Birders, outdoor enthusiasts and nature photographers can flock to the 15th annual Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival Tuesday through Sunday, Sept. 24-29, to witness the region’s renowned migration transformation.
The family- and photography-friendly event is anchored at Marathon’s oceanfront Curry Hammock State Park, mile marker (MM) 56.2. Field trips, workshops and educational programs focused on birds, butterflies, native wildlife and even astronomy span the entire Keys chain from Florida Bay by Everglades National Park to the islands of the Dry Tortugas.
Curry Hammock is home to the annual Florida Keys Hawkwatch, a citizen scientist effort of volunteers who monitor the fall raptor migration. The park became known as the Peregrine Falcon Migration Capital of the World after volunteers in 2012 recorded the migratory actions of more than 3,200 of the majestic birds in a single day.
The festival’s opening program, “Wading Birds of Florida Bay — A Pictorial Depiction,” features keynote speaker Rafael Galvez, the Hawkwatch coordinator. The presentation is planned for 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Key Largo’s Murray Nelson Government Center, MM 102.
Saturday, Sept. 28, brings the event’s Wildlife Fair featuring activities, environmental booths, food and music from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission to the fair is free.
That evening, Elizabeth Moore, a NASA solar system educator, is to present a free 6-9 p.m. astronomy program at the park.
Sunday’s schedule features an all-day birding and wildlife photography excursion to Dry Tortugas National Park, a cluster of seven tiny islands approximately 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. 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.
Entrance to Curry Hammock State Park is free for festival registrants. Registration fees apply for daytime programs and field trips.
Event information: www.keysbirdingfest.org or Kristie Killam at 305-872-0774