The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center presents a series of admission-free Thursday evenings for its annual Nature Nights. The six-evening series beginning June 12 and breaking for Fourth of July week will offer interactive activities, scavenger hunts, nature hikes, story times, and demonstrations for all ages. Themes for the evenings include Plants and Play, Fossils, Wondrous Water, Snakes, Wildlife Tracking, and Birds of Prey.
Nature Nights also will allow attendees to explore the new Luci and Ian Family Garden, which opened in May. The 4.5-acre garden provides wonder-filled exhibits for families, such as giant birds’ nests made from grape vines, a creek with dinosaur footprints, a grotto with caves and a waterfall, huge tree stumps for climbing, a maze, and a Nature’s Spiral, a mosaic–inlaid limestone wall illustrating the spiral shapes found in nature.
The only native plant garden in Central Texas developed specifically for families, the Luci and Ian Family Garden is named after Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, and her husband Ian Turpin. “Our hope is that the Family Garden will be a place where families go to play and discover the wonder and importance of nature,” said Johnson. The $5 million garden doubles the maintained garden acreage at the 279-acre Wildflower Center.
Snakes and raptors and dinosaurs – Oh my! Nature Nights Schedule at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Plants and Play – Thursday, June 12, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Play with a giant chess set. Blow big bubbles. “Pet” plants in the petting zoo. Listen to “Mr. Habitat” and his band, and learn about invasive species from Commander Ben from the Invasive Hunter Academy. Then, stop by the book signing table, where Annette Lucksinger will sign her guidebook, “Exploring Austin with Kids.”
Fossils – Thursday, June 19, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Dig for dinosaur tracks, and see archeological artifacts from the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory. Test your dinosaur footprint jump, and then jump over to the store, where all fossils, plus fossil and dinosaur kits and t-shirts, will be on sale.
Wondrous Water – Thursday, June 26, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Watch the waterfall in the grotto along Dinosaur Creek. Listen to science-oriented songs and stories performed by “Singing Zoologist” Lucas Miller. Learn about water conservation from County Master Naturalists and the Colorado River Alliance. Check out the water exploration kits and watering cans on sale, and visit Sara Barnard, who will sign her new children’s book, “The ABC’s of Texas Plants.”
Snakes – Thursday, July 10, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Celebrate snakes with a live snake display by Austin Reptile Service and a snake habitat hike with City of Austin Park Ranger David Papke. Learn about the rare Texas Short-Horned Lizard (or “horned toad”), a threatened species in Texas, from the Horned Lizard Society. Enjoy 10 percent off all snake-related merchandise, books, and toys.
Wildlife Tracking – Thursday, July 17, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Take a habitat hike. View wildlife print casts and animal artifacts from Earth Native Wilderness School, and learn how to make take-home animal tracks from the Capital Area Master Naturalists. What to do when you find an injured wild animal? Austin Wildlife Rescue will provide information on how to help. In the store, all tracking kits and books will be on sale, and Lucksinger will sign, “Exploring Austin with Kids.”
Birds of Prey – Thursday, July 24, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
View a live bird presentation by the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center. Dissect and examine owl pellets. Learn about feathers and raptor flight from Earth Native Wilderness School. Take a bird watching habitat hike with Travis Audubon, and see a Eurasion Eagle Owl and a mystery bird from Tish Corvidae, Horseshoe Bay Resort’s avian director. Raptor gifts and books, plus Family Garden t-shirts, will be on sale, and signed copies of Divya Srinivasan’s “Little Owl’s Night” will be available.
Photo by Jim Turner, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The University of Texas at Austin.