Author Archives: Elizabeth Bailey

8th annual WildWings Nature and Arts Festival

The 8th annual WildWings Nature and Arts Festival – October 6th to November 18th 2016

Late fall in the Cowichan Valley is a very special time because it marks the return of the Trumpeter Swans and other migratory waterfowl to their overwintering habitat in Somenos Marsh, the Cowichan Estuary and nearby natural areas. This time of year also signals the return of the annual WildWings Nature and Arts Festival.

This year’s festival is an extra special one for WildWings as The (North American) Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) is coming to the Cowichan Valley for its Annual General Meeting and Swan Conference. This year’s Swan Conference theme is Swans and Agriculture, Working Together. This event will bring 75 -100 visitors to our amazing valley and will coincide with the closing week of WildWings. Swan experts from all over the world will be presenting their research papers for the visitors and the local public.

While the WildWings Festival does highlight the Trumpeter Swans’ annual return to Somenos and the Cowichan Valley, it also celebrates nature, the arts and culture through public presentations and activities.

Confirmed festival activities include:

  • October 6, WildWings Nature & Arts Festival Launch and Art Show opening at Just Jakes restaurant
  • October 9, Celebrate Somenos Family Fun Day at the Open Air Classroom
  • November 16-18, Trumpeter Swan Conference
  • November 18, WildWings Festival and Swan Conference closing gala fundraiser event at the Quw’utsun’ Conference Centre. The keynote speaker will be Robert Bateman

Public presentations being planned include:

  • Birding at local wineries
  • Artisans who work with Nature tour
  • Basket weaving workshop using invasive species
  • Koksilah Big Trees hike
  • Picnic on Mt Tzouhalen with a local plant and history guide
  • Kids Little Big Birding Day contest and potluck
  • Salish Sea Whales and wildlife ocean tour with Ocean Ecoventures
  • Hands on experience at Pacific Raptors
  • Birdcall presentation by John Neville, a renowned bird song and call recording artist
  • An presentation the Western Bluebird project
  • Backyard bird feeder workshop with Derrick Marven
  • Birds, bees & butterfly friendly gardening with Ted Leischner
  • Medicine plant walk at Bright Angel Park
  • Cowichan nation cultural talk and salmon bbq with Jarod Williams
  • Cowichan Tribes, a lesson in history with Tim Kulchyski, grandson of Simon Charlie
  • And more…..

Stay tuned for more details. Booking starts September 21, 2016


WildWings began in 2009 as the Return of the Swans Festival, changed to the Cowichan Swans Festival in 2011 and finally morphed into WildWings in 2012.

The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society (SMWS) coordinates the informal WildWings partnership with volunteer help from the Cowichan Valley Arts Council, Cowichan Valley Naturalists, Cowichan Docents and the Cowichan Land Trust.

This year’s festival is funded by SMWS’s fundraising efforts over the past year. The Swan Conference is being funded by North Cowichan, CVRD and the BC Nature Foundation. Special thanks to Lance & Liz Steward who, through their business, Just Jakes, provide space for the festival launch and funds for the Artist of the Somenos artwork purchase.

For more information about the festival please contact the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society Program Coordinator, Elizabeth Bailey, at or 250-884-0749.

WildWings Facebook Art Auction – 2015


As part of WildWings Festival 2015 the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society is holding a Facebook Art Auction. Two artworks, one by world renowned Robert Bateman, the other by popular local photographer Barry Hetschko are currently on the auction block. They are both on display upstairs at Just Jakes Restaurant in downtown Duncan. Both are beautifully framed by Excellent FrameWorks – EJ Hughes Gallery.

Bids on each start at $200. All the money raised from the auction of these two pieces will be used to help us build the new viewing tower at the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom. The tower will be tall enough to provide a 360 degree view of the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area and large enough to accommodate a class of school children. It is the final piece planned to complete the educational infrastructure at the Open Air Classroom.

We have $14,0bateman-bank-of-swans00 in the bank already. Please help us reach our final goal!!!!

Bidding is by email ( or Facebook message. Bids will be posted and published on this page as each new bid comes in. The bidding ends November 15th when the WildWings art show comes down.

