Wings will be spread and thousands of curious eyes will be wide open during this year’s Merrimack River Eagle Festival held Saturday, Feb. 17, in Newburyport and Amesbury. The annual Eagle Festival, which welcomes back bald eagles to the region, is co-sponsored by the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center and features events there and across Newburyport and Amesbury. Be sure to check online for a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities which showcase the magnificence of America’s enduring symbol of freedom. Feature image taken by Jim and titled (Mr. LifeLoomsLarge).
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge’s Jean Adams said activities there include owl pellet dissection, fish printing, drawing bird pictures, creating pine cone feeders, live animals from Drumlin Farm. “Plus we have seal watchers at the north end of Plum Island and bird observers at the refuge near North Poll Overlook, Adams said.
According to Adams, the most popular feature is the live animals, as always provided by Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm. As for arts and crafts kids and adults love fish printing (Gyotaku- the Japanese art of making prints out of real fish but in this case they use rubber fish).”It’s messy but people love it. Many people enjoy going to the North End of the Island to look for seals (we have volunteer observers there ),” Adams said. A big plus for Parker River National Wildlife Refuge staff is the chance of working with their friends from Mass Audubon.
“Plus it’s a great family activity during the dull and dreary winter months. It creates an incentive to go outside and see what’s out there. When people get to see bald eagles for the first time– that’s amazing . It’s something you never tire of –seeing an eagle but equally fun is seeing how excited people are when they see these magnificent birds,” Adams said. Lastly, according to Adams, the Eagle Festival acts as a great showcase for the refuge.“Which is fabulous during all seasons and it’s a great way to get out and see the local ‘off refuge’ areas along the river. We are so lucky to live here and the Eagle Festival is a way to celebrate that fact,” Adams said.
Over at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, visitors will be able to learn about bald eagles, snowy owls and other raptors indigenous to the area. At Joppa Flats, and at Mass Audubon, their mission is to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife, and the Eagle Festival is a great way to connect the two, according Melissa Vokey of Joppa Flats. “The thing about the Eagle Festival is that there’s something for everyone because everyone has his or her own way of connecting to bald eagles and nature. It takes more places than just Joppa Flats to provide all the possibilities,” Vokey said.
At Newburyport City Hall, Mary-Beth Kaeser of Horizon Wings will be presenting two programs involving live raptors. And be sure to stick around for the chance to have your photo taken with a raptor for a small donation. Also, bald eagle tours start every half and hour and depart from the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry located at 38R Merrimac St., Newburyport.
For a complete guide to the Eagle Festival Events and Activities happening at Joppa Flats and the Parker River Visitor Center visit the Newburyport.com Events Calendar.