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Wildbird Recovery to host open house, migration festival

American Kestrel falcons at Wildbird Recovery at Stormy Oaks Nature Conservancy.photography by Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

MIDDLESEX TWP — On Saturday, Wildbird Recovery at Stormy Oaks Nature Conservancy will open its grounds to those who contributed to a fundraiser for a now-completed aviary enclosure.

“We've been collecting money for our new aviary enclosure as well as spreading awareness for International Turkey Vulture Day (which also is Saturday),” said Melissa McMaster-Brown, who runs the conservancy with her parents, David and Beth McMaster, on a volunteer basis.

Wildbird Recovery at Stormy Oaks was founded in 2000, and is the only wildlife rehabilitation center in Butler County that offers bird rehabilitation care. It is staffed by the McMaster family and a group of volunteers and offers nature education classes, summer camps and homeschool activity programs along with providing care for injured birds.

The conservancy has been gathering funds to build the enclosure for the past five years, but had started a specific fundraiser to support its completion in recent months.The conservancy had $15,000 saved over five years. The online fundraiser has so far garnered about $2,120 out of a goal of $6,000, but McMaster-Brown said that donors have given more than $3,000 in recent months, through mail-in general donations external to the fundraiser's website.“We didn't realize how many people in the community were not aware of our organization,” she said. “People have reached out to us through the mail, sending handwritten notes and donations full of gratitude for what we do.”New home for birdsLicensed wildlife rehabilitator Amber Treese designed the 20-foot-by-24-foot enclosure that will house birds ready to be released into the wild. It also will provide a home for the conservancy's resident education turkey vulture, Artemis, sometimes called “Arty.”“Arty will be participating in education programming and is a great education ambassador, but he needs a place to call his own,” McMaster-Brown said.Tickets to the open-house event were sent to anyone who donated more than $10 to the fundraiser by mail, online or PayPal. So far, McMaster-Brown anticipates around 40 people will attend the open house.The event will run from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Stormy Oaks Nature Conservancy, 120 Forsythe Road in Middlesex Township.“We're going to do a tour, turkey vulture facts, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to thank everybody who has, over the past five years, donated toward the new enclosure,” McMaster-Brown said.The fundraiser will be open until the day of the open house. Tickets still are available through donating online.Migration festivalTwo weeks later, on Sept. 19, the conservancy will host its 10th annual Fall Migration Festival. The educational event doubles as the main fundraiser for the site during the year, and is open to the public for day-of-ticket sales.The festival brings experts on local wildlife together to share their knowledge with visitors.“We will have presenters for the evening speaking, and we will have several exhibits set up featuring info about bats, bugs and bears, bees and beavers,” McMaster-Brown said. “We'll also have raffle baskets, silent auction and food by Freedom Farms.”David Yeany, of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, will speak about the Grosbeak Monitoring Project, an initiative to track the winter movements of finches and gather information to further inform conservation efforts.In the past, the event has raised between $7,000 and $10,000 for the conservancy through ticket sales and sponsors. McMaster-Brown hopes the festival will bring attention to the conservancy's work as well as get people exploring outside.“It's a chance for people to learn about nature. That's why we're trying to raise awareness,” she said. “Conservation is the main driver.”

The new enclosure will provide a home for “Arty,” Wildbird Recovery's education ambassador turkey vulture. Submitted photo.

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