The 13th annual WildWings Nature & Arts Festival will be held throughout October.
Started in 2009 by the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, the WNAF is an annual series of community events that bring attention to the biodiversity of the Cowichan Valley by using nature as a background to celebrate the interconnectedness of nature, art, culture, and community.
The theme of the festival this year is “The Return of the Stseelhtun” and will focus on the society’s work to help recover fish populations in the S’amunu (Somenos) watershed.
Paul Fletcher, the society’e executive director, said the festival will have more than 30 different events during October, including a swallow nest box auction with boxes painted by prominent Cowichan artists that will be on display in downtown Duncan during the festival.
“Funds raised from the auction will support our Project Nest Box in which we are partnered with students from Cowichan Secondary School,” he said.
“The project, which has been ongoing since the 1970s through different organizations, sees the swallows nesting in the nest boxes in the marsh inspected and counted to determine their survival rates.”
This year’s festival kicks off fast and furious on Oct. 1 with the S’amunu Make A Difference Day watershed cleanup, followed the next day, Oct. 2, by the society’s Celebrate Somenos Family Day at the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom.
Later that same day, the fun starts in Downtown Duncan at the WNAF 2022 Launch Party & WildWings Nature Artists Exhibition opening reception held together at Just Jakes Restaurant, one of WildWings major sponsors.
The launch is followed by art, nature and cultural events that take place throughout the month of October, with outdoor activities mostly happening in the earlier part of the month when the weather is friendly, and indoor events mostly filling the second half of the month.
Cowichan Tribes, one of the WildWings partners, provides cultural guidance and leadership for all the festival’s indigenous events and activities.
Quw’utsun people are also involved in many other WildWings events including a Traditional Pik’wun, a salmon barbecue the old way with Qwustenuxun (Jared Williams) on the shores of Cowichan Bay.
Check out the WildWings website wildwingsfestival.com for times, places and other information.
For art lovers, there will be a downtown Duncan art show during WildWings month; the WildWings Nature Artists Exhibition which takes place at Just Jakes Restaurant.
To make the art show available to a broader audience, a virtual gallery on the WildWings website will enable art lovers to experience both exhibitions from the comfort of their homes.
Nature events include Afloat in a Boat, a bring-your-own-boat guided tour of Somenos Lake; and Koksilah Ancient Forest, a guided trek to a grove of old giants.
Many of the natural history activities are hosted by festival partner the Cowichan Valley Naturalists who are working hard to bring back the Big Birding Weekend, a bird species spotting battle between Somenos and Cowichan Bay, each an international Bird and Biodiversity Area.
Fletcher said wildlife photographer Barry Hetschko and society member Derrick Marven have created a list of approximately 300 birds that have been recorded in the area, and participants in the event can check them off as they are spotted.
The festival highlight event is the ‘It Ain’t Easy Being Green Gala’ a.k.a. The ‘Green Gala” hosted at the Birds Eye Cove Farm with fine dining provided by the Farm’s Gate Catering crew.
The evening will include wines by Averill Creek Winery, Craig Street’s WildWings Ale, music by the John Wade & the WildWings Trio, the WildWings silent auction and announcement of the 2023 Artist of the Somenos.