Florida’s Big “O” Birding Festival

The annual Big “O” Birding Festival is scheduled to take place from 25 to 27 January 2008 in Moore Haven, Florida, on the western side of Lake Okeechobee. Long time bird watchers are no doubt already aware that this area is a birder’s paradise and the activities arranged for the three day festival are sure to reinforce their love and respect for these amazing feathered creatures. The Big “O” Festival is also the perfect opportunity for new and potential bird watchers to find out what birding is all about.

The Doyle Conner Building in Moore Haven will be the home base for the diverse activities scheduled. Tours with knowledgeable tour guides start off with the Early Bird Tour and, after a full day’s activities end with the late night “Owl Hoot” tour. Other tours planned are the Wading Birds Tour, Dinner Island Tour, Regional Birds Tour, and visitors can even take the opportunity to bird by canoe on Fisheating Creek.

The key note speaker of the festival will be Dr. Ryan Wheeler and his discussion will focus on how ancient artists found inspiration in Florida’s birds as portrayed in birdlife carvings and ceramics that date back to the first inhabitants of the area. Research has revealed that birds were not only an important source of food to many of Florida’s Indians, but also played an integral role in the cosmology and symbolism of ancient culture. In support of his discussion, Dr. Wheeler will present images of some of the more outstanding Florida artifacts which depict birds. These include carved and decorated bone from a southern Florida archaeological site, wood carvings from Florida center and effigy pottery from Weeden Island, as well as a variety of interesting objects made of precious metals which had been salvaged from Spanish shipwrecks.

A presentation on the Great Florida Birding Trail will be given by Mark Kiser of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The interest in bird-watching is growing rapidly as more and more people realize what a pleasurable activity it is to take time out from the stresses of daily life to enjoy nature. This has resulted in the need to ensure that the birding trail is conserved, while at the same time making prime birding spots available to the public. To this end, more than 440 key bird watching sites have been identified and compiled into comprehensive guides to assist birders in getting the most out of their bird watching experience.

Going slightly off the birding theme, Debbie Misotti of The Talking Monkeys Project will give an interesting and informative discourse on practical things that humans can do to help the primates of the world, while becoming more aware of the impact humans make on the environment.

Other speakers include Robert Fulton, and Dr. Nancy Dale. Jeff Herod will present a fun, but educational, program on native wildlife during the Kids are for the Birds event to be held on the Friday of the festival, with the focus on being vanishing bird species.

Past events have shown that the organizers of the Big “O” Birding Festival put a lot of thought and hard work into making sure that the festival leaves a lasting impression on visitors. The January 2008 festival has every indication that it will be even better than ever before.