Don’t let the flock pass you by!
Registration still is open for dozens of guided field trips to wildlife hot spots around southwest Florida in celebration of the 10th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival Jan. 17-19. Specialty trips cover all modes of transportation, including bike rides, buggy rides, canoe trips, swamp tromps and boat tours that shine a spotlight on the amazing conservation lands and waters across the region.
Take advantage of opportunities to explore off-the-beaten-path locations such as Sandfly Island in Everglades National Park, CREW Bird Rookery Swamp and Big Cypress National Preserve. Get to know the wildlife on Marco Island from burrowing owls you can see from your car to creatures from the green lagoon (also known as Tigertail). Field trip costs and individual ability to participate vary, and pre-registration is required.
In celebration of the festival, the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is offering “buy one, get one free admission” from 9 AM to 4 PM on Friday, Jan. 17 ($5). On Saturday, Jan. 18, the cost of admission is $10, and includes four expert lectures:
• 12 PM “Wildlife in Need” Jessica Bender, Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida
• 1 PM “Ospreys in Southwest Florida” Ted Below, avian expert and former National Audubon Warden
• 2 PM “Native Landscaping for South Florida” Chad Washburn, Director of Conservation and Education with the Naples Botanical Garden
• 3 PM “The Mountains of Big Cypress” Luke Gommerman, Park Ranger of Environmental Education and Interpretation at Big Cypress National Preserve
Don’t miss the keynote lecture on Saturday evening. Dr. Elizabeth Forys, professor of Environmental Science and Biology from Eckerd College will give the lecture: “Trying to Reverse a ‘Downtern:’ Creative Management Ideas for Least Terns”. Least terns are small, colonial nesting seabirds that breed along portions of both the eastern and western coasts of North America. These birds face many obstacles in their attempts to nest on open beach habitat, including development, disturbance from people and pets, and sea-level rise.
In this lecture, Forys will describe efforts to manage alternative least tern habitat (rooftops), creation of new alternative habitat (rafts) and experiments with novel methods to discourage disturbance of nesting least terns on Florida’s southwest coast. Cost is $15 to attend the lecture and includes refreshments.
The Environmental Learning Center is closed on Sunday, Jan. 19, and Monday, Jan. 20 in observance of Martin Luther King day. Festival details and registration at www.rookerybay.org/learn/swfl-nature-festival.html.