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Above left, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in Matagorda Bay. Photos courtesy of Matagorda Bay Birdfest

Dr. Sansom keynotes Third Annual Matagorda Bay Birdfest

Avian Delight
Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Third Annual Matagorda Bay Birdfest, set for Friday, Feb. 15 through Sunday, Feb. 17 in Palacios, Texas, promises to connect birders and nature enthusiasts of all ages to the wild wonder of Matagorda County’s bird diversity.

Birdfest celebrates the Bay’s thriving wildlife ecosystem that is home to over 250 species of birds.

For 20 of the last 25 years, Matagorda County has held the number one spot in Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count in the U.S. and Canada.

Birdfest offers birding excursions on the bay, field trips to area ranches, kayak tours, a youth parade replete with costumed participants and bird puppets, a raptor show, meet-and-greets with artists and authors, book signings, an art contest, a concert and a host of environmental speakers and writers.

Guided birding tours begin early Friday morning and continue through Sunday morning.

Engaging and creative learning activities for students and a panel of water and wildlife conservationists set the tone for the educational component that is at the heart of Birdfest’s mission to connect people, birds and nature.

Margie Crisp, 2019 M.A.R.S.H. artist in residence and the author of "River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado," will host a meet and greet Friday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. at the Old Main Bookstore at 436 Main Street.

Birdfest’s student art contest focuses on the Piping Plover in its habitat. An exhibit of that work will open Friday at 6:15 p.m. at the Palacios High School Fine Arts Building at 100 Shark Street. Classical guitarist Susan McDonald will perform “The Piping Plover” and “Animal Ballets.”

In addition to morning birding tours, Saturday’s events include the Palacios Parade of Birds and a raptor show. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. at First and South Bayshore and ends on the grounds of the historic Luther Hotel. The raptor show follows.

Speaker sessions begin at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Eastside Annex. Session One choices include Gary Clark and Kathy Adams Clark, author and photographer, respectively of Texas Birds; avian biologist and conservationist Robin Bjork of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson will speak on the “Conservation of Shore Birds Along the Texas Shore Coast through Monitoring, Stewardship and Education;” and naturalist, author and artist Margie Crisp on “Parting the Waters: the Colorado River Raft and Matagorda Bay.”

Session Two, which begins at 2:30 p.m., features David Newstead on “Where do they come from and what do they want? Technology and ecology solving mysteries of the shorebird world: a case study on Red Knots;” Ryan Spencer of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment on “The Nature of Art;” and Suzanne Langley of Texas Audubon on “The Year of the Bird.”

Session Three begins at 3:30 p.m. and features Crisp, author of "Parting the Waters: the Colorado River Raft and Matagorda Bay;" Dr. Liz Smith of the International Crane Foundation on “Harvey's Impact on Crane Habitat;” and Gary Clark and Kathy Adams Clark, author and photographer, respectively of "Texas Birds." The Clarks will host a book signing.

Renowned conservationist Dr. Andrew Sansom, research professor of geography and executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, is the keynote speaker for the Saturday evening banquet at the Palacios Educational Pavilion.

He is a former executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and executive director of the Texas Nature Conservancy.

As director of the Meadows Center at Texas State University, Dr. Sansom coordinates university policy and research related to freshwater resources, manages the headwaters of the San Marcos River; administers the most extensive freshwater environmental education program in Texas; and supervises the training and coordination of more than 1,000 volunteer water monitors in rivers and streams throughout the state.

Sansom’s environmental ties to Matagorda Bay are significant. In the early 1970s, he initiated efforts that resulted in the creation of the Matagorda Island State and National Wildlife Refuge, and in the 1980s completed acquisition of the last 13,000 acres of privately owned land on the island to add to the refuge.

He acquired East Matagorda Peninsula for the state in the early 1980s, initiating efforts that resulted in the establishment of the Nature Conservancy of Texas’ Clive Runnels Family Mad Island Marsh Preserve and the adjacent Mad Island Wildlife Management Area managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

During the 1980s and 1990s, in nearby Brazoria County, Sansom acquired additions to the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, as well as lands in the Columbia Bottomlands and Marshes that became the Stringfellow Woods Wildlife Management Area and the Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area. Before leaving Texas Parks and Wildlife, he acquired the Levi Jordan Plantation, which is now an historic site managed by the Texas Historical Commission.

For a complete schedule of tours and activities, registration, and other information, go to Matagorda Bay Birdfest's website.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666