Flyway Festival in Vallejo has something for everyone – Times-Herald

Each year the San Francisco Flyway Festival seems to have everything that a longtime bird enthusiast would want. For those just getting into the sport, the 27th Annual event had something for those people as well.

On Saturday morning, Mare Island Preserve Field Guide Michelle Eliker gave a tour and hike along the San Pablo Bay Trail on Mare Island titled, “Beginning Birding for All Ages.” New enthusiasts were taught lessons on how to spot birds and the best ways to capture great photos of them.

Along the trail near a pond, Eliker helped a few people spot out Buffleheads, Wigeons, Coots, Dabbling Ducks and even a Red Tail Hawk to name a few.

“My mom was a birder, so growing up one day in Southern California I looked up and say a beautiful yellow and red bird called a western tanager,” Eliker said. “From then on I was hooked. To this day when I saw one (western tanager) it brings me back to that first day.”

Eliker told the inexperienced bird watchers that the most important thing when starting out is to look all around for movement.

“You’ll see movement first,” Eliker said. “But habitat is also important. If you’re looking at a pond at a certain time you can expect to see movement at a certain time.”

Eliker went on to say the four things that can really help out someone watching birds for the first time is sound, shape, habitat and movement.

“It’s fun to do this event every year and getting new birders and finding out how they got excited for the sport,” Eliker said. “It’s also great to be outside and be in the beauty of nature.”

Molly Kauffman and Bill Bonnett were just two people taking advantage of Eliker hosting a hike and tour during the Flyway Festival.

“We live in Sunnyvale and we’re always looking for things to do outside,” Kauffman said. “We started hiking more and we went to Pinnacles National Park but there weren’t too many birds. It turned out we need better binoculars.”

Eliker also told the new enthusiasts that a good pair of binoculars was the way to go instead of a tripod and camera when first starting out.

“You want a pair of binoculars that have about an 8 by 30 magnification,” Eliker said. “That will set you out on the right path. After that if you get more interested you can always invest more as you go.”

As the day went on, Eliker would tell the crowd exactly what to look for on birds to help them identify what they were looking at, which made each seem a little more knowledgeable as the day went on.

The Flyway Festival Sunday conclusions, with many of the previous events being held again.

For more information on the times and locations for the rest of the festival, visit

The event was once again put on by Myrna Hayes, the founder, director and president of the Mare Island Heritage Group.

“It’s so important for us to wake up the next generation to this,” Hayes told the Times-Herald earlier in the week. “Look, we’re not telling people to leave your computer and phone for good, in fact, bring your phone! This is a great event with so many people that aren’t getting paid giving their time for us because it’s their absolute passion … For one measly week, one hour can basically turn your life around.”

Leave a Comment