This was our sixth year for our nature adventure camp. It is a five day, four night intensive nature camp designed for those children who have an affinity for the natural world. It is science oriented. Mary Kay Sexton, a fifth grade science teacher at St. Andrews School in Austin, organized the camp and is assisted by David Matthews who teaches at Small Middle School in Austin. Many volunteers with knowledge, skills and experience come to share with the campers such things as snakes from Jared Holmes, rehabilitated raptors from our long time friend, Sallie Delahoussaye, and Rico Reyes, an entomologist, with bugs and spiders. All are great people, great educators. We’re lucky to have them join us at camp.
Adapting to Change
The only life forms that don’t adapt to a changing environment go extinct. If you’ll refer to my blog posting of June 7 entitled “Drought”, you’ll understand that one of the more fun things at camp is a few hours each day in the springwaters of Madrone Lake. The lake is down so low that the campers had to take a canoe out to the middle where the water was still eight foot deep. I worried about the health of the water, so Colleen took samples to the Edwards Aquifer Research & Data Center at Texas State University to check for e. coli and fecal coliform. The report was “perfectly swimmable even drinkable.”
Kids in canoe. Photograph taken by Dixie Gadna.
Bat Emergence. Phototgraph taken by J. David.
At 8:05 in the evening the bats come pouring out of our chiroptorium. Many people have experienced an emergence, but very few have ever witnessed the return of the bats in the very early morning . . . our campers have and here are their testimonies
In their own words
Justin showed us the bats and explained their feeding patterns. Justin also told me about one of the most amazing experiences in my life, the bats’ return to the cave. In this experience, hundreds of bats dived from the sky to the cave, opening their wings about once every hundred feet. – Hugo Cristopher Nakashima-Brown
I hope I can come back next year. The food is awesome. The bats are awesome. – Mason Evarts
Justin, thanks for telling us about the bat return – seeing those specks swirl down into plummeting bats may be my most profound Selah moment, and I know I’ll never forget it. – Emma Hine
Thank you all for creating such a wonderful place, especially the chiroptorium. – Anonymous Camper
I’d like to thank Justin for showing us the bat cave and telling us when they come back in the morning. After he told us that, we went to the cave at 6:30 and got to see the bats flying right over our heads and into the cave. – Amandah Reyes
Justin thank you for teaching us about bats. - Will
I really appreciate all that you two have taught us about bats. Justin, seeing the bats return in the morning was on everyone’s top 10 list. I’m so glad you told us about that! – Dixie Gadna
Justin thank you for your encouraging words and teaching us about bats, their arrival was a real spectacle! – Frankie Torres
Our nature camp is totally held outdoors. Here, David Matthews holds a class on the patio. Photograph taken by Justin Duke.
One thing David always talks about is plants to avoid on the ranch. Here he is with poison ivy. Photograph taken by Justin Duke.
Backyard birding. Early morning nature study includes birding. Since I have feeders out it was a quite easy and comfortable way to bird. Photograph taken by J. David.
A day off the ranch to study dinosaur tracks in the limestone of the Blanco River Bottom. The big elephant like footprint of the long neck pleurocoelus is 39 inches in diameter. One of my friends told me his mother walked him and his brothers down to the river and the dinosaur tracks was their bathtub! Photograph taken by Amanda Fulton.
The Blanco River also provided some interesting searching for snakes and aquatic insects. The little fellow is 2½ year old Aiden Fulton – starting young! Photograph taken by Amanda Fulton.
Steven Fulton, Ranch Biologist, with a turtle the campers brought to him. Sorry, I don’t know what kind of turtle. Photograph taken by Justin Duke.
A dam on the Blanco River provided a real good place to swim. What a day! Photograph by Amanda Fulton.