Monday, December 31, 2012

A Celebration of Cranes Planned for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Inaugural event kicks off Wheeler’s 75th anniversary.

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge will hold its first Festival of the Cranes, a one-day event filled with refuge tours, upclose viewings, workshops, live raptors, and nature walks, January 12, 2013, kicking off a year-long celebration of Wheeler’s 75th anniversary. The celebration of Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes will bring together experienced birders and those who would like to learn more about birding while providing opportunities to learn about the cranes and other wildlife that calls the Refuge home.  

Over 11,000 Sandhill Cranes along with several pairs of Whooping Cranes spend the winter each year at Wheeler National Wildflife Refuge. Hosted by the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association, the Festival of the Cranes kicks off at 6 a.m. with a Sunrise Breakfast in the Visitor Center classroom. Following breakfast, Refuge Manager Dwight Cooley will lead an early morning birding walk to see cranes and other waterfowl arrive in the fields to begin their day of feeding and loafing. A $5 donation is suggested and participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring binoculars and a camera.

Throughout the day, the enclosed Wildlife Observation Building, complete with bleachers and spotting scopes, will offer views of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, along with Whooping Cranes, ducks, geese, raptors, and maybe a bald eagle. Volunteers and staff members will be on hand to answer questions.

Acclaimed author, storyteller, and naturalist Brian “Fox” Ellis will be the special guest and featured speaker and will be presenting his Adventures with Audubon. His portrayal of Audubon will enchant participants with stories from some of the wildest places on Earth. At 9 a.m., he will host Bird is the Word writing workshop. In this participatory workshop, participants will learn tips for effective journaling, how to use poetry to help write clearer and more exciting essays, and how to turn field notes into publishable articles. At 11:30 a.m., he presents Bird Tales: Stories and Songs from Many Cultures, a blend of his lifelong love for birds and traditional folktales from different cultures. Through poetry and song, legends and facts, a celebration of all things crane is planned for 2:15 p.m. when Ellis presents Crane Tales Around the World. At 4 p.m., Ellis (as John James Audubon) concludes the day-long event with a recap of his tales from his travels and travails.

Additional activities include a showing of Hope Takes Wing, a film by and about Operation Migration chronicling the history of the Whooping crane; Raptor Trek! Alabama’s Premier Live Bird of Prey Experience featuring owls, hawks, falcons, and a Bald Eagle presented by Becky Collier of the Alabama 4-H Center; and children’s activities centering around the importance of cranes in Japanese culture. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association will sponsor a pizza lunch. A $5 donation to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association is suggested. The day-long event concludes at 5 p.m.

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 3121 Visitor Center Road in Decatur. For more information on the Festival of the Cranes, visit or call Teresa Adams, supervisory ranger for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, at 256.350.6639.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established on July 7, 1938 by Executive Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first National Wildlife Refuge placed on a multi-purpose reservoir to provide habitat for wintering and migrating birds. Covering 35,000 acres, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. The Refuge also supports the state’s largest concentration of Sandhill Cranes. The 75th Anniversary Celebration featuring live raptors and wildlife, children’s activities, and special guest and master of ceremonies “T.R. Roosevelt” as portrayed by Joe Wiegand, is set for October 5, 2013. For more information on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, visit 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Heart Behind the Music: A Songwriter's Showcase

Decatur’s historic Princess Theatre presents The Heart Behind the Music: A Songwriter’s Showcase on Monday, December 10 at 7:30pm.  A night of hit songs from the Billboard Pop, Gospel and Country charts performed by the artists themselves -- Lenny LeBlanc, John Ford Coley and Marty Raybon.  An upclose and personal look behind the songs like “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” and “Falling.”  Tickets available at 256.340.1778 or

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music

Direct from a world tour and the Hollywood Bowl, Decatur’s Princess Theatre brings you the smash hit musical show Sing-a-Long-a Sound of Music on Saturday, December 8 at 1PM.  It‘s a screening of the classic Julie Andrews film musical on the big screen complete with subtitles to sing a long!  A host leads the audience in vocal warm ups and takes them through their “magic moments packs” and the famous costume competition.  Tickets at 256.340.1778 or

Annual Parade of Lights Set for Saturday, December 8th

Sponsored by the Riverwalk Yacht Club and Extreme Marine, the annual Parade of Lights will take to the waterway, illuminating Decatur’s Wheeler Lake, on Saturday, December 8, 2012. The free holiday maritime event features approximately 25 boats of all types and sizes decorated with lights, holiday themes, and other festive trimmings for the holiday season. The public is also invited for a leisurely stroll around the docks for an up close look at the brightly lit boats prior to the parade.

Beginning at 4 p.m., the docks at Riverwalk Marina open allowing the public to admire the boats and their holiday decorations before they set sail. In addition, the Morgan County Humane Society will be on-hand with various animals available for adoption. With Christmas just around the corner, a new pet would be a wonderful present for someone. The Morgan County Humane Society will also be accepting donations of pet food, supplies, and cash.

At 6 p.m. the boat parade will take its usual circular route, making three trips from the entrance of Riverwalk Marina located on Highway 31, west to the Railroad Bridge, east in front of Rhodes Ferry Park to the Highway 31 bridge, and then back into the Marina. The best viewing will be at Rhodes Ferry Park, the Hard Dock CafĂ© or at the Marina. 

Anyone interested in participating in the parade or for more information, contact Bob Namie at 256.306.0909.