The birding industry has established universal appeal, but birds and butterflies are not the only winged migrants to attract a crowd. Dragonflies and damselflies are gaining popularity among wildlife enthusiasts, as showcased by the 10th annual Dragonfly Days festival coming up May 21-24 in South Texas.

Southern Texas is home to over 100 dragonfly species, making it one of the most biologically diverse regions in the nation. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is becoming known for rare sightings, and at last yearís Dragonfly Days visitors made some exciting find, including a Black Pondhawk and a Three-striped Dasher. In the weeks following the festival, the first U.S.A. record Mexican Scarlet-tail, first U.S.A. record Bow-tailed Glider, and a Blue-spotted Comet were all found in the festival area.

The Dragonfly Days weekend is a chance to see why dragonflying is becoming as popular as birding in some places. The event is sponsored by the Estero Llano Grande State Park World Birding Center site and the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco.

For those who want to learn how to tell a skimmer from a glider, and understand how these colorful insects play a vital role in maintaining a healthy environment, Dragonfly Days offers seminars, field trips, social events and a banquet with a silent auction.

The eventís host hotel is the Holiday Inn Express in Weslaco. Visitors are advised to reserve a room soon, and ask for the festival rate using the code: DFD. Seminars will be at the hotel and field trips will also leave from that location. Shuttles will be provided for guests to get to the social events and banquet that are not located at the hotel.

Festival leaders and speakers are experts with many years of experience with odonates. They will be guiding field trips to area wetlands with the greatest dragonfly diversity, including sites like Estero Llano Grande State Park.

Organizers say visitors should make sure to bring binoculars, sturdy shoes and protection from the sun.

For local families and children, the Valley Nature Center is also hosting the Dragonfly Family Nature Day the Saturday before the festival, May 16, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., filled with fun and educational activities for all ages.

For more details about Dragonfly Days and the Dragonfly Family Nature Day, e-mail or phone 956-969-2475. Pre-registration is required for all seminars, field trips and the banquet. More information can also be found on the Valley Nature Center Web site,