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Welcome to the home of the 2014 Prairies & Pineywoods BirdFest in Mount Vernon, Texas. We were excited to offer an out-of-the-ordinary weekend of birding in Northeast Texas. We all love our Texas Coastal birds, but did you realize that the grassland prairies and pineywood forests in our region offer upland and grassland birding opportunities uncommon on the coast?
This year’s festival bird was the Prairie Chicken. No longer seen in our area, the prairies were once filled with this magnificent bird. In an 1867 journal entry from "Early Days of Mt. Vernon" the author notes that "the prairie was literally covered with prairie chickens and their bellowing on a clear morning in the spring of the year, along with the tinkling of the cow bells, made the prairies ring like a melody of music."
Festival Keynote Speaker was featured, Noppadol Paothong has photographed and studied the diminishing grassland grouse and prairie chicken for the last decade and will inspire us all on the need to preserve this species of bird. Check out the highlights below and you will understand why we chose this unusual bird.
Discover Daphne Prairie – Honored with the Outstanding Texas Land Steward Award by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) in 2013, local private landowner B.F. Hicks has graciously opened this pristine 900+ acre prairie for tours. Daphne Prairie is one of the largest and last remaining tallgrass prairies in Texas. Complete with rare intact mima mounds, a portion of this prairie has never-been-plowed and attracts prairie birds and birders alike.
See the TPWD video on Daphne Prairie below and you will see why you won’t want to miss this tour.
Keynote Speaker, Noppadol Paothong, nature photographer and book author of “Save the Last Dance: A Story of North American Grassland Grouse”. Click here to see some of Nop’s award winning photos and excerpts from his recent book. His 10 year study of grassland grouse and prairie chickens is sure to be educational and amazing!
See the YouTube video below!
Rare Bird Egg Exhibit – Become an oologist for a day! Our historical 1940 Fire Station Museum houses over 200 bird eggs collected prior to 1900. This exhibit is not to be missed. It’s a birder’s delight to view so many bird eggs in one room. Of special interest is a collection of eggs from 3 extinct birds: The Heath Hen (sub-species of the Prairie Chicken), Carolina Parakeet and the Passenger Pigeon. This is the only museum in the world with these 3 extinct bird eggs on display.
Selah Inn & Ranch – Listed on TPWD’s State Birding Trail, this privately owned 1,000 acre ranch will serve as our world-class festival headquarters. BONUS: Selah Ranch has two disc golf courses voted as the “two best courses in the WORLD” by Disc Golf Course Review. Golf carts and course trails provide ample access to bird viewing areas throughout this beautiful ranch. Likewise, families or non-birders might want to fit in a family-friendly round of disc golf. Check out all the amenities at Selah Ranch.
Habitat diversity galore! – Our region’s blackland prairies and pineywoods terrain offer a diverse mix of habitat for many bird species. Abundant wildlife trails and nature preserves afford great birding within a small radius of Selah Ranch headquarters. Cited as one of the prettiest lakes in Texas, nearby Lake Cypress Springs were featured on tours at the festival.
Stay tuned for information on future events and tours.