To participate in the auction please follow this link to visit the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Socitey’s Facebook Page.

Celebrate Somenos Family Fun Day – October 3rd, 2015


Celebrate Somenos is a family friendly open-house style event held each year on the Somenos Marsh boardwalk and at other locations around the Valley. It is the perfect time to visit the marsh for the first time or the hundredth time because we stock it full of all local experts who are itching to share their knowledge about the special ecosystems that make this place precious. See below for events schedule and talk and tours descriptions. It looks like we’ll be in for a beautiful day so come out and join the fun!

*New this year – kids can be entered to win a pair of Bushnell binoculars and a bird book if they take part in three presentations and collect three unique stamps. Pick up your Swamp Stamp Card at the welcome table on Saturday.


CELEBRATE SOMENOS EVENTS SCHEDULE Somenos Boardwalk and Open Air Classroom Somenos Garry Oak Protected Area Cowichan Bay Estuary Nature Centre
10:00 am 







Wildlife photography with Barry Hetschko (10am-2pm) Cattail weaving activity with Maria Curtis (10am-2pm)  Somenos Marsh Conservation Area with Paul Fletcher (10am-2pm)
10:30 am Birds of prey with the Pacific Raptors Center (10:30am-11:30pm)  Western toads with Shari Willmott(10:30-12pm) Garry oak ecosystem tour with Tracy Fleming and Mena Williams (10:30am-12:00pm) 
11:00 am Salmon in the Somenos with Dave Preikshot (11am-1pm)
11:30 am
12:00 pm Birding in the bay with the Cowichan Valley Naturalists (12pm-2pm)
12:30 pm
1:00 pm Birding on the boardwalk with Derrick Marven (1pm-2pm) 
1:30 pm 
2:00 pm End of Celebrate Somenos


Tour and Talk Descriptions

Wildlife Photography with Barry Hetschko: Learn about the principles, techniques and equipment you can use to get great nature shots from well-known local nature photographer Barry Hetschko. B.Y.O.Camera for pointers. 

Cattail weaving activity with Maria CurtisMaria Curtis, longtime weaver, will be leading a kid’s activity in which participants can create a small mat or bracelet. Also learn about upcoming basket weaving workshops. 

Somenos Marsh Conservation Area with Paul Fletcher: Join Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society co-founder to learn about the last 25 years of exciting marsh history including recent changes in land ownership and the ongoing conservation zoning process.

Birds of Prey with the Pacific Raptors Center: Join the Pacific Raptor Centre crew for an exciting talk about marsh predators! They will be bringing a bird of prey with them so this is a great chance to get up close with one of these stunning birds and get all your birds of prey questions answered.

Western toads with Shari Willmott (10:30-12pm): Join this local amphibian enthusiast to learn about local frogs, salamanders and toads!! Information about the exciting Cowichan Valley toad tracking project will also be available. 

Salmon in the Somenos with Dave Preikshot: This local fisheries biologist will fill you in on all the details of Somenos as critical salmon habitat. He will also speak to the citizen-science water quality monitoring project which is ongoing in Somenos.

Garry Oak Tour with Cowichan Tribes Elder Mena Williams and Plant Ecologist Tracy Fleming: Learn about one of Canada’s most endangered ecosystems right here in Cowichan. The guides will give you a walking tour of the Somenos Garry Oak Protected Area sure to intrigue and inspire guests of all ages. 

Birding on the Boardwalk: Join long-time Cowichan Valley birder Derrick Marven for the popular Birding on the Boardwalk event. Derrick will be stationed on the Somenos boardwalk to talk birds with all who join him. B.Y.O.Binoculars if possible.

Birding in the Bay: Join the Cowichan Valley Naturalists for Birding in the Bay from the viewing tower platform near the Cowichan Bay Estuary Nature Centre (also open to visitors). Spotting scope and binoculars will be available for birdwatchers.


How to get there:

Somenos Boardwalk:  From Duncan head North on the TCH. About 1km past Beverly corners pull off to the right at the Somenos Boardwalk and Open Air Classroom. ***Please note that parking will be very limited so do your best to bike, walk or carpool

Somenos Garry Oak Protected Area: Head East on Trunk Rd from the TCH. Turn left on Lakes Rd. Turn left at Trillium Tce. Turn left on York. Rd and drive to the cul-de-sac at the end. This is the meeting spot for the Garry Oak Protected Area tour.


