** There will be no Wings Festival in 2018 **

Speakers and Talks

On Friday and Saturday, April 28th - April 29th, 2017, join us for an inspiring array of speakers who will cover all the creatures with wings as well as some that slither and crawl, and even the plants that provide food and habitat.

Unless otherwise noted, all speaker venues will be at the Pioneer Pavilion or Tatsch House located in the Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.


"The Nature of the Texas Hill Country"
Friday, April 28, 9:00AM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

This presentation will explore the evolution of the Texas Hill Country region beginning over a billion and one-half years ago to the present. What is so special about this region? In addition to the geological history, the talk will cover the past and present inhabitants, the changes that have occurred since settlement, and what the future might hold. The Edwards Plateau, which includes the Hill Country, is one of the most diverse biological regions on the planet. Although it covers only 17 per cent of the state, more than 40 per cent of the flora and 60 per cent of the birds are found here. Over 100 million bats call the Hill Country home during the summer months. Very colorful insects, including butterflies and dragonflies also call this region home. The presentation will conclude with a brief discussion regarding stewardship of our land and natural resources.

"Natural Splendor: Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley"
Saturday, April 29, 2:30PM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

The sub-tropical climate of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas and its proximity to Mexico supports the greatest diversity of butterflies in North America. Approximately 300 of North Americas 700 species can be found here and one half of these species occur only in this region. Butterfly enthusiasts come here to search the many beautiful gardens for that rare butterfly from Mexico that has never been seen before in the United States. This presentation will highlight the most spectacular species with special colors and patterns visitors to this region may encounter while in their search for that rare jewel. It is natural splendor on display throughout this sub-tropical region.

Speaker Bio:

Native Texan from Gonzales County; attended University of Texas at Austin with two degrees in geology; employed by Exxon for 32 years as exploration geologist with worldwide experience in oil and gas, minerals, coal and synthetic fuels; avid birder for 50 years; weekly newspaper columnist on "Birding in the Hill Country" for 18 years; principal founder of the Fredericksburg Nature Center; twice president of Native Plant Society of Texas; currently vice-president of the Hill Country Land Trust; naturalist; frequent speaker around the state on various nature subjects.
Bill Lindemann

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Feature Presentation: "A Biking for Birds Odyssey Across America"
Saturday April 29, 6:45PM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

Dr. Dorian Anderson will headline the seventh annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival by recounting his "Biking for Birds" eco-adventure in 2014 and share his expertise on field trips to Texas Hill Country birding venues. During 2014 Anderson cycled over 17,800 miles through 28 states while observing 617 species. He peddled, hiked and kayaked the entire distance and raised more than $50,000 for bird conservation. Please plan to meet and hear Dorian's wonderful story of his birding adventure.

Note: We have made an arrangement with Hill Country Bicycle Works in Fredericksburg to have rental bikes available for anyone wishing to rent a bike for the Birding by Bike with Dorian field trip. The store will transport the bicycles to the departure site and return them to their store on East Main Street. To inquire about rental prices and reservations, call their store in Fredericksburg at 830-990-2609.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Anderson began birding at a very young age in the Philadelphia area, spending much of his time in national wildlife refuges and other birding hotspots. He interrupted his birding adventures by studying Cell and Molecular Biology at Stanford and eventually earning a Ph.D. at New York University in Developmental Genetics. He followed with a post-doctoral position at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. He left his post-doctoral studies in 2013 to complete his incredible birding odyssey in 2014.
Dorian Anderson

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"Wildlife Management Plans, for the Birds"
Saturday, April 29, 1:00PM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

Have you heard of wildlife management plans (WMPs)? Are you interested in earning an open space agricultural valuation on your land? Did you know that WMPs aren't just about deer? A habitat management plan designed for songbird management can benefit both the ecosystem and the landowner. This talk will cover the four aspects of habitat, basic songbird open space agricultural valuation WMPs. Also included will be considerations for improving traditional agricultural practices to be songbird-friendly ecology, and specific habitat management practices that can benefit and align with songbirds.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Maureen Frank is an Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Dr. Frank holds a Bachelor degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Texas A&M University, and a PhD in Wildlife Biology from Utah State University. Her dissertation work examined diet and habitat use of migratory birds on Great Salt Lake. In her current role, Dr. Frank provides outreach and education about everything wildlife, from wild pig control and deer management to songbird habitat considerations and snake identification.
Maureen Frank

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"The Birds of the Texas Hill Country"
Friday, April 28, 2:30PM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

