Get ready to take a tour through Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, see live birds up close and personal and try out your bird-calling talents.

It’s time for the 17th annual Wings Over Muscatatuck Bird Festival at the refuge east of Seymour.

A variety of activities are planned Friday and Saturday for the refuge’s most popular event. All activities take place at the visitor center or begin there.

“If we have a nice day, we’ll have lots and lots of people,” park ranger Donna Stanley said. “It’s all about birds and conservation.”

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Festivities open Friday with a guided birding trip through the refuge by van, leaving from the visitor center and going from 8 a.m. to noon.

At 2 p.m. Friday, people can learn about the variety of trees on the 7,724-acre property during the Big Tree Walk through Wood Duck Trail.

That night, a naturalist will lead a Calls of Frogs and Toads program at 8 p.m. and an Owl Prowl at 9 p.m., giving attendees a chance to listen for frogs, toads and owls.

Saturday will begin with a bird walk at 8 a.m., open to all ages and abilities.

Children’s activities will start at 8:30 a.m. with making a wren house during Birdhouse Building for Kids, and there will be a variety of wildlife activities from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Stanley said visitors always like the live bird programs. The first one, Hawks and Eagles of Indiana, is at 9:30 a.m., while Owls of Indiana will be at 1:30 p.m.

“Normally, you don’t get that close to live birds of prey, and you can actually get wonderful views of them, and you learn so much about them,” Stanley said. “They are wonderful programs.”

New this year is a Paint the Wild program, led by Southern Indiana Center for the Arts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Stanley said participants will paint a nature picture and all supplies will be provided for a small fee.

At 11:15 a.m., there will be a bird-calling contest for all ages with prizes for the winners.

“It is a popular thing,” Stanley said of the contest. “It will be fun.”

At 12:30 p.m., a bird bander will be at the visitor center banding songbirds, and there will be a new program on monarch butterflies.

Stanley said the decline in the monarch butterfly population is related to habitat loss. They spend the winter in Mexico, and a drought in Texas — where they migrate through — didn’t help them.

“The conservation of the monarch butterfly is a priority of the (federal) Fish and Wildlife Service this year,” Stanley said. “There is a 90 percent decline in the population, and we’re trying to spread this information about how important monarch butterflies are and what we can do to help them.”

Also Saturday, there will be guided van tours of the refuge at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. The tours are free, but advance registration is required by calling the Jackson County Visitor Center at 812-524-1914.

Stanley said space is limited on the van tours, and if there are any vacancies left, people can sign up Saturday.

The festival concludes Sunday with a guided van tour of Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge near Madison from 8 a.m. to noon. It also is free with advance registration required and limited space. To register, call 812-522-4352 ext. 12.

Muscatatuck and Big Oaks are among three national wildlife refuges in Indiana. The other is Patoka River near Oakland City.

If you go

What: 17th annual Wings Over Muscatatuck Bird Festival

When: Friday through Sunday

Where: Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, 12985 U.S. 50 East, Seymour

Information: email muscatatuck@fws.gov or visit fws.gov/refuge/muscatatuck

Schedule of events

Friday

8 a.m. to noon — Guided birding trip by van

2 p.m. — Big Tree Walk

8 p.m. — Calls of Frogs and Toads

9 p.m. — Owl Prowl

Saturday

8 a.m. — Morning Bird Walk

8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. — Guided van tours of the refuge (call 812-524-1914 to register)

8:30 to 10 a.m. — Birdhouse Building for Kids

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Variety of children’s wildlife activities

9:30 a.m. — Hawks and Eagles of Indiana with live birds

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Paint the Wild with Southern Indiana Center for the Arts (painting supplies provided with a small fee)

11:15 a.m. — Bird-Calling Contest with prizes

12:30 p.m. — Bird banding and monarch butterfly programs

1:30 p.m. — Owls of Indiana with live birds

Sunday

8 a.m. to noon — Guided van tour of Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge near Madison (call 812-522-4352 ext. 12 to register)

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.