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SWFL Nature Fest Logo10th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival

January 17-19, 2014

Register today for field trips during the 10th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival! Explore the local environment through almost 40 guided field trips to 20 wildlife hot spots around Southwest Florida and lectures at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. Field trips, including birding walks, buggy rides and boat tours, are offered in conjunction with partners such as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Big Cypress National Preserve and Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Enjoy field trips on all three days, onsite activities as follows:

Friday, Jan. 17: admission to the Environmental Learning Center is $5 Buy-One/Get-one FREE (includes daily programs at 11 am and 2 pm)
Saturday, Jan. 18: admission is $10 and includes entry to all 4 daytime lectures (Keynote admission is additional)
Sunday, Jan. 19: Environmental Learning Center is closed

Nature Festival Lectures, Saturday Jan. 18

Wildlife in Need (12-1 pm)

Jessica-Bender--ssTime: Saturday, January 18, 2014 from 12 pm - 1 pm

Given By: Jessica Bender, Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist at Conservancy of Southwest Florida Von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Lecture Description: Ever wonder where injured and orphaned animals go to receive proper care to be returned back to the wild with the skills they need? Jess will explain what goes on behind the scenes at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, why animals are admitted, how they are rehabilitated and given medical treatment/diagnostics, and what assessments are made for the release. She will also explain how you can help if you find an animal you think needs assistance.

Brief Bio: Jess realized she wanted to help animals from an early age after growing up on a Wisconsin farm. She majored in Animal Science at Cornell University and received her first experience with wildlife rehabilitation while interning at a facility on the Washington State coast. Following graduation from Cornell, she worked as a field assistant observing birds on a Mexican coffee farm, as well as costume rearing endangered Whooping Crane chicks for release into the newly established Eastern Migratory population. She began as an intern at the wildlife clinic in 2007 and has since been a full time rehabber there for over 5 years.

Ospreys in SWFL (1-2 pm)

Ted-Below--ssTime: Saturday, January 18, 2014 from 1 pm - 2 pm

Given By: Ted Below, volunteer with Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Lecture Description: The Osprey has a world wide distribution (except for the artic); they are both migratory (colder climates) and sedentary (tropics and sub-tropics) in Southwest Florida they are present year round. I am going to talk about the life history of the local Ospreys; the information will come from two long term projects conducted in the vicinity of Marco Island.

Brief Bio: Ted Below was born Brooklyn, NY in 1924.He moved to Naples, FL in 1955 and became a bird watcher in 1956. Ted then joined the Sooty Tern banding project in the Dry Tortugas in 1966. He began studying Brown Pelicans in 1972 and then included all coastal waterbirds in his study in 1972.

Ted started working for National Audubon as a warden/biologist and continued his coastal waterbird monitoring in 1982. He then retired from NAS as warden the end of 1994, but kept up his coastal waterbird research. Ted continued studying coastal waterbirds and working as biologist for National Audubon part-time. Ted has also been the Director, Vice-president, and President, Florida Ornithological Society. He went to work for Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Department of Environmental Protection, State of Florida, 2/1/03 as staff Avian Ecologist. In January of 2009, he changed his position to volunteer. In this position, he kept up long-term studies of coastal waterbirds; along 60 miles of coast, Naples to Chokoloskee Pass.

Native Landscaping for South FL (2-3 pm)

Chad-Washburn-ssTime: Saturday, January 18, 2014 from 2 pm - 3 pm

Given by: Chad Washburn, Director of Conservation and Education from the Naples Botanical Garden

Lecture Description: Chad Washburn will identify native plants that make great additions to your south Florida home landscape. The lecture will include appropriate native plants, how to plant and care for them, and touch on the wildlife interactions for each species.

Brief Biography:

Chad Washburn received his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, and completed his Masters Degree in Applied Ecology from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in 2002. His graduate research resulted in the co-authorship of a book chapter entitled Latitudinal trends in organic carbon accumulation in temperate freshwater peatlands. Chad is the Past-President of the Naples Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, Education Chair for the Florida Wildflower Foundation and an active advisory member of the Greenscape Alliance and the Collier County  Commercial Horticulture Advisory Council.

Chad has been an active member of the environmental community for nearly 20 years. His combination of botanical and horticultural experiences range from the temperate landscapes of the Midwestern United States to the lush diversity of the neotropics. Before joining the Naples Botanical Garden, he oversaw the design and completion of projects to restore and create native habitat across Northern Indiana. Prior to that, he worked with the Belize Botanic Gardens throughout stages of their development, most recently speaking at the Conference of Caribbean Botanic Gardens for Conservation. He has experience teaching a broad range of environmental subjects to a wide range of audiences. He regularly speaks to local professional groups and homeowners about the use of native Florida plants in restoration projects and sustainable landscapes. Chad is a 2012 recipient of the Chanticleer Scholarship for professional development.

