Saturday, 22 June 2024

Heron festival continues Sunday with spotlight on Lake County's nature, wildlife

The star of the show: The great blue heron and other local waterfowl are annually celebrated at Lake County's Heron Festival. Photo courtesy of the Heron Festival.


CLEAR LAKE STATE PARK Wildlife photographer Philip Greene loves herons and egrets.

His photographs have become synonymous with Lake County's annual Heron Festival, where he has been the keynote speaker for 13 of the festival's 14 years.

Greene has traveled across the country to photograph the many varieties of the birds, which are a focus of the popular weekend event.

He does a hilarious impression of the slow walk the birds use while fishing, shares stories of watching males attracting females with gorgeous "nuptial" plumage that males don especially to attract a mate, and succinctly explains why he has spent three decades and thousands of rolls of film documenting the birds.

"They define the space in which you see them so well," he said, pointing out how they often look like the trees in which they nest.

At least 600 people visited the festival Saturday to enjoy trips on the lake to see heron nesting areas, a nature fair, a number of hikes and presentations like Greene's, said Marilyn Waits, president of the Redbud Audubon Society's board of directors.

Waits said last year's event attracted a larger number of out-of-county residents.

Saturday's attendance was likely helped by warm spring weather and clear blue skies.

If Sunday attracts as many people as expected, this year's festival will come close to matching last year's event, which 1,300 people attended, said Waits. The funds generated from the event benefit Redbud Audubon and its educational programs.

This year's festivals came together thanks to the efforts of approximately 99 adult volunteers and 10 high school volunteers, said Waits, who also credit volunteers with growing the event dramatically in recent years.

"It is amazing," said Waits.

It wasn't just wildlife that got special attention Saturday.

Joe Callizo, a botanist who recently moved to Lake County, gave a presentation on the "Wonder of Wildflowers" on Saturday afternoon.

Callizo focused on rare and endangered plants in Lake and Napa counties, as well as plants with limited distribution in just a few North Coast counties.

Many of the plants featured in Callizo's presentation grow in areas that are normally inhospitable to plants rocky ledges and areas heavy in serpentine soil.

Some of them, however, can be propagated and grown to great effect in gardens – including gorgeous plants like Snow Mountain buckwheat, Adobe lilly and Cobb Mountain lupin, said Callizo.

An interesting fact: the Northern California black walnut also is a rare tree, although it was used as rootstock for domestic walnuts. Callizo said he has only found three populations of the trees, one of them in Morgan Valley near Lower Lake. The trees, he said, are important to protect.

Plants with limited distribution only in a few counties like Lake and Napa included the wonderfully named prostrate pussy paws, which can be found near the McLaughlin Mine; serpentine sunflower which Callizo said was used to improve its cousin the domestic sunflower green coyote mint and nude monkey flower, so named because its stems have few leaves.

Many visitors to the event started off the morning at the famed Wildflower Brunch, where the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association fed as many as 375 people, said association member Neil Towne.

Towne and association member Val Nixon, who retired in December from her job as a ranger with the park, cooked up omelets while offering some spirited singing of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."

Towne said the event benefits the association's Education Pavilion project. The pavilion is planned for the area where the brunch was held, across from the Visitor Center.

Another association member, Leona Butts, was in constant motion at the event, from working at the brunch to fighting the good fight against the state's proposed park closures, which include Clear Lake State Park and Anderson Marsh State Historic Park.

Since January, Butts and husband D.A. have been leading a signature gathering effort to keep the park open. On Saturday, she continued to gather signatures on petitions, with festival visitors even those visiting the county signing their name to offer their support to the park. Petitions also will be available Sunday.

Arts and crafts lovers also can find a number of treasures in a vendor fair on the park lawn lining the creek. Local artists including Christian Yeagan, wildlife photographer Lyle Madeson, and Linda Kelly and Sandy Coelho-Davis of The Gourd Gallery offer unique, handcrafted items. Fairfield residents Michael and Lisa Moulthrop traveled to the event to offer hand-crafted carvings of blue herons and other water birds.

More to come on Sunday

The festival continues Sunday with a host of programs for nature lovers.

Waits said a big turnout is expected for Sunday's "Raptor Speak" presentation, offered by Native Bird Connection Curator Jenny Papka.

The group will present a live bird show featuring owls and other birds of prey which were rescued and nursed back to health after having suffered injuries, said Waits. It will be an opportunity for nature lovers to see the raptors up close and personal.

The presentation will take place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in a big tent assembled specially for the presentation next to the Visitor Center.

Pontoon tour boats will leave the boat ramp hourly between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., with park Visitor Center tours featuring interpretive displays on the area's wildlife, and natural and cultural resources taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dr. Harry Lyons will present "Myths and Music of Clear Lake," in which he'll talk about Clear Lake's two-million year existence, with some humor and music thrown in.

Park docent Brad Barnwell will lead an Audubon bird walk from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Walt Lyon, another park docent, will lead a half-mile hike focusing on the plants used by local Pomo tribes. Retired park rangers Tom and Val Nixon will lead a family nature walk for kids and their parents along the creek trail from 11 a.m. to noon.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., a nature fair featuring exhibit booths will be open. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. there will be a children's activities area and children's heron art show.

The day will end with a performance from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. by the Lower Lake High School Jazz Band in the nature fair area.

"We don't have fireworks, but we do have jazz," said Waits.

For more information visit the Heron Festival's Web site at

Clear Lake State Park is located at 5300 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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