Author Archives: Elizabeth Bailey

WildWings Art Exhibition & Launch Party

The annual WildWings Nature & Arts Festival Launch Party Thursday, October 5 from 6:00pm to 10:00pm is the official kick off to a month of events, activities, hands-on experiences and outdoor learning adventures in the Cowichan Valley as well as the opening reception for the WildWings Art Exhibition, a collection of nature art for sale by Vancouver Island artists.

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 10.01.29 AMThe WildWings Art Exhibition is proud to feature local artists and their artwork celebrating the natural beauty of the Cowichan Valley. This year’s “Artist of the Somenos” is Stuart Pagaduan, a local Cowichan Valley artist whose art will be on display at the exhibition along with other local artists. Stuart’s art work joins the six previous ‘Artists of the Somenos’ whose work is on permanent display upstairs in Just Jakes WildWings Loft. The Art Exhibition opening reception will be a first option to buy opportunity for the original art pieces that will be on display all month long at Just Jakes Restaurant.

The WildWings Art Exhibition opening reception is also featured as a Savour Cowichan Marquee event as part of the Savour Cowichan Festival and is a great opportunity to indulge in an evening of gourmet bites, a tasting of WildWings ale, live music by the John Wade Jazz Trio, live art auction and 50/50 draw.

Tickets for the event are $29.99 each and can be purchased at Just Jakes Restaurant or online at

For more information about the WildWings Nature & Arts Festival, please visit or contact the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society Program Coordinator, Elizabeth Bailey, at or 250-884-0749

WildWings Nature & Arts Festival 2017

WildWings Nature & Arts Festival 2017

Nature and Children: Nurturing the Future


Each fall the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, along with many community partners, hosts the WildWings Nature & Arts Festival, a series of nature-themed events held around the Cowichan Valley to celebrate Cowichan nature and the return of the trumpeter swans to their overwintering grounds in the Cowichan Valley.

This year’s festival features sixteen events from October 5th to November 4th. Activities run the gamut from birding and nature interpretation to local cultural experiences, as well as a nature themed art show. Some of the other offerings include a traditional Cowichan Pi’kwun (salmon BBQ), hands-on biodiversity workshop, a Paint Nite fundraiser and a guided hike to the Koksilah Ancient Trees and much more.

Artwork by Stuart Pagaduan
Artwork by Stuart Pagaduan

The 2017 festival theme is “Nature and Children: Nurturing the Future” and to encourage this theme we are hsting Celebrate Somenos, an open house at the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom October 7th from 10am to 2:00 pm for children and families to interact with nature. Celebrate Somenos is our most important public education and family-focused event of the festival as it is aimed at engaging and educating kids and their parents in the natural history of Somenos and its extended ecosystems. Also at this event, expect to have your mind expanded by the Raptors with live birds, demonstrations on nature photography, learning about invasive species and their management, on-sitenature and birding guides, and a build-your-own bird feeder station. There is also a ‘swamp stamp card’ for the young ones who can enter to win a prize if they visit three stations along the boardwalk.

The Festival launch and opening reception of the WildWings Art Exhibition, a Savour Cowichan Marquee Event, is on Thursday October 5 at 6pm at Just Jakes Restaurant. The ticket price includes gourmet bites, a sample of the Craig St. Brewpub’s annual WildWings beer, live jazz with the John Wade trio, a small live auction and the first chance to purchase fantastic local nature-themed art on display until November 4. The highlight of the evening will be the honouring of this year’s ‘Artist of the Somenos’, Stuart Pagaduan.

Partners of the festival include local businesses, NGOs, the arts community and many individuals. For full festival event and ticket details visit our website, find us on social media or contact Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society Program Manager, Elizabeth Bailey, at or 250-884-0749.

Thank you for making WWN&AF 2016 great!

