Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131

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News Release

August 6, 2009

Don't miss Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, there's a story behind every program leader!

The Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, a six-day celebration of the wild side of the Outer Banks region of North Carolina, is set for Nov. 3 through 8.

Birding, natural history, photography and paddling are just some of the types of programs planned for the festival which spans Veteran's Day weekend.

Participants should come prepared to be introduced to the real world of the Outer Banks where adventure is whatever folks long to enjoy. Programs are led by experienced leaders who volunteer each year to share their wealth of knowledge and perhaps to share an experience or two about their own adventures.

Steve, in shorts, stands in shallow water looking through a camera on a tripod.
Steve Schulz and his gear braving the water for his hobby.

Birding leader Steve Shultz offers a prime example of how hobbies can open the door to experiencing unanticipated adventures. Here's is Shultz's story:

The traffic, asphalt streets and cement sidewalks reflected the heat, setting off a shimmering affect that distorted the view. The four men, armed only with optics, drove through the crime-ridden area with care not to bring attention to themselves as they stalked their quarry.

South central Los Angeles has its own look, sounds and personalities. This is where the infamous Compton, Watts and Spanish barrios are located; they are never confused with Beverly Hills.

The men, including Shultz, were searching for the Asian species nicknamed Spotted Dove and were certain they would find their prey in this jungle.

They were "twitching" -- the British term for making a trip to see one particular bird for the purpose of adding to a birder's list of birds seen, and then immediately moving on to the next target. The non-native Spotted Dove is countable in the United States for birding lists because it has successfully reproduced in the wild for many generations. It is now becoming harder to find, but is still reasonably easy to locate in certain Los Angeles neighborhoods.

After some time spent cruising and searching, the men found the bird perched high on a wire near a major intersection.

They eased the vehicle into a hubcap shop parking lot to get a better look, and then a couple of street guys sauntered over and leaned up against the car.

"Hey, let us hold your binoculars so we can see the bird, too," said one with a sly smile. With cutting looks to the driver to high-tail it out of the area, the men made a hasty retreat out of the dangerous neighborhood with optics intact... and another quarry to check off their lists!

And so goes the life of a birder! Shultz, 38, a benefits manager for Fidelity Investments, says birding is his hobby and has prompted him to travel far and wide in search of birds.

Wings Over Water birding leaders debunk the old stereotype image of birders as being senior citizen nerds.

"Birding can be a fairly strenuous sport," said Shultz, "just like many other outdoor activities that folks enjoy. Climbing several hundred feet up a steep mountainside to see a particular type of bird, or slogging through a wet slough or marsh, braving sub-freezing temperatures and bitter winds during a cold December day at the coast, or bouncing across the waves fifty miles out to sea in a small boat to see pelagic birds ... not for the faint of heart!"

This festival is traditionally set during the shoulder season when rates are lower for accommodations, traffic is light and the weather is mild.

As always, the festival includes a wide variety of programs and this year -- due to popular demand -- there are an increased number of photography programs to be taught by professionals. Classes have been designed for both the skilled and not-so-practiced, as well as some programs for children and/or families.

To learn more about the Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival call 252-216-9464 or go to www.wingsoverwater.org.