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Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary is focus of weekend

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Eyes turn to the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary Friday and Saturday as the center hosts the annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration and the Whitewater Valley Arts Association features the sanctuary in art.

The weekend will include art, recognition of Connersville as an official Bird Town and bird banding.

A month-long Tribute to the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary begins at 6 p.m. Friday when the Arts Association gallery at 402 Central Ave. opens its newest show. A collection of paintings, photography, fiber art and pottery will showcase the work being done at the sanctuary by the Indiana Audubon Society, which owns the property.

At the sanctuary, hummingbirds are beginning the migration process, Carl Wilms, property manager, said.

“Some are starting to come through and we’re getting lots of adult, male birds that have not been here all summer,” he said. “We’re also beginning to see fat deposits on some of the birds and that means they’re putting on weight so they can get ready to go.”

Bird banding – in which birds are captured and measured and then a band place around one leg – is a highlight of the annual celebration. Hummingbird banding is from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday. Songbird banding is from noon to 1:30.

Programs are available throughout the day at Earl Brooks Hall, the Barricklow Amphitheater and the lower level of the red Markle Barn. Music and and an art demonstration will be available on the upper level of the barn. Trails will be open for walking and a limited number of native hummingbird-friendly, perennial plants will be sold.

Wilms has led the effort for a few years to apply for the designation to make Connersville an Indiana Bird Town through the Indiana Audubon Society. Indiana Bird Towns are those that both public officials and residents demonstrate an active and ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of birds and their habitats.

At 11:30 in Brooks Hall, Mayor Harold Gordon will be presented the designation for the city.

With the notoriety, bird watchers will be coming to Connersville to view birds, and that will be of benefit to local businesses, Wilms said.

The Bird Sanctuary recently joined a collaborative research network called MOTUS.

“MOTUS is basically a radio receiver and we do not have the capability yet, but we’re working on it, to be able to attach transmitters to birds, but not to hummingbirds because they do not make them small enough yet, and the receiver will tell us if the birds are in the area,” he explained. “I believe it has a 20-mile radius. There are several bird banders along the Canadian border and the East Coast that do tag birds already so if one of their birds would happen to fly over, it would also pick up their signal.”

The system helps monitor migration patterns. The hope is to attach transmitters to northern saw-whet owls during the winter because bird watchers are curious as to whether they stay in the area or are just passing through, he said.

MOTUS is a Canadian organization that maintains the data for research. 

At the present time, that type of banding will not be done at Mary Gray because it requires an additional permit for a certified bird bander, Wilms said. His wife, Amy Wilms, is a bird bander but does not have the required permit. She is seeking the time and money to obtain the training in Pennsylvania.

Those bands are expensive. The organization will have to seek a grant to buy more bands, he said.

Recently, Wilms participated in finding an osprey from Michigan that had been tracked to the area with a backpack band that cost $5,000. Friends wanted the bird found because it did not move as they thought it should. He found it near Morristown. Everything turned out fine and the bird flew to Nicaragua.

Food will be available and vendors will have items to sell. Tickets are $10 if purchased in advance by going to hummingbirds.indianaaudubon.org or $15 the day of the event. Children 17 and younger are free.

Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary is located at County Road 350-S. and Bird Sanctuary Road, southwest of Connersville.


Friday, 6 p.m., a month-long show recognizing work of the sanctuary opens at Whitewater Valley Arts Association, 402 Central Ave.

Saturday, activities at the Bird Sanctuary include hummingbird banding from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m. and songbird banding from noon-1:30 p.m. Admission is $10 in advance, at hummingbirds.indianaaudubon.org, or $15 at the event.

Mayor Harold Gordon will receive the city’s designation as an official Bird Town at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary is southwest of Connersville at 3499 S. Bird Sanctuary Road, the intersection of County Road 350-S. and Bird Sanctuary Road.

n For information about other weekend activities, read Looking Ahead on Page A3.