Thursday, May 19, 2005

Audubon hosts Migratory Bird Day

Staff Writer

About 1,000 elementary school students from the region got a taste of the outdoors and learned about migratory birds and many other wildlife and their habitats at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs Friday.

It was International Migratory Bird Day. Students not only learned about migratory birds but that conservation efforts at home affect wildlife from all over.

The field day was the Audubon Center’s first Migratory Bird Day and learning fair for students from grades two through six.

Sunny, dry and breezy weather energized the children. One boy exclaimed while walking with his class from one station to the next, “Boy, it feels good.”

Besides introducing children to the diversity of wildlife and how to recognize different species, volunteers taught them how to respect birds and their nests.

The Mississippi state duck is the wood duck, said Danny Mills, Marshall County conservation officer.

John DeFazior, with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in New Albany, showed off skins from the furry species, including mink and muskrat and presented a variety of models depicting the skulls and footprints of mammals.

Stephanie Steele, with the United States Forest Service, reviewed sensitive species that can become protected or endangered.

Holly Springs volunteer Al Klomps sported a number of types of bird house designs.

Saturday was International Migratory Birds Day, said Dick Preston, a volunteer with the Tennessee Ornithology Society. He and Van Harris taught kids how to recognize birds by their feathers.

Tim Roberts with the Memphis Agricenter International displayed and discussed bird nests.

Volunteers with Ducks Unlimited let kids touch a stuffed duck and talked about wetland values and their importance to waterfowl.

Kate Freidman, an Audubon volunteer from Memphis, discussed bird migration and how it is associated with the seasons. Kids learned when it is summer here in North America it is wintertime in South America.

She also brought a living owl telling kids owls are not really as wise as the old saying goes. But they do have keen hearing and eyesight, she said. Some species of owl migrate from 2,000 to 7,000 miles in a year and others do not migrate, she said.

Freidman explained that migration is not a straight shot from here to there, but the owl stops to rest and eat during the day and flies on during the night. Some owls are so keen about their migratory route that they return to the same tree every year, she said. Owls migrate from the United States to Central and South America and back.

Owls use major landmarks - big mountains, rivers or oceans - as their map. They also navigate by the moon and the stars.

Human activities sometimes confuse owls, she said. They have particular difficulty on foggy or dark nights and may be confused by the lights on buildings and towers. This is known because owls fly into them at night and die.

Allison Pae, with the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Interior, told kids about skins, feathers, and Native American items that are forbidden to sell. Some things you can have but cannot sell, she said. She showed a variety of artifacts seized by the Department of the Interior.

Other organizations that provided educational talks and material were the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, The Nature Conservancy, Mississippi State Department of Entomology, U.S. Corps of Engineers/Arkabutla, Wolf River Conservancy, Mississippi State Extension Service, and Dixon Galleries and Gardens.

Schools that participated included Henry Elementary in Byhalia, New Albany, Mooreville, Chalybeate, Oxford, Parkway, Ashland, Rossville, Galena and Magnolia Heights.

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