The Roger Tory Peterson Institute is gearing up for its fourth RTP Birding Festival, scheduled for Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The festival will include new events that are aimed at encouraging novice birders to participate, while still providing field trips and sessions for serious birders.
Saturday will be a family fun day at RTPI, where young people and their parents are invited to try their hands, and eyes, at birding. Participants will learn about binoculars, bird feeding and other related topics. RTPI will also have a live raptor exhibit for children to visit, as well as a bird-banding demonstration which will allow attendees to get a closer look at some of these animals that are usually only spotted far overhead. During the demonstration, there will be licensed bird-banders showing attendees how to safely catch wild birds, band them and release them back into the wild for further study.
The fourth RTP Birding Festival will take place Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.
Greg Miller will be making the keynote speech for the birding festival, which will be held at the JCC Hamilton Collegiate Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Miller is well known in the birding world for his attempt to break the world record for the most bird sightings in North America in one year. Miller will also be co-leading "Birding the Piney Tract," which will take place from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday at RTPI.
"We anticipate between 100 and 200 people will be at the event this year," said Mark Baldwin, education director at RTPI. "The free events on Saturday will probably boost that number up. Last year, the family fun day was on a Friday, and this year we were able to move it to Saturday, so we can probably anticipate higher numbers this year."
The biggest hope is that the event will be family oriented and family friendly, while still appealing to serious birders, according to Baldwin.
"There will be a combination of people here, because there are people that know that if they go on the Piney Tract field trip, they might see a bird that is a once in a lifetime experience," Baldwin said. "We have those folks that will come away from this weekend hoping to see that kind of bird, but we're hoping that we'll get people that are just interested in learning about nature, too, with birds as a focus of course. This has been a fantastic spring for butterflies, so even if we're not seeing birds, there will be plenty to take in. We just hope this event will get people outdoors and appreciating the natural world."
According to Baldwin, one thing that draws out people is the live birds of prey exhibit, which is free. There will be people from Hawk Hideaway, a rehabilitation center near Cuba, with live raptors.
"Some people really get into the bird-banding demonstration since we're capturing birds carefully to study scientifically, and people might even have the chance to hold them," said Baldwin. "It's a whole different experience than seeing them through a pair of binoculars. There will be other types of self-guided activities on Saturday as well that kids can do on their own or with their families."
For participants who are attending the festival for the first time, Baldwin highly recommends that they arrive early enough in the morning so that they can see the bird banding.
"It's a great opportunity to come in and enjoy the ongoing exhibits. It's an open house day, so it's free to come in and visit. It's not too late to sign up for anything either, although some of the field trips are beginning to fill up."
Roger Tory Peterson was an American naturalist, artist, ornithologist and educator who was born in Jamestown in 1908. He is credited with publishing the first modern field guide in 1934 and worked towards promoting an interest in nature for his entire life. RTPI is located at 311 Curtis St., Jamestown.
A fee of $20 is required for anyone wishing to attend the birding festival who is not a current member of RTPI. Prices for the events and field trips vary depending on the location, length and topic of the birding trips from $15 to $65. Tickets for Greg Miller's keynote speech are $35. Box lunches are also available. For more information about Roger Tory Peterson and the RTP Birding Festival, visit birdfest.rtpi.org or call RTPI at 665-2473 ext. 228.