Cowichan Bay Estuary Nature Centre: From Duncan head south on the TCH. Turn left on Cowichan Bay Rd. Turn right and stay on Cowichan Bay Rd. Follow this into Cowichan Bay Village, the nature centre will be on the left.



Time to Party!! Festival Launch @ Craig St. Brewpub – Thursday Oct. 1st, 2015

WildWings Festival kick’s off this week! Don’t miss the chance to party conservation-style. The evening will feature live music from Cara McCandless and friends. You can also sample the newly released WildWings Ale, partial proceeds of which go towards conservation initiatives in the Somenos Marsh. Don’t miss the marsh trivia with great prizes. This event starts at 5pm and goes till about 10pm.

This year’s fundraising project is a viewing tower for the Open Air Classroom.

Thanks to event sponsors Craig St. Brewpub!


Basket Weaving Workshop Details – October 18th 2015

In a fundraising partnership with the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society’s WildWings Festival Maria Curtis is again offering a daylong basket weaving workshop.

On Sunday, October 18th, 9:30 –4:00 pm in Duncan at the Green Community Meeting room.

Fun With Cat Tail Leaves

Using cat tail leaves for both spokes and weavers, we will begin making a double square base;

Then using twining techniques, and choice of materials, we will twine around the perimecat tail baskets (190x255)ter of the woven square to form a round shape basket. Additions of iris leaves, broom and other naturals  can be added to make the basket unique.

All materials and tools supplied, spaces are limited. Pre-registration is required. Cost $90

Contact: Maria Curtis 250-748-7468


WildWings is in the Air – 2015 Festival this October, November


October is here again to soak the Cowichan in fall beauty. This time of year is special in the Valley because it marks the return of migratory waterfowl to their overwintering habitat in the Somenos Marsh and nearby natural areas. The Trumpeter Swan, the largest of North American waterfowl, was once brought to near extinction. WildWings Festival is a celebration of this beautiful bird’s annual return to Somenos, their resting place, from their northern breeding grounds.

This year’s festivities include a Launch Party at the Brew Pub on October 1st with live music, triva (with prizes) and the specially crafted WildWings I.P.A. On October 3rd the community is invited to the Somenos Marsh Boardwalk and Open Air Classroom for Celebrate Somenos Family Fun Day. There will be kid’s activities and talks and tours on birds, salmon, amphibians, photography and more! This event also includes a Somenos Garry oak ecosystem tour and birding in Cowichan Bay. This year’s WildWings Art Exhibition, put on in partnership with the Cowichan Valley Arts Council, will be held at Just Jake’s Restaurant and will feature local artists renditions of nature and wildlife. The opening night cocktail mixer (October 15th, 8-10pm) will act as the after-party for the Duncan Business Improvement Area Society’s Under the Umbrella Art Walk making for a fantastic night of culture in the heart of Duncan. Lastly, longtime weaver Maria Curtis will host a basket weaving workshop on the 18th where participants can learn to weave using local materials including invasive species harvested from the marsh (please pre-register).

For more information about this annual festival please contact the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society Program Coordinator, Elizabeth Bailey, at or 250-884-0749

Barry-swansPhoto by Barry Hetschko

Trumpeter Swans in the Somenos Marsh

WildWings 2014 in Review


The Students of Alexander School perform with Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Wilds at Voices of Nature. Photo: Paul Fletcher

Another year of festivities has come to an end as the Trumpeter Swans are settling in to their winter home in the Cowichan Valley and I think it is safe to say that this year’s WildWings Festival was a community success.

 Events this year included a Festival Launch party at the ever-hopping Craig St Brew Pub where folks got a harmonic earfull from talented local gal band Pixelle, mouthfulls of WildWings I.P.A and brains full of Somenos Marsh trivia. The evening featured the unveiling of this year’s Artist of the Somenos Glenn Spicer’s gorgeous Trumpeter Swan stained glass piece to be on display in Just Jakes from now on.