The Texas Hill Country and the Edwards Plateau cover only seventeen per cent of the state; however the region has 40 per cent of the flora and 67 per cent of the bird species found in Texas. This rich diversity can be attributed to a number of factors, including overlap of eastern and western bird species' ranges, northward expansion of southern species, and excellent numbers of wintering sparrows, hawks and waterfowl. Variation in topography, rainfall, temperatures and geology also contribute to the diversity of both plants and birds. The PowerPoint presentation will feature many of the exceptional bird species found in the region which will include species normally found in the Trans-Pecos, East Texas, lower Rio Grande Valley and South Texas and North Texas.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Ortego worked as a biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife for 34 years. Holds a Master's degree in Wildlife/Wildlands Science and Management from Louisiana State University and a PhD. in Wildlife Ecology/Fisheries from Auburn University. Duties at TPWD included conservation planning, landowner assistance and incentive programs, public education and outreach, and wildlife surveys. Also coordinates numerous surveys, including bald eagle, USGS breeding bird, Texas Christmas bird counts, and various bird migration surveys. Has served as president of the Texas Ornithological Society. Frequent speaker on wildlife topics.
Brent Ortego

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"Birds and Climate: Audubon's Climate Initiative"
Saturday, April 29, 10:30AM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

Birds are excellent indicators of ecosystem health, and new research using decades of data from Audubon's Christmas Bird Count and the Breeding Bird Survey suggest that more than half of US birds are at risk from climate change. This talk will introduce Audubon's Birds and Climate Change Report, the vital role of citizen science in this study, and the tools and models helping guide bird conservation into an uncertain climate future. The presentation will also provide information on how to get involved and take action on this issue.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Tania Homayoun is the Urban Conservation Program Manager with Audubon Texas and director of its Urban Conservation Program. She holds bachelor's degrees in Ecology/Evolution/Conservation Biology and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota, where she studied the impacts of urbanization on landbird communities. She joined Audubon Texas in July 2011 at the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center and joined Audubon Texas's Conservation Science Team in February 2013. The goal of her work is to develop and deliver conservation plans and solutions, educational programs/trainings, and activities that support Texas' unique biodiversity and contribute to sustainable communities. She is an avid birder and always has room for one more plant in her garden.
Tania Homayoun

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"Dragons and Damsels of the Texas Hill Country"
Friday, April 28, 1:00PM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) are among the oldest extant group of insects and have captured the eye of many nature enthusiasts, particularly in the last 10 years. The unique geographic position of Texas has resulted in it becoming the epicenter of odonate diversity in North America. With a mix of subtropical, temperate, eastern and western faunas, Texas supports over half of the North American fauna and its numbers are growing annually with new discoveries. Explore this diversity and learn about the life cycle and common behaviors typically observed in odonates as well as how you can contribute to the growing knowledge of this spectacular group.

Saturday, April 29, 1:00PM, Tatsch House
Workshop: "The World of Dragonflies and Damselflies"

This workshop will introduce nature enthusiasts to the "World of Dragonflies and Damselflies". The agenda calls for both classroom and outdoor study of one of the world's oldest families of insects (>300 million years) and equally colorful as birds and butterflies. Classroom topics will include informal introduction to families, general identification features, life cycle, habitat preference, equipment and reference book selection and interesting facts and features of these extraordinary insects. Outdoor activities will include finding and identification, learning distinctive family features, observing behavioral habits, up close looks of the insects and having fun while you learn.

Speaker Bio:

Lasswell holds a Bachelor's degree in botany from Texas A&M University and a Master's degree in Zoology from Sam Houston State University. He spent his career as a research biologist, first for Texas Parks and Wildlife and later for Texas A&M's Texas Ag-Life with most of his career spent at the Texas A&M Ag-Life Research and Extension Center in Stephenville, Texas, retiring in 2008. Lasswell, a lifelong admirer of odonates, has conducted research programs on odonates and has co-authored a book, A Dazzle Of Dragonflies, and a number of popular and scientific articles on a number of subjects. Lasswell helped develop a process of digitally scanning odonates and producing a website for odonate scans. An avid nature photographer, a number of his photos have occurred in the Journal of the American Entomologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine and National Geographic.
James Lasswell

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"Slithering Creatures in the Texas Hill Country"
Saturday, April 29, 9:00AM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

Jared Holmes will feature live specimens of Hill Country snakes in his presentation. Get up close looks while learning interesting facts of the many native reptiles that are found in the 25 counties that make up the rugged rocky limestone-karst terrain of the Texas Hill Country. You will not want to miss this outstanding presentation.

