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Florida Birding Festivals

                by G.K.Sharman

People who want to learn more about birds and flock with their fellow birders can check out a birding festival. Here are a couple of the state's biggies:

Big "O" Birding Festival April 11-14, 2003
Registration is $25, w/o dinner $15, Dinner only $15

FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2003
FIELD TRIPS- Sugarland Tours 1-3pm; $25. Tour the sugar cane fields, plenty of birds and wildlife to see.

Pontoon on the Caloosahatchee 3:30-5pm; $35 JR Tripper will guide you thru the Ox-Bows of old Florida to see the wading birds and wildlife. Drive yourself to Park on W78 on N side of River.

Owl Hoot 7-10pm; $15 Tom Gaskins of the Cypress Knee Museum and Turkey Call fame, will hike you back thru his property, build a fire for a wienie and marshmallow roast and show you his owl and turkey calls. Leave from Doyle Conner.

Welcome Reception, & FOS Flocking at Doyle Conner 6-9pm Join us for some southern styled cooking - gator bites, fry bread, guava tarts, sour orange pie. Dr. Paul Gray and local birder Larry Luckey will be your keynote speakers.

Arts & Craft Show 8am-4pm Bird Artists, South Florida Water Management, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, US Sugar, US Army Corp of Engineers, crafts, food, and entertainment. Riverwalk Park in downtown Moore Haven.

Sugarland Tours3-5pm; $25 Tour the sugar cane fields, plenty of birds and wildlife to see.

Kissimmee Prairie Saturday 6-11am; $35 You will travel by a guided service bus to Kissimmee Prairie and be met by Parks Small, your personal tour guide. He will take you thru the prairie to find Grasshopper Sparrows and many other prairie birds. Be prepared with water and a snack. Leave from Doyle Conner or Okeetantee Park.

Turkey Trot 7-9am; $15 Take the van to Tasmania, Yep that's what I said, where Bob Ford will take you back thru his boss's property to find the Osceola Turkey lives. There will be some rough hiking involved there. Leave from Doyle Conner.

Fisheating Creek by Canoe 8-11am; $35 Meet Ellen Peterson and partner Bill Bailey. They will escort you to put-in spot so you paddle your way back down to the Campground. You'll see herons, egrets, eagles, hawks, limpkins, ibis, alligators, wild hogs, and maybe even wild turkeys. Take water, snack and dry T-shirt. Drive yourself to the Creek Campground on 27 in Palmdale.

Regional Birds 9am-12pm; $15 Board a 15-passenger van with Audubon's Dr. Paul Gray. He will proceed to find Burrowing Owls, Florida Scrub Jays, Red-shouldered Hawks, eagles, Swallow-tail Kites, and more as he meanders down State Rd 78. Leave from Doyle Conner.

South Lake "O" by Pontoon 3-5pm, $35 Board an 8-passenger pontoon boat with Terry Garrels and
choose which way you want to travel. Go out on the Lake and come up the southwestern area to see, Snail Kites, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills and more. You'll be out 2 hours. Drive yourself to Roland Martin Marina in Clewiston.

West Lake "O" by Airboat 3-5pm; $35
Board Chappy's Eco-Tours 18-passenger airboat. He will take you to see Blue-winged Teal, Snail Kites, Swallow-tailed Kites and waders of all kinds. You will be out for 2 hours, take water. Drive yourself to Fisheating creek on 78.

Beginning Birding 3-5pm; $15 Lori Haynes of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will show you how to spot birds, know what to look for and where to look. It's great for the novice birder. Take water. Leave from Doyle Conner.

Owl and Duck Box Saturday Dr. Richard Raid of University of Florida's Everglades Research and Education Center will show kids how to dissect owl pellets and build owl boxes in the Park.

Butterflies 10-11am Join an Army Corp of Engineers park ranger to learn all about butterfly basics. Meet at City Park

Birds and Bugs 11am-12pm
by Mark Deyrup of Archbold Research Center. Doyle Conner

Swallowtail Kites 12-1pm Ken Myers will take you on a virtual migration tour of Swallow-tailed Kites between Fisheating Creek and Peru.

Whooping Cranes & Sandhill Cranes 1-2pm Stephen Nesbitt of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will share with you the fascinating lives of Florida's cranes and the Whooping Crane recovery project.

FOS lectures 2-5pm Keynote Dinner 7pm Join keynote speaker Stuart Strahl, CEO of Audubon of Florida, for cocktails and dinner at the KOA in Okeechobee. Dinner starts at 7:30pm and speaker starts at 8pm. $15

SUNDAY, APRIL 13, 2003
OK Slough
6am-1pm; $31 Take the van to the OK Slough, which is south of Clewiston and LaBelle to see wading bird rookeries, lots of birds and signs of panthers and bears. Then travel on to the AH-TAH-THI-KI Seminole Museum for a light lunch. Leave from Clewiston Inn.

Pontoon on the Caloosahatchee 8-10am; $35 JR Tripper will guide you thru the Ox-Bows of old Florida to see the wading birds and wildlife. Drive yourself to Park on W78 on N side of River.

Gators and Crocs 9-11am; $13.50 Patty Register owner and operator of Gatorama will give you a special educational tour of the Gator farm. There is a gift shop there with drinks. Drive your self.

Indian Prairie Safari Ranch Tour All weekend, anytime; $25 Drive yourself to Buck Island Ranch to meet up with Amy of Archbold Research Center. Board a swamp buggy for 2 1/2 hours of pure fun and see deer, wild hogs, wild turkey, armadillo, Caracara, Sandhill Cranes, eagles, and river otters. So much wildlife, so much to learn! Bring a hat, sunscreen and your sense of adventure. Must have 18 people for a tour.

For more information Call 863-946-0300 or info@bigobirdingfestival.com or www.bigobirdingfestival.com
Vendors wanted for Art show on Saturday

Florida Birding Festival and Nature Expo, Clearwater, Sept. was the first year for the birding fest and it attracted a not-too-shabby 600-plus attendees. This year, they're adding nature exhibits and hoping for 2,000 people, organizers said.

The festival features field trips to see specific kinds of birds -- for instance, wintering and breeding shorebirds such as roseate spoonbills, long-billed curlews, Wilson's plovers and others at Shell Key; pelagics (water birds) such as masked boobys, shearwaters and terns along the Gulf; and barred, screech, burrowing and other types of owls during a night-time "owl prowl." The fest also offers a variety of workshops, including one for beginners.

For more information: 877/FLA-BIRD or www.stpete-clearwater.com/birdfestival/

Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, Titusville: Like its West Coast counterpart, the Space Coast Flyway is branching out and hoping to lure between 1,500 and 2,000 people for this year's event, November 13-17, 2002 .

The most popular field trip last year, said organizer Laurilee Thompson, was the all-day whooping crane excursion to the Kissimmee prairie. A pair of the re-introduced birds recently laid eggs--the first time in decades that wild cranes in the U.S. have reproduced. Another field trip goes to the St. Johns Wildlife Refuge,which has been closed to the public since the unsuccessful attempts to save the dusky seaside sparrow more than a decade ago. Other field trips appeal to wildflower and butterfly enthusiasts; yet another involves listening to fish sounds.

For more information, contact Neta Harris, Festival Coordinator321-268-5224. You can also call the Titusville Chamber of Commerce at 321-267-3036 please leave your name and address at the Chamber and you will be contacted.