Members of the Albany Audubon Society are shown in this undated photo taking a look at bird species in Southwest Georgia. At Saturday’s RiverQuarium festival, birds, aquatic animals and wildlife will be celebreated. (Special photo)
ALBANY — As the sweltering summer heat gives way to the cool, crisp days of fall, a massive exodus begins in nature, one that many people do not even notice. Each year, during fall migration, flocks of birds fly south, traveling — sometimes from the far reaches of the Arctic — over oceans to the Southern Hemisphere to stave off the impending cold weather and find food. Albany is located on a busy flyway for many bird species that take refuge right here in southwest Georgia, fueling up for the long journey south.
At this Saturday’s Water, Wings and Wildlife Festival at the Flint RiverQuarium, participants will have the opportunity to learn more about both the native bird population and the migratory visitors in a variety of classes, workshops and activities.
Beginning at 8:30 a.m. and again at 9:30 a.m., Charlie Muise, Georgia’s Important Bird Area Coordinator, will temporarily net and catch wild birds along the Riverfront Trail behind the RiverQuarium. After being temporarily snared by the fine mist net, the birds will be banded with individually numbered bracelets, allowing them to be tracked. Muise will identify each bird by species and gender, taking specific measurements such as wing length and fat content, before letting participants help release it back into the wild.
Muise’s work helps scientists study and monitor bird populations. He oversees 49 designated Important Bird Areas in the state, conducting bird research and conservation, monitoring and habitat management. Tracking bands, like the ones he will place on the birds Saturday, can help determine movement patterns, routes of migration, and age of bird populations.
For an additional fee of $3, participants at the Water, Wings and Wildlife Festival can learn even more about identifying birds common to the Flint River and Southwest Georgia at the Birding 101 workshop, which will be held from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Birding experts Alan Ashley from the Albany Audubon Society and Jim Cox from Tall Timbers Research Station in Thomasville will teach the basics of bird watching in this introductory class and then turn knowledge into action with a birding hike along Riverfront Trail. Class members are urged to dress for the weather and wear sunscreen. Field binoculars, field guide, morning cup of coffee and light breakfast will be provided.
The Wild Wings Birds of Prey show presented by Winged Ambassadors at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the Flint RiverQuarium plaza. Close friends Dale Arrowood and Ed Carswell founded Winged Ambassadors with the mission to promote environmental conservation and wildlife protection through a uniquely designed educational program featuring birds of prey. Their presentation will allow visitors the rare and exhilarating opportunity to come face-to-face with these breathtaking animals and to learn more about them and the complex, important roles they play in supporting the ecosystem.
Guests looking to give a bird a home can even build one at the Build Your Own Birdhouse station presented by Lowe’s. For an additional fee of $5, Lowe’s will provide all of the supplies necessary and assist with birdhouse construction and painting.
The RiverQuarium is offering a special reduced admission of $8.50 per ticket Saturday for the Water, Wings and Wildlife Festival. An Imagination Theater movie can be added for $3.00. Prices do not include tax. Some activities do have additional fees.
Other programs and activities planned for the Flint RiverQuarium’s Water, Wings and Wildlife Festival include a reptile show by Chehaw, a Discover SCUBA diving opportunity in the Blue Hole, fly fishing demonstrations by an Orvis-endorsed guide, a butterfly gardening workshop presented by Birdsong Nature Center, kids’ fishing at the base of the Flint RiverQuarium water steps by Georgia DNR and many more. Festival admission also includes a Zoo in Space planetarium show at Thronateeska and guided tours by local Master Gardeners at Radium Springs. For a complete list and details, visit flintriverquarium.com.