By Jay Rao, ASB Sustainability Director
5 Reasons to Visit the Hummingbird Festival by Jay Rao, Director of Sustainability, ASB
It’s a beautiful day in North Mississippi. The sun is shining; the birds are…humming? That’s right, the birds are humming! Less than one month away is the 19th Annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, which will take place September 7-9. I had the pleasure of attending the migration festival last year, thanks to the UM Office of Sustainability sponsoring five students’ registration and travel through the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education’s Communiversity program, and it was by far one of the highlights of my fall semester. I’d like to share some takeaways from the festival and my top five reasons for why you should attend!
As UM students, we tend to forget about the lush forests and greenery of North Mississippi, given that we typically exist in a campus/Square bubble. However, getting out to Holly Springs for the hummingbird festival was extremely rewarding; it almost felt like the pages of a Jack London novel had come to life. The beautiful scenery is so comforting and makes the perfect setting for the Hummingbird Migration and Celebration.
Yes, hummingbirds are the pièce de résistance of this festival, but thanks to the various presenters, there are all kinds of animals that the attendees get to interact with and learn about!
The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson as well as a delegation from the Hattiesburg Zoo were in attendance with all kinds of animals: fish, birds, and alligators—some of which you might be so lucky to hold like I did!
Additionally, Bob Tarter, a wildlife biologist and waterfowl researcher who founded the Natural History Educational Company of the Midsouth, gave an amazing presentation, showing off all kinds of snakes and rabbits. Mr. Tarter’s work focuses on giving children the opportunity to get a closer look at animals and learn details about these magnificent creatures that they might not get the chance to learn in school. Luckily, Bob Tarter will be present at this year’s festival again!! His bubbly, energetic personality and wealth of animal expertise make for an incredible wildlife demonstration. You can tell he really has a passion for taking care of animals, and although some of the critters may seem scary, he has them under total control, and there’s no reason to feel unsafe.
- Supporting Local Businesses
There are all sorts of vendors that come from near and far for the Hummingbird Migration! From local farmers selling vegetables, to mom-and-pop companies creating handmade jewelry, there’s something that will pique anyone’s interest. I tried some honey samples from Pennington Farms Honey, a Mississippi-based seller of all-natural wildflower honey, and I enjoyed it so much that I purchased a jar of pumpkin spice creamed honey to take home! It is really interesting to see people stand by their hard work and explain their dedication to their craft or product, which is nature-related or hummingbird-themed. Additionally, the lunch ticket provided by the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education included a coupon for a free snow cone from one of the vendors, and it was truly delicious and refreshing in the scorching Mississippi heat.
Attending the festival was a great opportunity to interact with UM students of all ages and backgrounds, as well as staff members from the UM Office of Sustainability. It was a fantastic bonding experience, and representing Ole Miss at a festival and celebration like this really unites people. It is also a terrific time to meet vendors, outdoor enthusiasts, and hummingbird-lovers and even learn about a potential career in forestry, veterinary sciences, or ornithology. This year, the Office of Sustainability is encouraging students to volunteer to help out at the festival. Sign up here.
Obviously, everyone knows what hummingbirds are, and they are the focal point of the festival because of their well-known migration that takes place the weekend of the celebration. However, there are so many neat facts about this very unique animal. For example, according to the National Park Service, there are over 330 species of hummingbirds found only in the Americas. Also, a hummingbird takes about 250 breaths per minute, while at rest! These birds are extremely fascinating, and observing them up close and learning about their migration habits is a very rewarding experience.