There’s still time to see migratory birds at refuge

If you want to see migratory birds in Jackson County before they leave for their summer destinations, you might want to make plans to do so soon.

Donna Stanley, park ranger at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge east of Seymour, said the migratory birds will likely be here until the end of May, depending on the weather.

The refuge has about 100 different species now, but many will soon migrate elsewhere.

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Everything anyone needed to know about migratory birds was on display this past weekend during the refuge’s annual Wings Over Muscatatuck.

The event is planned around International Migratory Bird Day, which falls on the second Saturday in May during the peak of the songbird migration in Indiana.

“There are more birds around here now than at any other time of the year,” Stanley said. “We want to celebrate birds and help educate people about them.”

Some of those birds include the popular warblers. They’re popular because of their petite size and variety of colors, Stanley said.

“They’re orange, yellow, red, black and all kinds of colors, but their patterns are so striking,” she said. “They’re such little guys, and they’re always floating around the treetops.”

The rose-breasted grosbeaks also are here, which are large birds known for their signature red-orange-colored chest. Those birds will come to bird feeders and are a joy to watch, Stanley said.

Wings Over Muscatatuck is the biggest event the refuge offers throughout the year because the refuge’s main purpose is to manage migratory birds.

“Wings Over Muscatatuck is very mission related to what we do here,” Stanley said.

That’s why there were so many educational opportunities during the event.

Biologists attended the event to band birds so they can learn more about their activities and trends. A group of Ball State University students conducted that portion of the event and answered the public’s questions as they recorded information.

There also was a program about birds of prey, a bird walk and children’s activities. Some of those activities were fun for children but also were educational because they involved building a birdhouse or a natural bird feeder.

“They’re very educational programs that teach people about birds,” Stanley said.

Sarah Cote of Bloomington brought her son, Nicholas, to the event. She said they have attended it in the past and have known it to be worth the hourlong drive.

“We came a few years ago and always try to look for it and come to see it all,” she said. “We’ve attended the birds of prey event, built the bird box and plan to do all the activities.”

Cote said her son really enjoys the activities, especially the ones where birds can be seen up close.

The two visit the refuge at least once a year and find it a great place to spend an afternoon, she said.

“We love being outside,” Cote said.

The programs also showed the impact birds have on people by eating insects that are pests for crops, Stanley said.

“That’s a biggest help to humans,” she said, adding they also help plant seeds.

People can help create a good habitat for birds to strengthen their benefits for all of us, Stanley said.

They could plant native trees and bushes to provide food and shelter for birds, among other things.

“They can also reduce their pesticides and bug sprays,” she said.

Stanley said everyone can help provide a good environment for birds.

She suggests people with larger properties can plant the native plants, and those who live in smaller spaces can set out a hummingbird feeder.

“Whether they have 100 acres or live in an apartment, they can still do something for birds,” she said.