Speaker Bio:

Jared Holmes is a biologist and educator with the Selah-Bamberger Ranch Preserve, a 5,500 acre nature preserve dedicated towards conservation and stewardship of native habitats. He grew up in the Poconos of Pennsylvania while learning from a young age how to collect, care for, photograph and share his love for amphibians and reptiles. Recognizing that he wanted to educate the public and study these creatures for a living, he attended Texas A&M University. Upon finishing his education, Jared became a research biologist and educational presenter for all age levels specializing in snakes. He has called the Texas Hill Country home for the past 10 years.
Jared Holmes

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"Birds of Prey Demonstration"
Friday, April 28, 4:30PM, 252 East Main Street in Fredericksburg
Synopsis of talk:

This program offers common sense-oriented education regarding these birds' importance and the necessity for all life forms to live in a health balanced ecosystem and conservation of our environment. Live birds of prey including falcons, hawks, eagles, owls and vultures make up his cast of birds that have been rehabilitated. Those birds that can fly will put on displays of their flying skills. Karger describes the important identification features and behavioral habits of each bird while at rest and flying. His entertaining speaking style and cast of birds of prey stars will provide many thrills for the audience.

Speaker Bio:

John Karger, a Hill Country native, is a nationally known raptor rehabilitator, founded the non-profit Last Chance Forever, The Bird of Prey Conservancy organization in 1978. He is a certified veterinary and bioengineering behavioral technician and holds permits to rescue and rehabilitate protected and endangered wildlife species and possess these species for exhibition and education purposes. His organization receives from 240 to 300 sick, injured and orphaned raptors annually and over 60 per cent of these birds are returned to the wild. This rehabilitation work has had both national and international impact. His education programs using live birds has taught and entertained over 4 million people on the common sense approach to wildlife conservation. Karger has appeared on numerous national media programs and his operation has often been written about in national print. He is a master class falconer and promotes falconry in his presentations. He has been recognized by many organizations with awards for his rehabilitation and education work.
John Karger

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"Hummingbird Banding Demonstration"
Friday, April 28, 9:00AM - 11:30AM, Dendy Ranch, near Harper
Saturday, April 29, 1:00PM - 3:30PM, Dendy Ranch, near Harper
Synopsis of talk:

The banding demonstration will take place on the Dendy Ranch, owned by Bill and Fran Dendy, in western Gillespie Country. The Dendys are annual hosts to thousands of hummingbirds every spring and summer. Last year the Lookingbills banded 200 hummingbirds, mostly Black-chinned Hummingbirds, but a few were Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

The Lookingbills will discuss the natural history of the hummingbirds and what has been learned from banding projects. Participants will observe capture, banding measurement and release of the hummingbirds. The demonstration last year allowed for close-up observation and photography opportunities for more than 65 people. The Lookingbills will be assisted by Brooks Short of Lake Jackson, Texas

Speaker Bios:

Robert and Kay Lookingbill, who hold Master bird banding permits, are research associates for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, Texas. The Lookingbills have managed a variety of bird banding projects for over a decade, banding songbirds, hummingbirds, raptors, owls, and pelicans. They also volunteer their banding experience for a number of other organizations and facilities in Texas.
Robert and Kay Lookingbill

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Workshop: "Nature Photography"
Saturday, April 29, 7:30AM, Tatsch House
Synopsis of workshop:

The workshop begins with a quick orientation meeting and photo tips before working in the field for two hours. After the field work, a return to the classroom reviews photos and offers a gentle critique of earlier field photos. Material covered will include focus (sharpness) exposure (lighting), composition (arrangement of subject in frame) and content (the story the photo tells. Participants will learn about various subjects, and see a demonstration on what to do with the photos in a computer.

Speaker Bio:

Ruth Hoyt, a charter member of the North American Nature Photography Association, discovered her passion in 1989 and evolved into a full time nature photographer/writer. She teaches classes, leads workshops and tours. Her work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute, Missouri Botanical Garden, Powder Valley Nature Center, and the St. Louis Artists' Guild to name a few. She also has permanent displays in Illinois and Texas. Her photography credits include National Geographic books, the Nature Conservancy, Birder's world, Texas Parks and Wildlife monthly and many more. She has won major awards in significant state, national and international photo competitions.
Ruth Hoyt

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Friday, April 28, 10:30PM, Pioneer Pavilion
Synopsis of talk:

The movement of pollen from stamen to stigma is a major issue for plants, and they cannot easily do it themselves. While bees are the first resource that comes to mind when pollination is mentioned, no ecosystem is simple; complexity demands multiple solutions to the issue. We will look at the various animals that interact with plants in this process, and discuss the expenditures, risks and compensations.

Speaker Bio:

Valerie Bugh is a local naturalist specializing in the arthropods of the Austin area, with interests in taxonomy and photography. She runs the Fauna Project at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, leads insect discovery walks, teaches entomology courses, provides insect/spider identifications, gives talks to local organizations, and is the author of pocket guides to "Butterflies of Central Texas" and "Spiders of Texas". Website: www.austinbug.com
Valerie Bugh

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