The annual Birding and Heritage Festival begins today (April 23) and continues through Sunday at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near Cherokee.
Activities will include a youth archery and casting contests, trap shoot, live music and more. Information will be available about waterfowl and wildlife identification, wetland restoration, tomahawk throwing, astronomy and National Wildlife Refuge System history.
Today at dusk, Cherokee will host a movie premiere presentation of “Over the Hedge” at AEC park. Later this evening, Great Salt Plains State Park will offer high- powered telescopes, with an astronomy program at dark.
Saturday’s activities begin at 7 a.m. with a session on birds that migrate to Salt Plains, with refuge biologist Ron Shepperd coordinating the festival bird count.
The selenite crystal digging contest also is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the salt flats east of Cherokee.
Sand diggers will hunt for the rare hourglass selenite crystals of gypsum and prizes will be awarded.
Children’s wildlife activities will be ongoing Saturday at Byron State Fish Hatchery fromo 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Oklahoma Zoomobile Program will be set up at the refuge from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday night programs at the Byron State Fish Hatchery include a presentation on bats, a campfire program in the state park starting at 7:30 p.m. and a guided night walk, “The Prairie Under Cover of Darkness,” presented by the state Wildlife Department beginning at 8:15 p.m. at the hatchery.
On Sunday morning, birding tours leave at 7 a.m. from the refuge headquarters.
Chrisitian Community of Cherokee will hold a gospel sing-along at 1 p.m. at AEC Park. A tour of historical buildings and homes in Cherokee also is scheduled Sunday.
The free event is a cooperative efffort between the refuge, Great Salt Plains Association, Great Salt Plains State Park, Byron State Fish Hatchery, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, City of Cherokee and Alfalfa County.
For more information, call the refuge at (580) 626-4794 or the park at (580) 626-4731.