The Monterey Bay Birding Festival has been mothballed for the second year in a row due to pandemic complications.
Despite most levels of society, from schools, businesses, services and government, edging back toward normal operations, the festival—in its 17th year—couldn’t get off the ground.
“The festival is definitely canceled for this year,” said Jeff Manker, board president of the Festival. “The reason is that it takes nearly a year to get everything in place. To have a festival this year we would have had to book a venue back in November 2020. Back then, no one was booking because the certainty of a vaccine was still up in the air.”
Additionally, Manker said organizers could not book speakers or workshop presenters because no one knew if it would be safe to hold events by September 2021.
“There was still so much we did not know about this pandemic and were getting very mixed messages from the government,” Manker said. “One thing we did know was that the most vulnerable group were seniors; many birders fall into that category.”
The festival, centered in Watsonville, fans out around the Monterey Bay area and beyond with field trips, lectures, special guests, authors and workshops. Typically run in September, the three-day event draws birders—from amateurs to experts—from around the globe. A major draw is their opening reception, which features the Taste of Pajaro Valley, an informal spread of the Pajaro Valley’s bounty of edibles, from strawberries to fine wines and local brews.
Manker said the board is expected to start planning out the future of the festival at an upcoming meeting. The board will also have new leadership next year, Manker said.
“The only big change I know of for now is that I am planning to move out of the area sometime in the next year, and so I will be giving up my position as board president,” Manker said. “So there will be a change in leadership and that may determine changes to come.”
Pajaro Valley has long been a huge attraction to birders, especially being situated along the migratory flyway with its six sloughs, lakes, rivers and the Pacific shoreline.
Field trips in the past included Pinto Lake, Big Sur River, Natural Bridges and West Cliff in Santa Cruz, Owls of Robinson Canyon and Ospreys and Owls of Elkhorn Slough.