Volunteer Meg Loop at Festival Launch, Photo: Elizabeth Bailey

This year’s WildWings Art Exhibition and Live Auction was held at Just Jake’s Restaurant and coincided with the Duncan Business Improvement Area Society’s Under the Red Umbrella art walk. Many beautiful nature-inspired pieces were on display and some amazing auction items went that night. It was a classy affair featuring grey-goose martinis and the musical stylings of local jazz trio Connor Stewart, John Wade and Eric Smith.DSC00174.jpg

Celebrate Somenos, the open house day at the marsh, was WET! It rained…a lot. However that didn’t stop the most faithful of marsh lovers from braving the rains and coming out to experience tours, talks and birding events at the Somenos Marsh boardwalk, Cowichan Bay viewing tower and Somenos Garry Oak Protected Area. Volunteers and visitors were kept warm with a steaming supply of endless hot chocolate.

Longtime weaver Maria Curtis hosted an Invasive Species Weaving Workshop at the Cowichan Green Community board room. Participants created beautiful baskets made of dried scotch broom and yellow flag iris, both exotic plants that are invading natural ecosystems in the marsh.

Enjoying a pint of WildWings I.P.A. Photo: Elizabeth Bailey

The crown jewel of this year’s festival was the grand finale concert at the Cowichan Theatre, Voices of Nature. It was the product of the hard work and dedication of the Artist Response Team (Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Wilds band) and the students of Alexander School. The group took the stage and wowed the audience with their lively energy, inspiring ecology based songs, and pure talent. It was a community building evening as many of the school families belong to Cowichan Tribes and the concert was opened by honoured guest Chief Seymour. The school is also situated adjacent to the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area so the messages about protecting the marsh were especially poignant. There are hopes of making the event a regular part of WildWings Festival so keep your eyes and ears open for next year’s concert!


A visitor from the Raptor’s Centre at Celebrate Somenos, Photo: Paul Fletcher

Many thanks go out to all the generous community members who made WildWings Festival 2014 a great success. Notably we’d like to thank: The Gosling Foundation, the Craig St. Brew Pub, Just Jake’s Restaurant, Glenn Spicer, Pixelle, the Garage Community Farm Store, Connor Stewart, John Wade, Eric Smith, Excellent Frameworks, Genevieve Singleton, Cowichan Bay Estuary Nature Centre, the Raptors, Barry Hetschko, Canada World Youth, Maria Curtis, Cowichan Green Community, Cowichan Tribes, Chief Seymour, Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Wilds, Alexander School, Tire Stewardship BC, SMWS board members, volunteers, and members who are all generous supporters of WildWings Festival and the Somenos Marsh.

Voices of Nature Concert will Inspire and Entertain


Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Wilds are coming to the Cowichan Theater to perform a Voices of Nature concert as the grand finale for WildWings 2014. They will be accompanied by the students of Alexander Elementary school who will learn ecologically themed songs that coincide with a cross-curricular arts and science school program. Arntzen and Wright will spend time teaching the students through music with their artists in residence program, a great opportunity for all involved.

Concert goers will be dazzled by the energy, creativity and talent of the the performers and will leave the show feeling inspired and empowered about our role in taking care of the environment. There will be a strong First Nations component to the show as many Alexander School families are Cowichan Tribes members and one of the songs will be performed in Hul’qumi’num. Tzinquaw Native Dancers will also be featured and the event will be opened by honoured guest, Chief Seymour. 

All proceeds from the show will go towards the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society’s 25th anniversary project, a viewing tower in the marsh.

Help support the Alexander School Community Tire Round-up!

The Voices Of Nature School Music Program is supported by Tire Stewardship BC. TSBC is the organization responsible for making sure that all tires in British Columbia are properly recycled. If you have old tires, or find any lying around in the environment, you can take them to Kal Tire, 5295 Trans-Canada Hwy, in Duncan, on Saturday, November 15th, between 10am-3pm for recycling. Please be sure to say that you are dropping off tires for the Alexander School Tire Round-up. Alexander School will receive an honorarium for the tires that are rounded up.

Tickets are by donation (suggested $20) and are on sale now at the Cowichan Theater Ticket Centre or available at the door.

Great fun for the whole family. An event not to be missed!