San Francisco Bay Flyway FestivaL



19th Annual

Feb 13-15 2015


MARCH 2014



January 2014

Dear Flyway Festival Fan and Friend:

For the past 18 seasons, my fellow Flyway Festival organizers and I have looked and listened skyward and bayward for hints of yet another migration as more than a million shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, hawks and songbirds once more return to San Francisco Bay. This time of year, our focus also turns to our annual migration celebration headquartered on Mare Island in Vallejo. You too, are attuned to the season and the celebration. From all over the Bay we begin to receive calls and emails asking about what is in store for this year’s Festival. We have come to know how much you look forward to the Flyway Festival whether you are an outing guide, exhibitor at our Wildlife Expo or participant.

We will once again gather together from all parts of the Bay Area for our Mare Island-based Wildlife and Birding Expo and to visit some of the best wildlife viewing areas of the Bay, especially the northern bay where so much of the wildlife habitat is open now to regular public access, yet, much is still off-limits except during the Flyway Festival.

The Flyway Festival is a time of celebration and and jubilation as we come together to share our passion for Bay Area wildness and wilderness. This year, our Festival will kickoff the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Join our partners at the U.S. Forest Service as they offer us some special opportunities during the Festival and throughout the year, to highlight this important milestone.

I often reflect on past Flyway Festivals and our original purpose in founding and hosting this annual event. In 1996, our first Festival introduced the public to the Mare Island cultural and historic treasures and natural resources so carefully protected by the Navy shortly after the island closed as an active Navy base after more than142 years of maritime and naval contributions. And, our Festival continues to be headquartered where we have so many opportunities to protect and enjoy the natural resources of this island strategically situated at the confluence of the great rivers that feed the San Francisco Bay Estuary.

One thing I learned so long ago, was that it takes much more than an annual festival to appreciate these natural gifts. I believe the Flyway Festival whets your appetite for more. More access, more wetland and upland restoration, more visits to the Island, more guided outings, more National Refuge and State Wildlife Area lands set aside, more access, more...more...more, and to work together to create plans to also protect the land so that we do not love these fragile lands to extinction. So, meeting Bob Garrison and Barbara Steinberg and other members of the California Watchable Wildlife Committee shortly after the based closed was the beginning of a lasting friendship and source of encouragement for our continuing efforts to highlight the wonders of a special kind of wildness found only on Mare Island and to develop plans to continue the resource protection provided by the Navy during its tenure as steward of the land.

Bob Garrison founded Nature Tourism Planning follow
ing two decades of work at both California State Parks and the now California Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 2004 I was so privileged to walk Mare Island wildlands with Bob, [on the right with former State Parks Director Pete Dangermond and me on a site visit in the Mare Island Preserve in 2007], and to discover together the Mare Island messages and experiences we wanted to highlight as his firm worked alongside Weston Solutions, Inc. staff in the development of the San Pablo Bay Wetlands Trail.

In 2003, following a hard-fought battle over the land use of the southern end of Mare Island where Bechtel Corp. and Shell Oil Co. proposed a Liquified Natural Gas tanker terminal and 1500-megawatt powerplant, Bob once again stepped up to the plate to offer his natural resource planning and tourism expertise. This time he teamed with Dangermond Group to help our Regional Park Taskforce appointed by the Mayor of Vallejo, to prepare a report for the city of Vallejo regarding the economic benefit and practical feasibility of operating a park on the former Mare Island Naval Ammunition Depot property. You are familiar with that land now as the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve, open year round for hiking, biking, and history and nature learning.

So, you can only imagine the shock and sadness that rocked my world late this summer when I learned that Bob had been killed in a multi-car accident as he traveled with his son Sean and others from their Boy Scout troop to a Scout camp. Sean and a friend were airlifted to trauma centers, but have been recovering.

It seems so fitting to dedicate this year’s Flyway Festival in Bob’s memory. I know you will join me in honoring Bob Garrison’s legacy here at Mare Island and for that matter, wherever you see those brown binoculars along our highways. He was the founding Chair of the CA Watchable Wildlife Committee.

Thanks to Bob and others with whom he worked, during the Flyway Festival you may walk to the edge of the remote marshes of San Pablo Bay and climb to the top of Mare Island’s highest point with its remarkable 7-county panoramic views. And, especially because of Bob’s efforts and inspiration, you can visit these beautiful wild places so steeped in history every day of the year. Find the magic and memories of this scenic and sacred space this weekend. Come back often. Bob would be so proud. Bob’s family his wife, Lisa and son, Sean are in our hearts.

Our main Flyway Festival headquarters is at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard where our Wildlife and Birding Expo includes exhibits and interactive activities offered by 75 or more non-profit, natural and historical resource agencies, slide shows, and a live raptor show along with commercial art, birding suppliers and digital equipment and optics vendors, and a fine art exhibition entitled, Bay Area Wetlands to Ridgetops, a silent auction and raffle and good food.

It is a magical weekend when so many people come out to marvel at nature that they may not even notice on a daily basis. For just one weekend it is not about the one community we live in, it is about the entire ecosystem of wildlife that knows no city limits or other boundaries. 

Why We Bird

This year, among our many presenters, we welcome David Rice, author of “Why We Bird”, published in 2012 by Golden Gate Audubon Society. He’ll be at their booth during the two days of the Wildlife Expo with his book and doing a reading each day. I met David and his birding friend at the Mare Island Preserve a few months ago and asked him to be a part of this year’s Flyway Festival. Like all the other amazing guides and presenters, he immediately agreed to participate. I hope you will say thanks to David and our many guides and other volunteers.

“Sandhill Cranes do not sound like other birds, but what do they sound like?...

Or maybe calling cranes are the soundscape of the sublime, the acoustic equivalent of high mountains. Maybe we feel a sense of awe when we hear them, as we do when we stare at a distant peak or the night sky. No wonder we often talk about the sounds cranes make. Cranes can make us feel insignificant and we want company, or can make us feel so inspired we can't keep quiet.”– David Rice, excerpt from “Why We Bird”, copyright 2012, used with permission.

It’s up to you and me to keep the Flyway Festival forever free

If you believe with all your hearts as I do, that the Flyway Festival fills a special need and purpose here on the “north shore” of San Francisco Bay, I hope you will give a generous contribution to help us keep the Flyway Festival free and provide the absolutely highest quality experience we can deliver.

On behalf of my fellow board members and our Flyway Festival coordinating team, we look forward with great anticipation to once again spending the weekend with you and many other times together this year.

Call or email either Kathy [ 425-279-3502] or me []707-249-9633] with questions and suggestions.


Myrna Hayes

Festival Director and Co-founder

Mare Island Heritage Trust



Love Wild Life

Join us for our 19th annual celebration of the migration through San Francisco Bay of more than 1 million shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, hawks, songbirds and other wildlife at the peak of migration. February 13-15, 2015

Credit and special thanks for fantastic Flyway Festival photos throughout this website goes to Erik Halberstadt [all photos this page], Brian Collett, Eric Dugan, Bill George and Wally NeVille. Thank you to Jeff DeSalles for painted images of Mare Island.