Pascagoula River Audubon Center
Moss Point, MS
sponsors
PRAC Welcomes Migrating Hummingbirds and Guests to Annual Festival
What bird can fly backward, is only found in North and South America, and has a heart rhythm of 1200 beats per minute?
            You guessed it – a hummingbird! The Ruby-throated Hummingbird will soon be migrating through the Mississippi Gulf Coast in search of its wintering grounds in Central America. To celebrate the fascinating hummingbird and its fall migration, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center will host its annual Hummingbird Festival September 15 and 16, where guests will learn more about the tiny birds, how to create bird-friendly habitats, and understand how to become more environmentally conscious.
            Online ticket sales have begun. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military members, and $5 for children. Children under age 5 accompanied by a paid adult are welcome to attend the festival for FREE. A special Hummingbird Happy Hour will take place Thursday, September 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. for guests 21 and older. This ticketed event will feature a variety of complimentary wines, beer, and snacks along with a signature drink. Visit HERE to purchase tickets and to view special festival merchandise.
              A favorite exhibit at the annual event is the banding of hummingbirds and other songbirds. Bird banding is conducted as part of scientific research to understand migration routes, measure survival rates and population trends, and understand social structure and behavior. 
            “Hummingbird banding remains the only tool to understand the continental scale of individual hummingbird migrations,” said Dr. Erik Johnson, Director of Conservation Science for Audubon Delta. “It has provided essential insights into how frequently individual hummingbirds return to the same breeding and wintering areas year after year.”
           Dr. Johnson describes hummingbird observations as “the gateway drug to bird watching.” He also added that banding also provides information about the differences in the timing and routes of migration across different age and sex classes. Observing the banding process allows guests to take part in scientific research. 
           “During the festival, we’re only likely to see Ruby-throated Hummingbirds,” Johnson said. “Still, later in the fall, other species from out west and from tropical Mexico can show up in Mississippi, which now boasts a list of 12 species of hummingbirds found in the state.”
            Throughout the two-day festival, guests can tour the Rhodes Bayou property and observe a variety of bird species. Along with bird banding by representatives from the Banding Coalition of the Americas and the Audubon Delta coastal stewardship team, storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis will be spinning tales as John James Audubon by sharing his love of birds through his explorations.
 
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Native Moss Point Publisher Presents Book Reading at Festival
A person can learn a lot from birds, especially in the face of change and resiliency. That is why Moss Point native Christian Horn Reese used beloved bayou friends as the main characters of this newly published children’s book of overcoming anxiety while recovering from a hurricane.

Christian Horn Reese has more than a decade of experience in advertising and public relations with additional experience copywriting and teaching art to children. She has a B.A. in journalism from the University of Mississippi and an M.S. in public relations from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Originally from Moss Point, she is the author of the children’s book, Eddie Egret’s Bayou Storm, which will be introduced at the 2023 Hummingbird Migration and Nature Festival at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center (PRAC) in her hometown.  Reese will read aloud the publication from the outdoor classroom deck at noon on Saturday, September 16.  Books will be available for purchase, and she will also personally sign books after the reading. Guests are also welcome to bring along books purchased from online retailers.

Spending her childhood along the bayou, she has always been inspired by the awe and magic seen through the eyes of children. Her hope is to help teach children the value of empathy and compassion through the story of Eddie Egret. 

This is her first published children’s book, a beautifully illustrated tale of bayou animals and how they come together in a crisis. She currently lives and works out of her home in Covington, Louisiana, and spends time painting, playing in the mud in her backyard pottery studio, and writing. She is a wife, mother of two boys, a dog, and a cat, and she frequently visits her parents and childhood home in Moss Point.

Eddie Egret’s Bayou Storm is available on Amazon and other online book retailers. The book is suggested for young readers between the ages of 5 and 8 years old. Told through the soft, pastel, hand-painted illustrations of professional artist Myra Fiveash, the story encourages Eddie to not give up hope and explores significant life lessons in empathy and compassion.

“This story was inspired by true events after Hurricane Katrina,” Reese said. “This is a story that touches on emotions and discovering empathy, compassion, and the value of friendship through the eyes of bayou animals.”

The Hummingbird Festival runs Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the PRAC located at 5107 Arthur Street.  Tickets may be purchased online at prac.ecwid.com or at the gate during the event. For more information about the festival, please visit the website click HERE.
 
