern Sacramento Valley's rich wildlife - that people took part in through the festival's three-day run.
It attracted both budding and veteran nature experts.
Brian Chapman and his wife, Lara Gularte, of Magalia, go bird watching a couple of times a month, he said. “As often as my wife drags me out,” Chapman joked.
Having moved from downtown San Jose about a year ago, Chapman said they're “enjoying what's left of nature.”
“It's really hard to be people and not realize that you have to keep in touch with what's happening around you.”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Thigpen can be reached at 749-4713. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.