MARATHON, Florida Keys — Spotlighting native wildlife, the 13th annual Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival is set for Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 21-25, to capture the focus of nature enthusiasts and offer tips for becoming better birders and nature photographers.
Staged at Marathon’s oceanfront preserve of Curry Hammock State Park, mile marker (MM) 56.2, the family- and photography-friendly event includes field trips and guided interpretive nature walks at sites throughout the Florida Keys.
Optional pre-festival birding field trips to Long Key and the Everglades are set for Wednesday, Sept. 21. The following day brings botanical and wildlife tours to Florida Bay and the Keys backcountry, and a snorkeling excursion to see how biologists conduct coral reef research.
The festival’s primary program begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, MM 100. The lighthearted evening stars Kimberly Kaufman chatting about her extensive, though sometimes wacky and weird, birding experiences.
The Marathon Garden Club, MM 50 bayside, hosts a 6-9 p.m. reception Friday, Sept. 23, with hors d’oeuvres and a keynote address and book signing by Kenn Kaufman, author of “Kingbird Highway.”
Festival participants can enjoy eco-tours and activities Saturday, Sept. 24, including the popular free-admission Environmental Fair, Wildlife Art Show & Family Day at Curry Hammock from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
All-day birding and wildlife photography excursions to Dry Tortugas National Park are set for Sunday, Sept. 25. Participants can select a trip guided by the Florida Keys Audubon Society’s Dr. Mark Whiteside or wildlife photographers Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez.
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 20 people per field trip.
The entrance fee at Curry Hammock State Park is to be waived for festival registrants. Event registration fees apply for access to daytime programs and field trips.
Event information: www.keysbirdingfest.org or Jim Bell at 305-872-0774
Marathon visitor information: 1-800-262-7284, or www.fla-keys.com/marathon