The Mountains of Big Cypress (3-4 pm)

Luke-Gommermann-ssTime: Saturday, January 18, 2014 from 3 pm - 4 pm

Given By: Luke Gommermann, Park Ranger of Environmental Education and Interpretation at Big Cypress National Preserve

Lecture Description: Vast, flat, and featureless. This may be what your first glance of Big Cypress National Preserve has uncovered. However, closer inspection reveals Big Cypress contains fantastic atmospheric landscapes awaiting your discovery. Join Ranger Luke Gommermann to explore the spectacular clouds of Big Cypress National Preserve. During this presentation, you will discover how and why clouds form, learn how cloud identification can help you forecast the weather, and understand the vital role clouds play in maintaining the diverse habitats of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Brief Bio: Luke Gommermann grew up a snowbird, spending summers in Wisconsin and winters along Florida's Atlantic coast. He earned his degrees in Geological Science (B.S., 2008) and Soil and Water Science (M.S., 2011) from the University of Florida. Before joining the National Park Service, he worked as an exploration geologist and middle school science teacher. He has also completed internships at Grand Canyon National Park and Bandelier National Monument. This is Luke's second season as a park ranger of environmental education and interpretation at Big Cypress National Preserve.

Keynote Lecture: Least Terns (5:30-7 pm)

Beth-Forys--ssTime: Saturday, January 18, 2014 from 5:30 pm - 7 pm*

*This is the Keynote Presentation and there will be an admission fee of $15

Given By: Beth Forys, Professor of Environmental Science & Biology Eckerd College

Lecture Description: The least tern is a small, colonial nesting seabird which breeds along portions of both the eastern and western coasts of North America. Currently, least terns face many obstacles to successful nesting on their open beach habitat including development, disturbance from people and pets, and sea-level rise. In my talk I'll describe how we are managing alternative least tern habitat (rooftops), trying to create new alternative habitat (rafts) and experimenting with novels methods to discourage people from disturbing nesting least terns (using cameras).

Brief Biography: Beth has her B.A. and M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida. For the past 17 years she has been a Biology and Environmental Science professor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. Beth is interested in the conservation and recovery of any rare or declining species and she has studied snails, butterflies, rice rats, rabbits and a wide range of coastal birds. She enjoys using new technologies and creative partnerships to help protect species and she has >30 publications to let others know what methods are most  effective.

An amazing array of field trips is available to participants of the Southwest Florida Nature Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, January 17, 18, and 19, 2014. Please review ALL information below before accessing the registration page, as field trip details are not repeated on the registration page. Complete details for each trip are provided below.

Online registration is open. It will be possible to register in person at the Environmental Learning Center or over the phone by calling 239-530-5940 up until the day before the scheduled trip date. Please find registration instructions in the lefthand sidebar at the top of this page.

Registration is required to participate in field trips.

Each field trip also has an additional fee which varies depending on location. Space on field trips is limited to ensure a quality experience for all participants, so sign up early! The maximum number of participants has been noted for each field trip to aid in selection. When the maximum number of participants for a field trip is reached, registration for that field trip will close. Registration instructions are provided in the lefthand sidebar at the top of this page.

Note:   Registration for trips close the day before the field trip ie Registration for Friday trips closes on Thursday, etc.

Field Trip Designations:

Field Trip Designations have been assigned to each trip based on its specialized focus so that participants will know what to expect. The designations are:

  • Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).
  • Wildlife – field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited.
  • Specialty – This field trip will focus on a specialized activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited.

Upon registration, participants will receive an e-mail confirmation with link to additional details and specific instructions as to when and where to meet for their selected trip(s).

View quick-glance list of field trip dates, times, and prices HERE. Registration instructions can be found in the lefthand sidebar at the top of this page.

FRIDAY Field Trips (Jan. 17, 2014)

Big Cypress NP– Plant Walk

Join Big Cypress National Preserve Botanist Dr. Jim Burch and staff for a walk through cypress domes, pinelands and prairies to discover biological components of these unique plant communities. Learn to recognize differences in these communities which occur with variations in climate, fires, flooding or human disturbance.

Focus: Specialty/Botany – This field trip will focus on the plants, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 8:30 am - noon
Trip Leaders:
Jim Burch, Botanist, Big Cypress National Preserve and Lisa Andrews, Outreach/Education Specialist, Big Cypress National Preserve
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional Information: Be prepared for wet feet wading through knee deep water on parts of this trail.

Big Cypress NP- Turner River Canoe Trip (AM)

Paddle the Turner River past towering cypress, through mangrove tunnels and across sawgrass prairies by C.A.N.O.E. - Canoe Adventures through Nature Observation and Experimentation. Use scopes, dip nets, ID cards, DO, pH tests, activity sheets and more to explore the Turner River Ecosystem while identifying a variety of aquatic plants, observing exciting animals and using scientific equipment to test the crystal clear water flowing through the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Focus: Specialty/Canoeing – This field trip will focus on the activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Big Cypress National Preserve Park Ranger
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 10
Additional information: Basic canoeing experience is required. You must also be able to swim. There are bathroom facilities at the launch.

