Area residents are invited for a naturally wonderful weekend in Fredericksburg at the second annual Wings Over The Hills nature festival at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park on the last weekend in April.
Scheduled Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29, the event focuses on the varied and unique winged creatures of the Texas Hill Country – birds, butterflies, dragonflies, bats, and bees – with guided tours, lectures, photography class, exhibits, and more.
“We’ve got something for everyone from the curious child to the seasoned birder,” said Mike Elvir, president of the Fredericksburg Rotary Club and co-chairman of the festival. “Our goal is to provide a wide range of educational and entertainment opportunities suitable for the whole family.”
“We are especially pleased to be offering birding tours to private ranches and localities not previously open to the public,” said naturalist Bill Lindemann, the other co-chairman of Wings and founder of the Fredericksburg Nature Center.
With a diverse habitat that ranges from rivers and still-water wetlands to oak woods and native prairie to rocky granite hills, the Texas Hill Country is home to a thrilling diversity of more than 160 species of native and migratory birds.
The festival kicks off at the park on Friday, April 27 with a juried trade show, kids’ activities tent, and a series of lectures beginning at 1 p.m. Guided park nature trail walks, lectures, kids’ tent, and trade show continue Saturday, April 28, until 6 p.m. and Sunday, April 29, until 4 p.m.
John Karger’s Last Chance Forever, The Bird of Prey Conservancy, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the Fredericksburg High School Auditorium (1107 S. Highway 16). This special event is open to everyone and no festival pass is required to attend. Tickets are available online or at the door and cost $5/person.
Karger’s program of practical environmentalism features rescued birds of prey in a thrilling demonstration that includes several indoor flights.
Another special event that is new this year is the Star Party on Saturday at 9 p.m. to view the night sky through telescopes. Tickets are $10/person, and this event does not require a festival pass, either. Star Party takes place at Hillview Ranch near Willow City, about 15 miles from the festival headquarters. Transportation will be provided, as well as driving directions.
Located far from any ambient light, the Hillview Ranch viewing site is located on a hill with an uninterrupted 360° panorama of the sky. Members of the Fredericksburg Astronomy Club will be setting up several telescopes, conducting orientation talks, and describing the night objects you will be viewing.
Nature photographers can sign up for a special treat. Highly-acclaimed photographer Rolf Nussbaumer will hold a nature photography workshop on Saturday, April 28, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The hands-on photo workshop includes classroom instruction and a field trip to the Fredericksburg Nature Center.
Nussbaumer won the Images for Conservation Pro Tour of Nature Photography in 2006, 2008, and 2010; and first grand prize in The Valley Land Fund’s Wildlife Photo Contest in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas in 2002, 2004, and 2006.
All photography workshop attendees must be familiar with the operation of their particular camera before signing up.
A variety of full-day and half-day birding and nature tours are scheduled for Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29- some beginning as early as 7 a.m. Tours are by way of air-conditioned motor coaches and each is accompanied by an experienced guide. Early registration is recommended as tour sizes are limited.
Birding tour participants can expect to see native Texas species such as Vermillion Flycatcher, Green Kingfisher, Black Phoebe, and spring migrants. “This is a good opportunity to add two endangered species to your life list: the Black-capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler, Lindemann added.
Other tours include a two hour Butterfly Chase and an evening visit to the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area, home to more than 3 million Mexican Free-tailed and Cave Myotis bats.
Full information on all the weekend’s activities and online ticketing is available on the Wings Over the HIlls website at www.wingstx.org.