Flying up in the sky and floating along local ponds is an amazing array of birds, including the ruby crowned kinglet, northern shoveler, common loon, hooded merganser, marbled godwit and sharp-shinned hawk.
These are just some of the species that people may spot during the 8th annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival from Jan. 13 to 15.
The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve hosts the festival that offers almost 40 two- to three-hour field trips to dozens of nature and environmental sites around Southwest Florida, including some that are not normally open to the public.
Biologists, scientists and other renowned experts will lead small group tours at sites including Big Cypress National Preserve, Collier Seminole State Park, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Naples Botanical Garden.
Trips range from the Eagle Lakes Community Park Birding for Beginners walk to the Everglades National Park Shark Valley Bike Tour. Some excursions with limited seating, including the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Backcountry Swamp Buggy Trip, fill up right away when registration opens in November.
To offer variety for returning guests, new trips include Rookery Bay Reserve Living Off the Land Cultural Walking Tour, Up A Creek Kayak Goodland Twelve Island Tour, and Rookery Bay Reserve Isles of Capri Kayak Trip at the new Paddlecraft Park opening soon.
The entire schedule can be viewed at rookerybay.org.
A highlight of the festival is the keynote reception and presentation on Saturday night by Emmy-nominated nature documentary cinematographer Michael Male and his filmmaking partner, Judy Fieth. The pair produced a new video for the festival, "The Big Lives of Florida's Waterbirds," and will share intimate nest-side close-up looks at the private lives of many of Southwest Florida's most charismatic birds, such as the roseate spoonbill, wood stork, limpkin and reddish egret.
Male and Fieth have worked together since the 1980's, producing, shooting and editing programs that have been shown on the television series NOVA, NATURE and National Geographic Explorer. They have also shot behavioral sequences for many of the big BBC Natural History Unit series of the last decade, including David Attenborough's "The Life of Birds," "The Life of Mammals" and "Life in Cold Blood," as well as for the BBC/Discovery Channel series "Blue Planet," "Planet Earth" and "LIFE." Male received an Emmy nod for his cinematography on the PBS NATURE program "Crash: A Tale of Two Species," about horseshoe crabs and red knots.
Nature Festival activities at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center on Jan. 14 include a nature film festival, guided trail walks and four lectures: Nancy Richie, environmental specialist for the city of Marco Island, discusses "Life and Times of the Marco Island Burrowing Owl Population"; Jack Berninger, a retired biology teacher and volunteer with the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, discusses "Unique Flora and Fauna of the Everglades"; Ted Below, a retired National Audubon Society warden and biologist, discusses "Not So Brown Pelicans"; and Jonee' Miller, wildlife rehabilitation specialist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, discusses "Tales from the Wildlife Clinic."
IF YOU GO
What: 8th annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival
Where: The festival is sponsored by Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 300 Tower Road Naples. Saturday talks will be there, but tours start at a number of locations around the county.
Information: 239-417-6310 or www.rookerybay.org
Saturday, Jan. 14
■ 11 a.m. to noon: "Life and Times of the Marco Island Burrowing Owl Population"
■ Noon to 1 p.m.: Unique flora and fauna of the Everglades
■ 1 to 2 p.m.: "Not so brown" pelicans
■ 2 to 3 p. m: Tales from the Wildlife Clinic
■ 5 to 7 p.m.: Keynote Presentation: Big Lives of Florida's water birds, with Michael Male and Judy Fieth of Blue Planet Films. Cost: $10, includes light refreshments
All field trips require advance registration. Full descriptions of the events are at www.rookerybay.org/nature-fest-2012-field-trips. Sign up in person at the Environmental Learning Center or by calling 239-417-6310 ext. 401. Trips that were full as of press time are noted.
Friday, Jan. 13
■ 7 to 11:30 a.m.: Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge — Marsh trail birding hike. Spend the morning on a leisurely walk along Marsh Trail (2.2 miles round-trip), the only trail access into the Ten Thousand Islands refuge. Participants will be able to observe and photograph wildlife from a two-story observation tower. Cost: $10
■ 8 to 10 a.m.: Clam Pass Park — Birding Walk. Observe birds from the three-quarter-mile boardwalk which spans Clam Bay. Cost: $10. Parking: $8 or free with Collier County Beach Parking Permit
■ 8 to 10 a.m.: Naples Botanical Garden — Birding tower walk. Cost: $20 FULL
■ 8 to 10:30 a.m.: C.R.E.W. Bird Rookery Swamp — Birding Hike. Keep an eye out for herons, egrets and wild turkeys during this 2-mile hike. Cost: $10
■ 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary — Morning Backcountry Swamp Buggy Trip. Cost: $50 FULL
■ 8:30 a.m. to noon: Big Cypress National Preserve — Plants, Trees & Cypress Knees. Join Big Cypress National Preserve botanist Dr. Jim Burch and staff for a walk through cypress domes, pinelands and prairies to discover biological components of these unique plant communities. Cost $10
