Original story published by the Auburn Citizen, by Dave Wilcox
May 5, 2016
Canadian brothers Neil and Michael Fletcher went viral in November when they took a selfie with a bald eagle they had freed from a trap.
Guests at Saturday's 10th annual Wildlife Festival at the Montezuma Audubon Center won't be able to photograph themselves with the national bird, but plenty of others — plus reptiles, amphibians and mammals — will be camera-ready all day.
The festival will bring together Wildlife Defenders, Kindred Kingdoms Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and KrittrKriss and Feathered Friends for a full day of presentations and other activities calling attention to the center's status as a crucial stop for millions of migrating birds.
Wildlife Defenders, an educational outreach group of Bridges for Brain Injury that encourages conservation through animal education, will present from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. From noon to 1 p.m. the featured guest will be Kindred Kingdoms, Jean and Len Soprano's nonprofit that cares for injured birds of prey and black bears. Finally, KrittrKriss and Feathered Friends, a wildlife rehabilitation organization, will be up from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
After each presentation, attendees will be able to take selfies with the stars of the show for $1.
Chris Lajewski, director of the Montezuma Audubon Center, said the birds will include great horned owls, snowy owls and turkey vultures. However, he can't say for certain which reptiles, amphibians and mammals are on the festival's guest list.
"It's usually a gametime decision," he said with a laugh. "They never know which animals are going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed that morning.
Also on the Wildlife Festival schedule are guided canoe trips at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. where festival-goers can look for osprey, cerulean warblers, bald eagles, Baltimore orioles, great blue herons and more.
For those who'd rather let the animals come to them, the Audubon center will have plenty to fill out the festival: children's games, crafts and prizes, balloon animal making with Ms. Twist, a bounce house, "Nature Tunes and Tales" with George Steele, "The Magic of Being Green" magic show with Professor Green Pockets, dozens of artisan vendors and exhibitors, a native plant sale, acoustic music by Tom Barnes and country radio by Big Dog Country 103.5 FM, food, Cayuga Lake Creamery ice cream, baked goods and more.
Still, Lajewski said, the animals are the star of the show.
Of the 1,000 people he expects to show up at the center this sunny Saturday in Savannah, many will have been to past years' festivals. That's why the center tries to give them new fauna to feast their eyes on every year, he said.
The beneficiary of all that awe — and, this year, selfie snapping — is the center and its mission of conserving and restoring the Montezuma Wetlands Complex.
"The Audubon center, for 10 years now, has been working with a variety of conservation organizations to conserve the wetlands complex as an important bird area and connect people to this amazing natural resource," Lajewski said. "And the significant gateway program offered at the center is this festival."