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Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Flight of the Hummingbirds

Way up in Holly Springs lays a natural treasure many Mississippians may not be aware of. The Strawberry Plains Audubon Center is a 2500-acre tract of Marshall County land left to the National Audubon Society by Ruth Finley and Margaret Finley Shackelford, sisters whose ancestors acquired the land in the 1830s. The sisters were raised with an appreciation of nature, especially of birds; their mother's pet parakeet could say his name and phone number: "Chuckles Finley, 63" (McAlexander).

That love of nature and birds is evident at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center today, where visitors can attempt to check almost 200 different birds off the Bird Checklist. One bird that visitors will be certain to see in September is the ruby-throated hummingbird; as the hummingbirds migrate south for the winter, they stop to refuel on the various tasty delights cultivated for them at Strawberry Plains. From "Feeders and an abundance of native plants that provide nectar and insects help the hummingbirds pack on the required weight for the 22-hour Gulf crossing." (22 hours?!) You can observe this pit stop firsthand this year at the Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration, held September 9-11 from 9 am-5 pm. The festival features speakers, wagon rides, a native plant sale, and all the hummingbirds you care to admire.

For more information on Strawberry Fields, the Mississippi documentary film company Blue Magnolia Films has produced a gorgeous film about the center and its commitment to conservation.

Also, Hubert H. McAlexander's Strawberry Plains Audubon Center: Four Centuries of a Mississippi Landscape provides the history of the land itself-from Cherokee Indians, to the slaves that worked the land, to the family that donated it so that its treasures could be preserved and enjoyed.

Happy hummingbirding!

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