MARYSVILLE, CA - With all the migratory birds that head to Northern California for the winter, there are plenty of local festivals to celebrate their arrival, including the Sandhill Crane Festival in Lodi and the Snow Goose Festival in Chico.
Now, for the first time, the California Department of Fish and Game is conducting twice monthly tours of Marysville rice farms to give birders and nature lovers a chance to see tundra swans up close.
"The tundra swans nest high up in the tundra in solitary pairs, and then in the winter is the only time they actually gather together," said DFG's Genelle Treaster. "Half of the population goes to the west coast and half to the east coast."
The reason rice farms have been selected for the tours is that the annual practice of flooding the rice fields attracts the swans and a host of other migratory birds.
How can you tell a swan from a snow goose?
In flight, a swan is pure white, while a snow goose has black tips on its wings. Swans are also pretty big.
"It's a very large bird, " said Fish and Game's Brian Gilmore, "About 14 to 20 pounds, 66-inch wingspan . . . If you're in the field, they're going to be a lot larger than the greater white-fronted geese, the snow geese. They're going to stand out and you'll know you've seen a tundra swan."
Tours by fish and game personnel are held on the second and third Saturdays of each month from November through February from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
by Jonathan Mumm, firstname.lastname@example.org