By Marcia Mason
A very special experience is coming your way! The Chippewa Valley Nature Festival, sponsored by the Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society, will be Friday, June 1, through Sunday, June 3, and will feature presentations, workshops, and field trips throughout the Menomonie, Eau Claire, and Downsville areas.
Friday night kicks off with “All Things Connected” presented by the Minnesota Zoomobile, a discussion of diversity with a live animal exhibit. A silent auction and cash bar will offer good mingling time.
Saturday will feature numerous opportunities to learn about and experience the natural world, such as garden insects, area snakes, cultivating mushrooms, and beginning beekeeping. Live birds will be a part of the ecosystem conversation led by The Raptor Education Group from Antigo, and hands-on workshops will teach how to attract bluebirds to your home and build a bluebird house. Try your hand at a nature-themed drawing class for fun and relaxation.
Saturday is chock full of outdoor field trips, with several opportunities by foot or canoe/kayak. Explore Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area, the Dunnville Bottoms, and Coon Fork Barrens Natural Area. Travel the Red Cedar and Chippewa River. Or descend 70 feet below ground, walking the passages of Crystal Cave, learning about the world of bats and their environs. Get close and personal to Karner Blue butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies, as well as terrestrial insects. Learn to identify plants of the prairie and examine the specifics of how to monitor bluebirds. On the more casual side, you can visit the James Newman Clark Bird Museum, UW-Eau Claire, with expert birder Steve Betchkal.
Saturday evening promises fun and conversation at the Duke and Dagger. Steve Betchkal will host Bird Bowl, a competitive game of bird trivia, with British pub-style food and drink available for purchase.
The festival concludes with a bird and plant tour via an antique open-air train through the Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife Area. It is part of the Lower Chippewa River wetlands, one of the most extensive and biologically diverse deltas in the Midwest.
Participants can attend as many sessions and field trips as wish. Children are welcome and receive free admission with a paid adult. Earlybird (reduced-price) weekend passes or single event fees are available if paid by May 15; but registration is open throughout the festival. Note that some field trips require an extra cost, and there are participant limits for a few events. You are encouraged to sign up early to ensure participation in events that interest you. Go to www.chippewavalleynaturefestival.com to check out the festival agenda and event information. For specific inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marcia Mason is assisting festival founder Nina Koch with event planning and promotion. She has enjoyed quiet sports such as camping, canoeing, hiking/snowshoeing for decades, as well as general observation of animals and birds throughout the seasons.