Thursday, September 14, 2006
By SUE WATSON
Beautiful Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs was a magnet for nature lovers of all ages and abilities this past weekend.
An estimated attendance, based on gate receipts, showed that approximately 7,300 people attended the Seventh Annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration over the weekend - a record for the festival. About 4,000 visitors attended the festival Saturday, according to Madge Lindsay, director of Audubon Mississippi.
This year, several area schools brought their children for a field day. They shared picnic lunches under the shade at Davis House, and enjoyed trail walking and wagon rides in addition to the educational exhibits.
Adults in groups or in clusters of twos and threes, and the elderly accompanied by friends or loved ones - all have become a part of the yearly human migration to Strawberry Plains Audubon.
They come to hear wildlife specialists talk about remarkable species of birds, reptiles and mammals, to watch the banding of the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird, to tour lovely Davis House, to linger, to rest and to enjoy food and friendship in the great outdoors.
Each year many visitors get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feel the heartbeat of the hummingbird, touch its feathers and feel the weight of the bird in the palm of the hand; those go away with extra special memories of the event.
This year at the festival, the Hummer Bird Study Group banded approximately 300 individual ruby-throated hummingbirds. This was a new record at Strawberry Plains for the banding group.
“We were bursting at the seams,” Lindsay said of this year’s attendance. “The growth of the festival tells us there is a strong regional interest in nature. We want people to have a quality educational experience when they come here and for them to take that knowledge back home.
“The festival is one of the best things we do every year to connect lots of people with nature. Our programs are intended to show our visitors how to be good stewards in their local community.”
The success of Audubon’s educational programs and the festival hinges on a strong local volunteer effort helping with the festival and on wildlife experts from across the state and region, many of whom donate their time and resources for the educational workshops and demonstrations.
Lindsay said Audubon’s goal is to “get people excited about nature and to become advocates for wildlife and habitat.”
Approximately half the yearly visitors to the hummingbird festival are from the greater Memphis area but visitors this year arrived with out of state car tags from states like Arkansas, California, Alaska, Alabama and Florida indicating that people outside the region are learning about the annual hummingbird migration celebration in Holly Springs.
The state website, www.msaudubon.org, received 200,000 hits just in the first 10 days of September, according to Bruce Reid, director of the lower Mississippi Program of Audubon based in Vicksburg.
“We were amazed with the large Saturday attendance and number of vehicles, confirming the need for a new road and parking areas,” said Lindsay.
“With good luck and funding, next year’s migration celebration will be even better, eliminating long delays and traffic for visitors during arrival and departure.”
For those who want to plan ahead, next year’s Eighth Annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration is scheduled for September 7-9, 2007.
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