Skimmers swoop in for annual public open house at Dow

Members of the Texas Operations Wildlife Support Team welcome visitors to the 32nd annual event

Freeport, Texas - June 13, 2016 -Community members and their families have the special opportunity to see Black Skimmers and their chicks up close on Saturday, June 25 at Dow Texas Operations' annual Black Skimmer Open House from 9 a.m. to noon.

The event is free and open to the public and provides the rare chance to view one of the largest nesting colonies of black skimmers on the Texas Gulf Coast in the middle of one of the world's largest petrochemical complexes.

There are currently about 1,000 birds at the location. The recent rains have resulted in a lower bird count than normal, but it will still be exciting to see the ones that made it to Texas for the summer.

Gabriella Cone, Dow Texas Operations' community relations manager, says it all started in 1968 when Dow employee Maurice Garner noticed the birds nesting in the parking lot and put up some ropes and barricades to keep them from being disturbed.

"It started out as a simple effort to protect the birds and has become one of the great examples of the high regard Texas Operations employees have for our local wildlife," says Cone. "We're proud to continue that tradition of conserving and protecting wildlife and their habitat. Having the skimmers back this year gives us another opportunity to promote conservation as a corporate and individual responsibility."

She adds the Black Skimmer Open House provides an exciting experience for everyone, from first-time bird watchers to seasoned birders.

"It is a great way to educate people about the skimmers and the importance of coastal habitat preservation," she says. "It's also a lot of fun to watch the birds and how they interact with the chicks. For many, this is the only opportunity they'll ever have to see a skimmer in the wild."

The lower half of the skimmer's bill is longer than the upper half and shaped like a flat knife blade. This allows the bird to fly just above the surface of the water with its lower bill skimming along the surface, picking up morsels of food – hence their name.

Anyone interested in attending the Skimmer Open House should arrive at the Dow A-41 Gate located on FM 523, approximately one mile south of the intersection of Highway 332 and FM 523 (watch for signs). A bus will shuttle visitors to the location of the colony between 9 a.m. and noon. All visitors must present a valid photo ID before boarding the bus. For more information about the Dow Black Skimmer Open House, visitors can call (979) 238-4159.

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Gabriella Cone