If you visit Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve next weekend, don’t be surprised if you see something that makes you go “Hmmm. ...”
It’s the sound the birds will be making.
On Aug. 23, the nature center will host its eighth annual Hummingbird Festival, calling attention to just one of the many species of migratory birds native to the preserve and to North Carolina.
It’s the right time of year to honor the adorable aviators. The two or three dozen hummingbirds that regularly flutter around Reedy Creek will soon be leaving for their annual winter vacations to South America.
“We started the festival as a way for people to learn about migratory birds,” said Pepe Chavez, Reedy Creek Nature Center manager. “We used hummingbirds because people are interested in them and they are fascinating birds.
“So we use them as a keystone species to talk about migratory birds, native plants in their backyards and how to create habitats that are good for our native land.”
The festivities will feature educational seminars, vendors and interactive programs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Chavez said participants can easily spend two to three hours at the family-friendly festival.
A festival highlight is the annual visit by Raleigh ornithologist Susan Campbell, a research affiliate with the N.C. Museum of Natural Science. Campbell, a hummingbird expert, will demonstrate how she traps the busy birds so that she can take measurements and assess their health before releasing them.
Visit the nature center any given day and you will appreciate how difficult it is to capture the diminutive birds. Without warning, they dart in and out of the deciduous trees that surround the center to the hummingbird feeders that hang from its facade.
University City resident Maureen Casterlin is a regular Reedy Creek visitor, often hiking its 10 miles of trails. She attended the Hummingbird Festival last year and was impressed with its presentation.
“It was neat watching them band (the hummingbirds) and holding them in their hands,” Casterlin said. “They release them, but they are so timid and wait for about 30 seconds before they fly away.”
Children can appreciate the lives of hummingbirds by strapping on a pair of wings and a pair of 3-D glasses as they step inside the nature center’s education room, where black lights and glow-in-the-dark paint help create the feel of a hummingbird’s habitat.
A giant bird feeder, a human-sized praying mantis and a Silly String-shooting tarantula (one of the hummingbird’s deadliest South American predators) simulate a day in a hummingbird’s life.
Experts will lecture on how to attract hummingbirds to your homes and how to grow plants that appeal to them. Staff members from the Carolina Raptor Center will share their expertise on other migratory birds.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is most common species of the birds in Charlotte.
The 737-acre Reedy Creek Nature Preserve is home to more than 100 bird species, 15 mammal species, 20 reptiles and 12 amphibians.
The Hummingbird Festival is the largest event of the year for the Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve. Chavez, a University City resident, said attendance has ranged between 1,000 and 3,000 people. The Nature Center annually draws about 30,000 visitors.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation staff members from other preserves assist the Reedy Creek staff, as do about 40 volunteers. The nature center provides shuttle service from remote parking lots inside the preserve.
“The Hummingbird Festival is one of the most important things we do,” Chavez said. “It’s a great way to reach the community who may not come and visit us on a regular basis. They may not be interested in nature, per se, but they are interested in the festival and a family event. They have a great time and learn along the way.”