OAK HILL — Hands-on bird banding demonstrations, vendors offering a wide range of outdoor-related products, and the opportunity to learn more about the two new housing projects are just a few of the activities to be offered free of charge to the public Saturday, May 5 at the Oak Hill Holiday Inn.

Beginning at 9 a.m. and going throughout the day, the fifth annual New River Birding and Nature Festival Vendor Fair and Banding Exposition offers an opportunity to participate in citizen science and to hold birds in your hands before releasing them back into the wild. Master bander and West Virginia resident Joey Herron will be on hand to help educate attendees on how and why birds are banded, as well as to point out characteristics of the birds that visit many of our back yard feeders, as well as more exotic birds that wander into the mist nets set up at the end of the parking lot at Holiday Inn.

“Banding of birds is an important tool in assessing the migratory habits of birds, as well as the stability of avian populations. But equally important to the collection of data is that it is a very personal way to introduce people to the beauty of the birds here,” said festival coordinator Dave Pollard.

“The smiles we have seen on people’s faces when they hold a bird in their hands and then let if fly away are just incredible.

Whether it is a neo-tropical migrant like a northern parula warbler or a typical back yard bird like a goldfinch, nothing can compare to that feeling of holding them in the palm of your hand,” Pollard said.

In addition to the banding, those who stop by the festivities will be able to visit booths manned by the Virginia Bluebird Society, West Virginia naturalist and photo-journalist Wil Hershberger, South Carolina writer and photo-journalist Connie Toops and many more. Also on hand with information will be representatives of two large housing projects in Fayette County, Roaring River and New River Gorge Preserve.

“This will be a fun day and a great way to learn about birds and our natural environment. We hope people take the opportunity to spend a few minutes or a few hours of their day with us on Saturday, May 5. Free demonstrations like this are hard to come by and we are happy to be able to present this to the community,” Pollard said.

In addition to the scheduled activities, one lucky guest will walk away with a two-person package valued at $600. According to Pollard, a drawing will be held Saturday evening for a free birding and meals package for two to be used during the 2008 New River Birding and Nature Festival. People who attend the vendor fair and fill out an entry form will be put into the hat with one lucky winner drawn. That winner will receive full-week packages to the event that include daily birding excursions and presentations, as well as three meals a day for the entire week provided by some of the area’s finest restaurants and caterers.

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