Florida Birding and Nature Festival returns to Tampa Bay in October

Bird-watching enthusiasts can take expert-guided field trips to nature preserves, parks and other spots around the Tampa Bay area and hear talks from wildlife specialists at the seventh annual Florida Birding and Nature Festival in October.

Scheduled from October 12th to 15th, the festival coincides with the time of year when scores of species of migrating birds stop in the area to rest and refuel before continuing their journey south. Event organizers are getting the word out now so people who plan to attend one or more of the field trips can register to make sure they get a spot.

“A lot of them do fill up fast,’’ says Joe Guidry, vice president of the festival. “There’s a limited number of people you can get on a field trip to have the kind of access you want. And you also have the guides – people want to be able to hear them. They can point out birds that you and I would not be able to see.’’

The “early bird’’ registration fee – through July – costs $75. Thereafter it’s $100, Guidry says, plus many of the field trips have their own fees.

The outings include walking, boat and canoe trips and a bus tour of Central Florida’s birding hot spots. Some trips go to sites not normally open to the public. Egmont Key, the Cross Bar Ranch in Spring Hill, Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, Alafia River Corridor South Nature Preserve, Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project, Fort DeSoto Park and the Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve are among the destinations.

Butterfly enthusiasts can sign up for a trip to the Schultz Nature Preserve near Gibstonton. One of the guides is Marc Minno, who has written several books on Florida butterflies and quick reference guides for a number of states. He will also conduct a seminar.

The center of the event is the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center, 6650 Dickman Road, Apollo Beach, though people going on field trips may be directed to meet at other spots, Guidry says. A free Nature Expo is scheduled for the conservation center on Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14. It will feature displays from environmental organizations, nature-related businesses, and artists. Exhibitors will sell binoculars, artwork, bird boxes and native plants that attract birds and butterflies.

On the evening of Oct. 13th, wildlife photographer and writer Stan Tekiela is scheduled to give a keynote address about the mysteries of bird migration. Tekiela has authored more than 190 field guides, nature books and wildlife audio CDs for many states. David Johnson, director of the Global Owl Project and a preeminent expert on owls, will speak on Saturday night.

To register and for more information, go to Florida Birding and Nature Festival
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Philip Morgan is a freelance writer living in St. Petersburg. He is an award-winning reporter who has covered news in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years. Phil grew up in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. He joined the Lakeland Ledger, where he covered police and city government. He spent 36 years as a reporter for the former Tampa Tribune. During his time at the Tribune, he covered welfare and courts and did investigative reporting before spending 30 years as a feature writer. He worked as a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times for 12 years. He loves writing stories about interesting people, places and issues.