Mark your calendars — the bird festival will soon be here. This year there are even more activities — many of them at no cost — for the community that begin on April 11 and continue through April 14.
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Theatre to show two special movies
The 32nd year of the John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival begins on Thursday, April 11, with the viewing of a new video, “Raising Kid Colt — A Story of a Young Sandhill Crane” at 7 p.m. at the Harney County Community Center. This 35-minute video follows a crane pair from their arrival in Homer, Ala., as they nest, raise their young, depart in the fall and then return in the spring. It offers unique insight into sandhill crane behavior and contains footage never before filmed. Gary Ivey of the International Crane Foundation will be available to answer any questions about cranes. Come learn about the life of sandhill cranes at this free event.
The Historic Desert Theatre is also offering showings of two unique movies during the festival weekend. “Meeks Cut-Off,” which was filmed in Harney County, will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday. The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants must face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in each other’s instincts for survival. The theatre shifts reels on Friday with a 7 p.m. showing of the documentary “Winged Migration.” This documentary follows several species of migratory birds over a four-year filming period. These birds travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles toward the equator in the autumn, and make the return journey to their higher latitude summer homes in the spring, always taking the same route, using the natural compasses of the universe, the stars, to find their way. A second showing of the film will be held on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The festival wings into full gear on Friday, April 12, with displays of the entries for the Youth Art Contest in Burns and Hines businesses throughout the weekend.
Bureau of Land Management Archaeologist Scott Thomas will be available Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the high school cafeteria to answer questions after he presents the latest information about evidence of Clovis culture in southeastern Oregon, Edible Spring Plants in the Harney Basin, a World War II B24 Crash in the Pueblo Mountains, and the Gap Ranch Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. These interesting and detailed discussions give listeners a visual opportunity to experience the history, archaeology and cultural botany in the Harney Basin. The relaxed atmosphere of this presentation will allow for plenty of question and answer time and casual stretch breaks. Come and go as you please!
The finalists in the Youth Art Contest will be on display in the Art Show at the high school beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday. This year’s Art Show will feature artists from around the Northwest, as well as some of the local artists. You don’t want to miss this fantastic display of wildlife art. The Harney County CattleWomen will also be offering a tri-tip tasting on Friday at the high school from 5 to 7:30 p.m. This is your opportunity to learn more about this important Harney County agricultural industry while sampling some delicious food. You may also want to try your hand at calf roping while you’re visiting with members of the HC CattleWomen.
After you’ve sampled some tri-tip and looked at the Art Show offerings, you’ll want to stay around for a performance by the Veritas School Concert Choir from Newberg. The choir is coming to Harney County as part of their five-day Eastern Oregon Concert Tour. They are the two-time High School State Choir Champions, in the 2A/1A division. They will sing a wide variety of a capella music from around the world. Their concert begins at 6:15 p.m. in the Burns High School cafeteria and is offered at no cost to the community.
But the evening doesn’t end there. Back by popular demand is Trish Nixon from the Boise Center for Birds of Prey at 7:30 p.m. Nixon’s free presentation is “OWL Be Darned……Amazing Facts about Owls of all Types.” You’ll learn about some little known traits and habits of all types of owls, and she’s going to bring two owls with her, large and small, for the audience to meet, photograph, and learn more about. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to meet these amazing night predators.
Saturday begins with a variety of activities for the entire family. The Burns Lions Club and Martinak Ventures will hold a Building Bird Houses Workshop at noon in the high school wood shop that is geared for youngsters, but all ages are invited to join in the fun. Instructors will be available to help participants build a basic bird house. Materials and tools are provided, and participants get to take their free bird house home! Be sure to come early, as the workshop ends when the materials run out.
The Harney Basin Heritage and Kids Fun Fair will be held on Saturday from noon until 3 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. Participants of all ages can learn about the prehistory, history, culture and wildlife of the area. There will be free wildlife art projects, heritage activities, exhibits, balloon animals, free face painting and much more. You may even want to paint your newly constructed bird house at the Fun Fair. You don’t want to miss this free fun-filled family event sponsored by local agencies.
The festival is hosting a new free Saturday workshop — “Introduction to Bird Sketching: Quick and Easy Methods to Learn to Draw Birds.” This hands-on workshop is being presented by artist and biologist Christine Elder. Elder believes that “art and science can be gateways to each other, as each discipline can entice learners to become fascinated with the other.” Elder has a master’s degree in biology and a graduate certificate in scientific illustration. She has taught courses in both science and art for more than 15 years. She is teaching Drawing from Nature classes through June at The Art Station in Bend. Elder will hold two workshops: a youth workshop (ages 12 and under) from 11 a.m. until noon, and an adult workshop (ages 13 and older) from 1 until 3 p.m. If you’re interested in learning some techniques to illustrate wildlife, this is the workshop for you.
A highlight of the festival is the Saturday evening banquet at the Harney County Fairgrounds Memorial Building. The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a no-host beer and wine social hour and then a 6 p.m. dinner catered by Wendy Reid of KB Catering. The evening ends with an insightful presentation by Dr. Greg Butcher, Director of Bird Conservation for the National Audubon Society, about how climate change is influencing the distribution of birds in North America. Nearly 60 percent of the 305 species found in North America in winter are on the move, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles. Audubon scientists analyzed 40 years of citizen-science Christmas bird count data, and their findings provide new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems. You do not want to miss this fascinating and timely presentation, especially if you have participated in the Harney County Christmas Bird Count. Tickets for the meal and presentation are $25 per person. Pre-purchase at the Harney County Chamber of Commerce or Bird Central at the high school is strongly encouraged. Tickets to attend the 7 p.m. presentation without dinner are $15.
The festival winds down on Sunday, and you’ll have one last chance to visit the Art Show before it closes at 2 p.m. Be sure to stop by the high school to view the finalists in the Youth Art Contest, view art and photography from around the northwest and to visit with old and new friends. See you at the Bird Festival!