Rockdale goes ‘to bat’ for Nature Fest Saturday

Free day-long event at Fair Park offers hands-on exhibits, youth activities, presentations

The Mexican Free-Tailed, of Austin and Carlsbad fame, is probaby the most famous bat. The Mexican Free-Tailed, of Austin and Carlsbad fame, is probaby the most famous bat. Holy springtime, Batman! Fair Park is going batty on Saturday.

After two years in Cameron, the El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalists is bringing its free annual nature festival to Rockdale.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. rain or shine at Fair Park and this year’s “featured critter” will be the bat.

“The United Nations has declared 2011-12 as the Year of the Bat,” Master Naturalist Don Travis said. “We are proud to have these wonderful flying mammals as our featured mascot for the festival.”

In addition to dozens of “hands-on” exhibits during the day, there will be four featured presentations at the New Salem Clubhouse, including one by Rockdale native Clayton Wolf, now Wildlife Division Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife (TP&W). He will speak at 1 p.m. on the drought’s impacts on fish and wildlife resources.

‘BAT-MAN’—A real “batman” will lead off the presentations at 9:15 a.m.

John Byrd will discuss his experiences in attracting tens of thousands of bug-eating bats to his pecan orchard, saving both money and the use of insecticides.

“Besides all the benfits, bats are just plain fun to watch,” Travis said.

Mark Klym of TP&W will speak at 10:30 on how to create a “buffet table lasagne” to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

At 11:45 a.m., Flo Oxley, recently retired director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, will discuss tales from Greek, Indian and other mythologies on naming and uses of wildflowers.

ACTI VITIES—Travis said Exhibits and activities will be scattered all over the park and will include:

• Bees and honeycombs.

• Pollinators and the pollination cycle.

• Bryophytes and lichens (moss and fungus-like plants).

• Birds, with bird houses for sale.

• Texas crawdads.

• Prairie dogs.

• Houston toads and a toad maze.

• Knapping (stone shaping, not sleeping).

• Making animal track molds.

• An archeology primer on digging for artifacts.

• Fly casting and angler education.

• Examining pelts and skeletons of typical back yard wildlife.

• Numerous nature crafts.

• What Master Naturalists do and how you can become one.

• Face painting.

• The El Camino Real historic trail.

Winner from the nature photo contest will be announced at 2 p.m. and winning photos will be on display.

Travis said food and drinks will be available during the Nature Fest, including breakfast and lunch items.

More information on Nature Fest, and on the El Camino Real Master Naturalists, is available online at naturefest.

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