The Lake County Office of Economic Development & Tourism presents the inaugural birding and wildflower festival, “Wings and Wildflowers", to be held on Sept. 28-30 at Hickory Point Park in Tavares. Birds flock to Lake County, which is home to thousands of acres of preserves and passive park lands – including Ferndale Preserve, Emeralda Marsh and the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area. Lake County has enticing outdoor recreational opportunities, particularly for birders, and the Wings and Wildflowers Festival will offer visitors an opportunity to fall in love with Lake County’s birds, wildflowers and natural areas.
Saturday festivities will include many free activities for young people. The Lake County Library System Youth Services Coordinator will be on hand for the day. Children can meet Ms. Linda, make a wearable craft foam visor and have fun decorating it with a variety of colorful bird and butterfly stickers and materials.
The Trout Lake Nature Center staff will show young ones how to create a "bird saver", using yarn and some bright and shiny objects to create a colorful mobile. Children can decorate tree cookies and create a medallion to wear as a souvenir of the day. Trout Lake will have a touch table, some live small animals, and some taxidermy too. Avian ecologist, Rachel Dillenger, will offer a Family Birding Walk at Hickory Point.
Ranger Rick, the Raccoon, spokes-animal for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), has invited his human pal Becky Thomton, to guide you through the Ranger Rick Geocaching Trail. Geocaching is a fun way to get students and families outside and exploring. Beginner or seasoned geocacher, you’ll love it. Ranger Rick has been with NWF for over 50 years and appears monthly in the Ranger Rick Magazine. Becky Thomton is a writer, international traveler and expert geocacher.
Families can also enjoy Swamp Girl and her Crew as they share stories of amazing critters and fun filled adventure in the swamps of Florida. Swamp Girl often adventures into the wild or to State or National Parks Wild Life Preserves to create fun sometimes funny videos that help teach people about animals or places and to help people see the beauty of wildlife.
The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens will bring animals to the event from noon to 2 p.m., The Orange Audubon Society will offer a kids' nature collage activity. And Trout Lake will have an environmental education touch table.
Throughout the three days, festival-goers will learn about the charismatic Florida Scrub-jay and the unique Florida scrub habitat. Other specialty field trips will be offered to area preserves and pristine public lands. Unique birding programs will be available by kayak, pontoon boats and seaplanes. There will be a myriad of exciting activities and booths featuring everything from hands-on wildlife demonstrations, to off-site kayaking and horse-back riding expeditions. Numerous nationally-known speakers and guests are also slated to make appearances at the festivities.
Featured speakers for informational programs, tours and exhibits for novices and experts include the following:
- Fred Antonio, Director of the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation;
- Robyn Bailey project assistant for The YardMap Network, Cornell University Lab of Ornithology;
- Wes Biggs, reknowned birder/naturalists in Florida and a founding member of the Florida Ornithological Society;
- James Currie, host of the popular NBC Sports show, Nikon's Birding Adventures;
- Jaret Daniels, the Assistant Director for Research, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Department of Entomology and Nematology, Unversity of Florida;
- Linda Conway Duever, conservation ecologist and Director of Mockernut Hill Botanical Garden;
- Thomas Dunkerton, seasonal field research technician for the Florida Scrub-jay Program on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and a member of the Nikon Birding Pro-staff since 2007;
- Monica Folk, ecologist, planner, science manager, and former mitigation coordinator with the Nature Conservancy;
- Dr.Craig N. Huegel, faculty member of the University of Florida and co-founder of the Cooperative Urban Wildlife Extension Program;
- Vince Lamb, nature Photographer and Florida Master Naturalist;
- Claudia Larsen, past Senior Biological Scientist at University of Florida University of Florida and owner of Micanopy Wildflower Nursery;
- John Moran, former State of Florida contract nature photographer;
- Jeff Norcini, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor of Environmental Horticulture University of Florida (IFAS) North Florida Research and Education Center;
- Jaime Pawelek, biologist at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve;
- Zachary Prusak , Florida Fire Manager for The Nature Conservancy;
- Ralph Risch, biologist at the Seminole State Forest;
- Lisa Roberts, Executive Director of the Florida Wildflower Foundation;
- David Simpson, current holder of many American Birding Association records;
- Jim Thomas, President of Biosphere Consulting, Inc.;
- Dr. Walter Kingsley Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Central Florida;
- Teresa Watkins, award-winning radio and TV host and recognized leader on water conservation principles and biodiverse landscapes.
Entry to the Wings and Wildflowers Festival is free.
Some activities, field trips and educational seminars will have a fee.
For information, visit www.lakecountyfl.com/gowild.
The Festival is presented in close partnership with the Lake County Parks and Trails Division, the Florida Scrub-jay Consortium, the Ocklawaha Valley Audubon Society, Trout Lake Nature Preserve, St. John’s River Water Management, the Lake County Water Authority, the Florida Wildflower Foundation and the Lake Beautyberry Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.