Happy new year to all! We’d like to start off 2017 by saying a big Thank You to all those who support the Somenos Marsh and Cowichan Valley nature. In particular we’d like to specially thank everyone (and there are a lot of you) who supported WildWings Nature & Arts Festival 2016. We hope to make this creative, educational and inspiring festival the premier nature festival in the Valley and beyond and with this community’s support we will get there. Planning for next October is underway; to volunteer or donate please contact

unspecified-6 unspecified unspecified-4

     unspecified-3 unspecified-1 unspecified-2


North American Trumpeter Swan Conference is on its way ~ Register now!

The North American Trumpeter Swan Society’s 24th Annual Conference will be held in Duncan November 16th to 18th, 2016


Trumpeter Swans – Barry Hetschko

“This is a very special event for the Cowichan Valley” says Paul Fletcher, President of Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, who goes on to say “experts in swan research and management from throughout North America will be coming to our community. We are honoured to be able to partner with The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) to bring this important event to the valley and to hold it in the Cowichan Tribe’s beautiful Quw’utsun’ Culture and Conference Centre.”

The trumpeter swan, the largest waterfowl in North America once flourished across much of North America. By 1900 they were nearly extinct. In recent decades, Trumpeters have begun a wonderful recovery due to the partnerships and passion of many people, organizations and agencies, with the expert technical support of the TTSS.

TTSS has been North America’s leader of Trumpeter Swan conservation since 1968. For nearly 50 years, TTSS has played a pivotal role in the resurgence of the trumpeter swan population by providing expert science based technical support in most of the major restoration programs. “TTSS’s vibrant “swan network” of researchers, swan managers, and biologists have gathered and shared the best science based information and research to help bring back the Trumpeter Swan in areas where they have not been seen in more than a century,” said Margaret Smith, Executive Director of The Trumpeter Swan Society.

The result of all these efforts is reflected in the continued recovery of the Trumpeter Swan population to an estimated 46,000 in 2010. “But the trumpeter swan population is not out of the woods yet” says Fletcher. “The swans face several threats including climate change, loss of habitat, new diseases, lead poisoning and loss of winter habitat which brings us to the Cowichan Valley,” Fletcher goes on to say. “The overwintering population of trumpeter swans in the Cowichan valley has been trending upwards over the years and has been as high as 1,000 in recent years which is why we chose Swans and Agriculture. Working together as the theme for this year’s conference.

Trumpeter Swans – Barry Hetscko

This theme holds special significance as concerns expressed by local farmers over crop depredation has grown in lockstep with the overwintering swan population in the Cowichan Valley as swans are moving into farmers’ fields as the food supply is exhausted on their former marsh and wetland feeding grounds. A feature of this year’s conference will be a panel discussion on Wednesday evening on November 16th; the panel will include an impacted farmer, swan researchers and wildlife managers.

In addition, there will be an all day field trip on November 17, and a Gala Banquet on Friday, November 18, with keynote speaker Robert Bateman, one of Canada’s most renowned wildlife artists.

Robert Bateman at Ford Lake – Brigit Freybe Bateman

The TTSS Annual Conference will be of interest to people from all walks of life from those who just marvel at the sheer magnificence of these birds to farmers, students researchers, grad students and educators. We encourage people to register early for this conference: to obtain more information about the conference follow this link. Prices on the TTSS website are in American Dollars. To register through the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society in Canadian Dollars please follow this link and click on the individual events in the calendar:

Click here for the draft progam for the conference: draft-swan-conference-program



Paul Fletcher, 250 732-0462, 

To register for WildWings events click here.

Cowichan Tribes History and a Western Bluebird Talk this Week

For all event info and registration click here.


