Editor’s Note: Like many other events in the Northwest, the 2020 Tundra Swan Festival held annually in Northeast Washington near Cusick has been canceled due to the ongoing Coronavirus public health emergency. While the festival won’t be taking place this year, viewing the swans on your own from your vehicle or on foot while maintaining social distance from other bird watchers should still be a safe, fun way to get out of the house and enjoy one of nature’s magical spectacles!
The annual migration of tundra swans makes a stopover each year in lakes and other waterbodies in Northeast Washington, and one of the best places to witness this dramatic spectacle is in the Pend Oreille River Valley. While you can head out on your own to try to catch site of these large, sparkling white birds, the Tundra Swan Festival in Cusick, Wash., on March 21 (CANCELED FOR 2020) affords a chance to come together with other nature lovers to appreciate and learn about these unique animals. Tundra swans, sometimes called “whistling swans” thanks to the characteristic whistling sound made by their wings, have shorter necks than trumpeter swans and like to forage off of the bottom of lakes and other waterways. Calispel Lake near Cusick with its shallow waters is a prime location for viewing these magnificent birds. While organizers of the festival admit that it’s somewhat of a calculated guess when the swans will be most abundant on Calispel Lake, they typically number in the hundreds, and the cacophony of bugling calls and water slapping can be heard from far away when they arrive.
The festival kicks off at 10 a.m. with socializing and information and vendor booths, followed by a photography workshop to help participants capture their own images of the animals. Next festival goers get a bus ride to whatever swan viewing locations are most prime. After the tour, there is a lunch back at the Camas Center for Community Wellness, followed by an hour-long presentation on local wildlife projects by wildlife biologist Bart George. Tickets can be purchased separately for the different activities and range from $10 for the tour only, $15 for lunch, and $15 for the workshop and presentation (space is limited). Info: Porta.us/tsf