Conservancy- Rookery Sunset Cruise

Cast off for some great birding and cruise Rookery Bay on the Conservancy’s Good Fortune pontoon boat. Join us for a beautiful sunset cruise in search of nesting Bald Eagle and Osprey, terns, gulls, shorebirds and waders. Dusk brings thousands of Fish Crows, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, herons, ibis and other wading birds in to roost on a few mangrove islands in Rookery Bay. This is a true southwest Florida treat and a very popular outing.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Conservancy of Southwest Florida Naturalist
Field trip cost: $40 per person
Field Trip:  Minimum: 15 participants / Maximum: 33 participants

Corkscrew– Backcountry Buggy Trip (AM)

Board a swamp buggy to explore the “off-limits” back country of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s north end. We will traverse several habitat types and will be on the lookout for the many birds of the back country, including hawks, warblers, ducks, sandhill cranes, wading birds, and more! We will also keep a lookout for other wildlife and learn about the management of this 13,000 acre sanctuary.

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Corkscrew Naturalist
Field trip cost: $60 per person (adults & children).
Maximum Group Size: 9
Limitations: Participants must be physically able to climb on and off of the swamp buggy using a ladder. Be prepared – the trip is bumpy.
Additional information: There are bathrooms and vending machines at the Blair Audubon Visitor Center. All participants must sign a release form before going on this off-boardwalk trip.

 buggy-250What is a Swamp Buggy?

A swamp buggy is a 4- or 6-wheeled vehicle that is built to travel through wet, muddy or rough terrain at slow speeds. Individuals must be able to climb a ladder to access the seating area. Space on these trips is extremely limited – register early to ensure a seat on this Florida specialty conveyance.

Corkscrew– Backcountry Buggy Trip (PM)

The perfect end to a perfect day. Board a swamp buggy to explore the “off-limits” back country of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s north end. We will traverse several habitat types and will be on the lookout for the many birds of the back country, including hawks, warblers, ducks, sandhill cranes, wading birds, and more! We will also keep a lookout for other wildlife and learn about the management of this 13,000 acre sanctuary.

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Corkscrew Naturalist
Field trip cost: $60 per person (adults & children).
Maximum Group Size: 9
Limitations: Participants must be physically able to climb on and off of the swamp buggy using a ladder. Be prepared – the trip is bumpy.
Additional Information: There are bathrooms and vending machines at the Blair Audubon Visitor Center. All participants must sign a release form before going on this off-boardwalk trip.

buggy-250What is a Swamp Buggy?

A swamp buggy is a 4- or 6-wheeled vehicle that is built to travel through wet, muddy or rough terrain at slow speeds. Individuals must be able to climb a ladder to access the seating area. Space on these trips is
extremely limited – register early to ensure a seat on this Florida specialty conveyance.

Eagle Lakes Park– Birding for Beginners

Just starting out as a birder? Not sure what that big white bird in your backyard is? Then join us for an easy walk at a great birding spot. This trip provides an introduction to birding and tips on how to identify the most common birds in the area.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Steve Mutart, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Docent
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional Information: There are bathroom and water facilities at Eagle Lakes Park. Wheelchair accessible.

Everglades NP– Sandfly Island Canoe Trip

Paddle across Chokoloskee Bay and explore the Ten Thousand Islands area of Everglades National Park. We will visit a Calusa Indian shell mound (Sandfly Island) where we will learn about the natural and cultural history of this coastal hammock. We will also paddle around mangrove islands and look for wildlife. There are possibilities of seeing a variety of wading birds, dolphins, and marine life.

Focus: Specialty/Canoeing/Nature – This field trip will focus on the activity and experience of paddling across the bay and among the mangrove islands, incorporating education on the natural and cultural history of the area visited.

Time: 8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Everglades National Park Ranger
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 10
Additional Information: Canoes, paddles, and life vests provided. Basic canoeing experience is required. You must also be able to swim.

Fakahatchee Strand– Swamp Tromp

Explore a unique swamp forest with Park Biologist Mike Owen. The interior of the Fakahatchee Strand supports a rich growth of tropical plants. Many birds and animals inhabit the swamp; Red-shouldered Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Barred Owl, Common Ground Dove, Great Egret, White Ibis, Limpkin, Florida black bear, river otter, Everglades mink and the endangered Florida Panther. Since there is no path, participants wade through cypress forest and popash-pondapple sloughs in water from 1 to 3 feet deep!

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Mike Owen, Biologist, Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve State Park
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional info: Restrooms are available at the Park Office. Prepare to get wet. Long pants and secure footwear (lace-up boots or sneakers) are necessary.

FL Panther NWR- Sundown Buggy Tour

This late afternoon swamp buggy tour of the Refuge will take you through hardwood hammock, pine forest and parts of the northern extension of the Fakahatchee Strand cypress slough during sundown – a perfect time for wildlife viewing and photography. You will learn about Florida panthers and current efforts to restore the Florida Everglades’ critical ecosystem to its former pristine glory while traveling on the paths of Florida panther, black bear, deer, turkey and other wildlife that make their home on the Refuge. It is not unusual to see some of the 125+ species of birds and more than 25 species of mammals that share these lands. Be sure to bring your camera and/or binoculars.

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Trip Leaders:
Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge
Field trip cost: $45
Maximum Group Size: 12
Additional Information: Participants need to be able to climb up into the 4 to 5 foot high buggies (like climbing a ladder with the rungs far apart). There is no other way to get into these vehicles.

buggy-250What is a Swamp Buggy?

