Speaker Series: Hornsby Bend 1959-2019: 60 Years of Birds, Birding, and More with Kevin Anderson

Doors open at 6:30 PM, Talk starts at 7:00 PM

Between 1956 and 1958, the City of Austin built three large ponds at “Hornsby’s Bend” on 180 acres along the Colorado River downstream of Austin, to treat the city’s malodorous sewage sludge. The first birder found the “Platt” ponds at Hornsby Bend on November 25, 1959.  Rob Fergus gives this account in his 1999 thesis The Birds of Hornsby Bend, “G. Frank “Pancho” Oatman, a young birder from Austin who was visiting relatives in Del Valle for the Thanksgiving Holiday, noticed ducks flying across the Colorado River.  Guessing that there must be ponds nearby, Pancho explored the area and became the first birdwatcher to discover the sewage facilities at Hornsby Bend.  On his initial visit, Pancho spotted waterfowl in large numbers—unusual for the Austin area—including four female Common Goldeneyes and a single Bonaparte’s Gull—both firsts for Travis County.  Pancho excitedly phoned other birders with his news.  Local experts Edgar Kincaid and Fred Webster joined Pancho at the ponds the next day with John and Rose Ann Rowlett.  The rare birds were still there.  Oatman and the Rowletts visited the facility again on 27 November and discovered two additional Travis County firsts—a Dunlin and two Lapland Longspurs.”Since those first visits in 1959, countless birders have visited Hornsby Bend and expanded their observations beyond birds to butterflies, dragonflies, and more – documenting the impressive biodiversity of what is now a 1200 acre site along 3 miles of the Colorado River. As we approach the 60thanniversary of Pancho’s first visit, this talk will look back at the history of birds, birding, and more at that most special place, Hornsby Bend.

Dr. Kevin M. Anderson has been the coordinator of the Austin Water Center for Environmental Research at Hornsby Bend since 2000. His environmental career began growing up on a Pennsylvania farm, and it has since ranged from running an organic farm in Potomac, Maryland to helping start a river conservation foundation in Northeastern Hungary as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  He received his Master’s degree in Philosophy from Ohio University, where he taught philosophy and symbolic logic for several years. He completed his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin with a dissertation entitled: Marginal Nature: Urban Wastelands and the Geography of Nature.

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