Another full week of festival activities is upon us. Today WildWings event-goers were treated to a wild  plant walk with Medicine Woman Della Rice-Sylvester. A wonderful activity for a stunning fall day!

untitled-7024Wednesday morning we will meet at the Somenos Open Air Classroom for a guided walk with Tim Kulchyski, Land and Fisheries Biologist with Cowichan Tribes, to learn about pre-European contact history of the Somenos Marsh. The walk will last from 10am-11:30am and reports are that the weather will hold for us until tomorrow evening.  Some of the things you can expect to learn about are:

  • the Hul’qumi’num’ names of the birds, plants, shrubs and trees of the marsh
  • what plants and resources were traditionally harvested from the marsh
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and traditional significance of the marsh
  • Understand the impact of development on traditional lands and the importance of preserving ecosystems such as Somenos Marsh

Registration is $10 for adults, free for children and can be made by calling Elizabeth at 250-884-0749 or visiting:

bluebirds-bhetschko-9407Thursday evening is the night to learn all about the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project from the Cowichan Valley Naturalists who are taking over the project. Presenters Genevieve Singleton and Ryan Hetschko will be talking about the history of the project, analysis of the past five years, and looking ahead at the future of these endangered birds. This is a FREE EVENT and will be held at the Freshwater Ecocentre on Wharncliffe Rd in Duncan from 7-9pm. No registration required.

Art and Mountains and Marshes…Oh My!

The moment we’ve been waiting for is almost here…

WildWings Nature & Arts Festival 2016 kicks off this Thursday evening, Oct. 6th, with the Festival Launch and Art Show Opening. From 6pm to 10pm the public is welcome to come celebrate the natural side of Cowichan as depicted by over 30 Vancouver Island artists. Just Jakes Restaurant in downtown Duncan will be hosting the opening event and the art show until the end of the festival, Nov. 18th. 

Sneak peek of 2016 WildWings Art Show at Just Jakes

The evening will include mood-setting live jazz music, delicious Jakes appies, the newly released WildWings beer and other libations. It will also feature the unveiling of the newly dubbed ‘WildWings Loft’ which will house the permanent WildWings collection, a group of Trumpeter Swan themed paintings commissioned by Lance and Liz of Jakes annually for festival. Each year an Artist of the Somenos is selected to create a feature art piece which is used on the promotional materials for the festival. 

On Saturday, October 8th, we have a special opportunity to get to know a local landmark and popular hiking and mountain biking destination on a new level. The Mt. Tzouhalem Awareness Hike will be led by Ken Elliott, a Cowichan man and native plant nursery owner, who will guide participants up the slopes and along meandering trails. This is a unique chance to soak up some of his wisdom on the Cowichan People’s connection to this special place and learn more about its flora and fauna. Bring water, sensible shoes and a sense of adventure!

Register for Mt. Tzouhalem Awareness Hike here or by phone: 250-884-0749.  $10 adults, kids free. 

On Sunday, October 9th, there is another great opportunity to ward off the turkey coma and get outside with your family on Thanksgiving weekend. Celebrate Somenos Open House Day takes place from 10am – 2pm at the Somenos Boardwalk and Open Air Classroom and 2pm – 3pm at Hecate Park in Cowichan Bay. The presenter list is as follows: 

Kai Rietzel, Executive Director of the Cowichan Land Trust: Kai will help you explore the underwater world of the marsh through aquatic invertebrates AKA water bugs AKA salmon food. Learn about the critters who call wetlands and streams home and what they can tell us about the health of these ecosystems.

Todd Carnahan, Manager of the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre: This roving naturalist with varied interests will be on hand throughout the day to answer all your niggling nature questions. Do you know the difference between a native Hawthorne and a non-native invasive one? If not, ask Todd! 

Derrick Marven, Coordinator of the winter Swan and Goose Count: Birding on the Boardwalk with Derrick is a classic part of WildWings Festival. This local birding legend once compiled a list of over 200 wild birds that have been spotted in the marsh. Bring your binos. (10am-12pm only)

A previous visitor to the marsh

The Raptors Centre: A popular and exciting event that allows a close up glimpse of aerial predators of the marsh ecosystems. Past years we’ve had visits from owls and hawks…Who will show up this year? 

Maria CurtisWeaver of Raven’s Joy Basketry: A Celebrate regular now, the talented Maria will lead a weaving activity with kids using natural material that may be found in the Somenos Marsh.