A swamp buggy is a 4- or 6-wheeled vehicle that is built to travel through wet, muddy or rough terrain at slow speeds. Individuals must be able to climb a ladder to access the seating area. Space on these trips is
extremely limited – register early to ensure a seat on this Florida specialty conveyance.

Marco Island- Burrowing Owl Tour (AM)

Marco Island is habitat for approximately 65 pairs of Burrowing Owls, a State of Florida “Species of Special Concern”. From the meeting place, we will drive (carpool if possible) to two nearby locations to view the burrows and owls. Onsite information will be provided about the biology, history, habitat, behavior, etiquette in maintaining/viewing and the human impacts of the burrowing owls in the urban environment.

Focus: Specialty/Burrowing Owls – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of burrowing owls. Please bring binoculars if you have them.

Time: 7:00 am - 9:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Nancy Richie, Environmental Specialist, City of Marco and Marco Island “Owl Watch” volunteer
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Parking: Free
Additional Information: There are no restrooms, water or concessions during this trip. Please be prepared to carpool from City Hall to the burrowing owl locations as there are no designated parking areas near the burrows.

Marco Island- Burrowing Owl Tour (MID-DAY)

Marco Island is habitat for approximately 65 pairs of Burrowing Owls, a State of Florida “Species of Special Concern”. From the meeting place, we will drive (carpool if possible) to two nearby locations to view the burrows and owls. Onsite information will be provided about the biology, history, habitat, behavior, etiquette in maintaining/viewing and the human impacts of the burrowing owls in the urban environment.

Focus: Specialty/Burrowing Owls – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of burrowing owls. Please bring binoculars if you have them.

Time: 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Nancy Richie, Environmental Specialist, City of Marco and Marco Island “Owl Watch” volunteer
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Parking: Free
Additional Information: There are no restrooms, water or concessions during this trip. Please be prepared to carpool from City Hall to the burrowing owl locations as there are no designated parking areas near the burrows.

Naples Botanical Garden– Birding Tower Walk

Join us for this special opportunity to observe birds from the James and Linda White Birding Tower at the newly expanded Naples Botanical Garden. The Tower overlooks a brackish marsh community that is in early stages of restoration. The diverse habitats visible on this tour include mud flats, marsh, mangroves, ponds, and a hammock. We should see a good diversity of wading birds, ducks, and other wintering birds. We will walk approximately 1 mile on sidewalks from the Visitor's Center through the Garden to the Tower. This is not an advanced birding trip but please take note of the walking distance. Cost of the trip includes all-day access to the Garden.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. You will also get the opportunity to tour through portions of the Naples Botanical Garden. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 10:00 am
Trip Leaders:
 This trip will be led by Naples Botanical Garden staff.
Field trip cost: $20
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional information: There are bathroom and water facilities available at the Naples Botanical Garden. Handicap access to the tower is available; this tour is a walking tour covering approximately 1 mile over paved terrain.

More Info

Rookery Bay- Kayak Trip (AM)

Paddle along pristine mangrove creeks and bays to meet some amazing estuarine inhabitants. Watch ospreys dive for their meals, mangrove tree crabs scurry about, or maybe even catch a glimpse of some wild dolphins. We’ll slowly paddle into Rookery Bay to visit the islands that give the Reserve its name. Kayaks, paddles, and life vests provided. Basic paddling/canoeing experience required.

Focus: Specialty/Kayaking – This field trip will focus on the activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 9:30 am - 11:30 pm
Trip Leaders:
Randy McCormick, Rookery Bay Eco-Tour leader
Field trip cost: $50
Maximum Group Size: 10
Additional Information: 12 years and older. There are NO restroom facilities at launch site. Personal items may get wet.

Sand Dollar– Birding for Beginners

Can’t tell a gull from a tern? Do you think all shorebirds look alike? This trip for beginners is an introduction on how to identify and appreciate the most common birds found on our local beaches. This natural area is the second most valuable resting and feeding site for coastal waterbirds on the west coast of Florida and among the species we hope to see are Great, Snowy and Reddish Egrets, five species of plover (including Snowy and Piping), plus other shorebirds, gulls and terns.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 10:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Beverly Anderson, Research Biologist, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve
Field trip cost: $10.
Maximum Group Size: 10
Additional Information: There are restrooms, water and a concession stand at the main entrance.

Ten Thousand Islands NWR– Birding Walk

We will spend the morning on a leisurely walk along Marsh Trail (2.2 miles roundtrip) which is the only trail access into the Ten Thousand Islands NWR. Participants will be able to observe and photograph wildlife from a two-story observation tower, of which the first floor is handicap accessible. The first 1/4 mile of Marsh Trail is paved, while the remainder is unpaved.

