Are you wild about wildlife, or just want to know more? Either way, come join the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at the Chinsegut Nature Center's annual Birding and Wildlife Festival April 29 and 30. It's fun, and it's geared for the entire family.
The weekend festival kicks off Friday night with dinner, entertainment by well-known wildlife biologist and balladeer Dale Crider and a popular presentation by George and Cyndi Marks from the Florida Bat Conservation Center. There is a nominal fee for Friday night's dinner, and an RSVP is required. Kids under 6 years of age eat for free. Only 100 seats are available for Friday night, so get your reservations in early.
On Saturday, all scheduled events are free of charge. Early-morning and afternoon guided tours feature a trip to Citrus Wildlife Management Area to observe red-cockaded woodpeckers, an off-site burrowing owl expedition and a bird hike at Chinsegut. Off-site tour events require an RSVP to the nature center by April 21.
Numerous other scheduled events on Saturday include presentations on Florida scrub-jays, gopher tortoises, native reptiles, beetles and bugs, citizen science and phenology - the study of regularly recurring biological phenomena influenced by climatic conditions. And there's more. There are plenty of fun activities for kids that include building pine cone bird feeders and dissecting owl pellets.
Vendors will be on hand, providing food and drink and wildlife-related items for sale.
Treat yourself to a mini-vacation by attending Friday night's gala and Saturday's celebratory events. Mention the Chinsegut Birding and Wildlife Festival at the Hampton Inn or Quality Inn and get a reduced rate. Both hotels are at the intersection of Interstate 75 and State Road 50, a scant 20-minute drive from the nature center.
Remember, RSVPs are required for Friday night's dinner and Saturday's off-site guided tours. Contact the Chinsegut Nature Center at 352-754-6722 or the Office of Recreation Services at 850-922-0663 to RSVP by April 21.
The fee for Friday night's dinner (except for children under 6) is $7.50, payable in advance, or $10 at the gate. Credit cards are not accepted. Checks for Friday night's dinner should be made payable to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida. Send checks to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Attn: CNC, P.O. Box 6181, Tallahassee, FL 32314; or drop them off at Chinsegut Nature Center. Checks must be received by April 26.
Chinsegut Nature Center is just north of Brooksville off U.S. 41 at 23212 Lake Lindsey Road. From I-75, take S.R. 50 west to Brooksville, go north on U.S. 41 seven miles to County Road 476, and then go west one mile to the entrance gate on the left. If you would like more information about Chinsegut Nature Center and other programs it hosts, visit MyFWC.com/Chinsegut.