Migratory Bird Festival offers packed program

POSTED: 10/14/15 2:29 PM


Club-GaiacFree seedlings of the Gaïac tree, also known as Lignum Vitae, will be given away at this Saturday’s Migratory Bird Festival. Photo contributed

GRAND CASE – This Saturday, the Migratory Bird Festival returns to St. Martin with new activities and an all-star roster of presenters. The free, family-friendly festival celebrates the amazing migratory birds that arrive on this island each fall after incredible expeditions across the globe. This year it will be held at University of St. Martin from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m..

University of St. Martin’s location on the Great Salt Pond provides the perfect setting for the Festival’s guided walks, where guests get to learn on the go from experts. Avid birder and Nature Foundation board member Binkie van Es will be leading guided bird walks regularly throughout the morning, and launching the Nature Foundation Birding Club. At 9.30 a.m., St. Maarten Archaeological Center (Simarc) Director Jay Haviser will lead a special Heritage Salt Walk. 

The Great Salt Pond plays a dual role as a key bird habitat and as a cornerstone of the island’s heritage and identity–we’re excited to spotlight both aspects at this event,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and Dr. Haviser is not only an expert, but also has an extraordinary ability to make history come alive. The Heritage Walk will be a really unique opportunity for St. Martiners to engage with their history and culture.”

Festival-goers will meet St. Martin’s migratory birds and learn about their marvelous journeys during a multimedia presentation by naturalist Mark Yokoyama, author of The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin. Kids and adults alike will love discovering the stories of these different migrants, from tiny warblers and gregarious shorebirds to the majestic Osprey. 

This Migratory Bird Festival is part of an international program including hundreds of events that share the same 2015 theme: Restore Habitat, Restore Birds. This theme will be addressed at the Festival by a series of special presentations and activities. Environmental Educator Laura Bijnsdorp will give audiences a taste of EPIC’s environmental education program with a presentation on the importance of wetlands. Devon Carter and Giovanni Hughes of the Anguilla National Trust will present on island restoration and its benefits to birds and entire ecosystems, showcasing the recent rat eradication program on Dog Island and plans for Prickly Pear Cays. 

Visitors will learn more about local habitats by enjoying the exhibition of selections from the Shadow of a Drought photo essay, highlighting the impact of drought on key St. Martin wetlands. The photo essay is also downloadable as a free ebook from the Les Fruits de Mer website. 

Attendees can participate in bird habitat restoration themselves at the Club Gaïac table at Saturday’s event. The Club Gaïac project promotes the planting of Gaïac (also known as Lignum Vitae), an endangered native tree. Guests will learn about the history and ecology of this beautiful heritage tree, and can bring home a free seedling to plant in their backyard or neighborhood.

Another interactive activity at the event will be the Portable Pond Discovery Station, which will give participants a chance to see a whole world of life that lives in St. Martin’s ponds and provides food for our migratory birds, but often goes unnoticed. 

Artistically-minded guests of all ages are invited to make “Happy Bird-day” and other bird-themed cards for friends and loved ones at the art activity station. 

The 2015 Festival is hosted by Les Fruits de Mer and University of St. Martin, and made possible by the hard work of many volunteers and the sponsorship of Aqua Mania Adventures, Calmos Cafe, Delta Petroleum and Hotel L’Esplanade.

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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