October 17 - 22, 2023 and WOW Encore December 8-10, 2023
In 1997 Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival was begun under the direction of then refuge manager, Mike Bryant, as a way to encourage and offer the public wildlife and wild land interpretation, educational opportunities and experiences on regional national wildlife refuges. This annual national wildlife refuge fundraising event has grown from a few offered activities in 1997, to over 90 birding, paddling, photography, art & natural history programs. The festival takes place in 6 national wildlife refuges over 6 northeast North Carolina counties. It is one of the premier east coast wildlife festivals. Locally, many activities take place on National Park Service property, specifically Cape Hatteras National Seashore, one of the Festival partners. What keeps Wings Over Water going year-after-year with a high registrant return rate? Great, knowledgeable activity leaders along with a small ratio of participants-to-leader (so you don’t get lost in the crowd) and of course wonderful wildlife opportunities. Every festival leader is a professional in their own field, volunteering their time, travel and expertise. Wings Over Water leaders come from a wide range of professions & fields such as professors, top birders, well-respected botanists and biologist, authors and award-winning photographers and artists. We also have a Wings Over Water session in December just for birding called Wings Over Water (WOW) Encore (dates vary year to year).
Wings Over Water is an annual refuge fundraising event sponsored by Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society (CWRS). CWRS is a non-profit group which exists to support regional national wildlife refuges. WOW, besides providing funds for educational grants to schools, is a part of many CWRS refuge support projects such as maintaining trails and signs and other refuge structures. Also, WOW helps CWRS provide volunteers and staff who are essential to the maintenance and operation of the regional national wildlife refuges visitor centers and refuges. One of the recent large projects using funds raised by WOW and CWRS went to raising the Pea Island Refuge Visitor Center about 5 feet. This was done in hopes of prolonging the life of this important gathering location for hundreds of thousands of birders and nature lovers until another facility is built. The project was completed in May of 2020.
Keynote Talk: Baby Birds - An Artist Looks Into the Nests
Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival
Photo: Karen Lebing