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Photographer headlines May Festival of Birds in Detroit Lakes

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- Whether it's capturing playful foxes, lumbering elephants or graceful birds, Melissa Groo has traveled around the world photographing wildlife.

This Western grebe was shot by wildlife photographer Melissa Groo. The grebe is the theme bird for this year's Festival of Birds in Detroit Lakes next month.
This Western grebe was shot by wildlife photographer Melissa Groo. The grebe is the theme bird for this year's Festival of Birds in Detroit Lakes next month.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - Whether it's capturing playful foxes, lumbering elephants or graceful birds, Melissa Groo has traveled around the world photographing wildlife.

She has worked as a research assistant in Central Africa with the elephants and has had her photography published in worldwide magazines.

Next month, she'll be visiting the Festival of Birds in Detroit Lakes, May 14-17.

In its 18th year, the Festival of Birds promises new events and locations, mixed with the tried- and-true.

One of the biggest changes for this year's festival is location. Headquartered at M State in the past, this year it's moving to Detroit Mountain.

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"It's a nice natural location," Festival Organizer and Tourism Director Cleone Stewart said.

For those looking for a free event and to check out the mountain in the spring, there will be two free nature hikes at the mountain-one on Thursday and one on Saturday.

Stacy Salvevold, deputy project leader at the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District, will lead those hikes.

"You'll go to the top of the mountain and bird along the way," Stewart said.

There will be several new trips and opportunities for those participating in the festival this year. "We like to mix in something new with the favorites," Stewart said.

Sparrows

Doug Buri will be presenting on sparrows May 14 at a new location-Concordia Long Lake Biological Research Station at Long Lake Park in Detroit Lakes.

"He has been an amazing birder for 50 years," festival organizer Kelly Blackledge said. "He is one of the best sparrow identification guides. He has so much enthusiasm for the prairies, you want to learn more when you hang out with Doug Buri."

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Like the mountain headquarters, the Long Lake location is new this year.

"We try to forge partnerships. This is the first with Concordia," Stewart said.

A birding basics hike will also take place that day in Sucker Creek Preserve, just east of Detroit Lakes.

Stewart said it's important to showcase locations like Sucker Creek and Dunton Locks to let people know there are hot spots for birding right here.

Also new this year is a welcome social Thursday evening. Local band Hardwood Groove Trio will be providing entertainment, and a cash bar will be available to visitors. This event is open to the public.

The main program Thursday night focuses on Bob Janssen and his newest book, "Birds of Minnesota State Parks."

Feeding birds

May 15's main speaker, Paul Baicich, is a nationally known birder, writer and avitourism consultant from Maryland.

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Carrol Henderson will assist Baicich with his presentation on feeding wild birds. The presentation and dinner that night will be held at The Barn at Five Lakes Resort near Frazee.

Also on that Friday, a trip out to Forest Edge Gallery near Vergas is on the schedule.

"This is a good example of showcasing our secrets," Blackledge said of the rural art gallery.

The two early morning birding field trips don't stray too far from home. They include Glendalough State Park/Seven Sisters Prairie and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

Blackledge, a ranger at Tamarac, said that visit will include a hike down the North Country Trail and a sneak peak at the yet-to-be-opened Discovery Center.

Local hot spots

May 16 will feature some locations in Becker County's backyard.

The two morning field trip destinations are Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Callaway/Ogema Springs Bio Blitz. The Callaway trip is new this year, and "Hamden is always a favorite, too," Stewart said.

"Regardless of the trip Saturday, you're gonna have presenters that are expert birders," she added.

Each field trip every day has five experts to talk about everything from the landscape to the birds. Blackledge said that's one of the biggest advantages to this festival.

"It's unique because of all the leaders on the field trips. It's amazing the interactions you get with expert guides," she added.

A local hot spots trip Saturday morning will feature Sucker Creek, Detroit Mountain, Dunton Locks, Waterfowl Production Area and more.

May 16 will also feature a silent auction, Birder's Bazaar, book signings and free workshops at the Mountain.

Groo will be the main speaker May 16.

"She is really talented. We are so fortunate to get her," Stewart said, who added that she heard of Groo through a Facebook post regarding an African safari Groo is heading up in July.

Groo is a nature photographer from New York who has served as a research assistant on the Elephant Listening Project in the rainforest of Central Africa. She has captured wildlife images from around the globe. Her work can be seen at melissagroo.com.

"One cool thing about her is she never baits animals, even birds, to get her shot," Stewart said.

Fan favorite

May 17's field trip to Syre and Felton Prairies is a favorite of past festivalgoers.

"Ulen is a favorite. Everyone puts on the feedback that we should always offer it," Stewart said.

A life-bird for many, the chestnut-collared longspur can be found on this trip. "Numbers are diminishing, so don't wait," Blackledge said.

The other field trip that Sunday heads into North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada. Attendees will spend the night in Bottineau, N.D., and have a chance to visit the International Peace Garden as well.

You will need your passport to attend this field trip.

Early deadline for the festival registration is May 1. To register, either contact the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce at (218) 847-9202 or visit www.visitdetroitlakes.com .

Related Topics: DETROIT LAKESFESTIVALEVENTS
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