Big Bend Festivals, Good Fun in Cooler Weather
by Ro Wauer
More than 150 people enjoyed the dual Big Bend festivals this year! The four-day Big Bend Nature Festival (2nd annual) was centered in the Basin in Big Bend National Park, while the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival (9th annual) included three key areas: the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center, Davis Mountains Preserve of the The Nature Conservancy, and the private home of Marc and Mayann Eastman in the Davis Mountains Resort. The Eastmans maintain several dozen hummingbird feeders this time of year; as many as 14 species of dazzling hummers have been recorded there.
At the Big Bend Festival, keynote speaker Alan Tennant, author of "On the Wing," about his adventures following peregrines from Padre Island to northern Alaska in spring and from Padre Island to Central America in fall, presented a super illustrated talk on Saturday evening. Daytime activities included a wealth of options, from Chisos Mountain hikes to butterfly walks to geology jeep tours. The birding hike into the higher mountains produced some really good birds, including several Big Bend specialties such as the Colima warbler, painted redstart, and Lucifer hummingbird, and also some surprises, like red-faced warbler and white-eared hummingbird. I led butterfly walks on two days; a total of 50 species were found.
All of the Big Bend festival attendees received a t-shit with a Colima warbler on the front and an ad on the back reading, "Second Thursday of Every Year, Chisos Basin, Big Bend National Park." This festival, well organized and with a diversity of activities, is held at a time of year when the West Texas temperatures are mild in the mountains. Jackets were necessary some mornings and evening. The rainy monsoon conditions in late summer produce an abundance of greenery and wildflowers. The park's highlands were in bloom!
The Davis Mountains also had experienced recent rains, and the gentle slopes of the mid-elevations looked like green mantles with a scattering of deeper green conifers. The highlands, topped by 8,382-foot Mount Livermore, contained running streams and an abundance of fall wildflowers. The Davis Mountain festival offered one of the few opportunities to visit the uplands that are owned and managed by the Texas Nature Conservancy (TNC). Festival participation, therefore, was greater than that for the Big Bend festival. And although rainy conditions prevailed on two afternoons, all of the activities were well attended.
Hummingbirds were, of course, the highlight of this festival. The Eastmans showed off their hummingbird numbers that included such fall specialties as blue-throated, magnificent, Lucifer, Anna's, and Allen's hummingbirds. And Sumita Prasad and her two helpers presented a hummingbird banded exhibition just outside TNC's new lodge. And in spite of the festival's name, butterflies were also a significant part of the activities. I presented morning and afternoon walks at the Preserve, and Joann Karges presented daily walks at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center. Although the rainy afternoons limited butterfly numbers, we still managed to find 42 species, including a lone russet skipperling, a species that had been found only once before in the Davis Mountains. One on one rainy afternoon, I presented a PowerPoint program on the butterflies of Mexico's Maderas del Carmen, a high mountain area just southeast of Big Bend National Park.
The Davis Mountains festival also included a number of community activities, including a "Hummingbird Street Fair" in downtown Fort Davis. Merchants and vendors offered regional arts and crafts, as well as special demonstrations of cowboy hatmaking, candymaking, and world-famous pecan processing. Whether participants came just for the hummingbirds and/or the opportunity to see the Davis Mountain highlands, or just to enjoy the street fair, everyone had a great time.
Both festivals are scheduled for repeats in August 2006.
Tags: Environment, Nature, Texas, Writing, Culture, Birds