By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
HOLLY SPRINGS – The Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs is bracing for thousands of guests – and hundreds of hummingbirds – at the 2011 Hummingbird Migration Celebration and Nature Festival next weekend.
In its 12th year, the three-day festival to be held Sept. 9-11 will feature Ruby-throated Hummingbird viewing and banding, guided wagon rides and nature walks, a kids’ nature tent, live animal shows, guest speakers, arts and crafts vendors and a native plant sale.
“We had over 8,000 people last year,” said Katie Boyle, outreach and education director at Strawberry Plains. “They come from all over – Jackson, Tenn.; Oxford, Miss.; Memphis. We get people from different countries and different states in this country who fly in here just for this event.”
About a dozen hummingbird feeders hang on the grounds at Strawberry Plains, but they attract hundreds of the tiny titans.
“North Mississippi is a great place for them to stop and fuel up before they fly across the Gulf of Mexico,” she said.
The native plants, insects and feeders at Strawberry Plains help hummingbirds pack on the extra ounces they need for the non-stop 500-mile Gulf flight, which takes about 22 hours.
Saturday will be the busiest day of the festival, Boyle said, so she’s encouraging visitors to come on Friday or Sunday.
“Those are the days to come for the best, least-crowded experience,” she said. “The best time is Sunday morning, but most people are in church at that time.”
Visitors can see hummingbirds from inside the antebellum Davis House as they flit through the gardens of Strawberry Plains, but nothing beats seeing these birds up close.
Bob Sargent and his team from the Hummer/Bird Study Group of Alabama amaze attendees with an unparalleled view as they put tiny leg bands on the birds in order to better track their travels.
“The festival is about more than hummingbirds,” Boyle said. “The speakers are amazing. Come to learn as well as to see.”
Two things to note: Most vendors do not accept credit cards, so be sure and bring cash. Also, this is a low-waste festival, so carpool if you can, bring a refillable water bottle and reusable bags for shopping, and look for recycling bins on the property.
“Last year, we cut our trash waste by over 1,000 pounds,” Boyle said.
For a list of speakers or directions to Strawberry Plains, call (662) 252-1155 or visit strawberryplains.audubon.org
What: 12th annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration and Nature Festival.
When: Sept. 9-11, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
Where: Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, 285 Plains Road, Holly Springs.
Cost: $15 for adults; $10 for seniors; $10 for people traveling in 12-passenger van or greater; $5 for children ages 5 to 12; free or children younger than 5.
Info: Call (662) 252-1155 or visit strawberryplains.audubon.org.
Did you know?
• Hummingbirds are the smallest of all birds, measuring between 2 and 8 inches.
• Only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird breeds east of the Mississippi River.
• The Ruby-throat beats its wings 40 to 80 times a second, and maintains an average flight speed of 30 mph. Escape speeds can reach 50 mph.
• Hummingbirds are the only species of birds that can truly fly backwards.
• A hummingbird has the highest measured rate of aerobic metabolism of any living thing.
• Eighty percent of all birds, including hummers, will not live to see their first birthday.