Coleto Creek Nature Fest, by Christa Chagra

The Goodwater Chapter in Georgetown is trying to gauge support for area master naturalist chapters to host a regional nature fest, similar to the one held mid-way between Victoria and Goliad this past April 7th.  Naturally, I loaded up the family camping gear and we headed off to check it out.  Coleto Creek Park is a collaboration between the Coleto Creek Power Company and the Guadalupe Basin River Authority.  It offers a major recreational facility centered around the reservoir that serves as a cooling pond for that coal-fired power plant.  The park is comprised of 190 acres, 40 of which have been developed for park patrons.

 

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We arrived at Coleto Creek Park and Reservoir around sunset Friday night. The purples, oranges and yellows from the sunset slanted across the skies and reflected off the water making the reservoir look immense, revitalizing and inviting. In fact, it was 3,100 surface acres of water and 61 miles of shoreline—it was huge!

 

The nature fest was an all-day affair that included a tightly orchestrated schedule of events, field trips, demonstrations and a host of exhibitors—very much like our statewide convention. There was a lot to take in, so we hit the sack early in preparation for a busy day on Saturday.  13000084_557396254421396_4988126976876931540_n[1]

 

 

 

The next morning welcomed us with few overhead clouds and a cool breeze, the kind of morning that says, “this is a beautiful day, get up and at ‘em!” The first order of the day was a guided bird walk. The trail was wide and level, but had plenty of twists and turns to keep it interesting, ample water views to entice the senses and a lush canopy to keep us shaded. The birds we encountered on our walk included: cardinals, cedar wax wings, cormorants, black and white warblers, white wing and inca doves, turkey and black vultures, Lincoln’s sparrows, a single cowbird, Carolina wrens and a black crested titmouse. We finished the walk with a telescopic view of an island rookery featuring everyone’s favorite: roseate spoonbills.  It made Chicago look sparsely populated.

 

Next, we wandered through the park sampling the rest of the festivities. We missed TPWD’s Brent Ortego presentation on “How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard,” but were in time to see Hill Country Master Naturalist Cathy Downs’ excellent discussion on “Where Have all The Monarchs Gone?” I found it an enlightening 13043237_557396271088061_2468721353278825649_n[1]and eye-opening presentation. Turns out that, once again, these beautiful butterflies have been squeezed by another species—man. Habitat loss in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, to include logging and widespread use of herbicides, has robbed the Monarchs of critical larval food sources. To make matters worse, encroaching invasive plants that resemble milkweeds confuse the females that are ready to lay eggs.  These magnificent insects are literally fighting for their lives and losing.

 

I’ll never forget the next presentation. It was delivered by another fellow master naturalist, Norm Hirsch, with the Mid Coast Chapter.  He discussed “Alligators – Myths  and Facts.” Most of his lecture was about the North American Alligator but I was surprised to learn the U.S. also has North American Crocodiles.  Really?  I could have been happier without knowing that!

 

Because of time limitations, we had to choose. There were many other presentations—too many for one family to soak up.  Dan Alonso (San Antonio Bay Foundation) did two: “Taming The Wild Flower With Your Camera,” and “Whooping Cranes.”  “Waterbirds of The Texas Coast” was done by Owen Fitzsimmons with the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program.  Finally, “Managing And Living With White-tailed Deer,” a popular session, was narrated by Trey Barron, a TPWD Wildlife Biologist.13006657_557396311088057_3468350767323074389_n[1]

 

As mentioned, demonstrations were a big hit–especially with the kiddos. We meandered through children happily learning to fly fish, mastering bb guns, and shooting arrows—with bows and atlatles. Until LPMN, I didn’t even know what an atlatl was. . .let alone be able to pronounce it! Paul and I watched an interesting demonstration on watersheds based on a Guadalupe River Basin Model and learned about the “Share A Lunker” program through TPWD.

 

All in all it was an excellent experience and I was converted. This kind of program in Central Texas would provide a service to surrounding communities while letting LPMNs (and other master naturalists) shine in their areas of expertise. Sounds like a win-win to me. Hopefully, you’ll be hearing more from me about this in the not-to-distant future!

 

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To see everything the Nature Fest had to offer click here: http://www.gbra.org/documents/coletocreekpark/naturefest2016.pdf https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2016/mar/31/coleto-creek-to-host-nature-fest/http://midcoast-tmn.org/volunteering/partners/coleto/

Bird Photos courtesy of

http://www.birdchannel.com/wild-bird/back-yard-birding/cardinal-chicks-in-view.aspx

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/cedar-waxwing

https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/know-your-doves

Cornell Ornithology Lab

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/double-crested-cormorant

http://txtbba.tamu.edu/files/2012/05/bwwaphoto.jpg

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/lincolns-sparrow

http://txtbba.tamu.edu/species-accounts/carolina-wren/

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/black-crested-titmouse

http://nestwatch.org/learn/general-bird-nest-info/brown-headed-cowbirds/

http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/images/birds/roseate_spoonbill1.jpg

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