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Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration 2016


Article & photos by Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, at Holly Springs, MS, welcomed thousands of visitors to the 17th annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration, September 9-11, 2016. While Hummingbirds are the main attraction at the annual event, the festival combines hummingbird viewing and history – at the antebellum Davis House, plus visits to sharecropper homes – and learning about nature – from birds to native plants to pollinators and a variety of other animals. There were formal presentations, complete with slide shows and demonstrations, in the Wildlife Wonders and Special Programs tents; guided nature walks and wagon rides; children’s activities; and two stations where visitors could watch hummingbird banding and, perhaps, get a chance to hold one in the palm of the hand for release.

Heather Gallagher, Environmental Educator at the Warner Park Nature Center in Nashville, TN, a naturalist and hummingbird bander, unlocked several hummingbird mysteries for her audiences, who could also get up-close and personal looks at a favorite backyard attraction.

Terry Vandeventer, Herpetologist at the Living Reptile Museum, brought some of his snake friends to acquaint visitors to the beauty and beneficial nature of snakes – and to alleviate people’s fears of them.

“Batman and Robin,” or actually Rob Mies, the Batman, and his assistant, were on hand to explain all about bats, and show some living specimens. Miles is a conservation biologist, bat expert, author, and Director of the Organization for Bat Conservation. Folks could learn how to attract bats to your backyard with plantings and bat houses. 

Landscape architect and designer Heather Holm specializes in developing pollinator landscapes and author of the book Pollinators of Native Plants. She instructed visitors about the types of native bees that visit our gardens and how we can foster all parts of their life cycles, including providing native flowering plants and nesting habitat.

When you’re out on the farm, or in a location away from city noises, where you can attentively listen to bird calls, do you know which birds you’re hearing? J.R. Rigby has a vast bioaccustics collection of bird sounds, beginning with those around Mississippi. Visit the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Bioacoustics Collection at xeno-canto to hear some of the bird calls collected by Rigby:

The featured speaker at this year’s celebration was Doug Tallamy, professor and chair of the Dept. of Entomology and Ecology at the University of Delaware, and author of Bringing Nature Home. Tallamy had two lecture presentations: “A Chickadee’s Guide to Gardening” and “Let It Be An Oak.” Tallamy asks, “Have you thought of your yard, garden, and all of the space on your property as a wildlife preserve? We have always thought that biodiversity happened somewhere out there ‘in nature,’ in a local woodlot, or in state and national parks. But we have never been taught how vital biodiversity is for our own well-being.”

Tallamy emphasized the enormous decline in native plant and animal species as a result of how drastically humans have changed the urban and suburban landscapes. “We have turned 54% of the lower 48 states into cities and suburbs, and 41% more into various forms of agriculture. We humans have taken 95% of nature and made in unnatural.  And there are consequences to turning so much land into the settings that humans enjoy. Local extinction! Since we have taken 95% of the U.S. from nature, we can expect to lose 95% of the species that once lived here unless we learn how to share our living, working, and agricultural spaces with biodiversity.”

What is the remedy? Tallamy says “we need to replace lawns with densely planted woodlots that can serve as habitat for local biodiversity. Once we have decided to restore the ecological integrity of our suburban neighborhoods, we need to decide what plants to add to our properties. Oaks are superior trees for suburban restoration projects because of their many ecological and aesthetic attributes.  

Read more of Tallamy’s work on Gardening for Life at the website:
At two banding stations, folks from Southeastern Avian Research (SEAR) were on hand all three days of the festival to measure, weigh, check the health/vital signs, and band the many hummingbirds passing through the Audubon center. Located in Clarksville, Tennessee, SEAR’s current projects include an ongoing winter hummingbird banding study, a hummingbird migration banding study, and participation in MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship), a collaborative continent-wide breeding bird study. Check them out on facebook at: Southeastern Avian Research

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