Huge weekend planned for RiverQuarium

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- With summer on the wane, the Flint RiverQuarium is unveiling an unprecedented slate of events in a brand-new festival called "Wings and Wildlife," downtown Saturday designed to get the public in touch with nature like never before.

The first-of-its-kind event will center around the expertise of the RiverQuarium's bird and wildlife experts as well as featuring a day full of events at venues ranging from the Wetherbee Planetarium at Thronateeska Heritage Center to the brand-new Radium Gardens at the old casino site.

Melissa Martin, the RiverQuarium's educational program coordinator, said officials at the RiverQuarium hope to make the festival an annual event that will entertain and educate the public about wildlife.

"It's a great opportunity and there just is so much going on that it should appeal to wide range of the community," Martin said. "It's really a day where just about anyone should be able to come down and have fun."

While most of the events will kick-off around 10:30 a.m., the first event of the day will be a bird banding demonstration at 8:30 a.m. in front of the RiverQuarium downtown. Martin says that a specialist in the art will demonstrate the practice along the Riverfront Trail.

The rest of the day will feature interactive activities like how to build your own birdhouse, alligator feedings, or guided canoe trips or garden tours at Radium Gardens.

RiverQuarium officials will also host a "Birds of Prey" show at 12:30 p.m. at the Riverfront Plaza, a reptile and amphibian show at the Imagination Theatre at 1 p.m. and a bird-watching course in two different sessions at 10 a.m. and noon.

All of the events, except for the canoe trip, the bird-watching 101 and

the birdhouse building are free with admission which will be discounted by $2 Saturday, Martin said. Memberships will be discounted 10 percent.

The canoe trip will be $15, the bird-watching is $3 and the birdhouse building is $5.

Click here for a complete schedule for the Saturday's events.

One of the exhibits will feature Ben Scott from Seaview Aquariums here in Albany. He will talk about invasive species of plants and wildlife that are beginning to take over ecosystems around the world.

Wednesday, Scott brought a lion fish to the RiverQuarium to show to the media. The lion fish is growing in numbers in the waters off North America from Cozumel in Mexico up the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to New York.

"Some of the problem is that people have bought the fish as pets without realizing how much work was involved in maintaining a saltwater aquarium," Scott said. "So they would just dump them out into the ocean and now they've grown pretty large in number."

A predatory creature, the fish is wreaking so much havoc on the ocean ecosystems of the Mexican coastline that some have begun to appear on menus as means to diminish their numbers, Scott said.