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Eagle Scout Projects Transform Space at PRAC
When scouts approach PRAC about potential projects as their final requirement before reaching the rank of Eagle, the results are beneficial for all.
            Scouts Noah McKinney and Grayson Dixon are working diligently to finish a PRAC wish list before Hummingbird Festival.  McKinney’s project is the construction of the outdoor classroom presentation stage and Dixon is putting finishing touches on the newly rebuilt Trolley Ticket Booth. 
            As they complete these projects and sit for the Board of Review, these two Scouts will earn not only the advanced rank, but they will be number 100 and 101 Eagle Scouts under the leadership of Scoutmaster Harry McDonald.
            Acknowledgement of these projects and Scouts will take place during Hummingbird Happy Hour on Thursday, September 14, at 6 p.m.
 
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Brian “Fox” Ellis Returns for Encore Performances at Hummingbird Festival
For the third year in a row, guests at Hummingbird Festival will discover history, in person, through the interactive performances of Storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis.
            Ellis, award winning storyteller and author with Fox Tales International, will thrill audiences with his impersonation of John James Audubon as he chronicles the many adventures of the well-known environmentalist. Along with early morning bird hikes on Friday and Saturday mornings, Fox is scheduled for five different performances on the Perch stage throughout the festival.
            Hummingbird Happy Hour guests will enjoy a new performance this year as Fox portrays Charles Darwin in Gould’s Gorgeous Hummingbirds of the New World.  Fox will use a mix of British humor with storytelling and interactive science to celebrate the beauty of the many species of South American Hummingbirds.  This performance will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 14.
            The two Friday performances will be geared to the younger audiences of school children on field trips and will include the Adventures with John James Audubon and Bird Tales from Around the World, and Saturday performances will be Native American Hummingbird Tales and a repeat performance of Adventures with John James Audubon.
            The Friday and Saturday morning Bird Hikes will feature Fox as Audubon as he takes guests on a birding hike through the 10-acre PRAC site.  Interested guests should meet Fox at the front gate at 7 a.m. with binoculars in hand.  The walk will begin at 7:15 and conclude at 8:15 a.m.  Participation is FREE, but registration is required.  Click HERE to RSVP for the morning bird walk.
 
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Run or Walk, Northrop Grumman is Seeking Support
From the air and land, Northrop Grumman is a leader in the Moss Point community and is seeking support for its first ever Fighter Flight 5K.
The event is a benefit for the Home of Grace and will take place Saturday, September 9, starting at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.  Registration for all participants will begin at 7 a.m. with an event start time of 8 a.m.
Early registration for the run is underway now HERE. The registration fee is $25 per participant, but teams are encouraged.  Each registered participant will receive a commemorative T-shirt and ample amounts of water before, during and after the run/walk. 
The top three participants in the designated age groups will receive medals, and the top three male and female participants will be announced. The age groups are 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60-69.
Rehydrate and refuel with drinks and breakfast burritos on the grounds of the PRAC after the event. 

 
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Wanted: Young Adult Volunteers Interested in Leadership and Conservation Education
With more than a third of the population of volunteers at PRAC coming from students in secondary school, PRAC has started an Audubon Ambassadors program.  The fall 2023 cohort program is underway with more than 20 students enrolled.

The Audubon Ambassador program invites students from grades 7 through 12 to apply to serve as volunteers and earn service hours.  This is a required program for any student wishing to earn service hours at PRAC. This program not only facilitates learning and leadership opportunities for the students, but it also provides structure to the youth volunteer program. 

This extracurricular volunteer program will allow students to play a more active role in the preservation of the local environment while gaining valuable leadership skills and earning service hours. Desired candidates are those students who show exemplary performance both at school and in the community, who take initiative and are committed to protecting the environment.

There will be three Ambassador cohorts each year in the fall (September - December), spring (January - April) and summer (May - August). Each student volunteers a minimum of two hours per month, or 8 hours by the end of the cohort season. Once the student completes the cohort season, they are then considered an Audubon Ambassador and are welcome to volunteer at any time. The Ambassador program does not offer financial compensation but will serve as service hour documentation and great start for building a resume and references.

Ambassadors will choose areas of interest for volunteer opportunities including education and camps, developing media and graphics, working with aquaria and the outdoors, or in guest services. 

Anyone interested in registering for upcoming cohorts may register HERE
 
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Mississippi’s Islands – A Breeding Bird Haven
Mississippi’s islands, both nearshore and barrier, have long been hotspots for breeding coastal birds. Each of these islands – Deer, Round, Petit Bois, Sand, Horn, Ship, and Cat – are composed of a variety of habitats, and each house a variety, in both species and number, of breeding birds. While some species are solitary-nesting birds, meaning that pairs generally build their nests away from other nests, other species are colonial, meaning that multiple birds build their nests together, in the same area.

