Okay, this is part "me bragging" and part "getting you guys excited". I registered Mom and I for the Florida Birding and Nature Festival in Ruskin, FL. http://www.floridabirdingandna...
It's about an hour south of me, at the very bottom of Hillsborough County. I live about three miles from the north end of Hillsborough County. It's in what we call the Southshore area. Registration was supposed to open Aug 1 but they had a few website glitches. I contacted the lady they listed on the flyer because I wanted to make sure Mom and I got the field trips we wanted (and were actually capable of doing in Florida in September weather).
So there are field trips on Fri, Sat, and Sun. To see them all, click here: http://www.floridabirdingandna...
I knew which ones I wanted to go on, but I told Mom to look them over and get back to me on which ones she thought sounded good. Luckily, great minds think alike! Here are the ones we chose:
Friday, Honeymoon Island State Park, Pinellas County
8:00 am - 11:00 am, Carpool: 6:30 am
Limited to 30 participants, Fee $20, Park fee $8 per vehicle up to 8 persons, $4 single occupant vehicle
Leaders: Dan Larremore, John Hood
Honeymoon Island State Park is a dynamic barrier island. Its beaches and the causeway approach to the park are known hotspots for shorebirds, from the little peeps to reddish egrets doing their ‘drunken sailor’ dance. Merlins patrol the edges looking for unwary dinner items. On the island the Osprey Trail, through a rare virgin slash pine forest, lives up to its name, with dozens of ospreys, plus the resident great horned owl family and migrant passerines. Mangroves, lagoons and tidal flats provide diverse habitat. You will meet the leaders before the causeway and have a look at who’s dining on the beach before heading into the park and walking several places along the edge, the woods of Osprey Trail as well as checking the grasslands for sparrows.
Saturday, Alafia Banks Bird Sanctuary excursion on Bay Spirit II, Hillsborough County
9:00 am – 11:30 am, Carpool: 6:30 am
Limited to 40 participants, Fee: $40.00, Aquarium Parking $6.00.
Leaders: Mark Rachal, Ann Paul
Join us aboard the Florida Aquarium’s Bay Spirit II for a 2 ½ hour tour out to the Richard T. Paul Alafia Banks Bird Sanctuary, an Audubon sanctuary considered to be one of the most important nesting colonies in the state of Florida. Each year up to 18,000 pairs of birds representing up to 20 different species nest on this island, including a third of the state’s population of roseate spoonbills and a very large white Ibis nesting colony. Although October is not nesting season, we expect to see pelicans, herons, shorebirds, and duck species. On the ride out to the island, you will also have the chance to see Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Enjoy a bonus free aquarium admission for the day upon your return!
Sunday, Duette Preserve Wagon Tour, Manatee County
8:00 am – 10:00 pm, Carpool: 7:00 am
Limited to 18 participants, Fee: $25.00
Leaders: Aedan Stockdale, David Gordon
At more than 21,000 acres, Duette Preserve is the largest Preserve in Manatee County. Located in the eastern part of the county it contains the headwaters of Manatee River. Many species of wildlife can be found on Duette Preserve, including species of special concern such as the burrowing owl, snowy egret, white ibis, gopher tortoise, and at least two endangered/threatened species, the eastern indigo snake and one of the largest and healthiest populations of Florida Scrub Jays in the state. Duette Preserve is also host to many of the native plant communities of Manatee County, providing protection and preservation of pine flatwoods, hardwood swamps, xeric oak scrub, depression marsh, and vast dry prairie.
Melanie here again. I picked that last one because I'm determined to see a Florida Scrub Jay. Plus, it's a wagon tour and that means less walking! Mom was a little wary when she read Indigo Snake but I assured her they are harmless and endangered! All the field trips sound good, right? I tried to pick things that were places we hadn't been, couldn't normally go, or where we would have special access. We've actually been to quite a few of the preserves on the list of field trips, usually as part of the "Give a Day for the Bay" volunteer days.
Since the field trips start so early, and my credit card was running a special 10% cash back on hotels, I looked into making this a little mini-vacation. We booked a hotel right on the beach, five miles away from the festival headquarters. Birding during the day, margaritas on the beach in the evening! I've never had a margarita. That will be fixed soon.
I hope we see lots of cool stuff on our trip, and you know I'll be sure to share it with all of you. For now, all I can share is my excitement!