Wildlife Weekend 2014

Despite a relative lack of support from mother nature, Wildlife Weekend 2014 was a great success.  The damp weather and occasional downpours couldn’t put a damper on the many activities for those attending.

The highlight of the weekend for many was a reunion of naturalists and student naturalists who have contributed (and continue to contribute) to the study of natural history at the Park.  Those attending included Wallace Coffey, Kevin Hamed, Brent Rowell, Joe Jackson, Chris O’Bryan, Gray Buckles, Jane Fleenor, Phil Gentry, Phillip Klahs, Jeremy Stout and Larry McDaniel. It was a wonderful opportunity for all to meet and reminisce on past successes, and to discuss the future of natural history at the Park.

As always, the Photography Show was a big hit!  Well over 100 images were submitted by almost 30 photographers.  Winning entries were announced at Friday evening’s reception; more details, including the awarded photos are available here.

Kevin Hamed (former Nature Center Manager) presented Friday evening’s keynote talk.  Kevin, with help from Wallace Coffey, did a fantastic job of providing a retrospective of natural history study and education at the Park.  Some twenty formal studies have been conducted at Steele Creek Park since Brent Rowell’s first natural history survey in 1970.  Through anecdotes and photographs, he brought life to that important fact, and helped all to better understand what a valuable resource the Park is.

On Saturday morning, despite the threat of more rain, a number of attendees enjoyed a Mushroom Foray with Gabrielle Zeiger, while others set out to learn about animal tracking with the ever popular Marty Silver.

Meanwhile, children were having a great time creating nature crafts under the guidance of Adrienne and Maggie Hess, and everyone was able to enjoy a variety of exhibits including Hands On Museum’s hands-on display, Bays Mountain (with their red-tailed hawk), Eric Smith’s beautiful bug exhibit, the Gray Fossil Site’s and Jeremy Stout’s fascinating fossil exhibits, and our own Friends of Steele Creek display with a variety of exhibits from the Nature Center.

A noon luncheon on Saturday featured a panel discussion focused on celebrating the impressive successes of preserving and studying the natural history of the Park, the current status of research activities at the Park, and future opportunities and challenges for education and study at the Park.

Following the luncheon, Friends recognized Wallace Coffey for his “many years of selfless contributions to Steele Creek Nature Center, and to the numerous students, staff and other individuals whom he has mentored over the years.”  A plaque bearing that inscription was presented to Wallace, with another one to be permanently displayed at the Nature Center.

Unfortunately, on Saturday afternoon the rain finally had a significant impact on the activities as both Connie Deegan’s wildflower walk and Jeremy Stout’s geology hike had to be moved indoors.  However, Connie’s slide show highlighting the diversity and beauty of fall and winter natural history within the Park and surrounding region was tremendously informative and kept the audience engaged for well over an hour and a half!  And Jeremy’s PowerPoint discussion brought geology to life, and helped to explain why the topography and ecology of the Park are what they are today.

Many thanks go to all those who helped to make this year’s Wildlife Weekend such a great success, despite the weather.  We look forward to another successful event again next October!

Photos from Wildlife Weekend 2014

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