Look to the skies: Muscatatuck ready to take flight this weekend with annual bird festival

May 12, 2017

Birds of a feather will flock together this weekend at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge east of Seymour. The Wings Over Muscatatuck Migratory Bird Festival, the refuge’s largest event, will offer a variety of activities today and Saturday centered around birds and other wildlife. A puppet show about hummingbirds and other wildlife, a bird cakewalk, special tours of the refuge and programs to see birds up close are among the highlights. “As always, the backbone of the festival is the birds,” park ranger Donna Stanley said. “The whole idea is to help people learn more about birds and wildlife.” The rest of today’s activities, which run from 4 to 9 p.m., include a big tree walk, dinner, a bird photography program, an Indiana frogs and toads program and an owl prowl. Saturday is the largest day of the festival. For the early risers, there will be a continental breakfast at 7 a.m., a morning bird walk at 8 a.m. and birdhouse building for children at 8:30 a.m. Bird banding and a native plant sale also will start early in the morning and run throughout the day. Live bird programs always are popular. At 9:30 a.m., officials from Hardy Lake’s Dwight R. Chamberlain Raptor Rehabilitation Center will have hawks and eagles. Then at 1:30 p.m., Department of Natural Resources staff will conduct an owls of Indiana program. “The naturalists who give those programs give wonderful information about the birds,” Stanley said. “It’s just fascinating.” Children also will have plenty of opportunities to stay busy Saturday. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Southern Indiana Center for the Arts will offer guided rock painting through its Paint the Wild event; the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce’s environmental and recycling committee will lead a variety of activities, an obstacle course and a craft; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will offer hover ball archery to all ages. New this year, local youth from the Jackson County Community Theatre will present a bird-themed puppet show at 11:30 a.m. Stanley said an advisory group brainstorms activities for the festival, and this show was one that came about. “It sounds wonderful, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it,” she said. “I’ve seen the script, and it’s about hummingbirds and other wildlife at Muscatatuck. It should be really, really fun.” Guided tours of the refuge’s closed area will be available from 10:30 a.m. to noon, 2:30 to 4 p.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. with preregistration or signing up the day of the event when available. Attendees will travel by van with a refuge guide to the closed area and are encouraged to bring their binoculars. Also new to the festival is a management tour of the refuge from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. People will be able to “explore the hidden treasures of the refuge.” Advance registration is required. People can bring lunch, but water will be provided. This was another event created by the advisory group. “That’s going to be more in-depth on how we actually manage the resources for the refuge for wildlife,” Stanley said. Other Saturday activities include a bird cakewalk at 10:30 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a Junior Duck Stamp awards ceremony and a native plant garden walk, both at 12:30 p.m. On Sunday, a guided tour of Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge near Madison will be available from 8 a.m. to noon. That refuge is home to many uncommon birds and plants. The main sponsor of the festival is the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society, the refuge’s nonprofit friends group. “They put a whole lot of work into the event,” Stanley said. “We’re very fortunate to have so many volunteers and the community help with things at the refuge. There are a lot of folks chipping in to make this a success. We always have a wonderful crew of volunteers working the event. You never know for sure what’s going to happen, but we always have fun with it.” Stanley said she is hoping for a nice day weather-wise because the festival typically draws hundreds of people. “I really enjoy the people who come to the festival,” she said. “I enjoy seeing the people learning more about birds and other wildlife.”