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Salt Plains NWR - Festival 2006
Southwest Region, April 30, 2006
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The Salt Plains NWR Annual Birding and Crystal Festival on Saturday, April 29th and Sunday, April 30th, 2006 brought out birds, birders and all types of outdoor enthusiasts.

At the refuge headquarters, Sutton Avian Research Center had a live bald eagle - easily one of the biggest draws to the festival. Flint napping, primitive bow making, wood carving, NRCS, a Youth Archery Contest, a Youth Casting Contest, duck identification, wildlife rehabilitation (opossums), reptile rehabilitation, wildlife photography, a native plant walk, birding tours, the refuge management tours, falconry, antler scoring and art teaching bird identication with bird heads were also on the refuge lawn. At the southern end of the refuge, visitors participated in the crystal digging contest.

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department came back this year, opening the Watchable Wildlife Area at the Byron State Fish Hatchery for activities, programs and tours.

Additional events such as stargazing at the spillway, equestrian trail rides at the state park and the Jet Wildlife Arts and Craft Show helped increase exposure of the events and attracts wildlife enthusiasts across the spectrum.

During the Celebration of Birds Festival on April 29th and 30th, 176 species of birds were observed. With first confirmed nesting of Louisiana Waterthrush and first confirmed presense of Ash-throated Flycatcher.

The refuge had a Hamburger and Hotdog Roast in celebration of the Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma Grand Opening. The refuge was unanimously chosen as the site for the grand opening / ribbon cutting and set up Bonham Pond with a stage, seating, tents for exhibits and the dinner. The dinner was complete with a large cake in the shape of Oklahoma that identified the various loops on the trail. Members of the Nescatunga Volunteer Fire Department assisted by serving food at the celebration.

All 13 loops on the trail were in attendance with booths showing the highlights of their trail. Salt Plains loop exhibited with the theme "Crystals, Cranes and Curiosities" to distribute the new Alfalfa County brochure produced through the Initiative for Rural Oklahoma grant. Visitors could pick up crystal cards, origami flying cranes, brochures, videos and more community information. Outdoor Recreation Planner, Emily Neidigh worked with the Oklahoma Wildlife and Prairie Heritage Alliance and Loop Leaders to create 14 loop posters for the loops and the creation of the trail.

Refuge festival attendance is estimated at 750 people this year. Friday and Saturday morning's rain storms probably contributed to the decrease in visitation, but the refuge saw good numbers of people come and go throughout the day. Birding tours had record numbers of participants for the weekend.

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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