It's hard to miss the avian chorus at dawn lately.
As spring has moved in to Central Kentucky, so has the music of the birds.
There are a lot of opportunities this month to learn more about our feathered friends. You can explore habitat at preserves and parks, watch a film or a raptor presentation, visit a birdhouse display and even make one of your own.
The second annual Bluegrass Birding Festival and Craft Fair highlights the return of migrating birds to Central Kentucky and the start of new life in this year's nesting season.
Nic Patton, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited, and Lexington Parks and Recreation organized the festival to bring together groups with common birding interests. The festival is based at Jacobson Park, but walks and events take place throughout Fayette County.
"I grew up on the southwest side of Cincinnati and always enjoyed nature. I was involved in Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle," Patton says. "I became aware of birding events around the country and was dismayed to find there wasn't anything similar in our area."
The extensive activity list can be found on the festival's website, Bluegrassbirdingfestival.com, and the schedule is packed.
There are 11 birding walks on Saturday alone, at locations including Jacobson Park, the Lexington Cemetery, Raven Run, and Floracliff Nature Sanctuary.
Floracliff's preserve manager, Beverly James, describes birding there. "Floracliff lies within the Kentucky River Palisades region, which provides an important forested corridor in Central Kentucky for migratory birds.
"We regularly see Louisiana water thrushes along Elk Lick Creek and are occasionally treated with glimpses of summer or scarlet tanagers. Of course, there are a number of birds, such as warblers and vireos, that we hear more than we see. A favorite migrant of our visitors is the indigo bunting, which is common in the fields and easy to spot."
One of the easiest ways to see a variety of birds at a close distance is to set up bird feeders outside a window, James suggested. Birdhouses for wrens, bluebirds, purple martins and chickadees also can help you attract and observe birds, she said.
"Also, landscaping at home or at school with native plants can provide food for birds year-round, especially if the plants are host plants for caterpillars, an important food source for birds, or provide fruit and seeds that birds devour," she said.
Engaging young people in birding is one of Patton's goals in creating the festival.
"Our hope is to get kids outdoors, expose as many people as possible to the hobby of bird watching and to educate on topics of wildlife and conservation.
"During this event, we also like to showcase not only the diversity of birds but also the beauty of the region that is so often overlooked," he said. There will be a raffle to raise money to create a public bird blind, where birds can be viewed from a shelter, at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary.
Festival activities will include special bird walks for kids and a live birds of prey demonstration.
The festival's keynote speaker is Greg Miller, who spent a year traversing North America, finding more than 700 bird species. His travels were the basis for The Big Year, a book by Mark Obmascik that was later made into a movie.
Miller will speak from 5 to 6 p.m. May 9 at Jacobson Park. The Big Year, staring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Central Library.
Note: This story was altered from an earlier version to correct the date of Greg Miller's talk.