Thursday, September 4, 2008
Tiny birds focus of celebration this week
By SUE WATSON
Strawberry Plains Audubon Center will be the place to be this weekend for those who love nature and a tiny bird that amazes all ages.
Thousands of migrating hummingbirds will be the center of attention at Audubon Mississippi’s annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration at Strawberry Plains - a former plantation that was left to the National Audubon Society by two sisters, Margaret Shackelford and Ruth Finley.
“Nine years ago, Jesse Grantham started this and the attendance was about 300,” said Jorja Lynn, a member of the Strawberry Plains stewardship board. “Last year we had 8,000 visit the festival. It’s just astonishing that so many people come out to see this tiny bird.”
The Lynns, owners of Walter Place Estates and Gardens, now have hundreds of hummingbirds visiting their property, after they put out 10 feeders at their antebellum home.
“It’s like bumble bees out there,” she said.
The hummingbird festival does more to educate people who visit about nature and wildlife than possibly anything else, she said.
“It was a huge education for me and my daughter Lucia Lynn, who took birding at California Institute of Art after a visit to Strawberry Plains and the festival and saw these birds,” Lynn said.
“When Margaret Shackelford and her sister, Ruth Finley, gave that property to Audubon, I don’t think they had any idea how far- reaching their gift would be. Mississippi is becoming a leader in Audubon because of their gift.”
The fact that so many children get to see animals up close, touch and learn about their habitats, means that they, too, will be more aware of the benefits of wildlife and natural plants that provide the food for wildlife, Lynn said.
“They learn that snakes are good and bees have a purpose,” Lynn said. “Without them our world would shrink.”
Soon, Audubon will build a new center at Strawberry Plains and a new entrance that will give Strawberry another big boost, Lynn said.
“It’s going to have a dramatic effect on Marshall County,” she said.
Martha Thomas, a new member of the local board at Strawberry, agreed that the hummingbird festival has a strong impact on the community and region.
“It’s the single biggest draw to our area and draws from all over the South and outside the South," she said. “But the greatest impact is the year-around effect on the community - while the festival is a single event. Education effects our children and adults. It’s not just the hummingbirds, you get the other birds and the native plant species that sustains them.”
Education at Strawberry runs the gamut, she said, to include local species like deer, the woodpecker, the owl, and the skunk - any animal with a habitat in the area.
“One of the biggest things is the nectar producing plant,” she added, that feed the birds, the bees and the butterflies.
Because Strawberry Plains is open year around, local residents have a place to go to see an antebellum home, the beautiful grounds, and the plants and birds. Strawberry Plains is a great place to take visitors and guests, Thomas said.
In short, the lives of everyone in Marshall County and the region can be enriched by the great attraction, she said.
“The center is a showcase for the community,” she said.
Board members are chosen from outside the county with some members of the board from Oxford, Corinth, and Tate County.
Strawberry Plains Audubon is indeed a center piece but there is much more beauty and places to visit in the Holly Springs area. Some samples follow.
Holly Springs offers three museum experiences - the Marshall County Historical Museum, the Ida B. Wells Museum and the Kate Freeman Clark Art Gallery - open year around.
Walter Place and Gardens is also open all year, while the Holly Springs Pilgrimage showcases the antebellum homes and historic churches and the Christmas Tour of Homes provides end-of-the-year entertainment.
Two heritage trails are available as walking tours and cost nothing - the Blues Trail and the Van Dorn Trail markers are scattered about the City of Holly Springs. Outside town, nature lovers can visit Chewalla Lake east of town and Wall Doxey State Park to the South or Duck Pond to the North - a favorite fishing hole for locals.
Some highlights of the Hummingbird Migration Celebration week, include Kids Day, set aside for school children Wednesday, Sept. 3, and Audubon Under the Stars, a Thursday evening event that serves as a fund-raiser and recognizes volunteer service and contributions to the society. Friday, Saturday and Sunday activities are Strawberry Plains are open for all.
Hummingbird conservationists come to Strawberry Plains each year to band hundreds of hummingbirds - an essential step in learning more about migration patterns of the ruby-throated hummingbird and other species. Visitors can get an up close look at the bird and learn about its habitats and migration routes.
Other wildlife specialists provide expert information on a large variety of animals and their habitats - including bats, alligators, and birds of prey.
For those who want to entice some “hummers” to their yards, vendors will be selling varied bird feeders, native plants, and other items.
While at the festival, tourists can buy refreshments. Visitors park and then ride old-fashioned wagons to the site, or they can walk to the festival grounds through scenic marked trails.
The antebellum Davis House is open for tours as well.
The schedule of activities for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 5-7, is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Visit the nature trade show, wildlife demonstrations, nature programs and walks, hummingbird banding tent (closes at 3 p.m. on Sunday), kids’ tent, the native plant sale, and historic Davis House. Or take a wagon ride.
No reservations are required for any event.
Admission is $10 for adults and children over age 12. Children under 12 are admitted for $5 and children under three are admitted free. Senior citizens are admitted for $7. Buses and 12-passenger vans are admitted at $7 per passenger.
No pets are allowed.
Travelers arriving from the Memphis/Collierville, Germantown area can take the Highway 311 exit off Highway 72 at Mt. Pleasant to Strawberry Plains - a 9.5 mile drive. Those arriving from Highway 78 will take Highway 7 North, drive through town and enter Highway 311 from the south and drive 3.2 miles. Visitors arriving from Highway 4 West, take Highway 7 North and visitors from Highway 4 East and Highway 7 North meet Highway 311 from the North side of Holly Springs.
Strawberry Plains Audubon Center is located at 285 Plains Road off Highway 311.
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