Society

Second annual Nature Fest is Saturday in Cameron

SHAWN WALTON

For t ho se of you who haven’t heard, the second annual Milam County Nature Fest, sponsored by the El Camino Real Master Naturalists, is happening Saturday, April 9. It will be in Cameron at the Wilson-Ledbetter Park from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. According to the news the weather is going to be perfect, not too hot and not too cold, so there is not any reason to miss this wonderful event.

One of the most popular aspects of the Fest last year was the children’s activities. A myriad of booths offered nature activities for the kids to do, and then once the task was accomplished each kid received a stamp. This year some of the activities include an archaeological dig, discovering the world of pollinators, making animal track molds, a scavenger hunt, how to be a junior master gardener, making your own wildf lower and face painting.

A new attraction this year will be wild visitors from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco. Other exhibits include information and ongoing presentations about bees and pollination, horned lizards, snakes and reptiles, native grasses, wildfires and fire prevention from Texas Parks and Wildlife, accompanied by Smokey the Bear, as well as booths where you can buy neat nature items.

Interesting and educational lectures are scheduled throughout the day. The following presentations will occur inside the American Legion Building:

• 9:30 a.m., “Snakes alive, the reptiles of Central Texas”, by Bill Brooks.

• 11 a.m., “ The Spirit of El Camino Real”, by Lucile Estell and Joy Graham.

• 1 p.m., “Horned Lizards in Texas, our state reptile”, by Carolyn Todd.

Out by the wildflower patch, Flo Oxley, the Director of Education at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, will present “Wildflower Treasures” at 10 a.m. and noon.

For those of you with healthy appetites, no need to worry, the Nature Fest also has food and drink vendors to satisfy your hunger and thirst. Did you know the Nature Fest has a Festival Mascot? It does, and this year the mascot is the Horned Lizard. Of the eight species of horned lizards that live in the United States, Texas is home to three–the Greater Short-horned Lizard, Round-tailed Horned Lizard, and the Texas Horned Lizard. The one with which most people are familiar is the Texas Horned Lizard, because it makes the entire state of Texas its habitat.

“Horny Toads” like to bask in the morning sun during the summer. By noon they have burrowed underneath the soil to escape the heat. Many a native adult Texan may remember hunting the elusive horny toad, and playing with their main food source, the Harvester ant. These were the big, red ants that would clear away all growth from their mound, leaving a wide, circular flat space with a single hole in the middle.

Both of these creatures have been in a population decline for a number of years, particularly east of IH-35. This may be due to a variety of obvious reasons, like habitat loss; however, the invasion of the red imported fire ant seems to be the direct cause of the decline of the Harvester ant. Harvester ants are the main food source of the Horned Lizard, so it makes sense that the lizard populations would be affected, too.

It was actually volunteers in the Texas Horned Lizard Watch that discovered the link between fire ants and horned lizards. You can easily become part of the Watch. More info about this program is here: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/ learning/texas_ nature_ trackers/ horned_ lizard.

To take this full circle, make sure to visit the Nature Fest on Saturday and drop by the Horned Lizard and Harvester Ant booths to learn more about our State Reptile. walton.shawn@gmail.com


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2011-04-07 digital edition



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