Nature lovers, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve wants you to join in the celebration. From January 17 to 19, the Paradise Coast’s natural surroundings and all its furry, scaled and feathered inhabitants will be getting their close-up as the tenth annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival gets under way with three days of riveting lectures, presentations and field trips led by studied naturalists and experts.
For Rookery Bay’s tenth celebration of Southwest Florida, nearly forty guided field trips will take burgeoning naturalists deep into twenty different wildlife “hotspots” around Southwest Florida. Each trip specializes on a focused aspect of the natural surroundings, with excursions geared toward birding, wildlife and specialty guided trips that include educational aspects and lectures along the way.
Expeditions begin on Friday, and run through Sunday with a few evening trips in the mix. There is something for every activity level and interest, from buggy rides and kayak expeditions along mangrove-fringed forests to birding for beginners and knee-deep marine life walks. . Some that really caught our eye include a guided evening canoe trip along Turner River ($10), backcountry buggy tours—both morning and evening—through the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary ($60 per person), a guided kayak expedition of twelve of the Ten Thousand Islands in Goodland ($60 per person), and a sunset cruise through Rookery Bay aboard the Conservancy’s pontoon boat Good Fortune ($40 per person).
For those with a thirst for knowledge, Saturday, January 18, has a full docket of presentations and lectures with topics covering injured wildlife brought to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida (12 p.m.); the lifecycle of the native aquatic bird-of-prey, Ospreys, with a focus on two long term projects in Marco Island (1 p.m.); how to landscape using native Florida plants (2 p.m.); and a fascinating lecture on clouds over Big Cypress Natural Preserve and how the vital role they play in helping maintain this delicate ecosystem (3 p.m.).
The lecture series coup de grâce starts at 5:30 p.m. when Beth Forys, Professor of Environmental Science & Biology at Eckerd College delivers the keynote lecture on Least Terns. A small, colonial nesting bird (colonies) that prefers open beach habitat, least terns currently face a plethora of problems in nesting, with habitat destruction and loss, the affects of human and pet intrusion, and sea level rise all inhibiting successful nesting. Forys will discuss the problems that face these small birds as well as alternative nesting options that may help save these birds in the long run. Admission cost $15.
- Registration for presentations is not required but highly recommended due to limited seating.
- Registration for field trips is required and remains open until the day before each field trip is scheduled.
- For more information and to register, visit rookerybay.org, call 239-417-6310, ext. 401 or go to the Environmental Learning Center.