Wading birds such as great egret, snowy egret, black-crowned night-heron and white ibis should be plentiful and there is a good chance we will see wood storks and roseate spoonbills. We will also search for landbirds wintering in the tropical hardwoods along the road. More than 40 species of birds have been seen from the observation tower and the Marsh Trail.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 7:30 am - 11:30 am
Trip Leaders:
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge staff.
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Additional information: There are no facilities on the refuge (the nearest being at Port of the Islands or Collier-Seminole State Park). This trip entails considerable walking – approximately 2 miles round-trip.

SATURDAY Field Trips (Jan. 18, 2014)

Barefoot Beach- Gopher Tortoise Walk

Join a Collier County Park Ranger/Naturalist for a guided walk through the varied coastal habitats found at Barefoot Beach Preserve, a 342-acre barrier island in North Naples. Take a closer look at one of the Preserve's unique and important land animals, the Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus. This land tortoise is a keystone species that supports the natural community where it lives and contributes to the success of many other species. The coastal strand habitat, found in the Preserve, provides the conditions needed for a healthy gopher tortoise population.

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders: Collier County Park Ranger/Naturalist
Field trip cost: $10
Parking: $8 or free with current Collier County Beach Parking Permit.
Maximum Group Size: 12

Big Cypress NP Birding Trip

From wading birds to migratory songbirds, Big Cypress National Preserve offers fantastic birding opportunities along with other wildlife viewing. Join biologist John Kellam and Park Ranger Lisa Andrews to learn the easy-to-get-to spots in the preserve that can be enjoyed by amateur and expert birders. This includes a visit to our new ½ mile Kirby Storter Boardwalk for an easy walk into a cypress strand, viewing with scopes at HP Williams roadside park and a car caravan along Turner River Road through cypress, pinelands and prairies.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 7:00 am (at Rookery Bay NERR) - 1:00 pm (at Big Cypress HQ)
Trip Leaders: Lisa Andrews, Outreach/Education Specialist, Big Cypress National Preserve and John Kellam, Biological Technician, Big Cypress National Preserve
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Additional information: There are bathroom facilities at the boardwalk. Bring your own drinking water. The boardwalk is wheel chair accessible.

Big Cypress NP– RCW Clusters

Join the preserve’s wildlife biologist, Deborah Jansen, and FWC biologist, Ross Scott, for a visit to Raccoon Point. This wild and diverse area of the preserve, not open to the general public, is home to a variety of wildlife including several groups of the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. Learn how preserve staff monitor this species and protect its habitat through prescribed fire. You may not only get a glimpse of the red-cockaded woodpecker and other old-growth pineland birds, but may also see tracks of Florida panthers or bears.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 12:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Deborah Jansen, Big Cypress NP Wildlife Biologist
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 10

Big Cypress NP- Turner River Canoe Trip (PM)

Paddle the Turner River and experience the beauty of this quiet place as the diurnal animals are beginning to stir. Watch for alligators, otter and wading birds as the sun slips away. Canoes, paddles, and life vests provided. Basic canoeing experience is required. You must also be able to swim.

Focus: Specialty/Canoeing– This field trip will focus on the activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 4:15 pm - 6:30 pm
Trip Leaders:
National Park Service Ranger
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 12 adults (participants must be 16 or older)
Additional info: There are bathroom facilities at the launch. Personal items may get wet. Basic canoeing experience is required. You must also be able to swim.

Collier-Seminole State Park– Birding Walk

We will spend the morning exploring the extensive tropical hardwood hammock vegetation in Collier-Seminole State Park for wintering landbirds such as warblers, vireos, and thrushes. Birds we hope to see or hear include Pileated Woodpecker, Great-Crested Flycatcher, and Carolina Wren. Past trips have located winter rarities such as White-crowned Pigeon, Yellow-throated Vireo, Summer Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 7:00 am - 9:00 am
Trip Leaders: Maulik Patel, Environmental Specialist 1, Collier Seminole State Park
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 12
Entrance Fee: $5.00 for up to 8 people per car. Single Occupant Vehicle Entrance is $4.00
Additional Information: There are bathroom and water facilities at Collier-Seminole State Park.

Corkscrew– Backcountry Buggy (AM)

Board a swamp buggy to explore the “off-limits” back country of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s north end. We will traverse several habitat types and will be on the lookout for the many birds of the back country, including hawks, warblers, ducks, sandhill cranes, wading birds, and more! We will also keep a lookout for other wildlife and learn about the management of this 13,000 acre sanctuary.

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Corkscrew Naturalist
Field trip cost: $60 per person (adults & children).
Maximum Group Size: 9
Limitations: Participants must be physically able to climb on and off of the swamp buggy using a ladder. Be prepared – the trip is bumpy.
Additional Information: There are bathrooms and vending machines at the Blair Audubon Visitor Center. All participants must sign a release form before going on this off-boardwalk trip.

buggy-250What is a Swamp Buggy?

A swamp buggy is a 4- or 6-wheeled vehicle that is built to travel through wet, muddy or rough terrain at slow speeds. Individuals must be able to climb a ladder to access the seating area. Space on these trips is
extremely limited – register early to ensure a seat on this Florida specialty conveyance.

