Top Ten U.S. Fall Birding & Nature Festivals - Page 2

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5. Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival
Marathon, Florida
September 23 – 27, 2009
Anchored at Curry Hammock State Park in the Florida Keys, a highlight of the five-day Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival will be full-day pelagic tours of the Keys and Dry Tortugas with expert birder Larry Manfredi. Field trips give ample opportunity to explore area habitats, snorkel in reefs and backcountry mangroves, kayak the keys, and bike the Overseas Heritage Trail. Other activities will demonstrate the area's natural wonders (birds, botany, insects, and dolphins) at venues including the Key West Botanical Garden and Dolphin Research Center. Keynote speakers will be nature photography duo Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez. Self-guided auto tours are available all day. A la carte registration.

4. Monterey Bay Bird Festival
Monterey, California
September 24 – 27
At the Monterey Bay Birding Festival, guided hikes, kayak tours, and pelagic trips will explore the region's wild, rugged habitats—including redwood forests, sandy beaches, estuaries, grasslands, and the stunning Big Sur coastline. These habitats provide refuge to a bewildering diversity of birds, including the California Condor, Golden Eagle, Bushtits, Townsend's Warblers, and Sooty Shearwaters. The festival will include visits to world-class habitats such as Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Elkhorn Slough National Marine Estuary, and Pinnacles National Monument. Themed Bridging the Americas Through Birds & Birding, the festival will feature bilingual speakers and examine ornithological linkages between the Americas. Base registration is $45 with a la carte activities ranging from $5 to $130.

3. "Ding" Darling Days
Sanibel Island, Florida
October 18 – 24
The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. Serene and picturesque, the refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States and provides refuge to a staggering array of birds during fall migration. The weeklong "Ding" Darling Days festival is a family-friendly celebration that kicks off with Family Fun Day, where everything at the refuge is FREE, including tram tours, reptile show, butterfly house, Mote Marine aquarium and touch tank, plus hotdogs and soda! Other events offer ample opportunities for birding and nature exploration through free and discounted hiking, biking, kayaking, and sea life boat tours. Pricing is a la carte per activity.

2. Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival
Harlingen, Texas
November 12 – 15
The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival aspires to put the "life" in your life list, and rightly so. The festival provides attendees the chance to add at least 30 sub-tropical species that occur in the valley but nowhere else in the United States, such as Crested Caracara, Green Kingfisher, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, Altamira Oriole, and Chachalaca. Famed for their quality of leaders, festival field trips will explore diverse habitats such as Tamaulipan thornscrub, coastal marshlands, and riparian woodlands in search of these and other species. The festival program features lectures by world-famous birders who will share stories and experiences, plus seminars, keynote lectures, workshops, children's programs, and a large nature fair. New this year is a digital photography safari led by nature photographer Ruth Hoyt.

1. Festival of the Cranes in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Socorro, New Mexico
November 17 – 22
Once numbering only in the dozens, as many as 20,000 cranes now overwinter at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Few things inspire as much awe as waves of Sandhill Cranes rising for the morning "fly-out," when a vast, watercolor ribbon of birds lifts off the water in a synchronous flutter of color and wings, darkening the sky as they fly toward a daytime roost. The Festival of the Cranes celebrates this magnificent wildlife spectacle as cranes return to Bosque del Apache, which also provides sanctuary for wintering Snow Geese (nearly 45,000), Ross' Geese, Canvasbacks, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, and scores of other waterfowl. Other wildlife, such as mule deer, elk, javelina, coyotes, porcupines, Wild Turkeys, and Greater Roadrunners may also be spotted. The festival provides tours, lectures, exhibits, and an intimate exploration of the refuge. A 12-mile wildlife drive provides exceptional photography opportunities. Base fee is $7 plus a la carte pricing.

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