Thursday, September 15, 2005

Festival draws 4,000 guests

Staff Writer

Hurricane Katrina did not steal the show this year after all as the 2005 Hummingbird Migration Celebration enjoyed 4,000 visitors - 700 of them turning out for Kids’ Day.

Gov. Haley Barbour and First Lady Marsha Barbour cancelled their scheduled appearance at Strawberry Plains due to Katrina’s aftermath. A letter of regrets from Marsha Barbour was read by National Audubon President John Flicker. He and Mississippi Audubon Executive Director Madge Lindsay applauded the Barbours for their support of Audubon centers in Holly Springs, Moss Point and Vicksburg.

“It is heartening to know that you gather today to celebrate nature and the renewal of life despite the consequences (of Hurricane Katrina),” wrote Marsha Barbour.

To the victims – “Please know that our prayers and those of Mississippians are with you and your families as you rebuild your homes and your lives.

She continued, “It seems fitting that Strawberry Plains will be filled with nature’s helicopters, the amazing hummingbirds, since the helicopter has been vital in the ongoing rescue and recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast. This is a remarkable engineering achievement for man, but can never equal the astonishing flight of the hummingbird.

“The migration celebration is just one way Audubon is working to fulfill its mission of connecting people with nature through science and learning...I close with the words of John Muir spoken more than 100 years ago, but just as true today. Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another. I am confident that the beautiful state of Mississippi and its courageous people will prevail.”

(To read Barbour’s letter in full go to and click on Katrina update at the top right hand side of the homepage.)

Weekend weather in Holly Springs was very suitable for bird watching and attending workshops, festivities and banding of 237 ruby throated hummingbirds with Bob and Martha Sargent. Last year the Sargents banded 111 at the festival.

The Sargents said this has been a good year for breeding and hatching of the ruby-throated hummingbird, aided by a favorable mild spring and summer weather.

At the Audubon Under the Stars event Friday evening, Flicker presented a timeline of important events in the National Audubon’s 100 years after commenting briefly on Audubon’s activities in Mississippi.

“We’re here to stay and we are going to rebuild and be a part of the future,” he said. “Holly Springs is one of Audubon’s best centers because of volunteer help. And both Haley and Marsha are quite good birders.”

At the turn of the 20th century as big game hunting and agricultural expansion was depleting much of the wildlife, Flicker said, people began to miss the call of birds and migrations. Congressman John Lacey helped Audubon members get laws passed prohibiting the illegal killing of birds and animals and importation of non-native species in 1900.

Flicker said the public became aware during these years that birds have always been symbols of hope for Americans.

In 1903 the National Wildlife Protection Society was formed and President Theodore Roosevelt created the first National Wildlife Refuge on Pelican Island in Florida.

Following World War II in the 1950s industrial pollution began to leave its effects on wildlife polluting rivers and killing eagles and pelicans due to the widespread use of the insecticide DDT. Another critical time was the Love Canal industrial waste spill that once again called attention to the need to protect the environment.

“Once again it was the birds that alerted the public to what was going on,” said Flicker. “Then Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962.”

Carson raised the question of what life would be like without the songs of birds in a polluted society. Her book raised awareness of the problems with DDT and helped get Congress to pass the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

“The challenges today are that the ecosystem is threatened in floodplains and wetlands in coastal regions,” Flicker said. “And we have to decide how to address climate change. We will inspire them through birds once again.

“You feel the heartbeat and warmth of the hummingbird and suddenly you are recommitted.”

Once again this year’s celebration provided excellent educational and nature experiences for all ages with demonstrations, guided walks, wagon rides and tours of the Davis Home. It also provided a haven for those still in shock and wearied by the effects of Katrina, Lindsay noted.

“This year’s Hummingbird Migration Celebration provided a respite from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and I am thrilled that so many people were able to attend the event,” she said. “Through festivals such as this one, we are able to achieve our very important goals of connecting people with nature and explaining how nature works.”

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