Corkscrew– Backcountry Buggy Trip (MID-DAY)

The perfect end to a perfect day. Board a swamp buggy to explore the “off-limits” back country of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s north end. We will traverse several habitat types and will be on the lookout for the many birds of the back country, including hawks, warblers, ducks, sandhill cranes, wading birds, and more! We will also keep a lookout for other wildlife and learn about the management of this 13,000 acre sanctuary.

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time:  12 pm - 3 pm
Trip Leaders:
Corkscrew Naturalist
Field trip cost: $60 per person (adults & children).
Maximum Group Size: 9
Limitations: Participants must be physically able to climb on and off of the swamp buggy using a ladder. Be prepared – the trip is bumpy.
Additional information: There are bathrooms and vending machines at the Blair Audubon Visitor Center. All participants must sign a release form before going on this off-boardwalk trip.

buggy-250What is a Swamp Buggy?

A swamp buggy is a 4- or 6-wheeled vehicle that is built to travel through wet, muddy or rough terrain at slow speeds. Individuals must be able to climb a ladder to access the seating area. Space on these trips is
extremely limited – register early to ensure a seat on this Florida specialty conveyance.

CREW Bird Rookery Swamp– Birding Hike

Bird Rookery Swamp is part of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW). This beautiful area is strand swamp dominated by maple and willow. A system of abandoned logging tram roads and adjacent borrow ditches remain from previous cypress logging operations.

During our two mile hike, we will watch for herons and egrets, glossy ibis, wild turkey, sparrows and wintering mixed species bird flocks which can contain black-throated green warbler and American redstart. Tucked away in rural Collier County, Bird Rookery Swamp is ideal for hiking, nature appreciation, and environmental education.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Randy McCormick and Beverly Anderson, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Field trip cost: $10.
Maximum Group Size: 12
Additional Information: We will be on a ¼ mile wetlands boardwalk and a sandy logging trail. The hike is approximately 2 miles round trip. Be prepared for possible wet areas. The closest restrooms, food and gas are at E’s Country Store at the intersection of Immokalee Road and Oil Well Road, about 4 miles from trip site.

Eagle Lakes Park– Birding for Beginners

Just starting out as a birder? Not sure what that big white bird in your backyard is? Then join us for an easy walk at a great birding spot. This trip provides an introduction to birding and tips on how to identify the most common birds in the area.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Steve Mutart, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Docent
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional Information: There are bathroom and water facilities at Eagle Lakes Park. Wheelchair accessible.

Goodland 12 Island Kayak Trip

Paddle with Susan Cone of Up A Creek Kayak Tours. Beginning in Goodland, this tour will explore 12 of the 10,000 Islands. You have to start somewhere! As you weave your way to the Gulf, enjoy observing the abundance of birds, dolphin, sea turtles and manatees that thrive in this pristine estuary. If wind conditions are appropriate, we will paddle to a barrier island to swim, shell or just relax. Tour distance is 4.5 miles. All equipment provided. Kayaks are single sit-on-top kayaks. Basic paddling/canoeing experience required.

Focus: Specialty/Kayaking – This field trip will focus on the activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat, and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 9:00 am - noon
Trip Leaders: Susan Cone, Up A Creek Kayak Tours
Field trip cost: $60
Maximum Group Size: 10
Additional Information: There are restroom facilities at the boat park and a small general store. Please allow a few minutes after the tour to help load equipment. Participants must be 12 years of age or older and under 250 lbs.

Isles of Capri Kayak Trip (AM)

Paddle along pristine mangrove creeks and bays to meet some amazing estuarine inhabitants. Watch ospreys dive for their meals, mangrove tree crabs scurry about, or maybe even catch a glimpse of a manatee or dolphin. We’ll leave from the newly completed Isle of Capri Paddle Park which is exclusively for use by non-motorized water craft. Kayaks, paddles, and life vests provided. Basic paddling/canoeing experience required.

Focus: Specialty/Kayaking – This field trip will focus on the activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Dave Graff, Rookery Bay Education Staff
Field trip cost: $50
Maximum Group Size: 10
Additional Information: 12 years and older. There are NO restroom facilities at launch site. Personal items may get wet.

Isles of Capri Kayak Trip (MID-DAY)

Paddle along pristine mangrove creeks and bays to meet some amazing estuarine inhabitants. Watch ospreys dive for their meals, mangrove tree crabs scurry about, or maybe even catch a glimpse of a manatee or dolphin. We’ll leave from the newly completed Isle of Capri Paddle Park which is exclusively for use by non-motorized water craft. Kayaks, paddles, and life vests provided. Basic paddling/canoeing experience required.

Focus: Specialty/Kayaking – This field trip will focus on the activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Dave Graff, Rookery Bay Education Staff
Field trip cost: $50
Maximum Group Size: 10
Additional Information: 12 years and older.  There are NO restroom facilities at launch site. Personal items may get wet.

Little Estero Lagoon– Birding Walk

We will spend the morning walking along the inner path and outer beach that surrounds Little Estero Lagoon, a State-designated Critical Wildlife Area. Wading birds such as egrets, herons, and White Ibis are likely and Roseate Spoonbills may still linger in the early morning. Shorebirds likely to be seen include Western and Least Sandpipers, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, and up to 5 species of plover including Black-bellied, Wilson’s, Semipalmated, Piping, and Snowy. Additional shorebird possibilities include Red Knot, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, and American Oystercatcher. Wintering gulls and terns (Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s) may also be present.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders: Charlie Ewell, Lee County Bird Patrol member
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Additional Information: The only facilities are located in the Holiday Inn at the north end of the lagoon, where we will begin.

