Bristol park’s Wildlife Weekend returns Oct. 7-8 to celebrate 25th anniversary

Contributed Photo by Michele Sparks • A Northern waterthrush is secured in a bander’s hand at a bird banding station operated at a previous Wildlife Weekend. Bird banders Richard Lewis and Rack Cross will also conduct a bird banding operation at this year’s Wildlife Weekend at Steele Creek Park in Brisol on Saturday, Oct. 8.

Members of the Friends of Steele Creek Nature Center and Park in Bristol are getting ready to observe a milestone in their yearly staging of Wildlife Weekend on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7-8.

This year’s event, which will feature the theme “Plants and Pollinators,” will mark the 25th anniversary of the yearly celebration of wildlife in it many forms.

Birds will certainly be part of the mix, as will reptiles and honeybees, not to mention insects, spiders and more. Bird-specific activities scheduled for Oct. 8 include an Early Bird Walk, which will be conducted at 9 a.m. by Bristol Bird Club member Larry McDaniel, as well as a bird banding station located at the thicket near the Civitan Pavilion. Banding will get underway at 9:30 a.m. with longtime bird banders Richard Lewis and Rack Cross on site to introduce bird banding and its value to science to those attending this event.

If you’ve never observed bird banding, I would encourage you to attend this event. Banders receive training and are licensed by the federal government. These sessions also provide an opportunity to observe birds in a way that differs greatly from peering at them through binoculars. Of course, it’s rather hit or miss on what birds might show up in the nets used to capture the birds. Some of the expected birds that may be caught and banded include warblers, sparrows, thrushes, grosbeaks and other songbirds.

Other Saturday activities will include a walk at 10 a.m. to look for spiders and insects with naturalist Cade Campbell, and the two-hour Commander’s Morning Hike. The latter is a guided hike to the highest point in Steele Creek Park.

On Saturday afternoon, another Commander’s Hike will be offered with a different focus: this three-hour hike, which starts at 1 p.m., will give participants a chance to visit the oldest tree within the park.

Other afternoon walks, focused on honeybees, reptiles and mushrooms, will be led by Jeremy Stout, Lance Jessee and Mike Martin respectively. The mushroom walk commences at 1 p.m. The honeybee walk begins at 2 p.m., and the reptile walk will start at 3 p.m.

The popular Wildlife Weekend Passport is back. This scavenger hunt can be played via a downloadable Goosechase app or with a traditional printed hole punch version. Completed passports must be returned to the registration table by 4 p.m. to be eligible for prizes.

Saturday will also offer a variety of interactive exhibits and information tables, both at The Lodge and Nature Center’s lakeside porch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Themes for some of the kiosks will include fossil casting, rocks and minerals, and skins and skulls. 

Wes Walker, who has helped organize the events for Wildlife Weekend, noted that Saturday’s events will also be documented by a local photography group.

“We should be having the Eastman Camera Club on-site that day, “Walker said. “This club, comprised of both amateur and professional photographers, captures various events across the Tri-Cites area.”

Walker touted Wildlife Weekend as a chance to learn more about Steele Creek Park, which is a gem featuring more than 2,000 acres in the middle of Bristol. 

“Most folks are aware of the ‘park’ area, but that only encompasses a fraction of the entire park,” Walker said. “Wildlife Weekend is an opportunity for individuals and families to explore this local treasure, and learn about the natural wonders from local experts.” 

The numerous interactive activities range from crafts, to several-mile hikes. Wildlife Weekend also serves as an excellent way to introduce children to the wonders of nature, as well as a knowledge supplementation for more experienced nature enthusiasts. 

The Bristol Bird Club will operate a kiosk offering information on the region’s varied birds. In addition, members of the Washington County Master Gardeners program will host a kiosk adjacent to their pollinator garden next to the Nature Center’s lakeside porch. The Campbells (Tracy, Cade and Chloe) will offer a family crafts kiosk featuring crafts for making “Critter Keepers” and “Mosaic Magnets.” Megan and David Christian will operate an owl pellet kiosk. By dissecting the pellets, participants can get a hint at the varied diets of owls residing in the park. 

The 25th Wildlife Weekend kicks off on Friday, Oct. 6, with an opening reception at 6 p.m. in the Steele Creek park Nature Center. After a brief overview of the history of Wildlife Weekend, keynote speaker Gerardo Arceo-Gomez will present a program titled “Pollination in Action: Fantastic Bees and Where to Find Them.” Friday’s activities will conclude with an awards ceremony for the 2022 Wildlife Weekend Amateur Photography Contest. 

For more information on the 25th annual Wildlife Weekend, visit 


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