The upper Texas coast transforms into a massive avian frat house this time of year, with countless birds winging northward across the Gulf of Mexico from their Central and South American winter bungalows. That probably helps to explain why birders, nature photographers and naturalists outnumber sun worshipers on Galveston during the spring.
It’s also the reason why the FeatherFest Birding & Nature Festival, scheduled for April 6-9 and celebrating its 15th anniversary, has grown into one of the preeminent events of its kind in North America. Presented by the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, FeatherFest regularly attracts nature lovers from around the state and the nation intent on two things: spotting as many varieties of migratory birds as they can and soaking up the camaraderie of hanging out with hundreds of like-minded outdoorsy folks.
Feather Fest combines classroom workshops and films with real world field trips that take participants ranging from casual birders to professional nature photographers to some of the prime birding locations around the island. Participants spotted nearly 300 different types of birds at last year’s event, ranging from regular visitors like the Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican and the Common Loon—no, we’re not talking about your weird Uncle Pete—to rare and elusive specimens like the Hudsonian Godwit and the Buffle Head.
Don’t think that you have to be a lifelong birder or naturalist to have a good time during the festival. Organizers work to group participants based on their photographic or naturalist skills, while the cost of individual workshops and field trips, all of which are led by expert birding and photography pros, varies.
But all birding and no play makes for a … well … happy naturalist, but there are also several social events on the agenda, including the always popular Raptors Uncorked (April 8), which allows you to enjoy an evening of aviary photo ops and a great meal at the Olympia Grill at Pier 21. You don’t want to miss The Big Year With Greg Miller (April 7), a free event with renowned birder Greg Miller, portrayed by Jack Black in the 2011 film “The Big Year.” He’ll provide comments and answer questions following a screening of the movie that is to birders what “Titanic” is to cinema buffs.
The Feather Fest Photo fest gives you the chance to pit your photographic skills against some of the best nature photographers in the area, while Hawker’s Alley and Avian Alley are home to numerous nature-related vendors.
The campus of UTMB’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the Island Community Center (4700Broadway) serves as the festival headquarters.
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