You don't have to be a serious bird-watcher to appreciate the majesty of a towering sandhill crane or a tundra swan that has flown from Alaska to winter in the Central Valley. Those big, showy birds are among the many migratory species that abound in the Central Valley during January.
This week, the Sacramento region celebrates its role as a crucial link in the Pacific Flyway with the fifth annual Galt Winter Bird Festival. The event runs from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at McCaffrey Middle School, 997 Park Terrace Drive, Galt. It will include speakers, food and art vendors, as well as activities for kids. Admission is free.
Shuttles will take visitors on guided bus tours of the nearby Cosumnes River Preserve. Pre-registration is required for the tours, which cost $10 to $20 for adults. Some of the tours are already filled, but several still have spots. For info, visit www.ci.galt.ca.or call 209-366-7115.
If you can't make it to the festival, you can still set out on your own to see cranes, swans and ducks. A great place for crane viewing is the Isenberg Crane Reserve on Woodbridge Road, west of Interstate 5. Go at dusk to see the birds descend en masse.
Mary Lynne Vellinga
Woman faces charges in daughter's death
Patricia Lee Thomas of Grass Valley will be arraigned in Placer Superior Court today for the death of her 4-year-old daughter 42 years ago.
Behind the news: Authorities have released little information about the case against Thomas, also is known as Patricia Lee Howell. The arraignment may shed light on the case. Initially, the child was reported to have been a drowning victim.
Stay informed: Check www.sacbee.com for updates
Water district to discuss rate hike
Customers in the Carmichael Water District are invited to tonight's 7 p.m. meeting at 7837 Fair Oaks Blvd., where directors will consider a rate hike.
Behind the news: Public opposition forced the district to back off a plan to raise rates by 18 percent last month, but directors still need to address revenue lost to a decline in water consumption.
Info: Agendas are posted at www.carmichaelwd.org
Education center remodel debuts
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services will christen its remodeled education center Tuesday in Oak Park.
Behind the news: The center's $3.5 million expansion includes a 7,600-square-foot demonstration garden to promote healthy living.
See it online: Look for photos on sacbee.com.
Budget presentation for Sacramento City Council
The Sacramento City Council will get its first deep look at the 2012-13 fiscal year budget with a two-hour presentation by city staff. The hearing is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Library Galleria, 828 I St.
Info: Click the "Council Agendas and Meetings" link at www.cityofsacramento.org
El Dorado supervisors weigh new food law
El Dorado County supervisors will review a proposed food ordinance that would give small farmers more freedom to sell their goods directly to consumers without state intervention. The meeting begins at 8 a.m. Tuesday at 330 Fair Lane, Placerville.
See it online: Click the "Agendas" link at www.edcgov.us/bos
New flood protection plan will get public airing
The Central Valley Flood Protection Board holds a public hearing at 8:30 a.m. Friday at 1416 Ninth St. on a $17 billion proposal that would improve Sacramento's flood protection.
See it online:www.cvfpb.ca.gov/CVFPP
FOR A GOOD CAUSE
Make a Wish's Winter Wine & Food Fest
The Sacramento and Northeastern California chapter of Make a Wish hosts its 24th annual food and wine fund-raiser at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Sacramento Convention Center. The money is spent on granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Info: General admission tickets are $85. sacnortheast.wish.org
With the Florida primary coming up Jan. 31, Republicans have scheduled two debates in the Sunshine state. One takes place tonight at the University of South Florida in Tampa and the second on Thursday in Jacksonville.
Watch: Tonight's debate will be broadcast at 6 p.m. on NBC. Thursday's will be shown on CNN. Check local listings for times.
State of the Union
President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Watch: Major networks will carry the speech, or you can view it via live stream at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
The Australian Open
Tennis' first major tournament of the year winds to a close this week, with the singles finals on Sunday.
Watch: The Tennis Channel and ESPN2 are broadcasting the matches on television. Check out live streaming and video on demand at www.australian open.com
National Hockey League
The 59th annual NHL All-Star Game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday from the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Watch: NBC Sports Network will televise the game.
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
San Jose is hosting the 2012 national championships of figure skating this week at HP Pavilion. The men's and women's finals take place Sunday.
Tickets: Log on to www.skatesanjose2012.com/tickets for ticket information.
Watch: NBC will telecast on the competition on Saturday at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.; and on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Exhibit puts nuns in spotlight
On Tuesday, the California Museum unveils a new traveling exhibit, "Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America," examining the work of nuns in the United States over the decades. The history of a group of California sisters who came to San Francisco in 1851 is highlighted. The museum is at 10th and O Streets in Sacramento.
Info: www.californiamuseum.org, (916) 653-7524
Folsom High hosts annual jazz festival
The 23rd Annual Folsom High School Jazz Festival will be staged Saturday at two locations: Rolling Hills Christian Church in El Dorado Hills and Folsom Lake College's Three Stages theater. More than 130 middle school and high school jazz bands, vocal jazz groups, and combos from California and Nevada will compete. Jazz Alto saxophonist Dave Pietro is this year's guest artist. Tickets are $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and children.
Info:www.folsommusic.org, (916) 985-3101
Stock Ranch Nature Preserve walking tours offered
Citrus Heights will offer half-hour guided walking tours of the Stock Ranch Nature Preserve beginning on the hour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Tours will depart from the information booth between Costco and Walmart, 7000 Auburn Blvd. The event is part of a series of workshops to plan nature education features for the 47-acre open-space park along Arcade and San Juan creeks.
Bull riders return to Sacramento
The top 40 bull riders take on the toughest bulls in the world at the 2012 Sacramento Invitational at 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Power Balance Pavilion. Last year, Renato Nunes took home the top prize. Tickets range from $10 to $145.
Info: (719) 242-2800, www.powerbalancepavilion.com
Mercedes on display in new car exhibit
Mercedes-Benz cars take the spotlight today in the California Automobile Museum's WUNDERCARS! exhibit, which tells the story of the German automobile industry and German cars in America. The museum at 2200 Front St. in Sacramento is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month until 9 p.m.
Info: www.calautomuseum.org, (916) 442-6802
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Hollywood's trophy season marches on with the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday.
Watch: Live broadcast on TNT at 5 p.m. from Los Angeles.
Info: See all the nominees at www.sagawards.org