RED HOUSE — More than 500 nature lovers are converging on Allegany State Park this weekend for the 58th annual Allegany Nature Pilgrimage.
Registration opened Friday at 10 a.m. and the first of dozens of presentations by nature experts began at 1 p.m.
Participants have choices of programs indoors or under tents outside the pilgrimage headquarters in Camp Allegany, as well as short walks around the headquarters and longer field trips to other parts of the 65,000-acre state park.
The Allegany Nature Pilgrimage is hosted by the Buffalo and Jamestown Audubon Societies, the Presque Isle Audubon Society in Erie, Pa., and Burroughs Audubon Society in Rochester.
Marcia Nixon of the Buffalo Audubon Society and Lisa Danko of the Presque Isle Audubon Society have co-chaired the pilgrimage for the past 10 years. On Friday, they both said they just wanted things to go smoothly.
“We like to see smiles on peoples’ faces,” Danko said.
Nixon said the pair came in Thursday afternoon to set up early. She’s been coming for about 30 years, has been registrar for 15 years and co-chair with Danko for 10 years.
“It’s a wonderful event,” Nixon said. “We’re going to have more than 500 people here.”
The Splash Hike with Lon Myers can draw more than 100 people — mostly kids, as they explore Red House Creek, Nixon said.
There are several new programs and nature hikes this year, Nixon said. They include: Create a Nature Tapestry; Fairy Houses and Toad Abodes; Nature For Kids, By Kids; Art of the Earth; and Know the Night and Birds Through Words.
While Nixon doesn’t get to go on as many nature hikes as she’d like, one she doesn’t want to miss this year is a Creek and Woods Hike near Camp Allegany led by Jeff Tomes of Jamestown.
“I love his sense of humor,” she said.
Everyone loves the morning bird banding with Linda Ordway of Bradford, Pa., which starts about 8 a.m. today and Sunday, Nixon said.
One change made this year involves the native plants that experts used to bring from their gardens back home for display — they’ve been replaced with photographs.
“We didn’t want people to think it was OK to dig up these plants,” Nixon said.
To see a full list of the programs at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage, check out their website at alleganynaturepilgrimage.com.
Walk-ins are $25 a day for adults and $2.50 for youths under age 18.
Tonight’s featured presentation is “The Hellbender: Allegany's Living Fossil with Robin Foster” in the big tent. Dinner at 5:30 p.m. in the big tent will feature a chicken or vegan dinner with folk music by Nan Hoffman, a longtime pilgrimage favorite.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald. com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)