Greetings to all from the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center! We hope you had a wonderful 2022 and, like us, are ready for the New Year!
Last year turned out to be a great and eventful year at the Nature Center. We had a record number of visitors who enjoyed days of good weather, twin eaglets, fun events and private parties that kept our venue rentals buzzing. We also have a lot of new members who have discovered that the Nature Center is truly Bay City’s best-hidden gem.
Following are highlights of the more memorable occasions, projects and milestones from 2022. Enjoy!
Name the Eaglet contest
Last year’s Name the Eaglet contest proved to be quite popular with the community. We received more than 30 entries for suggested names for the twins.
In case you missed it, the winners of the contest in 2022 were Izabella Castillo, 7 years old, for the name Valor and Harper Hill, 6 years old for the name Freedom.
An eaglet is just now visible in the nest this year. We estimate that he/she is about two weeks old. To help us name the new eaglet, we’re holding another Name the Eaglet Contest.
To enter, fill out the Name the Eaglet form at https://www.mcbnc.org/nametheeaglet The best name from the entries will be chosen on March 25. The lucky winner will receive a Family Membership for one year.
There also is a fun downloadable coloring page. Pages that have been colored and delivered or mailed to the Nature Center will be displayed on our social media pages. The mailing address is: PO Box 2212, Bay City, TX 77404-2212.
Among the big projects that we tackled in 2022 is new WiFi installed across the western part of the site. The new WiFi has allowed us to install several cameras to help keep on eye on things across the park, but also to hopefully catch a glimpse of wildlife from time to time.
The cameras are in beta mode right now but will be fully functional soon. If we capture any interesting images, we will load them on Facebook and Instagram for everyone to enjoy.
We also have begun installing PVC pipe to connect our new water well (that was installed in 2021) to our ponds, making it much easier to keep water levels up during dry summer months.
Parking Lot Area Improvements
In an effort to make the parking lot more attractive, we are currently moving the dumpster to a more concealed – but still convenient – area. We have removed the brushy overgrowth and will replace them with attractive shrubs. We also plan to move the limestone pile to a more discrete location.
Food Truck Festival
The Food Truck Festival for 2022 was held Saturday, Oct. 15 and was one of our most successful yet.
The Festival featured live music from the popular band Emotions as well as a variety of food trucks, including Evans Burger Shack, Real Deal Grill, Frank’s BBQ and Thibodeaux Cookers. We also had a beer garden, a telescope set up for night sky viewing with an amateur astronomer on hand to explain about visible planets and stars, a bounce house, an arts and crafts table and an insect exhibit.
Mark your calendars for this year’s Food Truck Festival, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 21.
Mad Island Marsh Christmas Bird Count
Looking to Stay No. 1
Though inclement weather reduced the number of birds species counted in our area on Dec. 19 during the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, Matagorda County still has an extremely good chance to remain in the No. 1 spot in North America for the most species of birds spotted during the annual Christmas Bird Count.
More than 100 volunteer birders converged on the county in December to look within a 15-mile radius of the Mad Island Marsh and counted at least 218 species of birds.
The official bird count will be available later in the year after all the data is reviewed and verified. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is the nation’s longest-running community science bird project.
As it does every year, the Birding Nature Center hosted a dinner for all the volunteer birders who spent the cold rainy days in the field diligently spotting and counting birds.
Each year the catered dinner is held at the Wadsworth Community Center for the volunteer birders, with Nature Center volunteers ensuring that everyone is fed and comfortable while they go through the list of birds and hear from each birding team what birds they did or did not see
A big thanks go to all our Christmas Bird Count sponsors, including Matagorda County Birding Nature Center, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept., The Nature Conservancy, STP Nuclear Operating Company, Lyondell-Basell, Big Hill Energy, HIF, Audubon Texas, Capital Farm Credit, First State Bank, Triangle Turf, Clive Runnels Family, Allison Benefits Consultants and Krenek Insurance.
Volunteers from the Birding Nature Center and Serve Outdoors Matagorda Bay recently hosted students from surrounding school districts for its annual Kid Fish.
Students were treated to a morning of fishing at the Catfish Pond and then grilled hot dogs with all the trimmings.
Serve Outdoors Matagorda Bay is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that assists disabled individuals, veterans, wounded veterans, youth, special needs folks and the elderly to experience the great outdoors on hunting and fishing adventures.
Judging by the smiles on the students’ faces, everyone had a good time!
