Thursday, August 26, 2010
Annual hummingbird fest Sept. 10-12
This fall, thousands of ruby-throated hummingbirds will begin to migrate from Canada towards their winter home in Mexico and Central America.
Some will travel down along Highway 61 south of Memphis, stopping to refuel at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, near Holly Springs.
Last year 9,000 visitors to the center got to see these tiny titans before they continued their daunting journey, which includes a 500-mile flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
At the festivals in the past, many people had the chance to feel the heartbeat of the bird, and learn how to attract them to their own backyard. People may get the chance to touch and hold birds this year as well. Renowned expert Bob Sargent and his team, the Hummer/Bird Study Group, will again be banding hummingbirds.
Bird banding helps unravel the mysteries of migration. If you think hummingbirds are small, you should see the delicate band that goes around their leg. The tiny numbered leg bands enable scientists to determine how far south the birds go for winter, where they stop during their travels, how long they live, and whether they come back to the same sites year after year. (Many do.)
At the 2008 festival, over 280 hummingbirds were banded and a bird was recaptured that had been tagged in 2006.
Hummers are vital to our ecosystem because, like bees, they are pollinators. As bees across North America suffer from Colony Collapse, bird habitats in North, Central, and South America are being lost to development and fragmentation. Climate change can produce increasingly severe weather, including droughts and stronger hurricanes because of rising sea temperatures. All of these changes impact hummingbird populations. The status of the ruby-throated population is still robust, however, and bodes for a spectacular migration in Mississippi.
While the hummingbirds visit the Audubon Strawberry Plains Center throughout September, the weekend Migration Celebration, from Sept. 10-12, is a festival, with white tents full of nature-inspired gifts, arts and crafts, talks on nature, and a chance to buy hummingbird feeders and bird-friendly plants for your own backyard.
The center showcases 2,600 acres of magnificent forests, grasslands and native plant gardens, plus the majestic Davis House, where you can sit in an enclosed porch to watch the hummingbirds hover and drink from plants and feeders in the garden.
Strawberry Plains Audubon Center at 285 Plains Road, in Holly Springs, was described as an “outdoor lover’s paradise” by The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
The ruby-throated hummingbird offers a unique way to introduce people to conservation.
“Hummingbirds are great ambassadors for nature and conservation,” said Walter Hubbard, center director. “They are one of nature’s true marvels and one of many attractions to enjoy at the festival.”
“Once a person decides to protect and conserve hummingbirds, they wind up protecting and conserving many other species on which hummingbirds depend, from insects to native plants,” said Katie Boyle, outreach and education director at Strawberry Plains. “The festival offers people a complete picture of habitat needs and conservation.”
Participants come from around the Mid-South to help support the center’s education and conservation programs, including an initiative to conserve the Coldwater River Watershed.
This year’s Hummingbird Festival features a number of speakers, including Douglas W. Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants,” and Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society.
Popular returning programs will include Terry Vandeventer’s live snake program, “Good Ole’, Down Home, Mississippi Snakes,” the live bat encounter with Rob Mies, guided nature walks, wagon rides, the kids’ tent and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Kristin Lamberson, the interpretive gardens specialist at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, will be answering questions about what kind of plants appeal to birds, how to place your feeders for maximum benefits, and why indigenous plants are easier to maintain.
Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for children under 12; admission for 12-passenger vans and buses is $10 per person. All parking is free. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be for sale.
For more information on the 11th Annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration events, please visit http://strawberryplains.audubon.org or call 662-252-1155.
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