By August, many of the solitary-nesting species, such as Snowy Plover, Wilson’s Plover, and American Oystercatcher, are quickly wrapping up their breeding seasons; chicks are fledging and adults are generally done laying eggs for the season. In contrast, many of the colonial-nesting species, such as Black Skimmers, are still going strong, with eggs and chicks still on the ground.

The 2023 island breeding season has been a successful one, during which stewards have observed upwards of 20 Snowy Plover, 20 Wilson’s Plover, 16 American Oystercatcher, and 18 Common Nighthawk nests. Many of these nests have also successfully hatched and fledged chicks.

While nest and chick counts for colonial species continue to change, small numbers of nesting Least Terns, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Gull-billed Terns, and Common Terns have been spotted on the islands, as well as larger numbers of Black Skimmers and Laughing Gulls. Other species documented nesting on the islands this year include Osprey, Willet, Black-necked Stilt, and Least Bittern.

As a word of caution to island goers, please be aware of your surroundings as you enjoy time on the beautiful islands. Agitated birds are often the best indicator of nearby breeding activity which can be a helpful hint to set up a bit further down the beach. While larger colonies are usually obvious, species like Snowy Plovers rely on being as secretive and camouflaged as possible, and their nests and chicks can easily be trampled by unsuspecting beachgoers.

Please continue to respect posted nesting areas and understand that signs may not be placed around all nesting birds. The ACBS hopes everyone enjoys their time on the islands and encourages everyone to share the shore with the feathered friends who call these islands home.
 
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Prepare NOW for Fall Migration
Get ready for fall migration by purchasing chances to win the Fall Migration Raffle filled with spirits and items for family and friends.  The basket, worth more than $300, will be given away to one lucky winner on Saturday, October 14, during the Fall Native Plant Sale.

Tickets may be purchased at the reception desk or online HERE.  Individual tickets are $5 each, but to have better odds, 5 tickets are available for only $20.  Purchase now!
 
pumpkin
Swamp Girl Glass Blowing to offer Pumpkin Classes at PRAC
The ever-popular glass-blowing sessions to create pumpkins are returning to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center just in time for fall decorations to adorn homes.
            Solange Ledwith with Swamp Girl Glass Blowing will bring her traveling equipment to PRAC for guests to experience one-on-one glass blowing sessions.  Guests are to register for a time slot on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, October 13-15, where Swamp Girl will guide the participant through designing the color, shaping the glass with heat and participant breath for a finished product of pride.  Glass pieces must “bake” overnight, so guests must return to PRAC to collect the art.
            Each time slot is $75, and participants as young as 8 are welcome. Click HERE to choose your time slot. Caution—these slots fill quickly, so don’t delay.
 
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Fall Planting Produces Spring Blooms
Take a break from spring planting next year and enjoy the fruits of fall planting with native shrubs and perennials from the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.

The 4th Annual Fall Native Plant Sale is set for Friday and Saturday, October 13 and 14. While spring is the traditional planting season, Dr. Dan Scheiman who is the Plants for Birds Program Manager for Audubon Delta, said fall to early winter is an excellent time to plant.

“For trees, planting in the fall means cooler temperatures and rain, allowing trees to establish their roots, making it easier for them to adjust to extreme heat or drought next summer,” he said.  “Summer-blooming flowers will be past their prime, but warm soil temperature in fall encourages root growth, aiding establishment, which sets the stage for regrowth in the spring.”

Native plants support the food web on which birds depend, provide shelter and nest sites for birds, provide other ecosystem services, and offer numerous benefits to people. Planting native plants is a visible, tangible, hopeful action that almost any individual or group can take to improve their surroundings and contribute to conservation.

            “Native plants feed the native insects that feed the birds,” Dr. Scheiman said.  “Ninety-six percent of all land birds feed their young insects, which provide the protein and fat babies need. Therefore, no native plants mean no baby bird food.”

            Creating bird-friendly habitats helps promote Audubon’s mission and starts people on the path to greater involvement in Audubon Delta’s other bird-friendly community activities and other initiatives.

            A large variety of native species of shrubs, perennials and trees will be available for purchase during this event.  For a complete list of plants and more information about creating bird-friendly habitats, visit Pascagoula.audubon.org.
 
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Pascagoula River Audubon Center
5107 Arthur St., Moss Point, MS 39563
(228) 475-0825 | pascagoula.audubon.org

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