West Texas Nature Festivals
Ro Wauer, September 5, 2004, The Victoria Advocate, © 2004
I recently participated in two West Texas nature festivals, the new Big Bend Nature Festival in Big Bend National Park and the Hummingbird Festival in the Davis Mountains. I presented evening programs at both, and I gave two butterfly field trips in Big Bend. I had a great time and was impressed with both festivals. Participants seemed to have had a great time, as well.
Next year promises to be even better, as the coordinators hope to blend the two into one so that the two can run together as a seven-day affair, three days in Big Bend, one in Marathon, and three in the Davis Mountains. This year there were five days between the two, so most of the participants in Big Bend's Nature Festival went home. Only a few return to join others for the Hummingbird Festival.
Participants in Big Bend's Nature Festival were offered a diversity of activities. These ranged from birding for beginners to those individuals willing to hike into the Chisos Mountain highlands to see Colima warblers, painted redstarts, and a number of hummingbirds, butterfly field trips that chalked up almost 50 species, and geology jeep trips. Talks also covered a range of interests from wildlife to reptiles and Big Bend's diverse plant life. A highly successful star party, under a clear star-filled sky, was held one night.
The Hummingbird Festival included several field trips that were able to show participants a grand total of nine hummigbird species, including some true rarities such as Anna's, Allen's, Broad-billed, Lucifer, and Magnificient. My keynote program was on the environmental diversity of the Davis Mountains using butterflies as examples.
Like most nature festivals, part of the fun was seeing friends that only seem to appear at such events. I also was able to spend a few "free" days just roaming around the two areas, some of my most favorite places in the World. I found a total of 64 butterfly species in Big Bend and 58 in the Davis Mountains. One day was spent wandering about the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute property just south of Ft. Davis. This is a fascinating place with good trails and a visitor center/gift shop well worth visiting. The cactus garden at the Institute is exceptional and includes all the species known for the Trans-Pecos as well as many rare Mexican species.
I also visited the Texas Nature Conservancy property in the Davis Mountains uplands, where a new visitor center is under construction. Rainy weather had produced swollen creeks that did not permit a visit to the higher Mt. Livermore area. I had visited that magnificient area several times in the past, so I was not too upset. And I also visited the new visitor center at McDonald Observatory; it even has an excellent luncheon suite.
In 2005, the joint nature festival is scheduled for August 11 to 17. Although folks hearing about a summer festival in West Texas often comment that at that time of year it is too hot. Actually, once the rainy season begins in July, the mountains, where the majority of the activities are planned, are very pleasant. In fact, participants wore jackets several mornings this year. Weather conditions in the Chisos and Davis mountains are wonderful by then; April and May are the hottest months.
I have every intention of participating in the West Texas Nature Festival in 2005, and I know that many other folks interested in nature will join me. For more information you can check the Big Bend web page at www.visitbigbend.com.