Strawberry Plains Audubon Center looked a little different than usual during the first weekend of September. Local artists, craft vendors, butterfly and native plant tents, and bird-band stations dotted the premises. Dispersed inside the historic Antebellum Davis House, which dates from when Strawberry Plains was a cotton plantation, were Audubon Photography Award winning photos, Canon binoculars, scopes, cameras, and lenses. And throughout the weekend, the center hosted thousands of visitors, ranging from people across the state and country to migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
Earlier this fall, the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center hosted its 20th annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration Festival in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Each day featured bird-banding demonstrations, rehabilitated wildlife and birds, wagon rides, speeches from conservationists and Audubon leaders, and Audubon + Canon Birds in Focus walks.
Since April 2018, Audubon has teamed up with Canon U.S.A. to co-host Audubon + Canon Birds in Focus. The event series introduces photographers to the world of birding and introduces bird lovers to a new way to engage with wildlife, and bird enthusiasts and photographers have flocked to them to test gear, learn from Canon technical experts, and see birdlife at its most vivid. In addition to getting pro-tips from Canon Explorers of Light, attendees also get the chance to learn about native plants, local wildlife, and birds from Audubon volunteers and naturalists. Within the past year, Audubon and Canon brought the event series to several states: Texas, Washington, Minnesota, Mississippi, Connecticut, and Ohio. The largest of the Audubon + Canon Birds in Focus events have attracted more than 15,000 people over a three-day period.
“Our gear is new to them (birders) and bird photography is new to some of these Canon owners,” says Matt Gorman Director of Sales Development eCommerce and Strategy at Canon U.S.A. and the architect behind the partnership with Audubon. “It’s fun to see a wide range of age groups capture images and engage with their surroundings." The events also provide each organizaton with a way to interact with a wider and more diverse audience, Gorman notes. "Separately, we would have never had the chance to engage these communities," he says. "But together, our initiatives, programs, and products are reaching more people in different demographics.”
During the Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration, local naturalists Hal Mitchell and Bill Hampton advised attendees on ethical practices on attracting hummingbirds for photos and pointed out native plants such as jewel weed, poke weed, and American beauty berry, and non-native plants like Japanese stilt grass. Avid birders, festival-goers, amateur and professional photographers, and campus chapter members that went on Audubon + Canon Birds in Focus walks scoped out and snapped pictures of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and other songbirds that are passing through on their way to their winter homes in Central and South America. Visitors also got to test their gear at a bird blind and during live demonstrations with rehabilitated birds.