■ 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: Everglades National Park — Shark Valley Bicycle Tour. Keep an eye out for alligators, turtles, anhingas, purple gallinules and wood storks during this fifteen-mile bicycle tour. Cost: $10
■ 9 a.m. to 1 p. m: Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park — Swamp Tromp. Cost: $10 FULL
■ 10 a.m. to noon: Rookery Bay Reserve — Kayak Adventure Trip. Paddle along pristine mangrove creeks and bays to meet some amazing estuarine inhabitants. Cost: $50
■ 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Everglades National Park — Sandfly Island Canoe Trip. Cost: $10 FULL
■ 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Big Cypress National Preserve — Turner River C.A.N.O.E. Trip. Paddle the Turner River. Cost: $10 FULL
■ 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Eagle Lakes Community Park — Birding for Beginners. Cost: $10
■ 3:30 to 5:30: Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge — Sundown Swamp Buggy Tour. Cost: $35 FULL
■ 4 to 7 p.m.: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary — Sundown Backcountry Swamp Buggy Trip. Cost: $50 FULLn 7:30 to 9 a.m.: Marco Island — Burrowing Owl Tour. Learn about the biology, history, habitat, behavior, etiquette in maintaining/viewing and the human impacts of the burrowing owls in the urban environment. Cost: $10
Saturday, Jan. 14
■ 7 a.m.: Big Cypress National Preserve Birding Trip — Kirby Storter Boardwalk and Turner River Road. Join biologist John Kellam to learn the easy-to-get-to spots in the preserve that can be enjoyed by amateur and expert birders. Cost: $10
■ 7 to 9 a.m.: Collier-Seminole State Park — Birding Walk. Spend the morning exploring the extensive tropical hardwood hammock vegetation in Collier-Seminole State Park for wintering birds such as warblers, vireos, and thrushes. Cost: $10
■ 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.: Freedom Park County Park — Birding Walk. Search for wetland-dependent birds and wintering land birds that call Freedom Park home. Cost: $10
■ 8 to 11 a.m.: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary — Morning Backcountry Swamp Buggy Trip. Cost: $50 FULL
■ 8 to 11 a.m.: Eagle Lakes Community Park — Birding Walk. Cost: $10
■ 8 to 11 a.m.: Little Estero Lagoon — Birding Walk. Spend the morning bird watching along the inner path and outer beach that surrounds Little Estero Lagoon. Cost: $10 FULL
■ 8 to 10 a.m.: Naples Botanical Garden — Scrub Tour. This field trip will focus on exploring the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Uplands Preserve and scrub trail in the Naples Botanical Garden. Cost: $20
■ 8 to 10 a.m.: Tigertail Beach/Sand Dollar Lagoon — Beach Birding for Beginners. Can't tell a gull from a tern? Do you think all shorebirds look alike? Learn how to identify and appreciate the most common birds found on our local beaches. Cost: $10. Parking: $8 or free with current Collier County Beach Parking Permit.
■ 9 a.m. to noon: Up A Creek Kayak — Goodland Twelve Island Tour. Cost: $50 FULL
■ 10 a.m. to noon: Rookery Bay Reserve — Isle of Capri Kayak Trip. Paddle along pristine mangrove creeks and bays to meet some amazing estuarine inhabitants. Cost: $50
■ Noon to 3 p.m.: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary — Afternoon Backcountry Swamp Buggy Trip. Cost: $50 FULL
■ 12:30 to 7 p.m.: Big Cypress National Preserve — Trip to Red Cockaded Woodpecker Clusters. Join the preserve's wildlife biologist, Deborah Jansen, for a visit to Raccoon Point. This wild and diverse area of the preserve is home to a variety of wildlife including several groups of the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. Cost: $10
■ 1 to 3 p.m.: Rookery Bay Reserve — Isle of Capri Kayak Trip. Cost: $50
■ 4 to 6 p.m.: Conservancy of Southwest Florida — Rookery Bay Sunset Roost Cruise. Cast off for some great birding and cruise Rookery Bay on the Conservancy's Good Fortune pontoon boat. Cost:$40
■ 4:15 to 6:30 p.m.: Big Cypress National Preserve — Turner River Canoe Trip. Paddle the Turner River and experience the beauty of this quiet place as the diurnal animals are beginning to stir. Cost: $10 FULL
Sunday, Jan. 15
■ 7:15 to 10 a.m.: Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge — Birding Hike. Hike along a 1.3 mile long trail that meanders through several natural community types including hardwood hammock, pine flatwood, wet prairie, and mixed pine hardwood forest. Cost: $10
■ 7 to 11:30 a.m.: Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge — Marsh Trail Birding Hike. Cost: $10
■ 8 to 11 a.m.: Bunche Beach Preserve (San Carlos Bay) — Birding Walk. Observe the shore birds while walking along Bunche Beach, the mainland side of San Carlos Bay. Cost: $10
■ 8 to 11 a.m.: Eagle Lakes Community Park — Birding Walk. Cost: $10
■ 9 to 11 a.m.: Barefoot Beach Preserve — Gopher Tortoise Walk. Join a Collier County Park Ranger/Naturalist for a guided walk through the varied coastal habitats found at Barefoot Beach Preserve. Cost: $10 FULL
■ 9 to 11:30 a.m.: Rookery Bay Reserve — Living off the Land Cultural Walking Tour. Enjoy a tour through time with one of Rookery Bay Reserve's certified interpreters. Traverse Calusa Indian shell mounds and amble through historic pioneer homesteads while learning how these early settlers survived in Florida by living off the land and sea. Cost: $10
■ 1 to 3 p.m.: Rookery Bay Reserve — Living off the Land Cultural Walking Tour. Cost: $10
■ 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.: Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge — Sundown Swamp Buggy Tour. Cost: $35 FULL
■ 4 to 6 p.m.: Conservancy of Southwest Florida — Rookery Bay Sunset Roost Cruise. Cost: $40