Eagle Scout Project Replaces Frozen Fruit Trees
Front row: Collin Guerra, Isaac Moya, Jason Cordova, Merritt Fortenberry, Grant Friesenhahn, Levi Spears; Back Row: Zachariah Simpson, Curtis Goodman, Kevin Harris, Caleb Spears
Curtis Goodman, a 16-year-old sophomore at Van Vleck High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 45, has enjoyed visiting the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center in Bay City since he was just a few months old when his grandmother and mother pushed him in a stroller around the walking trails.
He visited the Nature Center throughout his childhood and has accompanied his Boy Scout troop for several overnight camping trips. He said his fondest memory was the Birds of Prey exhibit, where handlers held a variety of hawks and demonstrated how they hunted in the wild.
“That is one of my best memories from childhood of the Nature Center, seeing those hawks,” Goodman said. “I had never been to an outdoor Birds of Prey show before, and I thought it was very cool.”
When it came time for Goodman to decide what Eagle Scout project he wanted to tackle, he said that he naturally thought about doing something at the Nature Center.
His uncle, Scott Evans (a former Eagle Scout from Troop 45), explained that the Nature Center lost some fruit trees during the Big Freeze in February 2021, and his project could include replacing those trees as well as adding a few more. He talked it over with his mother, Stacy Goodman, and decided the idea was perfect.
After discussions with some of the board members at the Nature Center, he decided to renovate and improve the Nature Center’s fire pit, too.
“I was excited about the project ideas,” Goodman said. “I saw that it would benefit the Nature Center, would be long-lasting and would upgrade the fire pit so it could be enjoyed during evening events, like the Food Truck Festival.”
After coming up with a design, tree locations and work plan, Goodman successfully located area companies willing to donate trees and other supplies from area tree farms and landscaping companies that were happy to help.
George Shakelford, owner of Brazos Citrus and Nursery in Wharton, donated 10 fruit trees, including lemon, orange, cocktail, peach, nectarine, pomegranate and pear trees.
Phil Neuszer, owner of South Texas Landscape Services, donated stone for the fire pit.
Rancho Encino Tree Farm in Bay City donated four olive trees and five hardwood trees.
Goodman cared for the trees while waiting for an opportune time when everyone who wanted to participate was available to help. Nine fellow scouts from Troop 45 volunteered to help Goodman with the ambitious project, including Levi Spears, Grant Friesenhahn, Collin Guerra, Kevin Harris, Merritt Fortenberry, Isaac Moya, Jason Cordova and Caleb Spears. Zachariah Simpson from Wharton Troop 326 also helped.
Eagle Scout Nevada Runk, currently attending Texas A&M University in College Station, made a surprise visit to the Nature Center to help.
Together they added crushed limestone and limestone rocks to the fire pit and used palm tree trunks for seating around the fire. Next, they planted fruit and olive trees in Fruit Tree Alley. They also planted a Burr Oak near the fire pit and two Sycamore trees on the banks of the Cypress Pond for erosion protection.
Goodman and the Troop 45 scouts, with help from the Nature Center and community volunteers, will monitor the trees to ensure they receive water while they take root in their new surroundings. He also plans to ensure to keep watch on the weather and take needed action if freezing temperatures roll in over the next few weeks while the trees get established.
“Once they are established and healthy, they should survive South Texas weather and eventually produce fruit,” Goodman said. “My hope is that they’ll produce enough fruit that Nature Center visitors can help themselves to a grapefruit, lemon, peach or pear. I think that would be a wonderful attraction and good for the community.”
“We are thrilled with Curtis’s Eagle Scout project,” said Sara Huebner, Nature Center board president. “He implemented his plan safely and professionally, including acquiring – on his own – donated trees and materials. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”
“The project was very much worth all the effort we put into it,” Goodman said. “I look forward to the day when the trees produce delicious fruit, and I can try one.”
We hope you enjoyed this year in review for the Birding Nature Center.
It’s because of members like you that we are able to continue providing valuable resources and experiences to members of our community and beyond. Your support helps us fulfill our mission to raise public awareness and involvement in nature through education, conservation and eco-tourism.
If you are a member of the Birding Nature Center, THANK YOU for supporting the Birding Nature Center. We hope you are able to continue your membership for the new year!
You should receive an email reminder when this year’s membership renewal is due. If you did not provide us with an email address, you can mail your dues to P. O. Box 2212, Bay City, TX 77404 or click here to pay online.
Lifetime members do not need to pay annual dues but are welcome to send us a one-time donation if you’d like!
If you are not a member, please take this opportunity to SIGN UP! Just click the button below to pay online, or send a check by mail to P. O. Box 2212, Bay City, TX 77404. Individual memberships are $20, Family Memberships are $30 and Patron Memberships are $100.
As you know, Matagorda County Birding Nature Center is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that is managed by volunteers and a working board of directors. Each 12-month membership to the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center helps support our operations, capital improvements and special projects.