Naples Botanical Garden– Scrub Tour

Join us for this special opportunity to observe one of Florida's most endangered ecosystems, almost in the heart of Naples, at the newly expanded Naples Botanical Garden. This field trip will focus on exploring the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Uplands Preserve and scrub trail in the Naples Botanical Garden. The uplands and scrub trail meanders through a dry and sandy habitat. Because scrub is typically dry most of the year it was traditionally seen as "prime for development". As Florida's population grew, the number of remaining undeveloped scrub habitats shrank. Plants and animals need special adaptations to live in this often hot and dry ecosystem and the specialized adaptations required to live in this now rare habitat will be discussed. Tour participants may encounter a gopher tortoise or spot its burrow.

Focus: Botany– This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 8:00 am - 10:00 am
Trip Leaders: This trip will be led by Eric Foht, Natural Areas Manager and Taylor Walker, Natural Areas Gardener, of the Naples Botanical Garden.
Field trip cost: $20
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional Information: There are bathroom and water facilities available at the Naples Botanical Garden. Handicap access to the trail is limited due to the sandy nature of the trail. This tour is a walking tour covering approximately 2 mile over paved and unpaved, sandy, or uneven terrain.
What to Bring: Please bring a sense of curiosity, binoculars or hand lens, water, sunscreen, insect repellant and a plant field guide (if you have one).
What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes appropriate for walking on sandy trails, clothing appropriate for the weather, long sleeved shirt and long pants if you are susceptible to insect bites (typically not too buggy in January), sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
Where to Meet: Meet at 7:45 am in the Naples Botanical Garden parking lot.
Directions to Meeting Place: The Naples Botanical Garden is located at 4820 Bayshore Drive. The Visitor's Center is the single story coral-colored building that you will see straight ahead as you come in the main entrance. Please park in the main parking lot and meet in front of the Visitor's Center. You will enter the Garden through a side gate because the Garden will not be open to the public at the start of the tour.

Tigertail Lagoon– Marine Life Walk

Tigertail lagoon thrives with life above and below the waterline. It is a great birding spot because the life in the lagoon feeds large numbers of a variety of birds. Besides their food value, the invertebrate inhabitants are amazing in their own right – some have blue blood, others 8 legs, and there is even a variety of snail that has lungs and gills! Join us for a walk in the shallows to discover who lives beneath the still waters of the lagoon and why these animals are important. This is a beginner's trip for an introduction to the creatures from the green (with sea grass!) lagoon!

Focus: BirdingGeneral Nature – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of life below the tides in the lagoon. Please bring a sense of curiosity, magnifying lens or close-focusing binoculars and a beach field guide (if you have one).

Time: 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Paulette Carabelli and Marge Tunnell, Rookery Bay Volunteer Naturalists
Field trip cost: $10.
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional Information: There are restrooms, water and a concession stand at the main entrance.

SUNDAY Field Trips (Jan. 19, 2014)

Big Cypress NP– Bear Island Bike Trip

Bike through a variety of Florida habitats while searching for signs of wildlife such as panther and bear. Catch a glimpse of a gator or an otter and watch for wading and songbirds. This 12 mile round trip on hard rock roads is an easy and quiet way to view many wildlife species in the preserve.

Focus: Specialty/Bicycling – This field trip will focus on the activity, incorporating education on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 8:30 am - 1:00 pm
Trip Leaders: Big Cypress National Preserve Park Ranger
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 15 Additional Information: Fat tire bikes only – hybrids or mountain bikes

Bunche Beach– Birding Walk

We will spend the morning walking along Bunche Beach, the mainland side of San Carlos Bay, which is a part of the Lee County Conservation 20/20 program. Shorebirds are the big draw here, but wintering gulls, terns, and wading birds should also be in abundance. Shorebirds likely to be seen include Western and Least Sandpipers, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, and up to 4 species of plover including Black-bellied, Wilson’s, Semipalmated, and Piping. Additional shorebird possibilities include Red Knot, Long-billed Curlew, and Marbled Godwit. Roosting flocks of Black Skimmers may also be present.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Charlie Ewell, Lee County Bird Patrol member
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Additional Information: The only facilities are restrooms that are available on the top floor of the visitor’s center that is located on the right after the small bridge as you approach the beach. You can park in that lot, or any spaces available along John Morris Rd. There may be a small charge for parking by the time of the festival.

