Dragonfly Festival returns | Vision | rdrnews.com – Roswell Daily Record

A volunteer of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, at the 18th annual Dragonfly Festival in 2019 at Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge National Park, shows a child how to handle a bow and arrow.

A volunteer of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, at the 18th annual Dragonfly Festival in 2019 at Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge National Park, shows a child how to handle a bow and arrow.
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge hosts the popular festival that includes encounters with live animals, birds and dragonflies
The free family-friendly Dragonfly Festival returns to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (BLNWR) with presentations and stargazing on Sept. 9 and hands on wildlife and dragonfly tours, butterfly releases, and live bird and bat programs on Sept. 10 and 11.
According to the Roswell Daily Record’s archive, the festival was first established in 2001, and is sponsored by the refuge and Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife (FBLNW). FBLNW have an art contest every year for the poster representing the festival. This year the winner is Kimber Lucas, 5th grader, Berrendo Elementary School.
Steve Alvarez is the outdoor recreation planner of the refuge and has been working there since 2001. He said he still gets surprised, when he steps out of his office at the refuge’s visitor’s center, by what is there to see and encounter.
“I liked dragonflies when I was younger, but I didn’t realize the uniqueness of them until I came here,” he said. “I worked at about eight national parks, three wildlife refuges and a couple of state parks and this has the highest number of biology rich places. I worked at Grand Canyon and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and a couple big parks and they have some beautiful resources, but as far as biology goes, I would say, in a small area this is just packed.”
The Dragonfly Festival is, for locals, also a sign that fall is just around the corner with cooler weather ahead and, of course, the arrival of migratory geese, ducks and cranes from the northern part of the country. This is eagerly awaited by scientists, the refuge’s staff and birders. During the festival visitors can get a first close look at the refuge’s auditorium presentations. The free presentation by Laura McCain, raptor specialist of New Mexico, is titled “Birds of Prey” and the live presentation will begin at 6:30 pm on Friday. The presentation will be held at the refuge’s Joseph R. Skeen Visitor Center auditorium located at 4200 East Pine Lodge Road. The presentation is limited to 40 attendees. “People wanted her back again so we did,” Alvarez said. “She’s a school teacher, she’s got a real good rapport with people. If you can’t get in on Friday, she’s doing it again on Saturday at 2 p.m.”
Following the bird program, the audience is invited to a stargazing program by the Roswell Astronomy Club.
Alvarez said that the popular Early Bird Tour on Saturday is already booked out. He recommends to make reservations for the popular Dragonfly and Wildlife Tours that start on Saturday at 8 a.m. and continue every hour and a half. The last Dragonfly Tour is on Saturday at 2 p.m. and on Sunday there are three dragonfly tours scheduled: at 9 and 10 a.m., with the last taking place at noon. He also recommends to bring water, mosquito repellent, sun lotion and in case of cooler weather, a jacket.
Asked how fit somebody should be for the tours, Alvarez said that the tours by van require some walking; however, if somebody is handicapped they can follow the van in their vehicle and join the group at their leisure at the various stopping points along the route.
“The Dragonfly Tour is the most popular one,” he said. “We’ve got specialists that come mostly from Texas — some of them are from New Mexico. They are really into dragonflies. We are known for our dragonfly population, that’s why we are doing it. We have over 100 species of dragonflies, 50% are dragonflies, 50% are damselflies. We’ve got all kinds of other insects that use Bitter Lakes as a home. Over 350 kinds of birds have been spotted here. When the Friends (FBLNW) started this program, they wanted the local public educated to know, hey, next to you, you’ve got a biological paradise. You aren’t going to see everything at once — sometimes it’s boring as heck (when temperatures hit over 100F earlier this year, the refuge’s wildlife only was active early in the morning and in the evening), but if you hit it just right, you’ll be shocked on how much there is. We’ve got a lot of people that normally never would have come out here.”
Another auditorium presentation takes place on Saturday at 11 a.m. Justin Stevenson specializes in bats and will have some live bats with him for his presentation. Stevenson is the cofounder of the advocacy initiative fightwns that focuses on bat conservation.
“At 1 p.m., we’ve got a local photographer — he’s really, really good — Jerry Holm. He comes out here a lot on his own, taking photos, because he loves it so much. He is one of the best photographers I know,” Alvarez said. Holm will show some of his photos he took and will give tips on how to approach nature photography.
One of the favorite events for children is the live butterfly release that is planned on Saturday at noon. Reservations are required. “It’s free,” Alvarez said. “We are going to release 200 butterflies. We’re going to release them separate. They have to pick up their ticket and present it to the person on that day. There are three stations. Each ticket has a different color for its station. As a kid comes up, we give it the butterfly to release. It’s a good one because the Monarch butterfly is on the endangered species list.”
Since July 2022, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has put the migratory Monarch butterfly on its red list as being endangered.
“Not all refuges have real positive atmosphere between the refuge and the community. Some of them have complications — Roswell is very supportive of Bitter Lake,” Alvarez said.
This support shows in the various organizations and civic groups that will attend the festival. Children will find entertainment and education at the kid’s fishing pool, there will be arts and crafts and a children’s scavenger hunt.
“We’ve gotten a good response. It’s been three years since we’ve done it. Everyone is really enthusiastic. They are looking forward to coming. We have about 15 people in the exhibit tent. There will be some vendors that sell arts and crafts, but most of them are conservationist groups, National Park Service, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), Forest Service. The Roswell Garden Club has always been here and will be here again. We are looking forward to them coming,” Alvarez said. Also, there will be a snow cone vendor and as a fundraiser, the local Boy Scouts will sell burgers and hot dogs.
Alvarez said that one of the scientists at the refuge is a specialist in reptiles and just started a month ago, biologist Carl Jacobsen.
“Carl will be doing the Wildlife Tour,” he said. “That’s more geared towards people that don’t know what we’re doing for wildlife. We do anything from moving boards, to lift/raise the water in the ponds, for the winter we add more water because we get the migratory water fowl come in. In the spring and summer we lower it so the shorebirds can nest, and we also manipulate the water to encourage aquatic plants to grow at certain times. We have to manage for fish. Carl probably will have a stop where a line trap to bring some of the fish we have that are more rare. We have puffer fish — the range is not very big. Here on the refuge, we have thousands.”
Alvarez said that the staff of the refuge took advantage of the closure due to the pandemic. They replaced worn-out bird blinds using recycled material, added upgrades, irrigation systems and new equipment that the public will be able to see at the festival.
“We’re educating the public — this refuge belongs to them. We’re just lucky enough to work here and sharing it. We’re proud to show it off. All of us have pride in the refuge,” Alvarez said.
For kids interested in signing up to release a butterfly, contact Alvarez at 575-625-4009 or 575-244-6256. For more information, visit fws.gov or friendsofbitterlake.org.
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