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Jekyll festival invites bird lovers
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JEKYLL ISLAND — Fall is just around the corner and the birds are coming. It is the perfect time for the seventh annual Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding and Nature Festival, set for Oct. 8-12 on Jekyll Island.

Bird abundance in coastal Georgia peaks in mid-
October, with migrants passing through on their way south, many summer birds still lingering in the area and a few wintering species arriving early. For the past five years, more than 200 bird species have been spotted during the week of the festival.

The festival offers a wide selection of nature-related field trips, workshops and seminars for birders, photographers and general nature enthusiasts, from beginners to experts. Tickets are available at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. Some field trips are led by Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists, and many feature sites promoted through the DNR’s Colonial Coast Birding Trail.

On that Friday afternoon, workshop topics include "Secrets of Digiscoping," "Simplifying Sparrow Identification" and "Jammin’ with a birdJam iPod." Saturday-afternoon seminars vary from "Going Native: Planting for Biodiversity" to "Birds of Georgia," "Twittering for the Birds" and many others.

Don Kroodsma, regarded as ornithology’s dean of bird song and an expert birder, will be the keynote speaker at the banquet Saturday. His talk and slide show "The Singing Life of Birds" will follow the dinner.

From 4-7:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, there will be a lot of excitement at the festival’s rookery, an interactive exhibit area in Atlantic Hall at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. Participants can try out the latest in high-tech toys for birders, discover which binoculars are best for them with help from the top optic experts in North America, and select from a variety of unique birdfeeders, wildlife art and photography. All exhibit hall activities are open to the public at no charge.

Saturday offers a treat for families, teachers and children of all ages: a special nature day on Jekyll. Nature day passports are available at the rookery. Most activities are free or require only a modest charge. Explore Georgia’s coast. Learn why birds are on the beach. Find and identify animal tracks. Visit Tidelands Nature Center to meet the creatures that live in Georgia’s waters. See hawks and falcons from Georgia Southern University’s Lamar Q. Ball Jr. Raptor Center on display at the rookery, and watch a hawk fly over your head during flight shows scheduled for noon and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Short bird walks for beginners will leave the convention center hourly starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. For those visiting Sunday, there will be a nature walk through the dunes, a hawk watch on the beach and an "owl prowl" at Laura S. Walker State Park.

So mark your calendars, pack the kids into the car and come explore the magnificent Georgia coast. Visit or call 1-877-4JEKYLL (453-5955) for a complete schedule, fees and other information. Registration begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 and ends Sept. 25.

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