Paul Fletcher, President of the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society: Got any burning questions about the fascinating history of the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area? Ask the guy who’s been part of the SMW Society since its inception 27 years ago! 

Cowichan Valley Naturalists: Learn how to spot, identify, and count waterbirds on a measured section of Cowichan Bay shoreline. Take part in Bird Studies Canada Coastal Waterbird Survey. Soak in the knowledge of longtime birders and naturalists. This activity is at Hecate Park in Cowichan Bay between 2pm and 3pm only. 

 Kids can pick up their SWAMP STAMP CARD at the welcome table. If they get 3 stamps from different presenters they can enter to win a nifty Native Plant Prize Pack! 

Dress for the weather. Entry by donation.

For other WildWings Nature & Arts Festival event and registration info visit our Upcoming Events Page.

Get Ready for 30 Nature Events over 6 Weeks

Festival Event Listing

October 6 WildWings Festival Launch and Art Show Opening Reception

October 8 Mount Tzouhalem Awareness Hike

October 9 Celebrate Somenos Open House at the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom

October 11 Walk in the Woods with a First Nations Medicine Women

October 12 Cowichan Tribes history of Somenos Marsh

October 12 Creating Pollinator Friendly Yards

October 13 Bring Back the Bluebirds Presentation

October 15 Birdhouse Rehabilitation Day in Somenos Marsh

October 15 Backyard Bird Feeding

October 16 Kids Little Big Birding Day

October 17 Cowichan’s best kept birding secret: Chemainus Estuary Walk

October 18 Traditional Pi’kwun (Salmon BBQ) with Jared Williams

October 19 A Walk in the Koksilah Ancient trees

October 19 Winged Migration – Movie Night

October 22 Salish Sea Whales and Wildlife Zodiac Tour

October 23 Cowichan Artisans Who Work with Nature Tour

October 27 Coho Salmon in the Somenos Basin: CWB Speaker Series

October 29 Sip and Spot: Wine Tasting and Bird Spotting Tour

October 30 Hands-on Raptor Experience

November 1 Bird Songs of the Boreal Forest: cradle for billions of songbirds

November 4 The Messenger: Film Screening

November 5 Birding the Bay with the Royal BC Museum

November 6 Basket Weaving with Plants from the Marsh

November 7 Trumpeter Swan Paint Nite

November 9 21st Century Birding

November 13 Coastal Waterbird Count

November 14 Cowichan Wild – Local Wine and Fare

November 16-18 Trumpeter Swan Conference

November 16 Public Forum & Panel Discussion: Waterfowl and Agriculture, Working Together

November 17 Field Trip: Waterfowl and Agriculture, Working Together

November 18 Closing Gala for WildWings Festival & Trumpeter Swan Society Swan Conference

Click here for: Event Calendar and Registration Info

2016 Event Registrations Now Open!

Trumpeter swan photo by Barry Hetschko

Registrations for all WildWings Nature & Arts Festival events are now open. You can read all about the events by clicking on the ‘Upcoming Events’ page link above. There you will find a calendar of events. Click on each event to find out details and registration information. We look forward to celebrating Cowichan nature with you!

WildWings Launch only 3 Weeks Away!

poster-letterWith only 3 weeks to go we are getting very excited about this year’s WildWings Nature and Arts Festival. We are proud to be offering 30 events over 6 weeks this fall. Our events schedule is sure to have something for everyone with a variety arts, cultural and nature events. With a wonderful lineup of presenters and the beautiful backdrop of the Cowichan Valley we can not wait for WildWings to kickoff!

We are also excited to announce that registrations for the 24th Swan Conference are now open! Whether you are a swan expert, swan enthusiast, or nature lover, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to learn about the latest in swan research, conservation, management, and protection. Events run from Nov. 16 – Nov. 18. The Wednesday night panel can be attended by donation.

Click the link to register for the swan conference events of your choice: Register Here

Here’s a list of WildWings events to get you excited too! Registrations start September 21st.