Last year, while we were at Fort Frederica, we participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Nell Benefield put the event together and did a great job. This year Nell returned as a volunteer to Fort Frederica with the specific task of putting together another birding event. Thus, one of our special events for February was a Birding Festival.
Our emphasis was the same as last year: teaching children about birds. Nell planned a few events for adults, such as a bird walk at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. But most of the events were tailored to children. This meant that children and their parents turned out in full force. Last year I did crafts, but this year I was in charge of bird anatomy.
We had a chart of a bird and kids labeled the bird parts. There were some skull skeletons showing different kinds of beaks. The children looked at different kinds of bird feathers with a magnifying glass. One challenge was matching bird feet to specific birds. The favorite activity at my tent, by far, was the beaks and bills as tools. We had different kinds of food birds ate with tools that mimic the operation of the beaks or bills. Kids had to figure out what tool went with what kind of food and match the bird to the tool and food.
Denise and Stephanie manned the craft tent. Bob and Phil were in charge of parking. Marcia and Gail taught about nests and eggs. Randy was in charge of a migration obstacle course that proved very popular, especially with younger children. Rachel taught a bird dance that she made up herself – silly and fun at the same time. Tom missed the whole event because he was marching around as a soldier for a different, military-related event.
Mom and Dad got into the day as volunteers also. We wanted two people at each place so everyone could get a lunch break. I was glad they were willing to help out. Mom stayed with me in the anatomy tent and Dad helped with the migration obstacle course.
The highlight of the day was a program by the Center for Wildlife Education of Georgia Southern University. They brought an owl, a peregrine falcon, and some snakes and talked to people about their habitats and needs. People loved it when the falcon flew over their heads to a handler in the back.
The only bad thing about the day was the sand gnats. They were pretty bad and everyone was getting bit. Dad, especially, had a hard time. Turns out he is allergic to the bites and they swelled up and itched terribly. Off doesn’t keep the sand gnats off for long!
The Birding Festival was a great success and Nell did a wonderful job putting it together. We had twice as many volunteers as last year and needed every one. There were also twice as many visitors. I don’t know how Nell will top this!