huronfringefest

One of Canada's Premier Birding and Nature Festivals

Archive for January 12th, 2013

NORAH’S FESTIVAL STORY

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 Norah Toth, retired Natural Heritage Education Specialist, MacGregor Point Provincial Park,

tells us her Festival story.

Norah with Binos

“The Huron Fringe Birding Festival has become so much a part of my life it is hard to remember how it all began.  It started, for me, in the early-1990s as a result of one of the reorganizations of the Ministry of Natural Resources. My job was moved to MacGregor Point Provincial Park and I went there with a passion for volunteers and a love of the resource.  As a result, one of my first tasks involved connecting the park to the camping and naturalist community by establishing the Friends of MacGregor Point.

“Almost immediately, our Friends group was a going concern. The President, Doug Martin, had “grown up” in MacGregor and knew it better than some of the park staff and definitely better than I did!  The Friends Board proposed the construction of an observation tower and raised the $30,000 required in less than a year. It was built on the Ducks Unlimited wetland at the south end of the park. A number of birders certainly were enjoying it and members of the local birding community were regular visitors. In fact this part of the park was favoured by those doing their Baillie Birdathon because if they came around May 23 the number of warblers found would help move their total numbers “way up”.

“As staff, we began to see a change in our spring customers much to the Park’s benefit.  Victoria Day weekend and the weekends immediately after had typically experienced lower use.  Provincial Parks generally were still known as “party” locations in the spring.  Staff felt that if we placed an emphasis on birding and nature activities, it might result in visitors coming to the park for a different purpose.  I realized that this was happening when the other park staff started to remark that the “bird” people were back. They were easily recognized by their binoculars and field guides. 

“Well-known local birders – Dave Fidler, Mark Wiercinski, Kathy and Martin Parker – each had an imprint on the Festival and by 1998 it became a reality.  The Friends applied for and received a grant, which I administered for them.  Kathy Parker and Lynda Steinacher were hired and we began to move the Festival from a small one-day event to two four day weekends over ten-days.  The Huron Fringe Birding Festival, which required more time, volunteers and commitment than the park could manage it on its own, successfully transitioned to a Friends program.   

“The year Kathy coordinated the Festival, was the only time the Festival had staff.  When her contract was over, it became a volunteer-driven event.  And yet we thrived simply because many of our leaders were local naturalists connected to the Owen Sound, Huron Fringe and Saugeen Field Naturalist Clubs. Members of the newly formed (at the time) Bruce County Bird Finders Club were gladly willing to share their knowledge about birding opportunities in the local area. Today this desire has been adopted by the current Bruce Birding Club whose members lead and volunteer for the Festival.  And today the Park continues its commitment to the Festival by providing administrative and on-site support.

“Through the years, the Festival has had hardworking volunteer Chairs – Judith King, Barbara Martin, Mike Pickup, John Cummings, Jim Duncan and Norah Toth. Mary Rapati and Bette Jean Martin have provided registration support developing a registration a program that allows participants to register on-line.  We now have a committee of 10, under the leadership of Jim Duncan and I, who oversee Festival operation.  We work steadily, from September to May each year, to put together the program and ensure that we have a Festival which each of our visitors will find enjoyable and fun. 

“It is always exciting to connect each year with Joan Crowe, Doug Martin and Mark Wiercinski.  They have been with us since our first year and have become the Festival’s cheerleaders and great friends!  But there are many others who also come each spring to present at the Festival – Michael Carlson, Judith King, James Turland, Fred Jazvac and John Cummings are some of our veteran leaders.  And I remember with fondness our leaders who are no longer with us – Ross Snider and Mac Campbell who both contributed greatly to the Festival.

“I’ll have been retired for over two years when the Festival happens this spring.  I’m now one of the volunteers. I have to admit that my passion for volunteers and the resource is still there.  I’m looking forward to seeing our participants, leaders and volunteers; some of whom have been part of my extended “birding family” for over 15 years.  It is always satisfying to know that we are all there for the same purpose – to appreciate the fantastic resources of MacGregor Point Provincial Park and its surrounding areas while at the same time enjoying the friendly, relaxed atmosphere found at the Huron Fringe Birding Festival.”

“See you in May.”

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Call, write or contact us on-line and make sure you’re part of it all. The Huron Fringe Birding Festival runs from May 24 to June 2, 2013. 

Registration begins February 1, 2013 at www.friendsofmacgregor.org

On facebook:http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Friends-of-MacGregor-Point-Park/101912730956

 

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