Kern Valley nature celebrated at festival

Nicholas Sparling

This year was the 14th annual Kern River Valley Spring Nature Festival, which was a weeklong event celebrating the diversity of plants and animals in our own backyard.
The festival featured nature walks, educational booths and teaching of the diverse birds, reptiles, bugs, plants and trees of the Kern River Valley as well as live music and activities for the kids.
The festival was held at the Audubon Kern River Preserve in Southlake and also in Kernville’s Circle Park. Both sites had educational booths and offered events of cost as well as free events.
According to the Kern River Preserve Web site, “Within a 15 mile radius, the highest diversity of flora and fauna found anywhere in California” is in the Kern River Valley.
Jihadda Godan represented the Federal Department of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The Kern National Wildlife Federation has an over 100-year history of preserving species although their main focus in Kern County is water fowl.
On May 3, the featured band was Robbie The Piper and The Out of Kilters, which featured an eclectic mix of singing, recorder, mandolin, guitar and drum playing to accompany Irish folk and blues tunes.
There was a demonstration for native reptiles and amphibians done by Dr. Buzz Lunsford.
The demonstration wasn’t very large because it is still early in the season for the cold-blooded animals. Later in the year, there is a festival specifically for reptiles and amphibians.
There was a large desert tortoise and a table with four cages displaying different native snakes. They had three species of rattlesnakes and a gopher snake to show the differences between the two as harmless gopher snakes mimic many of the features and actions of rattlesnakes.
“We put GPS on them after we catch them and before we release them. They don’t make good pets. They’re wild animals. It would be like me locking you up and throwing you a Big Mac every day. You might like it for a few weeks, but then you would get tired of it. Well, so do they. They belong in the wild; you wouldn’t go to the pet store and buy a bear or a tiger just like you wouldn’t want to buy one of these animals. They should be left in the wild and people who are afraid should be taught so that they won’t be afraid of them anymore,” said Lunsford.
“Audubon isn’t just for birds. It’s for all animals. Right now our organization’s main focus is our jump-start program for the Southwestern Pond Turtle,” said Audubon member Gordon Hepbach.
The turtles are trapped, and this being the second year of the head start program, they found out just last year that the turtles could be bred in captivity.
The turtles are not yet on the endangered species list, but they are a species of concern.
Last year they only produced six eggs, and only five successfully hatched.
The gestation period is 84 to 90 days although each turtle can live to be up to 70 years old and can’t reproduce until age 10.
There was also a Spring Nature Run, both 10k and 5k, a bird banding demonstration and scheduled nature walks that focused on plants, trees, birds and other animals.