Wildlife Refuge hosts free event
The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating 75 years of managed habitat for ducks, geese and other wildlife with a daylong birthday bash on Saturday.
The no-cost celebration includes special events at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge's visitors center, along Old Highway 99W about seven miles south of Willows, and will include special behind-the-scenes birding tours, carving demonstrations, games, airboat demonstrations and more.
"It's a fee-free event," said Lora Haller, visitor services specialist.
For thousands of years, the Sacramento Valley provided a winter haven for migrating waterfowl.
By the beginning of the 20th century, much of the habitat had been replaced by farmland, particularly for the growing of rice.
In 1937, the US Fish and Wildlife Service began the process of creating a refuge within dry, alkaline lands between the towns of Willows and Maxwell.
"What most people don't know is that the actual work was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps," Haller said. "It was done by hand, with picks and shovels. They didn't have the kind of equipment we have today."
The history of the Conservation Corps is one of the featured events at Saturday's celebration.
The 10,800-acre refuge consists of about 7,600 acres of managed wetlands, uplands, riparian habitat and vernal pools.
It typically supports wintering populations of more than 600,000 ducks and 200,000 geese, and several endangered plants and animals, including transplanted colonies of palmate-bracted bird's-beak, several species of fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, giant garter snake, wintering peregrine falcon, bald eagle and breeding tricolored blackbirds.
Resident wildlife includes beaver, muskrat, black-tailed deer, and other species typical of upland and wetland habitats.
From the 1940s onward, additional refuges were created to form the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and includes Delevan, Butte Sink, Colusa, Sutter and Sacramento River.
The Delevan refuge is celebrating 50 years on Saturday with a behind-the-scenes birding tour with the Altacal Audubon and US Fish and Wildlife staff.
Early registration is recommended, Haller said.
The photography tours begin at 9 a.m., but the main events will be held between 10 a.m. — 4 p.m. at the Visitors' Center.
Participants can also sign up for afternoon birding tours.
Children activities include appearances by Puddles the Blue Goose, drawing opportunities and lots of games, including bird bingo and bird identification, all with prizes to be won.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet Chico artist Kateryna Elson, who will unveil a special 75th anniversary edition print.
Prints will be available at the bookstore, and Elson will be available for autographs.
The auto tour will also be open to the public at no cost, and volunteers will be available at the platforms to assist in identifying birds.
Altacal Audubon, California Waterfowl, Pacific Flyway Decoy Association and Willows Chamber of Commerce will have booths at the visitors center, and food and snacks will be available to purchase from non-profit organizations.
The sunset fly-off talk will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Approximately 9,000 people hunt on the refuge each year, and 73,000 people use the visitor center, auto tour route and walking trail.
"The National Wildlife Refuge belongs to the people of this country," Haller said.
Haller said visitors Saturday can attend one, some or all the events they chose, but she does hope people will come and make a day of it.