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Hummingbird Festival


By Nancy Brannon

The 18th annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration, September 8-10, 2017 at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center (SPAC), Holly Springs, Mississippi, had warm, sunny, perfect fall weather for this year’s event. Nearly 6,000 visitors came this year, and “there was an enormous number of Hummingbirds this year; more than we’ve seen in a long time,” said Mike Muraco, Center Director. “We fed six gallons of nectar daily. That might not seem a lot, but the Hummingbirds only weigh half an ounce, so that puts it in perspective.”

There was lots to see and learn, beginning with two tents for Hummingbird banding, with staff from the Southeastern Avian Research explaining all about the tiny birds. A new form of viewing the Hummingbird banding was in place this year. The Center had cameras on the people doing the banding and projected their work onto 70-inch TV screens. This enabled more people, especially people with limited mobility, to see the banding process up close.

There were lectures and demonstrations in three tents on a variety of topics. In the Special Programs Tent, the speakers and topics were:

Tod Winston, from the National Audubon Society, explained what plants are good homes and food for birds.

Bill Hilton, Jr., from the Hill Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, explained the long migration journey Hummingbirds make from the mid-south to the Neotropics and back.

Doug Tallamy, of the Dept. of Entomology and Ecology at the University of Delaware, spoke on two topics: “A Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening” and “Making Insects: Restoring the Little Things that Run the World.”

Mike and Laura Jackson explained how to preserve land for wildlife, especially forest birds, through private and public partnerships.

Heather Gallagher, Environmental Educator at Warner Park Nature Center, explored “The Wonder of Hummingbirds.”
In the Wildlife Wonders Tent, folks got to see and learn about a variety of wildlife up close.

Rob Mies, Director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, showed folks all about bats with his presentation on “Batman, Bananas, and Bugs.” The Organization for Bat Conservation also had a vendor tent nearby.

John Stokes and Dale Kernahan, of Wings to Soar, showed and described several types of “Birds of Prey.” Wings to Soar also had a vendor tent on the grounds.

Tony Vandeventer, Herpetolotist with the Living Reptile Museum, delighted audiences – and allayed their fears – with several kinds of “Good Ole, Down-Home Mississippi Snakes.”

Bob Tarter, with the Natural History Education Company of the Mid-South, explained about many of the “Animals Important to Humanity.”

The Ecology Tent, located near the plant sale and the children’s education area, was the site of these presentations, in addition to some of those listed above:

“You Rescued a What? Wildlife Rehab,” by Andi Lehman of the Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and his animal friends.

“Mississippi Wildlife: Survival of the Fittest,” presented by the Mississippi Natural Science Museum, which also had a vendor tent with additional information.

The Children’s Activity Tent had numerous fun things to learn about and do, including: “simulated” fishing for bluegill and wide mouth bass; a “bird beak buffet” demonstrating how birds’ beaks are adapted to obtaining the food they need; wildlife furs and skulls; identifying animals by their scat, with simulated scat for kids to handle; face painting; and bead bracelet making.

For folks who wanted to enhance their home gardens with plants to attract wildlife, there were plenty of native plants for sale.

There were a variety of vendors, from woodworkers, to potters, to Local Honey, jewelry, bird feeders, and many more. A popular item was this year’s newly designed Hummingbird T-shirt, available at the Audubon Tent. Debbie and Bill Kinkade of T-Shirt Champions Sports Apparel designed the shirts and donated the image to SPAC for use in other places.

To get a larger view of the Strawberry Plains lands, there were nature walks and guided wagon rides through the many trails on the property.

A main attraction was the Davis House, with continuous viewing of Hummingbirds at the feeders from the glassed in back porch of the house. As visitors left the house, they could get more information about Hummingbirds at the Hummingbird Information tent, located just outside the back door.

In addition to Hummingbird viewing, full size prints of the top twelve award winning photos from the 2016 Audubon Photography contest were on display in the Davis House. Last year’s contest attracted more than 1,700 entrants from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six provinces, sending in nearly 7,000 images. The Grand Prize winner was Bonnie Block’s photograph of a Bald Eagle and Great Blue Herons. View some of the magnificent photos from the winners at:

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