After a COVID-driven hiatus last winter, the 42nd-annual Klamath Basin Winter Wings Festival is officially back on for February 2022.

In tandem with the Lower 48’s largest wintering population of bald eagles, bird enthusiasts locally and around the country will flock to Klamath Falls over President’s Day weekend to talk birding, conservation, wildlife photography and more.

Produced by the Klamath Basin Audubon Society and funded in part by a Klamath County tourism grant, Winter Wings is the nation’s oldest birding festival on the West Coast. It’s scheduled for February 18-20, 2022.

“In 2022, the festival will have a new format to provide a safer, in-person experience while celebrating the importance of the Klamath Basin in the Pacific Flyway,” according to a Winter Wings press release.

To minimize the potential spread of COVID-19, all festival attendees must present proof of vaccination against the virus when they register for Winter Wings. In accordance with state requirements, masks must be worn indoors at festival keynotes and workshops and in vehicles.

Buses to birding field trips will also have limited capacity, and some field trips will include carpools to minimize close contact between attendees. Additionally, the festival has been shortened from four days to three days, and there will be no vendors or children’s activities this year.

As a nod to the Klamath’s other major crisis of 2021 (and the lack of waterfowl festival attendees will likely witness this February), the upcoming Winter Wings programming will include several new presentations focusing on local conservation issues related to the Klamath refuges, which experience some of the harshest effects of the basin’s water shortages.

These include a presentation by Refuge Supervisory Biologist John Vradenburg on the threats facing the Pacific Flyway through a dry Klamath Basin, an overview of restoration initiatives on agricultural lands and the California Waterfowl Association’s efforts to secure a water supply for Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge through water rights transfers.

“It’s just a whole new world for us this year,” Diana Samuels, the festival’s co-coordinator, said of planning the festival in light of the ongoing pandemic and drought.

Samuels and co-coordinator Anne Wenner said the upcoming festival will be the first time Winter Wings comprehensively highlights the situation on the refuges and provides in-depth discussions of potential solutions.

As in previous years, the festival will be hosted primarily out of the College Union on Oregon Tech’s campus, along with the Favell Museum. The two keynote speakers there will be Texas-based wildlife photographer Jennifer Leigh Warner and internationally acclaimed birder Richard Crossley.

Other highlights include a field photography workshop with 18-year-old professional photographer and podcaster Izzy Edwards and an interactive bird sketching presentation with Christine Elder, the 2022 festival’s featured artist.

The festival now offers online pre-registration for general attendance, volunteer opportunities, keynotes and merchandise purchases, which will open on December 14. Registration for specific field trips, workshops and presentations will open on December 28. For more information about Winter Wings, email info@winterwingsfest.org, call 1-877-541-BIRD or visit www.WinterWingsFest.org.