The annual California Duck Days will be held on Feb. 23 at Yolo Basin Wildlife Area Headquarters from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There will be an opening art show for the event on Feb. 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Davis Art Center. This event is free to the public and the art is provided by five high schools in Yolo County, including Davis High School and Woodland High School.
“Duck Days is a great family base. It’s an inexpensive way to have fun with the family and get kids outdoors. Duck Days raises awareness of wetlands and wildlife,” said Ann Brice, co-executive director of the Yolo Basin Foundation and head coordinator for Duck Days.
The event is open to people of all ages and is free for children under 16 who come with their parents, with an exception for the cost of field trips. The event includes many activities like fowling, mystery bird trips, fishing as well as field trips and workshops led by many bird experts and about 25 environmental organizations.
The mystery bird trip has been led by Terry Colborn, Yolo Basin Foundation board member, for about five years.
“I use a spotting scope to focus on the bird with fine detail and watch their behavior. Everyone gets really excited, including the kids,” Colborn said. “Those who have never been birding before have no idea that there are all these beautiful birds within a few miles of their home. It’s really a public service to spread this awareness.”
Robin Kulakow, executive director of Yolo Basin Foundation, not only believes in this sense of public service brought on by Duck Days, but also believes in environmental awareness.
“It’s a great introduction to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area along with environmental issues. Our goal is to educate and inspire people about the wetlands of Central Valley,” Kulakow said.
New events this year are the field trips to Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Bay Area to see elks, and the Nimbus Fish Hatchery trip in Sacramento.
“One of the most popular events is the raptors of Central Valley,” Brice said. “They go out and look for winter raptors with top birder John Sterling. This and the field trips always sell out quickly.”
Yolo Basin Foundation provides many of the volunteers for the event, along with two UC Davis service groups, the Rotary Club and Alpha Phi Omega, both of whom will help set up the events.
Kulakow has been involved in this event since it began 20 years ago. It has gone from a community-run event to a nonprofit and was eventually taken over by the Yolo Basin Foundation 10 years ago.
“People come from all over the region — from Sacramento, Napa and the Bay Area. Some people even plan their visits to their parents around this event,” Kulakow said.
The Yolo Basin Foundation puts up a billboard between Davis and Sacramento around this time of month in order to attract new people in the area and increase awareness of the event. The event has been getting more attendees and positive feedback.
“Duck Days is a beloved community event. My children grew up volunteering and participating in Duck Days, and still volunteer. Even some friends I know have this event on their calendar and think of it as a holiday just like Valentine’s Day,” Kulakow said. “So, it is a privilege for me to serve the community like this.”
MELISSA GAHERTY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.