Wildlife festival celebrates nature

This weekend's event at Chinsegut will focus on native birds, animals and plants.

Published April 13, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Whether it's the delicate blooms that burst forth from native wildflowers or the melodious call of songbirds that seem to come from every tree branch, this time of year in Florida belongs to those who appreciate wild things.

According to Chinsegut Nature Center director Kristin Wood, Hernando County supports 293 species of wild birds alone. In addition, more than 50 species of reptiles and amphibians can be found in the county's diverse natural habitats. And spring is an active time for all of them.

"Between birds migrating through or nesting and courtship activities, they're always on the move," Wood said. "It's just a wonderful time of the year."

Even if your back yard is a little shy on resident wildlife, this weekend's Chinsegut Birding and Wildlife Festival offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Florida's most enchanting creatures.

The event, which will feature talks on native wildlife, nature hikes, children's games and activities, and live entertainment, is part of the center's Earth Day celebration. Though originally staged as the "Welcome Back Songbirds" festival, Wood discovered a couple of years ago that residents enjoyed learning about other Florida wildlife, too.

"We're lucky in that we have so many good wildlife experts in our area who are willing to share their knowledge," Wood said. "People enjoy coming to the festival and learning about the plants and animals that can be easily found in their community."

The 400-acre wildlife preserve is a diverse habitat for Florida wildlife, making it the perfect observatory.

The event, which kicks off at 7 p.m. today with a wildlife photography exhibit by David Maynahan, will give visitors a rare opportunity to explore nocturnal creatures such as evening bats and barred owls, which reside in the park.

Saturday's activities begin at 7:30 a.m. with a bird banding workshop by noted ornithologist Clay Black. Afterward, there will be a bird walk from 8:30 to 9:50 a.m. and a lecture on Florida birds of prey by the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

The festival isn't just about animals either. Florida plant expert Anne Schmidt will discuss native plants and drought-resistant landscaping at 2 p.m., followed by a wildflower walk at 3. Dragonflies will be the subject of a discussion and walk at 2 p.m. by Pinellas County environmental specialist Don Stillwaugh.

Kids will have plenty to do throughout the day as well. In addition to a puppet theater at 1 p.m., youngsters can take part in wildlife games and activities such as animal track identification and owl pellet dissecting.

The festival will conclude with what has become something of a tradition: a bird-calling contest, which according to Wood, "is something well worth sticking around for."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 352 848-1435.

If you go

Chinsegut Birding and Wildlife FestivalWhen: From 7 to 9:30 p.m. today and from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.Where: Chinsegut Nature Center, 23212 Lake Lindsey Road, north of Brooksville.Cost: The event is free.For information: Call 754-6722.