By Bryan Nelson
The 5th annual Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival and Birdapalooza will be held on Saturday, January 21st, 2017 from 9 A.M. through 4 P.M. at Orange County’s Magnolia Park located at 2929 South Binion Road in Apopka. Birdapalooza is a FREE event that will showcase the 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore and its unique habitat for hundreds of bird species and other wildlife. The Lake Apopka area is now among the top 10 birding destinations in the country for Audubon and bird trip enthusiasts. Birdapalooza is a celebration of the rich diversity of birds and other wildlife that inhabit the north shore of Lake Apopka, Florida’s fourth largest lake. This really will be a day full of fun and learning opportunities for the whole family.
There will be guided nature photography hikes (one leaving at 7:30am) which may present excellent photo opportunities, guided bus tours (limited first-come seating), guided walking and biking nature tours for children and adults on the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, entertainment by IBEX Puppetry, bounce houses, face painting, live animal demonstrations, tree giveaways, music, airboat rides (for a fee), exhibitors, merchandise vendors, food trucks and other refreshments.
Another noteworthy activity during the festival will be the Hook Kids on Fishing program. Led by knowledgeable, experienced anglers from Anglers for Conservation, the Hook Kids on Fishing program is divided into five learning circles: safety, conservation, knot tying, rigging & tackle and casting. The first 100 participants who sign up will receive a free rod and reel. The event is open to children ages 6-15 who are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Registration information can be found on the Birdapalooza website listed below.
Additionally, an all-volunteer group called the Wekiva Basin Banding Station will be setting up a bird banding station at the festival; allowing participants to see small, local birds up close while bands are applied to their legs. Bird banding consists of attaching a small metal or plastic band around a bird’s leg. This band is then used to identify individual birds from the bands’ unique number. Every year, millions of birds are banded worldwide in efforts to track vital statistics critical to protecting various avian species.
An Owl pellet dissection workshop will also be provided at the kids’ pavilion. Pellet dissection is a common and often favorite lesson at many schools throughout the nation. Kids of all ages will find this workshop highly entertaining and informative. By collecting and dissecting these pellets, researchers can find out exactly what these marvelous raptors have been eating. Discover for yourself why Barn Owls have frequently been termed the most beneficial bird on the planet.
This year, in addition to the free Saturday festival, Birdapalooza has added a Birding Festival with guided Friday and Sunday field trips sponsored by the Orange Audubon Society. These trips will be led by well-known birding trip leaders and will also feature Friday night and Saturday night keynote speakers. Please join your friends, neighbors, and birding enthusiasts as we celebrate this year’s Birdapalooza and the unique habitat in and around Lake Apopka that supports hundreds of different bird species.
The ongoing Lake Apopka restoration efforts and the upcoming multi-million dollar ecotourism improvements to Magnolia Park truly represent the beginning of a new era for the entire Lake Apopka North Shore area as well as the City of Apopka. Bird surveys have shown that more than 360 different species of birds have been identified in the Lake Apopka North Shore, more species than can be found at any other inland site in the state of Florida. These efforts not only protect our invaluable local natural habitats but the need for sustained local economic development as well.
The entire Lake Apopka North Shore area has rapidly developed a reputation among birding enthusiasts nationwide as a great place to spot rare and remarkable birds. This would not have been possible without the early restoration efforts made to the North Shore area which began in earnest following the passage of The Lake Apopka Restoration Act of 1985, and the subsequent passage of Florida’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act of 1987. Among the birds that can now be spotted are Raptors such as Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Swallow-tailed Kites and Northern Harrier hawks. Wading birds such as Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Purple Gallinules might also be present, in addition to waterfowl that can include Anhingas, Ring-Necked and Mottled Ducks.
For more information regarding Birdapalooza and its many opportunities, please visit our website at www.birdapalooza.com and like us on Facebook. Interested vendors and exhibitors should contact the District 2 office at 407-836-5850 or District2@ocfl.net. If you would like to register your child for Hook Kids on Fishing, please visit http://www.birdapalooza.com/hook-kids-on-fishing/.
Bryan Nelson sits on the Orange County Board of Commissioners and represents District 2 which includes Apopka and Northwest Orange County.
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