One of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the Americas, bird migration, is underway. Currently, millions upon millions of migratory birds are en route to rookeries up north, having taken flight from their southern winter grounds in Central and South America, the Caribbean and the southern United States. Brining attention to this ancient and instinctual event where more than 350 species of birds take flight, International Migratory Bird Day [Bird Day], a bi-annual event organized by the Environment for the Americas, an international nonprofit dedicated to “make bird conservation education available throughout the Western Hemisphere.” Typically celebrated on the second Saturday of May and October, Bird Day is designed to foster bird conservation through education and hands-on, eco activities.
Bird Day, which now reaches more than 600 sites from Canada to Argentina with activities, will not be overlooked in Southwest Florida. The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve will be carrying the Paradise Coast Bird Day torch on May 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The unique estuarine, upland hammock and scrub environment of Rookery Bay has been the ancestral home for nearly 150 species of birds, many of which are migratory. To celebrate Bird Day, Rookery Bay will offer buy one, get one free admission, as well as showcase a selection of bird films in the Learning Center.
- From 11 a.m.-12 p.m., the Learning Center will screen a feature film, followed by a selection of nature films throughout the day.
- Admission costs $5.
- For more information, visit rookerybay.org.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and tackle some of the reserve’s self-guided nature trails for some in-the-field bird watching.
Not far from the learning center, the Snail Trail and Observation Platform gives hikers and birders a chance to walk through scrubland to the Henderson Creek, catching a glimpse of some of the year-round bird species still flitting around Rookery Bay.
Further down Henderson Creek, near Shell Island Road, Trails Through Time, a series of four, quarter-mile trails, gives visitors a chance to explore deeper into Rookery Bay without fully dropping off the grid.
The Shell Mound Trail, which starts at the filed center, takes hikers along the mangrove-fringed shoreline. As the name suggests, the trail borders pre-Calusa middens and historical sites, with signage discussing the historical inhabitants to this land.
The Monument Point Trail begins near the end of the Shell Mound Trail (at the Shell Island Road boat ramp), and continues to the mouth of Henderson Creek. At the end of the line sits a large stone monument dedicated to the children that helped raise the initial funds for the purchase of the Rookery Bay lands in order to preserve them for future generations. Wading and water birds can be seen along the way, sticking to the mangroves and scouring the muddy shores and flats for crustaceans and small fish.