THOMASVILLE — The threat of the first rain in more than a month did not keep people from attending the fourth annual Pinewoods Bird Festival Saturday.

Hundreds got up early to attend more than 12 tours or demonstrations, ranging from fire ecology and prescribed burns to sink holes and red-cockaded woodpeckers.

“We had about 30 slots for each trip and the majority of them sold out,” said Whitney White, special projects director, on Saturday morning. “We’ve got great vendors and the weather has cooperated this morning. The children’s area is ready to go and we hope people come out because we have activities that appeal to everyone.”

Keisley Coffee, 3, got her face painted by Jessica Dell of the Thomasville Cultural Center under the kids activities tent. She came to the festival to take the tour of the pinewoods and to see the animals.

Barbara Sullivan of the St. Francis Wildlife Association was there with several owls, including Maya, a unique owl because of her brown eyes.

Sullivan said she believes Maya could be a cross between a flammulated owl and a eastern screech owl, because she is smaller with slightly different coloring, feathers and eyes (the eastern screech owl has yellow or yellow-green eyes).

Kelsey Reetz, 7, and her brother Michael Reetz, 11, spent some time with Lisa Baggett, an administrative assistant for Tall Timbers Research Station.

Baggett explained to them the life and diet of a corn snake, often mistaken for a copperhead because of its coloring and design.

Michael Reetz said he enjoyed the birds, particularly the woodpeckers, but was not very fond of Nutty, the corn snake, who tried to make friends with he and his sister.

“I touched it,” he said proudly after having briefly touched Nutty’s back.

Elsewhere, Campbell Beadles, 9, and Zachary Walter, 10, spent time dissecting owl pellets.

Beadles, who dissected his pellet with the utmost concentration, said he wants to be a scientist and work with birds.

“I’m fascinated by the way they move, act and get around,” he said.

And the owl pellets?

“They’re soft and cool,” said Beadles.

Walter, who was likewise enthusiastic about the project, said he has several books on birds and thought birds were “awesome.”

Campbell’s dad, Bryant Beadles, said the festival was a good opportunity for children to learn new things about the animals around them.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to feel like they are a part of nature and they can see wildlife up close and do things like dissect owl pellets to learn about the diet of owls,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience.”

People continued to trickle in throughout the morning. By 3 p.m., there had been a sprinkle but no hard rain.

Sydney Stanfield, 9, and her older sister Sarah, 11, spent plenty of time with Amos, one of Pebble Hill’s horses.

“I love horses,” said Sydney as she petted a very docile Amos. “I love to ride them and they’re so soft.”

Leon and Julie Neel were busy showing a variety of butterflies to festival-goers.

“Butterflies are beautiful things,” said Leon Neel. “My wife is the expert.”

Julie Neel said children should learn about the environment.

“Children are always interested in the butterfly and want to help protect it,” she said. “Children need to know all they can about the environment and how to protect it and its inhabitants like the butterfly. We need to ensure that we keep these things around us.”

Todd Engstrom, a volunteer who led tours through the pinewoods, said he spent a great morning with a group of “energized Cub Scouts.”

“We studied the feathered pine, toured the pinewoods, discussed the red-cockaded woodpecker and fire ecology,” he said. “We had a good group and they had a great time. They asked a lot of questions. It’s always a good experience for kids to learn more about the environment. Thomasville has some of the best long leaf pine forests in the world and that is something that its citizens should be proud of, too.”

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