Photos by Sue Watson
Heather Gallagher gives school children an opportunity to feel the rapid tiny heartbeat of a hummingbird.
Ninety-year-old Emma Perry of Oxford enjoys sitting and people- watching at the 2017 Hummingbird Celebration in Holly Springs.
Children and adults enjoy a collection of animal pelts presented at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science tent.
Lee Cagle of Fayette County, Tenn., sells honey, produced in three states, at the festival. The hives are placed near fields of wild flowers, soybeans, cotton, sunflowers and melons in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Jeanne, Donald and Beth Pate and Cathy Davis enjoy the colorful fall fruiting plants.
About 6,500 hummingbird watchers enjoyed this year’s Hummingbird Celebration at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, according to center director Mike Muraco.
“The festival would not be possible without our generous sponsors and more than 175 volunteers who work dozens of hours to make this happen,” Muraco said.
The main attraction is the annual migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird to Central and South America. Hummers stop in to sip food and nectar and store lots of energy in their fat cells before taking a non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Many will return north next spring to spend the summer in North America.
Muraco attributes the increase in tourists this year partly to seasonable and dry weather. Last year, attendance was 5,182 visitors and about 200 volunteers.
“The beautiful weather led to a noticeable increase in attendance this year,” he said. “It was also a terrific year for hummingbirds. Our gardens were overflowing with hundreds of juveniles preparing for their first migration (to Central and South America).”
The event attracts many area seniors who ooh and ahh over an opportunity to see a hummingbird up close, feel the heartbeat of the bird and sometimes get to release a bird back to the wild after banding.
School children also beat a path to the center each fall with their parents or classroom teachers.
Some of their favorite spots are the nature tent run by the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and kids’ camp where lots of information-laden games are provided by loving volunteers.
Other enjoyable activities include lectures and lots of vendors selling festival T-shirts, honey, pottery, yard ornaments, decorative walking canes and other ornaments and accessories to attract hummers to the back yard.
A native plant sale is held every year that includes lots of plants that attract butterflies and other nectar feeders or that provide food for forage to other bird species.
Five-hundred ruby-throated hummingbirds were banded last year, and more than 500 were banded this time around.