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Florida Birding Festival

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000

Snowbirds aren't the only visitors who flock to the Suncoast when the weather up north turns chilly. Thousands of birds, representing dozens of rare and common species, stop by Tampa Bay every fall on their migration south.

As a result, bird watchers, or "birders" as they call themselves, will come from all over the United States in October for the Florida Birding Festival. They hope to catch a glimpse of a wood stork or any of the other rare and endangered species, including the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, American kestrel, crane, snowy plover, piping plover, least tern or Florida scrub jay.

Florida's Gulf Coast also is home to numerous species of special concern, including the brown pelican, snowy egret, little blue heron, tricolored heron, reddish egret, white ibis, roseate spoonbill, limpkin, black skimmer and Florida burrowing owl.

Birding is an inexpensive outdoor sport to get involved in. All you need is a field guide and binoculars. Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds is a good, easy-to-use introductory book, and binoculars with 7x35 power are available at any sporting goods store. Also bring a pad and pencil so you can keep a journal of what you have seen.

To register for the Florida Birding Festival, Oct. 5-8, call (877) FLA-BIRD. To learn more call (800) 822-6461.

If you can't wait until October and want to get started now, check out some of these birding hot spots:

  • Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, New Port Richey, (727) 834-3247.
  • Hillsborough River State Park, Thonotosassa, (813) 987-6771.
  • Lettuce Lake Regional Park, Tampa, (813) 987-6204.
  • McKay Bay Nature Park, Tampa, no number available.
  • Brooker Creek Preserve, Palm Harbor, (727) 943-4000.
  • John H. Chesnut Sr. County Park, (727) 669-1951.
  • Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area, Dunedin, (727) 469-5942.
  • Sawgrass Lake County Park, St. Petersburg, (727) 217-7256.
  • Boyd Hill Nature Park, St. Petersburg, (727) 893-7326.
  • Fort De Soto County Park, Tierra Verde, (727) 866-2484.

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  • Freediving off Bayport
  • Little Manatee River
  • Egmont Shipping Channel
  • Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve
  • The Tampa Bay Open Water Challenge
  • Snook
  • The Gunsmoke
  • Hiking in Withlacoochee State Forest
  • The Plunger
  • Shell Key
  • Running along the beach at Treasure Island
  • The Redington Long Pier
  • The St. Petersburg Yacht Club
  • The St. Petersburg Sailing Center
  • Mastry's Bait & Tackle
  • T.A. Mahoney's Marine Supply
  • Egmont Key
  • Blading at Fort DeSoto
  • Hillsborough River State Park
  • Sunshine Skyway fishing piers
  • The Great Scallop Search
  • Open-water swimming at Clearwater Beach
  • Rodbenders
  • Windsurfing at the Dunedin Causeway
  • St. Anthony's Triathlon
  • Trail riding at Wilderness Park
  • MacRae's Bait Shop
  • St. Pete Mad Dogs
  • O'Neill's Marina
  • Suncoast Surf Shop
  • The spring kingfish run
  • Florida Birding Festival
  • Sunset at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill
  • Red drum
  • 'The Kingfish King,'' Gene Turner
  • Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure
  • Tampa Bay Estuary Program
  • Building a sand castle
  • Saltwater Fly Fisherman
  • Eckerd College's Search and Recovery Team
  • Steve Yerrid's Kids Fishing Derby
  • The Weedon Island Canoe Trail
  • The Florida Marine Research Institute
  • Picnic Island Park
  • U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater
  • Merry Pier
  • Bass fishing on Lake Tarpon
  • Boyd Hill Nature Park
  • Horseback riding in Withlacoochee State Forest
  • Swim with the manatees in Crystal River
  • Brooker Creek Preserve
  • Spotted sea trout
  • Clearwater Sailing Center
  • The Madeira Beach Artificial Reef
  • The Osprey Trail
  • Osprey
  • Tampa BayWatch
  • Hurricane Pass Anglers Club
  • Campground at Fort De Soto Park
  • The Beach at Caladesi Island
  • Anclote Key
  • The Pinellas Trail
  • Old Salt Fishing Club
  • Treasure Island Charities
  • The Bird Islands
  • Outrigger Outreach
  • Tarpon
  • The wreck of the Sheridan
  • The Pinellas Marine Institute
  • Wakeboarding on Lake Tarpon
  • The Swamp Ape
  • Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish
  • Biking and blading along Bayshore Boulevard
  • Stone crabbing beneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge
  • White pelicans at McKay Bay
  • Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission's Urban Pond Program
  • Surfing at Upham Beach
  • Spanish mackerel fishing off the Fort DeSoto Twin Piers
  • Wyoming Antelope Club
  • The Center for Marine Conservation Beach Cleanup
  • Sand Key Park
  • The fall kingfish run
  • Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center at Apollo Beach
  • Sheepshead fishing off The Pier
  • Fly fishing off Homosassa
  • Davis Island Yacht Club Thursday Night Series
  • Trolling for grouper
  • The Suncoast Sierra Club
  • American Power Boat Association World Championships in St. Petersburg
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Blue Crabs
  • Riding a beach cruiser
  • The Coquina Key Skate Park
  • Sea kayaking around Honeymoon Island
  • Safe Boating Classes
  • The Strange Man Biathlon
  • Shelling
  • Walking along the beach
  • The Florida Aquarium