Bird enthusiasts of all ages came equipped with binoculars and cameras, as they learned about natural bird history at the annual Family Bird Festival Saturday at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont.
The festival is an educational celebration that involves a mile hike through different gardens while stopping at stations that provide interactive activities and information related to birds and ornithology.
Every year, the festival participates in the “Great Backyard Bird Count,” a global event that encourages people to count their local birds in the area.
“It’s one of our most popular events,” Eric Garton, director of visitor services, said. “We think that just giving people the chance to actually get to know how birds work – that’s really cool.”
After receiving their rubber tracking bracelet and passport, visitors followed the marked map to 13 different stations. Children participated in activities at the stations to earn a stamp for their passport.
Visitors first learned about hummingbirds and watched a video that demonstrated the capillary action technique that birds use to drink nectar.
The second station featured a live great horned owl and barn owl handled by volunteers from Wild Wings of California, a non-profit raptor rehabilitation organization, and the Pomona Valley Audubon Society.
The volunteers answered questions and allowed visitors to approach the owls.
“We’re becoming more involved with environmental causes,” Bob Everett, co-founder of Wild Wings of California, said. “I would say we’re evolving – evolving with the events of the times.”
The next station provided comparisons of various feather and bone samples.
Visitors learned how the different shapes and sizes helped birds adapt to their respected environments.
Next to the station was another stop, where visitors made condor paper planes and stretched their arms against an image of a condor’s wingspan.
Volunteers also promoted the preservation of condors and provided information about the slow increase in population.
After folding a condor plane, visitors received a raffle ticket that they could deposit at the nearby gift shop.
The next stop had children listen to different recordings of some native birds, such as the mourning dove and spotted towhee.
Volunteers used silhouettes and images to give tips on identifying birds based on size, body shape and sound.
“I’m a biologist, so it’s a lot of fun for me to get to share the things I’m most passionate about,” Garton said.
Visitors examined the construction and building materials of different nests and attempted to place acorns in holes drilled by woodpeckers.
They also compared different beaks and feet of birds, and found the advantages that each type had over another.
The next three stations had different crafts for children.
They built quails out of paper, made seed-covered pine cone birdfeeders and decorated buttons.
The children were able to take their crafts home.
Some also visited the migration station, where helpers gathered information about the “migrating” people that passed by.
They recorded the arm span and unique number on the rubber bracelets of each individual.
The last station showed the difficulties birds face during migration through an interactive game that had participants roll a die to determine the amount of spaces they were allowed to move.
Each space had a corresponding card that related to a problem that migrating birds encounter.
After visiting all stations and collecting stamps, visitors turned in their filled passport at the nursery near the entrance and received a small packet of bird seeds.
Visitors were encouraged to fill birdfeeders with seeds to help potential migrating birds on their long treks.
A special presentation about the black-chinned hummingbird by Sean C. Wilcox was held at noon.
Wilcox is currently a second-year Ph.D student at the University of California, Riverside.
His presentation discussed the flight performance and sound production during the courtship displays of male black-chinned hummingbirds.
“I tried taking ornithology in college, but it was an impacted class,” Tina Stoner, Wild Wings of California volunteer, said.
“I kind of glad that I didn’t, because now I’m enjoying birds on a whole different level.”
Emily Lau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.