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Alabama’s Black Belt Birding Festival is back this weekend

Birders from across the region are converging this weekend in west Alabama for the return of the Black Belt Birding Festival – back after a year’s hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pent-up demand from birders is obvious – the festival is a sellout – but don’t despair. There are free events, open to the public, taking place Saturday, Aug. 7, in Greensboro that will please birders and nonbirders alike.

“It’s a little bittersweet that it’s a sellout, but it’s also super-humbling and exciting,” said Meg Ford, Black Belt coordinator for Alabama Audubon, which is hosting and coordinating the event. She said birders from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee have signed up for the festival’s field trips – eager to explore the unique and diverse habitats of the Black Belt and the varied bird species that frequent them.

The festival is part of Alabama Audubon’s Black Belt Birding Initiative, which is working to spotlight the environmental benefits of bird-based ecotourism for the Black Belt region – a place that has long faced economic challenges. Alabama Power is among the festival’s sponsors.

The event includes birding field trips to local farms, including properties owned by generations of Black farmers. One mission of the festival is to help build awareness and support for Black birders and outdoor enthusiasts. Among the special guests this year is Christian Cooper, a Black birder and member of the board of directors of NYC Audubon in New York. Cooper was the subject of national headlines when he was falsely accused by a white woman of threatening her in New York’s Central Park. The incident also sparked the creation of National Black Birders Week, which highlights Black nature enthusiasts and the dangers they can face when engaging in outdoor activities.

Although Saturday’s field trips are sold out, Ford encouraged people to come out and enjoy the free events in Greensboro that are connected to the festival. They include a vendor expo taking place from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Audubon’s Black Belt office, 1014 Whelan St., that includes information booths about local nonprofits, and items for sale by local retailers and makers. A food truck will be onsite from noon until 2 p.m. Also free on Saturday is a group show of bird art at Aaron Sanders Head Studio on Main Street, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The art is for sale.

Alabama’s Black Belt offers ample opportunities to view birds, Ford said, because of its unique Black Belt Prairie habitat that supports a variety of animal and plant species. The area also has forests, vegetable farms, cattle pastures, catfish ponds and wetlands that attract a variety of bird species.

“This is our first big programming in more than a year, because of the pandemic,” Ford said. She said the festival is an opportunity to showcase the “beautiful biodiversity of the Black Belt” as well as to promote local businesses in Greensboro and the region. She said the city and Hale County, as well as the entire Black Belt, offer a range of attractions for visitors that showcase the region’s unique history, geology and natural resources. “We’re just excited to be able support this beautiful city and the area.”

For more information about the Black Belt Birding Festival, click here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)