By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
The 21st Annual Winter Outdoor Wildlife Festival, also known as WOWE, is currently underway at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
The atmosphere was rather intimate on the opening day of the festival. In the muted stillness of a foggy morning just before the arrival of the cold front, the coastal birds that call the Birding Center their home were slow to rise, preferring to nap with heads tucked under wings as the sun struggled to pierce through the clouds.
Inside, the auditorium filled up with locals and tourists alike who were eager to hear from Rio Grande Valley icon and longtime wildlife photographer, Richard Moore.
I grew up watching Richard Moore’s nature reports on the evening news every week. Listening to his voice narrating over video of idyllic scenes of Valley wildlife, captured around sunrise or sunset, became one of the biggest influences in my own pursuit of photography.
Later, while working at a local television news station, I had the opportunity to get to know Moore on a professional level. He would stop by the station on a regular basis to drop off digital video tapes ready to be aired during the next nature segment.
One day while leaving work, I saw him outside the building, his truck parked across several spaces and a portable blind set up. He’d noticed some interesting birds in one of the trees in the grassy median that divided the parking lot.
We sat and chatted for several minutes while we observed the birds. He asked me about my budding enthusiasm for photography and I peppered him with lots of (probably very rookie) questions about wildlife photography. If my questions were ones he’d heard a dozen times before, Moore didn’t complain. Instead, it became an enjoyable and informative ‘teachable moment.’
We’ve run into each other several times in the years since, and there’s always something new to learn. Such was the case Tuesday as Moore spoke to those gathered for the festival. We all got a sneak peek at his latest documentary, Birds of South Texas, before Moore fielded questions from the audience.
One thing I’ve always respected about Richard Moore is how he treats everyone like a longtime friend. Sitting in that auditorium listening to others ask him about his work, there was a sense of comfortable familiarity.
After his presentation was over, many festival attendees mingled on the first floor of the Birding Center before continuing outside to the boardwalks for some bird watching. And though Moore’s presentation was over, WOWE is not.
There will be dozens of presentations on through Saturday afternoon, including live raptor shows on Friday and Saturday. Other presentations will focus on ocelot conservation, native plants, fishing and more. And one of the things I’ve learned is that wildlife enthusiasts and professionals, like Moore, love sharing their knowledge with others. So head on over to the SPI Birding Center – don’t be afraid to ask questions! And as always, be sure to visit us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.
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