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Attendance doubles for hummingbird festival

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Alex Sharps, right, helps Landon Bedel, 6, release ahairywoodpecker Saturday morning.
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Birders take photographs of different birds of prey.
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Mark Booth shows a hawk to a large crowd during the raptor presentation at the Hummingbird Migration Festival at Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary on Saturday.

By KATE THURSTON - kthurston@newsexaminer.com

Avid bird fans from all over flocked to Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary Saturday for the 2nd Annual Hummingbird Migration Festival. The attendance doubled from last year.

“Attendance was outstanding,” Amy Wilms said. “We hosted close to 400 attendees and volunteers. The day was fantastic, the weather was perfect, and folks walked away with a better understanding of one of our community’s greatest assets, the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary. From feeling the heartbeat of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, seeing turtles, raptors, and butterflies up close, to listening to the music filling the air, smiles were abundant.”

Participants learned about hummingbird and songbird behavior and identification, had encounters with turtles and flying raptors, were able to take guided nature walks and participate in butterfly identification programs. Not to mention, several vendors were set up selling homemade items such as art, honey and plants.

Many participants came from out of town to mingle with other birding fanatics.

“My husband is on the Indiana Audubon board and I am a novice birder; my favorite part today was seeing the hummingbirds up close,” Barb Hill from Carmel said. “I am also a plant person; they are taking guided tours down to the native plants and butterflies. They did this last year and I think it got bigger this year. It is great for families, it has been a great day.”

Another woman said she will be back next year for the festival.

“My friend is in the Hummingbird 101 Class and I came down with her,” Megan Canfield from Indianapolis said. “I love it here, I am going to try to come back. We learned about butterflies and saw the raptor class. It is a beautiful grounds and the event today was really well organized. There is so much to do. It has been really fun, I got a shirt and plan on coming back next year. It was a beautiful day. I was able to shoot some pictures with my camera and I can’t wait to look at them.”

Hummingbird banding was the biggest hit of the day. Many participants got to hold hummingbirds and feel their heart beat and release them.

“Last year our favorite part was Clayton, our son, got to hold a hummingbird and feel its heartbeat. We hope to get to do it again this year. It has been really cool. I don’t think people realize how neat it is, we didn’t know about it until last year and so we came back this year. I think it is great for the kids,” Ann Stanley of Connersville said. She visited with her husband Andrew and son Clayton.

Nelda Nikerk from Bedford enjoyed the hummingbirds the most.

“I am a big hummingbird freak, I loved touching one and feel their heartbeat. It was really awesome. I love hummingbirds, I hate when they leave, it’s the longest six months ever,” she laughed. “They are the best.”

Landon Bedel, 6, from Greensburg was thrilled to release a hairy woodpecker.

“It was cool, it was my first time letting a woodpecker go,” Bedel said. “It was fun, my favorite bird is a cardinal.”