Birds eager to be seen at swamp

Published 9:17 pm Thursday, May 10, 2012

Steve Living, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, shows a snake to 7-year-old twins Malik, right, and Maya Failey at last year’s Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival.

Bird enthusiasts will flock to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge this weekend for a variety of activities surrounding the annual migration of birds into the swamp.

“The birds were a little bit ahead of schedule,” said Deloras Freeman, who works at the refuge. “Their food sources are pushing them to get their territories established and start nesting.”

More than 220 species of birds make the swamp their temporary home at different points throughout the year. About half of those nest and raise their young in the swamp during the spring.

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Freeman said birds are attracted to the swamp because there is more uninterrupted, natural space to roam.

“It’s so large, the habitat is not chewed up in little divisions, so the birds are able to comfortably find their territory range,” she said. “They don’t have to be aggressive over it.”

The birding festival activities will include guided bird walks, canoe birding, bus tours to Lake Drummond and to the fire scar from last year’s wildfire, nature photography workshops, family activities at the refuge headquarters and the popular “owl prowls.”

Freeman said she is especially excited about the beautiful weather forecast for the weekend.

The high is expected to be between 73 today and 80 on Saturday, with calm winds and sunny skies.

“This is our sixth year, and at least three of those years we’ve had 90-plus days on Saturday,” she said. “It’s going to feel like a spring festival instead of an August festival.”
Below is the schedule for activities today and Saturday. Refuge headquarters is located at 3100 Desert Road. For more information, call 986-3705.

Friday

7 to 9:30 a.m. — Guided bird walk for adults; choose from Jericho Ditch or Washington Ditch

7 to 11 a.m. — Bird banding station demonstration at Jericho Ditch

8:30 to 10 a.m. — Nature photography workshop at refuge headquarters with guided photography walk (12- to 16-year-olds permitted with adult)

10:30 a.m. to noon — Bus tour to Lake Drummond departs from refuge headquarters

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Light lunch available at refuge headquarters

1 to 2 p.m. — Informal showing of “Dismal History” at refuge headquarters

2 to 4:30 p.m. — Canoe birding on Lake Drummond, for adults only, departs from refuge headquarters.

3 to 4:30 p.m. — Bus tour to Lake Drummond departs from refuge headquarters

7:30 to 9:30 p.m. — Owl Prowl at Jericho Ditch

Saturday

7 to 9:30 a.m. — Guided bird walk for adults; choose from Jericho Ditch or Washington Ditch

7 to 11 a.m. — Bird banding station demonstration at Jericho Ditch

7 to 10 a.m. — Birding bus tour to Lateral West fire scar, for adults only, departs from refuge headquarters

9 to 11:30 a.m. — Family activities at refuge headquarters

10 to 11:30 a.m. — Bus tour to Lake Drummond departs from refuge headquarters

10:30 a.m. to noon — Bob Ake’s “Big Year” presentation at refuge headquarters

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Light lunch available at refuge headquarters

12:15 to 1 p.m. — Informal showing of “Dismal History” at refuge headquarters

1:30 to 3:30 p.m. — Bus tour to lake Drummond departs from refuge headquarters

2 to 3:30 p.m. — Nature photography workshop at refuge headquarters with guided photography walk (12- to 16-year-olds permitted with adult)