Free Migratory Bird Festival Packed With Activities This Sunday

The Migratory Bird Festival will be held on Pond Island in the Great Salt Pond, a key habitat for many birds on St. Martin, including migratory species. (Photo by Mark Yokoyama)
The Migratory Bird Festival will be held on Pond Island in the Great Salt Pond, a key habitat for many birds on St. Martin, including migratory species. (Photo by Mark Yokoyama)

People of all ages are invited to enjoy a marvelous morning of wildlife at the fourth annual Migratory Bird Festival this Sunday, with a full slate of fantastic activities and nature presentations. The event will take place from 9am to noon at the University of St. Martin on Pond Island in Philipsburg. Created by the Les Fruits de Mer association as a celebration of the amazing birds that travel thousands of kilometers each year to visit St. Martin, the festival is free and open to the public.

“The story of bird migration—the astounding distances they fly, their ability to navigate and the way they tie the whole hemisphere together with their travels—is a wonderful gateway to experiencing and understanding so much of St. Martin’s natural history,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “For instance, at Sunday’s event, people can do birdwatching with the top experts on the island, but they’ll also get to explore the whole wetland ecosystem these birds depend on, getting up close and personal with the critters that birds eat at the Portable Pond Discovery Station.”

An array of other island wildlife activities await festival-goers this Sunday. They’ll be able to get coaching on how to take better photographs of birds and wildlife at a special workshop with a nature photographer. They can discover the role of indigenous plants and trees at the Club Gaïac Station, dedicated to the Gaïac or Lignum Vitae tree, and even take home free seedlings of this beautiful native tree. They’ll also have a chance to express their artistic side with a bird mask-making craft and wildlife-themed coloring at the Art Activity Station.

Visitors can discover aquatic insects and other creatures at the Portable Pond Discovery Station. (Photo by Olivia Roudon)
Visitors can discover aquatic insects and other creatures at the Portable Pond Discovery Station. (Photo by Olivia Roudon)

In addition to the hands-on activities, a series of multimedia presentations will be offered to the public throughout the event on topics including migratory birds, birding tourism on St. Martin, the best birdwatching spots on the island and the fascinating story of how a fashion trend drove the Snowy Egret to the brink of extinction–and how two women launched key parts of the conservation movement while working to save it at the turn of the 20th century.

“The University of St. Martin is a great place to see experts give these special presentations,” commented Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Each speaker will be showcasing different topics, so there’s something new to learn all morning long. Plus being able to sit down for ten or fifteen minutes while someone tells a fascinating story about nature is a perfect break from the action of the festival.”

Les Fruits de Mer will also screen a short preview clip from the association’s current documentary film project about the Great Salt Pond and its importance to the ecology, history, economy, culture and identity of the island. Visitors will be invited to share their own thoughts and memories about the Great Salt Pond.

The Migratory Bird Festival is part of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), which is celebrated at hundreds of events throughout the Western Hemisphere. The dozens of events held in the Caribbean are under the regional coordination of BirdsCaribbean. The 2016 festival is hosted by Les Fruits de Mer and University of St. Martin. It’s made possible by the hard work of many volunteers and is absolutely free thanks to the generous sponsorship support of Yacht Club Port de Plaisance, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, Hotel L’Esplanade, GEBE, Delta Petroleum, BZSE Attorneys at Law, Buccaneer Beach Bar, Aqua Mania Adventures and ACE. Visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook for more information. With covered areas for all the activities, the event will take place rain or shine.

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