By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
HOLLY SPRINGS – Critters and humans rubbed elbows Friday at the 12th annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration and Nature Festival at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, just outside Holly Springs.
More than 8,000 people from all over the world attended the three-day event last year and a large crowd had already gathered on the grounds early Friday. This year’s activities continue today and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At one hummingbird banding tent, Bob Sargent and his team from the Hummer/Bird Study Group of Clay, Ala., amazed attendees with an unparalleled view as they put tiny leg bands on the birds in order to better track their migration travels.
“We’ve already banded 15 or 20 today,” Sargent said at 10 a.m. Friday. “We usually band about 260 over the three-day period.”
Sargent picked up one recently banded adult female hummer and held it between two fingers so the crowd could get a closer look.
“Oh, that’s a fatty,” he said when told she weighed 5.4 grams. “She would normally weigh about 3.4 grams. She’s fattened up to fly across the Gulf. That will be an 18- to 22-hour, nonstop 500-mile flight.”
At another hummingbird banding tent, Heather Gallagher, a volunteer from Nashville, entertained schoolchildren. Just before releasing banded birds back into the wild, she would hold the tiny creatures up to the students’ ears so they could feel a distinctive vibration.
“That’s the hummingbird’s heart beating,” she told them. “It beats 1,000 times a minute. How often does the human heart beat a minute? About 70 times.”
Plenty to do
The festival offers more than just hummingbird activities, though.
A large variety of native plants can be purchased for between $5 and $20 per pot. Selections include Turk’s Cap, Mist Flower, Blue Star, Hot Lips Sage, Obedient Plant, Vernal Witchhazel, Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Weed and Ozark Sunflower.
And more than a dozen craftsmen were also on hand selling their wares, including wooden puzzles, metal art, bottle trees, stained glass, driftwood mobiles, pine cone wreaths, rain chains, quilts, pottery, gourds, handmade stuffed animals and hand-woven scarves.
“The vendors are all local and all artists,” said Katie Boyle, outreach and education director at Strawberry Plains. “They’re selling handmade art, one-of-a-kind pieces.”
Other activities included guided wagon rides and nature walks, a kids’ nature tent, live animal shows and guest speakers.
At the Wildlife Wonders Tent, herpetologist Terry Vandeventer enlightened visitors about snakes.
“Mississippi is blessed with snakes,” he said, as he handled a garter snake. “Mississippi has 55 different snakes, but only six are venomous. Only six can hurt you. About 200 people a year are bitten by venomous snakes in Mississippi and 90 percent of those snake bites take place because a person is trying to deliberately kill a dangerous snake. If you take two steps back and walk away from that snake instead of actively trying to kill it, you’re out of the danger zone.”
Before Carol Sills of Brownsville, Tenn., and her three companions made their way to hear the speakers, they stopped at a banding tent.
“This is our fourth year in a row to come here,” said Sills. “Last year, it was so hot it was stifling. Today is just gorgeous. We just love it all. When we’re done, we go into Holly Springs and have lunch at JB’s, make a day of it.”
WHAT: 12th annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration and Nature Festival
WHEN: Today and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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 for children younger than 5
INFO: Call (662) 252-1155 or visit strawberryplains.audubon.org