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Florida Birding and Nature Festival

Hillsborough Community College, South Shore Campus will again host the 2107 Florida Birding and Nature Festival Friday, October 13-Sunday, October 15, 2017. The 3-day day festival will be held on the college’s campus in Ruskin, and features local and national bird, butterfly, and reptile experts presenting interesting seminars and leading field trips to nature parks and preserves throughout West Central Florida  during the peak of the fall bird migration. 

Social events with keynote speakers will be held October 13, 14, and 15 at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin.  A kick-off gathering will be held at the Tiki Bar in Little Harbor, Ruskin on Thursday evening.  The Friday and Saturday event tickets include dinner and social hour at 5:30 pm followed by the presentation. Sunday’s social includes lunch and a panel presentation.

Festival goers choose from among 35 seminars on topics from Tegu lizards and tarpon to diamondback terrapins; bird identification and rehabilitation; landscaping to attract wildlife, and the basics of nature photography.

Half-day field trips will span coastal to inland  destinations in five-county region –  including Celery Fields in Sarasota, Perico Preserve in Manatee County, major restoration sites in Hillsborough County, Audubon’s  Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary; Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge; Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County and Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County.  Boat trips include a search for diamondback terrapins, shorebirds at Outback Key, and wading birds at Alafia Banks.  Two wagon trips, one exclusively for families, will tour Lower Green Swamp Preserve.

Registration for the field trips ranges from $30 to $65, with a special rate for students. Children under 12 are free and a special children’s program will be held on Saturday, October 14.  Online registration is available at

Event attendees will also have the opportunity to visit the free Nature Expo, featuring local businesses, optics, bird tours, book sellers, and nature related craft, art and gifts. 

Dr. James ‘Buddy’ Powell, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Sea to Shore Alliance, will give a keynote presentation Friday evening on the recovery and on-going efforts to maintain the manatee population.

Resee Collins, Eagle & Rehabilitation Permit Coordinator for the Southeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), will keynote the Saturday evening session.  Her presentation will highlight the natural history and recovery of the Bald Eagle in Florida through a combined approach of wildlife rehabilitation, ongoing research, citizen science, and state/federal regulatory permitting, including interesting ‘eagle stories’.  A live eagle is promised to be in attendance at the Festival!

Sunday after lunch at 1:00 pm a panel of state experts will offer insights into the value of a healthy ecosystem to the community.  Besides the economic impacts of ecotourism, a growing body of research indicates significant financial value through ecosystem services and savings in health care costs. Learn the economic arguments for environmental protection from an engaging panel of experts. This should be of special interest to anyone interested in protecting and promoting our environment.  Local government officials are especially encouraged to attend. 

Current sponsors include TECO, Tampa, Clearwater, St Petersburg, Sarasota, Manatee and Eagle Audubon Societies, Hillsborough Community College South Shore, Hubbard’s Marina, Hillsborough County Conservation and Environmental Lands Management, Little Harbor and more.