2014 Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival

The 2014 Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival is Tuesday, Sept. 23, through Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014.  Save the date, we are currently working hard to get you a complete list of our events, please check back soon.  If you have immediate questions, please contact us at flkeysbirdfest@gmail.com  or phone 305-304-9625 for more information.

Now in its 16th year, the festival offers a variety of programs, field trips, workshops and speakers guaranteed to enthrall nature lovers of all ages. Festival activities span the length of the island chain, from Everglades National Park to the Dry Tortugas, and give participants a unique perspective on the terrestrial and marine habitats of this subtropical paradise.

The festival is anchored at Curry Hammock State Park, mile marker 56.2, which is also home to the annual Florida Keys Hawkwatch, a citizen science effort that monitors the fall migration of raptors over the islands.

The 2014 Festival includes a fantastic selection of birding experts who will lead morning guided walks, mid-day workshops and evening presentations.  The festival features field trips to Dry Tortugas National Park, the National Key Deer Refuge, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Park and other national, state and private natural areas. Additional trips include kayaking and boating ecotours, history, natural history, botanical, photography and butterfly field trips, Think of this event as a backstage pass to the natural wonders of the Florida Keys.

Advance registration is requested, as many trips have limits on participants.

Florida Keys Hawkwatch

Florida Keys Hawkwatch participants keep their eyes on the sky during the 2011 event. Hawkwatch organizer Rafael Galvez is the keynote speaker for this year’s Birding & Wildlife Festival. He will also lead several birding excursions. (Photo courtesy Rafael Galvez)

While the festival explores many of the islands’ public lands during its run, Curry Hammock State Park is a home base of sorts for the week, because of our close connection to the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, which begins Sept. 15.

This park in the heart of the Keys was awarded third place in the 2012 America’s Favorite Park contest sponsored by Coca-Cola. It garnered more than 8 million votes and received a $25,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Live Positively initiative to help enhance the park’s recreational areas.

Thanks to the Hawkwatch, the park is also now known as the Peregrine Falcon Migration Capital of the World. That’s because the Hawkwatch tallied a record one-day count of 3,242 of the birds on Oct. 16, 2012.

Dry Tortugas Birding Adventure

Join us for an all-day birding excursion to the magnificent Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson for the spectacle of fall migration. There are two guide-led groups, and each one is limited to 20 participants, so sign up early!

Join avid Florida Keys birder and ecotour guide Mark Hedden for an opportunity to learn about the role this isolated island plays in nesting and migration.  Mark led the 2013 trip where more than 55 species of birds were cited including: 50 masked boobies, brown boobies, magnificent frigatebirds, sooty terns and many others.  See Marks blog for a complete list http://boneisland.com/dry-tortugas-trip-report/

This all-day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park leaves the Key West ferry terminal on the Yankee Freedom III at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, and returns around 5 p.m. The $25 cost is separate from the cost of the ferry, which must be booked directly with on the Yankee Freedom‘s website or by calling 305-294-7009. Ferry cost depends on residency and whether you have a federal lands pass.

Wildlife Fair

There’s a full day of activities appropriate for the entire family at the Wildlife Festival from 10 a.m. to  3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at Curry Hammock State Park. The fair is held on the beach; bring your lawn chair, beach towels and spend the day.

There will be 20-plus booths to explore; come learn more about the Florida Keys community. Participate in the scavenger hunt to win a free festival t-shirt (while supplies last). Join Home Depot for hands-on kids projects. Listen to Florida folk singer Grant Livingston from noon to 2 p.m. Chow down on burgers and dogs to benefit the day’s hosts, the Friends of Islamorada Area State Parks. Go on self-guided kayak expeditions and beach hikes. Wrap up the day with a free evening astronomy program with Elizabeth Moore, NASA Solar System educator; come look at and learn about the stars!

Admission to the state park is free for festivalgoers the day of the festival, which is sponsored by the Friends of Islamorada Area State Parks.