Spring is tweet, tweet, tweet time!
Not as in more Twitter updates. Put down your mobile devices, pick up a pair of binoculars and appreciate one of the wonders of nature – thousands of migratory birds passing through on their way north to make new homes.
That’s because South Florida and part of The Keys are within a designated fly zone, a unique stretch of land and water ideal for nurturing birds as they fly south during the fall and north in the spring to reproduce.
At Biscayne National Park in Homestead, experts are teaching the community to identify, list and sketch both migratory and native birds as part of its new Biscayne Birding Trail and certificate program launched last September, a partnership with the Tropical Audubon Society.
The free program awards lifetime achievement certificates at four different levels – Double-breasted Cormorant, Royal Tern, Brown Booby, and Mangrove Cuckoo – based on the numbers of bird species spotted in the park.
“We hope that both seasoned birders and visitors who are interested in learning how to identify birds will be inspired to take advantage of the Biscayne Birding Trail and find the beautiful birds that are in the park,” said Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom.
On Sunday, March 9, from 10 a.m. to noon, the park will host a free Junior Birding event to engage children in birding and nature at the park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center, nine miles east of Homestead.
Tropical Audubon Society volunteers will be on hand with binoculars, spotting scopes and field guides to help young ones learn how to spot feathered friends. Artist and avian biologist Michelle Davis will provide field-sketching guidance. Those 18 and under who can identify at least 10 different species of birds in the park are eligible for a Junior Birder certificate.
“With all the toys today that need to be plugged in, kids are losing touch with the natural world,” said Elsa Alvear, chief of resource management at Biscayne National Park.
Alvear said so far more than 200 species of birds have been identified in the park, which encompasses 177,000 acres, including parts of Biscayne Bay and Elliott Key. She added the program is catching on, including one child who has reached the second level adult certificate already.
“What is missing in the conservation movement is engagement and participation from the young generations,” said Laura Reynolds, executive director of the Tropical Audubon Society.
“We feel that creating more hands-on experiences like this in our protected areas is key to understanding ecology and how to protect it for the future.”
To get your own shiny birder certificate, pick-up a bird checklist at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, fill it in attesting the birds that were seen within the boundaries of the park and have a park ranger review it. A certificate will be awarded on the spot.
In addition to the Junior Birder event, the park will be celebrating its monthly Biscayne Family fun Fest from 1 – 4 p.m., featuring games, experiments, crafts, and more. The theme this month is “Down on the Farm.” The fests are free and take place on the second Sunday of every month through April.
The City of Homestead provides free transportation on weekends aboard the new National Parks Trolley, departing from Losner Park in downtown Homestead.