By PAMELA CODY
Special to the PRESS
The offer of free cake, cookies and admission combined with a picture-perfect day were the irresistible factors that enticed large crowds to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center on Saturday, in celebration of its sixth anniversary. Visitors were treated to sightings of beautiful birds, such as the yellow-crowned night heron and a large group of stunning white ibis, as well as other creatures, like a red-eared slider turtle and the center’s resident alligator and her babies.
Cristin Howard, director of the SPI BNC for the past two years, bustled about, enthusiastically greeting visitors and overseeing the day’s activities, which included a children’s corner and games. She spoke optimistically about the status of the center. “We’re so excited, the center has improved so much over the last few years. We’re expanding our educational programs and working on getting more guided nature walks.” She made sure to give credit to her colleagues and staff, saying, “We have a great board of directors and a tremendous group of volunteers. Thanks to their efforts, sales in our gift shop are up and attendance is up,” she reported. Regarding the future of the birding center, she mentioned, “We have a few projects we’re working on, such as an outdoor wildlife expo that’ll be taking place in early 2016, from Jan. 26th through Jan. 30th. We’re also planning our Winter Texan series, which will feature guest speakers and nature movies – for example, “First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird’s Story.”
Carolyn Altstadt, a volunteer at the center since it opened in 2009, spoke affectionately about what the center has to offer to the public. “It’s a beautiful experience. We have wonderful tours with amazing master naturalists. They make this whole place come alive with their explanations and knowledge. It’s not just about the birds, but the trees and all the other wildlife.”
Nancy Bedford, visiting from Austin, was visibly excited, describing with great animation her experience at the center. “We saw the mother alligator right near Blind # 4 – that was the first time I’ve seen one that size up close and in the wild, it was a real treat. We also saw some of the juveniles before they disappeared under the bridge – it was very thrilling.” Also in attendance were the Barrera family from Los Fresnos. “They love to see all the different birds,” she said of her two toddlers.
A s cake featuring beautifully rendered images of birds on the frosting was created for the occasion by Karla’s Katering. Guests young and old mingled in the lobby, enjoying the complimentary cake, cookies and lemonade, while browsing in the gift shop and interacting with Jo Jo the macaw, the center’s resident mascot.
The SPI Birding & Nature Center is located at 6801 Padre Blvd. and features 43 acres, bird blinds, walkways, and a 5-story observation tower with panoramic view lines of the gulf and the bay. For information about programs and events, visit their website at www.spibirding.com or call (956) 761 – 6801. To see a photo gallery of the celebration, visit us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.
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