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Thousands Attend Wildlife Festival at Green Lane Park
Written by Sergei Blair, Correspondent
2014-10-01

Laura Laudenslager, an educator from Elmwood Park Zoo, shows a black vulture during a live demonstration at the 4th annual Upper Perkiomen Bird and Wildlife Festival, held Saturday at Green Lane Park. The black vulture is a native scavenger that can live up to 25 years in the wild.

Live birds and animals on display provided glimpse of local habit

        Over the years, about 280 bird species have been spotted at Green Lane Park, many of which include native birds like waterfowl, bald eagles, ospreys and various migratory birds.  One reason that attracts so many birds into the area is the sustainable natural habitat.

        Several conservationists and wildlife exhibitors were on hand last Saturday, September 27, at the 4th annual Upper Perkiomen Bird and Wildlife Festival held at Green Lane Park. They were there to talk about how people living in Montgomery County can contribute toward the development of new habitats.

        More than 2,000 visitors came to the event to learn about local wildlife, interact with live animals, and for great food, music and many other family-oriented activities. Exhibitors lined their tents and tables along the grassy knoll near the amphitheater in Upper Frederick. The temperature was in the mid-eighties and a sunny sky did not disappoint.

        Steven Saffier, one of the event organizers, said locals can play an important part in shaping the habitat but most people don't know that their own backyard could be turned into a sanctuary - with very little effort.

        "You can actually change the climate of your own backyard with vegetation, by planting trees and shrubs, because, after all, that's what birds are looking for when they're flying through.  It will definitely change the dynamics of your backyard and in doing so create a better place for humans as well," he said.

        Saffier is the director of Audubon At Home, a program of the National Audubon Society which promotes bird conservation efforts.  It was created to continue the work of John James Audubon, world-famous naturalist and wildlife painter. 

        Saffier advised planting native Pennsylvania plants and shrubs to attract insects and birds that feed on them.  He also explained that although using seeds is a good way to bring birds closer, it doesn't help to make them stay.  However, berries and insects serve best since it's their preferred food.

        Audubon Pennsylvania, in conjunction with Montgomery County Division of Parks, Trails and Historic Sites, organized the educational event.

        Although the bird element was primarily threaded throughout the festival, many live animals that are native to the area were also on display, which included a black rat snake, turtles, rabbits, a screech owl and a pair of adorable baby opossums. Volunteers from the Elmwood Zoo wowed children and adults alike with interactive show that included appearances from a full-size great horned owl and a black vulture.

        Laura Laudenslager, educator from Elmwood Zoo, later took questions from captivated children. "We love reaching younger people because our goal is to inspire conservation, so as they grow up they may go work in environmental fields and can actually influence laws of the future which help protect these animals," she said.

        Aside from all other festival venues, Ann Ward's Winged Wonders Education tent proved to be the ultimate crowd-pleaser.  The 12 ft.-by-8 ft. tent, draped in netting, allowed visitors to go inside and touch monarch butterflies.  10 year-old Gaia Page, of Telford, used a cotton swab dipped in a sugary liquid to draw several monarchs to herself.

        "They're really pretty and sort of tickle a bit," she said as two butterflies rested on her hand.

        Ward said she's gratified to see children learning about the migratory butterflies. "Children are the most natural butterfly wranglers and just with minimal guidance and coaching they will start naturally reaching for the butterfly," she said.

        During her short presentation, Ward explained her work with Monarch Watch, a scientific research program at the University of Kansas. She then demonstrated to her audience the tagging procedure before releasing the swath of butterflies in the air as they fluttered away onto their long migration journey to Mexico.

        Ward said the tiny stickers that were placed on wing of each butterfly contained a unique ID number which will help the researchers study and identify its flight pattern.

        "You can't be thinking about yesterday or tomorrow when you're holding a butterfly in your hand.  It connects you to the earth right here, right now," Ward said. "Within us we're looking for reconnection to the natural world."


 

 

 

 

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