The North Shore Birding Festival highlights the St. Johns River Water Management District’s 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore.
Many trips are based out of the McDonald Canal, CR 448A, Mount Dora, and allow driving into parts of the Lake Apopka restoration area that are otherwise inaccessible except on foot or bicycle. Other trips and the dinner/keynotes are at Wekiwa Springs State Park. While most trips are in the Apopka area, trips extend into Lake, Marion, Volusia, Brevard and Osceola counties. Trips are led by the area’s best birders and out-of-town leaders from as far away as Maine and Texas. The average age of trip leaders is under 40, and one highly skilled leader is only 13 years old.
All levels of birders, nature photographers and other outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the field trips, with one Saturday trip targeting Young Birders (8 to 17). Field trips cost $10 (Young Birder rate) to $80, and many include a box lunch. All proceeds benefit Orange Audubon Society’s fund for a nature and environmental education center or related educational programs.
The festival extends five days, from Thursday through Monday. Its purpose is several-fold: To highlight the Lake Apopka North Shore, an Important Bird Area and the top eBird hotspot in Florida (eBird is a Cornell Lab of Ornithology program that is widely used by birders to record their sightings); to demonstrate that birding brings in out-of-town ecotourists that infuse money into the local economy as they pay for lodging, gas and provisions; and to allow birders who want to learn more from excellent trip leaders and to meet other birders come together to share in this fast-growing hobby.
This is the 8th year of Orange Audubon Society’s festival, and the number of registrants this year has broken the past record of 300. Participants this year come from 18 states and one Canadian province.