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Residents reconnect with nature at Matagorda County birding center (video)

By Jessica Priest
Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.

A yellow-crowned night-heron roosts among the trees at the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center in Bay City.

IF YOU GO

Open seven days a week, sunup to sundown. Closed Christmas Day.

Admission is $3 per person or $5 per car.

Entry fees go toward maintaining the grounds.

Located 1.7 miles west of Bay City on state Highway 35 South.

For more information, call 979-245-3336 or email mcbnc@mcbnc.org.

BAY CITY - As a girl, Donna Younger watched the skies above her rural Matagorda home grow overcast, but not with clouds.

Flocks upon flocks of birds darkened the skies on their journey south toward warmer temperatures.

"You would think it was like smoke," she said. "It was just kind of grand."

Today, Mother Nature still dazzles her. She is the director of the nonprofit Birding and Nature Center, a 34-acre piece of land nestled along the vast Colorado River and left mostly to its own devices.

There, visitors may spot some 333 bird species, including painted buntings, green jays and even the odd eagle. The vast numbers and varieties of birds has earned it first place on the Aubudon Society's prestigious, annual Christmas Bird Count list for more than a decade.

The park was kind of the brain child of Marilyn Sitz and her husband David, a Markham couple that grew envious of Rockport's Hummingbird Center.

The area economic development corporation bought the land, which opened to the public in 2003. Anywhere from 600-800 kids visit each year to stargaze, kayak and fish in ponds teeming with critters, among other things.

It's also a hub for community service. Once the site of the Woolsey family rice farm in the early 1900s, it has eight silos. Some 25 volunteers along with adult and juvenile probation participants maintain the man-made grounds, which include the rose, fern and cactus gardens, with borrowed tools housed inside the silos.

Last year, Phillips 66 helped fund some of its educational programs.

Younger, though, is most proud of the land because it brings peace to people in a somewhat chaotic world.

"A lot of people just go sit on a bench and read," she said. "They envision that this is what God planned."

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