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Catch a glimpse and learn a lot

As songbirds wing their way back north, visitors to the nature center can learn about them by tagging and releasing birds, making bird feeders and entering a bird-callling contest.

By JOY DAVIS-PLATT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2000


The Chinsegut Nature Center will welcome back Florida's feathered friends with a Welcome Back Songbirds Festival this weekend. Situated on 408 acres just north of Brooksville, the center is a choice location for seeing the wealth of bird species that come through the area during their annual migration, said Kristin Wood, a wildlife biologist at the center.

The summer tanager, white-eyed vireo and northern parula warbler nest in the area, she said. Migrant birds, such as the black and white warbler and the indigo bunting, are just passing through on their way north.

"It's always a surprise what kind of birds we'll see out here," Wood said. "That's what keeps it interesting."

Visitors will have an opportunity to participate in a bird banding program, helping biologists hold, tag and release wild songbirds after recording information about their lives and travels.

"You might catch the same bird three years from now and see it's still alive," said Jenny Novak, an education specialist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "It's very interesting."

Bird identification allows biologists to track migratory patterns, Novak said. Because Florida is in the migratory path of many different bird species, visitors can expect to see a little bit of everything, she said.

And it isn't just songbirds that migrate through this area, Novak said. Birds of prey such as eagles, falcons and owls are also an important part of the ecosystem. A birds of prey demonstration by La Guardar Wildlife Center in Webster is scheduled for 9 a.m.

Other activities include children's games, guided hikes along the center's nature walks, a butterfly walk and programs on bats and bugs. Visitors will also have a chance to make bird feeders to attract songbirds to their back yards.

One of the event's more popular attractions is the bird calling contest, Wood said. In the past, competitors have mocked the calls of Sand Hill cranes, mourning doves and owls.

"People are very inventive," she said. "It's fun to listen to as well as participate."

For anyone caught up in the excitement of meeting new feathered friends, the center will offer Birding 101, an introductory bird watching class. The 45-minute lecture is designed to teach the basics of bird recognition, equipment and logging, Wood said.

"This is a very introductory class, so no one should be afraid," she said.

The Welcome Back Songbirds Festival will be from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Chinsegut Nature Center north of Brooksville. (Take U.S. 41 north of Brooksville 7 miles, then turn left on County Road 476 and go 1 mile. The nature center is on the left side of the road.)

Admission is free. Refreshments, as well as bird and nature-related items, will be available from local vendors. For information, call 754-6722.

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