318 out of the approximately 400 bird species found in Tennessee call local nature-lover haunts, such as the TN National Wildlife Refuge and Land Between the Lakes, home. Joan Howe, a ranger at the TN wildlife refuge, visits Sounds Good to discuss an upcoming birding festival that celebrates the region's vast birding resources.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, Kentucky and Tennessee ornithological societies, research organizations, and several other agencies have banded together to host a second annual birding festival in the Western Kentucky and Tennessee area. The birding festival, which includes keynote presentations by world-reknowned birders and historians, field trips, and educational courses, is a pre-registered event and takes place in various indoor and outdoor locations.
The Wings of Winter birding festival takes place in the middle of the Mississippi flyway. This migrational corridor includes any rivers that feed into the Mississippi River, including the Tennessee and the Cumberland rivers. Wild birds naturally follow waterways on their annual journeys to warmer weather, making the TN wildlife refuge a year-long habitat for birds of all kinds. The festival is in mid-January, the busiest time of the year for migration traffic.
The keynote speaker for the festival is Richard Crossley, an internationally-acclaimed birder, photographer, and award-winning author of The Crossley ID Guide series. Crossley also co-founded the global birding initiative Pledge to Fledge, Race4Birds, and the Cape May Young Birders Club. He has served on the board of directors at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, contributed to most major birding publications, and frequently speaks on the radio and at birding events.
Noted author and historian, Joel Greenberg, will be presenting the Friday night evening welcome on the first day of the festival. Greenberg is a research associate of the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Field Museum. He is the author of three books, including Billions to None, and has taught natural history courses for the Morton Arboretum, Brookfield Zoo, and Chicago Botanical Garden. Greenberg helped spearhead Project Passenger Pigeon, which focuses attention on human-caused extinctions. This is particularly relevant to Western Kentucky and Tennessee, where the now-extinct passenger pigeon was once an extremely prolific species.
Howe encourages bird and nature lovers of all experience levels to register for the Wings of Winter festival. "There's such a diversity in birds, birds have all different kinds of habitats. There's not a continent, not a country, where there's not birds. Mankind's existence relies on birds if you think about it," Howe explains, "they are pollinators, they're the wildlife that drops seeds." The festival provides an opportunity to experience wildlife in new and exciting ways, Howe adds, and "there can even be a single moment that stays with you for the rest of your life when you have a very close encounter with a bird."
Wings of Winter will take place from January 18 to January 20, 2019. The deadline for registration to the festival is December 31st, and spots are being filled fast. To register, visit the TN National Wildlife Refuge website or the Wings of Winter Facebook page.