Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Fest

Florida Keys birds

Cormorant sunning in the Florida Keys

Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Fest is now in it’s 15th year!

The 15th annual Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival is Tuesday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013.  The festival offers a variety of programs, field trips, workshops and speakers guaranteed to enthrall nature lovers of all ages. Festival activities span the length of the island chain, from Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas, and give participants a unique perspective on the terrestrial and marine habitats of this subtropical paradise.

The festival is anchored at Curry Hammock State Park, mile marker 56.2, which is also home to the annual Florida Keys Hawkwatch, a citizen science effort that monitors the fall raptor migration over the islands.  Hawkwatch coordinator Rafael Galvez will be this year’s keynote speaker. The festival features field trips to Dry Tortugas National Park, the National Key Deer Refuge, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Park and other national, state and private natural areas. The week’s events include several talks and walks covering the flora and fauna of this one-of-a-kind subtropical island chain.

While the festival explores many of the islands’ public lands during its run, Curry Hammock State Park is a home base of sorts for the week, because of our close connection to the Florida Keys Hawkwatch. This park in the heart of the Keys was awarded third place in the 2012 America’s Favorite Park contest sponsored by Coca-Cola. The park garnered more than 8 million votes and received a $25,000 grant from the Coca Cola Live Positively initiative to help enhance the park’s recreational areas. Thanks to the Hawkwatch, the park is also now known as the Peregrine Falcon Migration Capital of the World. That’s because the Hawkwatch tallied a record one-day count of 3,242 of the birds on Oct. 16, 2012

Join us for an all-day birding excursion to the magnificent Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson for the spectacle of fall migration. There are two guide-led groups, and each one is limited to 20 participants, so sign up early!  This all-day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park leaves the Key West ferry terminal on the Yankee Freedom III at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, and returns around 5 p.m. The $25 cost is separate from the cost of the ferry, which must be booked directly with on the Yankee Freedom‘s website or by calling 305-294-7009. Ferry cost depends on residency and whether you have a federal lands pass.

Join avid Florida Keys birder and ecotour guide Mark Hedden for an opportunity to learn about the role this isolated island plays in nesting and migration, or shadow wildlife photographers Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez to learn some of the secrets of professional wildlife photography.

Saturday, Sept. 28, offers a full day of activities, environmental booths, food and special music appropriate for the entire family at the Wildlife Festival, 10 a.m. to  3 p.m. at Curry Hammock State Park.

The festival features dozens of booths designed to showcase the spectacular Florida Keys environment and wildlife. Hands-on activities include a guided beach hike with keynote speaker Rafael Galvez and self-guided kayak tours. Participate in our scavenger hunt for a chance to win a festival t-shirt (while supplies last).  NASA Solar System Educator Elizabeth Moore will offer a free astronomy program from 7 to 9 p.m. at the park.

Admission to the state park is free for festivalgoers the day of the festival, which is sponsored by the Friends of Islamorada Area State Parks.


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