Conservancy- Rookery Sunset Cruise

Cast off for some great birding and cruise Rookery Bay on the Conservancy’s Good Fortune pontoon boat. Join us for a beautiful sunset cruise in search of nesting Bald Eagle and Osprey, terns, gulls, shorebirds and waders. Dusk brings thousands of Fish Crows, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, herons, ibis and other wading birds in to roost on a few mangrove islands in Rookery Bay. This is a true southwest Florida treat and a very popular outing.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Trip Leaders:
Conservancy of Southwest Florida Naturalist
Field trip cost: $40
Field trip: Minimum: 15 / Maximum: 33

Eagle Lakes Park– Birding for Beginners

Just starting out as a birder? Not sure what that big white bird in your backyard is? Then join us for an easy walk at a great birding spot. This trip provides an introduction to birding and tips on how to identify the most common birds in the area.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Steve Mutart, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Docent
Field Trip Cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional Information: There are bathroom and water facilities at Eagle Lakes Park. Wheelchair accessible.

FL Panther NWR- Sundown Buggy Tour

This late afternoon swamp buggy tour of the Refuge will take you through hardwood hammock, pine forest and parts of the northern extension of the Fakahatchee Strand cypress slough during sundown – a perfect time for wildlife viewing and photography. You will learn about Florida panthers and current efforts to restore the Florida Everglades’ critical ecosystem to its former pristine glory while traveling on the paths of Florida panther, black bear, deer, turkey and other wildlife that make their home on the Refuge. It is not unusual to see some of the 125+ species of birds and more than 25 species of mammals that share these lands. Be sure to bring your camera and/or binoculars.

Focus: Wildlife – This field trip will focus on the wildlife, habitat and ecology of the area visited and is NOT primarily a birding field trip.

Time: 3:30 pm - 5:30pm
Trip Leaders:
Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge
Field trip cost: $45
Maximum Group Size: 12
Additional information: Participants need to be able to climb up into the 4 to 5 foot high buggies (like climbing a ladder with the rungs far apart). There is no other way to get into these vehicles.

buggy-250What is a Swamp Buggy?

A swamp buggy is a 4- or 6-wheeled vehicle that is built to travel through wet, muddy or rough terrain at slow speeds. Individuals must be able to climb a ladder to access the seating area. Space on these trips is
extremely limited – register early to ensure a seat on this Florida specialty conveyance.

FL Panther NWR– Birding Hike

We will be hiking along a 1.3 mile long trail that meanders through several natural community types including hardwood hammock, pine flatwood, wet prairie, and mixed pine hardwood forest. Bird species expected to be seen include a wide range of resident and wintering landbirds including up to five species of woodpeckers, warblers, and with just a little late season water, egrets, White Ibis, and Wood Storks. There is also a good chance to see other wildlife including whitetail deer, raccoons, armadillos, and perhaps a Florida panther track!

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 7:15 am - 10:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge staff
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Additional Information: There is a port-a-john at the trailhead.

Marco Island- Sea Shell Exploration

Marco Island was built on shells. The Calusa lived off what they could catch and they built tools, mounds, and settlements from local shells. In more recent times, the
clam industry was the first commercial business on the island. Today, South Beach still offers treasures from the Gulf. Shallow waters and gentle waves continue to bring beautiful shells to our beaches. Join Rookery Bay Volunteer Naturalists on an enlightening beach walk to learn about the variety and biology of the mollusks that make Marco beaches special.

Focus: General Nature – This field trip will focus on the identification of shells and other beach treasures found on Marco Island. Please bring a sense of curiosity and a beach field guide (if you have one).
Time: 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Trip Leaders:
Paulette Carabelli and Marge Tunnell, Rookery Bay Volunteer Naturalists
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 15
Additional Information: There are restrooms and water fountains at the county parking area. Note: Parking costs $8 without current Collier County Beach Parking Permit

 

Ten Thousand Islands NWR– Birding Walk

We will spend the morning on a leisurely walk along Marsh Trail (2.2 miles roundtrip) which is the only trail access into the Ten Thousand Islands NWR. Participants will be able to observe and photograph wildlife from a two-story observation tower, of which the first floor is handicap accessible. The first 1/4 mile of Marsh Trail is paved, while the remainder is unpaved.

Wading birds such as great egret, snowy egret, black-crowned night-heron and white ibis should be plentiful and there is a good chance we will see wood storks and roseate spoonbills. We will also search for landbirds wintering in the tropical hardwoods along the road. More than 40 species of birds have been seen from the observation tower and the Marsh Trail.

Focus: Birding – This field trip will focus on the identification and biology of birds. Please bring binoculars and a bird field guide (if you have one).

Time: 7:30 am - 11:30 am
Trip Leaders:
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge staff.
Field trip cost: $10
Maximum Group Size: 20
Additional information: There are no facilities on the refuge (the nearest being at Port of the Islands or Collier-Seminole State Park). This trip entails considerable walking – approximately 2 miles round-trip.

Nature Festival Registration

Registration is required to participate in field trips. Please follow these steps:

1. Review ALL trip details on this page

2. Click "register" button (below) to see list of field trips

3. Click the green "register" button next to your desired trip

4. Note: you will be prompted to enter your personal information for each trip you choose

5. Click "checkout" to enter payment information

6. Registration closes the day before the field trip takes place. E.g. Registration for Friday trips closes on Thursday, etc..

Please Note: The registration system will prevent you from registering for a trip if your registration exceeds the number available spaces

REGISTER

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