MARATHON, Florida Keys - The 14th annual Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival is scheduled Tuesday through Sunday, Sept. 25-30, offering participants real-life tips for becoming better birders, outdoor enthusiasts and nature photographers.
Focusing on native wildlife, the family-friendly event is staged at Marathons oceanfront preserve, Curry Hammock State Park, mile marker (MM) 56.2, and features field trips to national, state and private natural areas throughout the Florida Keys.
Field trips include free backcountry birding and wildlife tours of Florida Bay by Everglades National Park, botanical and photography tours of the Lower Keys National Key Deer Refuge, and guided walks in Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Park.
The festivals primary program begins at 7 p.m. Thursday evening at Key Largos John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, MM 100. The RSVP-only evening features The Perils and Pitfalls of Birding with keynote speaker Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watchers Digest.
Guided birding walks and activities are planned for Saturday, Sept. 29, in addition to the popular free-admission Environmental Fair and Family Day at Curry Hammock from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday evening, wildlife photographers Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez are to share Through the Lens, a birds and wildlife photography presentation at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, MM 5 gulfside. A wine and cheese social begins at 6 p.m., followed by the program from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
An all-day birding and wildlife photography excursion to Dry Tortugas National Park is set for Sunday, Sept. 30. A ferry to the remote birders paradise boards at 7:30 a.m. in Key West and returns around 5 p.m. Reservations are required and space is limited to two groups of 20 people each.
A Curry Hammock Pedal and Paddle also is planned for Sunday. From 10 a.m. to noon, interested festival-goers can take a leisurely four-mile paddle around Little Crawl and Deer Keys, as well as participate in a short beach cleanup.
The entrance fee at Curry Hammock State Park is to be waived for festival registrants. Event registration fees apply for daytime programs and field trips.
Event information: www.keysbirdingfest.org
or Kristie Killam at 305-872-0774
Marathon visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/marathon