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Celebrate Earth Day

Every April, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day, raising awareness of our beautiful Mother Earth and all her splendor.  For the fabulous Florida Keys, surrounded by a national marine sanctuary and bordered by the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, the environment, and ecosystem is truly the lifeblood of this scenic island chain. While most of the world focuses its attention on April 22nd, Earth Day in the Florida Keys is a month-long celebration with fun and important events.

Earth Day in Florida

On April 9th, two Key Largo-area Florida state parks, John Pennekamp Coral Reef (Mile Marker 102) and Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical (Mile Marker 106) are hosting a Native Plant Day Earth Day event at Mile Marker 102.5, Oceanside, 9 AM to 2 PM. In addition to numerous community and environmental groups manning information booths and free donations of native plants for visitors to take home, there will be a variety of activities for Earth Day in the Florida Keys.  These include talks on how to propagate and care for native plants and how to plant butterfly gardens, nature walks, kids’ activities, exhibits, and presentations by biologists. The State Park entrance fee will be waived for this event.  For more information call 305-451-1202 or visit www.fla-keys.com.

Celebrate Earth Day, April 22nd, at The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.  Admission is free and it will be open to the public for three extra hours. Though the facility usually closes at 4 PM, it will stay open until 7 PM for visitors and families to picnic or enjoy the lush tropical surroundings. The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden is located at 5210 College Road on Stock Island, Mile Marker 5.

Earth Day Events

Florida Keys Earth Day events are being held by Marathon’s Dolphin Research Center from 4:30 to 5:45 PM. on Thursday, April 23.  Volunteers are needed to collect discarded trash, monofilament fishing line, and other debris at Tom’s Harbor Bridge, Mile Marker 62. Participants should wear hats, shoes, and clothes that can get wet or dirty and bring a reusable cup, bug repellent, sunscreen and a cutting tool.  The Dolphin Research Center will supply water, trash bags, and gloves. The cleanup will begin on the south side of the bridge. For more information, call Courtney Coburn at 305-289-1121, ext. 231.

Finally, Bahia Honda State Park, in the Lower Florida Keys, Mile Marker 36.8, is celebrating Earth Day, 9 AM to 2 PM, Saturday, April 25. There will be live music, food, and fun for the whole family. Local environmental groups will host exhibits and interactive activities. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to bring two marine touch tanks. Children can get their faces painted, participate in a sand sculpture contest and play games. The event is free with regular Bahia Honda State Park admission. For more information on the event, call the park’s Sand and Sea Nature Center at 305-872-9807.

Come to the fabulous Florida Keys to celebrate Earth Day and Mother Earth’s beauty this April.

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Key West Songwriters Festival

The 20th Key West Songwriters Festival takes place between May 6 and May 10. It will feature over 150 performers at more than 40 shows over the five day period starting with a kick-off party Wednesday, May 6 at the Ocean Key at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the event list at the Key West Songwriters Festival website.

Florida Keys Vacation Rentals, Inc. offers information about vacation rentals, various attractions, entertainment options etc. in Key West.

 

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Marathon Seafood Festival

Marathon Seafood Festival 2015If you’re visiting the Middle Keys area, you’ll want to visit Marathon’s annual Seafood Festival. It’s the 2nd largest Florida Keys event with over 21,000 attendees in 2014.

  • Fresh local seafood including lobster tails, stone crab, fish, shrimp, etc.
  • Cheap beverages to quench your thirst from all that fresh seafood
  • Live music entertainment throughout 2-day event
  • Games for children, rock-climbing wall
  • Keys Artist Village & Art Show
  • Over 200 vendors selling jewelry, clothing, arts & crafts, and other great souvenirs
  • Raffle giveaways and other great prizes and games
  • Please no pets permitted within park grounds

Visit their website for more information, or call 305-743-5417

 

Florida Keys Vacation Rentals, Inc. offers information about vacation rentals, various attractions, entertainment options etc. in Marathon, Florida.

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Keys National Wildlife Refuge Resumes Guided Walks & Rides

The Florida Keys' National Key Deer RefugeWe’ve learned, courtesy of KeysNet.com, that the National Key Deer Refuge is resuming guided trail walks and bike rides designed for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels.

In an effort to keep everyone together, the centralized meeting point will be at the refuge’s Visitor’s Center in the Winn-Dixie shopping plaza on Big Pine Key. From there, participants will be given maps to the starting site and caravan together. A prompt departure to the trail locations will take place at 8:10 a.m. so plan to arrive early. Each walk will end by 11.

Participants should bring a hat, sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes, water, binoculars and field guides; dress appropriately for the weather. A limited supply of loaner field guides and binoculars will be available. Feel free to ask for one if you don’t have your own.

For more information, call Kristie Killam at the National Key Deer Refuge Visitor Center at 304-9625 or send an e-mail to kristie_killam@fws.gov.

Here is the schedule:

  • Dec. 12, bike Lower Sugarloaf Key, mostly paved, some off-road trail, six miles.
  • Dec. 19, walk Long Beach, Big Pine Key, birds, beach habitats, sea creatures, one to two miles.
  • Dec. 20, Big Pine Key/No Name natural history bike ride, 13 miles.
  • Dec. 26, bike refuge lands, old U.S.1 at Saddlebunch Key, off-road, rough, eight miles.
  • Jan. 2, “marsh meander,” Big Pine Key, two to three miles.
  • Jan. 9, walk, No Name Key from pinelands to hardwood hammocks, two miles.
  • Jan. 17, Big Pine/No Name natural history bike ride, 13 miles.
  • Jan. 23, bike and walk Upper Sugarloaf Key, sea-level rise tour, four miles.

Bring your own bikes for the bike trips. If you want to meet at the trailhead for any of the events, expect to be there around 8:30 to 8:40 a.m. If you need information on trailhead locations, call or send an e-mail.

 

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“Florida Keys Raptors” Presentation @ Pennekamp Friday 11/14

John Pennekamp State Park is presenting a slideshow Friday, 11/14 at 6 pm highlighting migrating and resident raptors.

Raptors, per Wikipedia, are birds of prey. These birds are characterized by a keen vision that allows them to detect prey during flight and powerful talons and beaks. Many species of birds may be considered partly or exclusively predatory. However, in ornithology, the term “bird of prey” applies only to birds of the families listed below.

  • Eagles tend to be large birds with long, broad wings and massive feet. Booted eagles have legs and feet feathered to the toes and build very large stick nests.
  • Ospreys, a single species found worldwide that specializes in catching fish and builds large stick nests.
  • Kites have long wings and relatively weak legs. They spend much of their time soaring. They will take live vertebrate prey, but mostly feed on insects or even carrion.
  • The true hawks are medium-sized birds of prey that usually belong to the genus Accipiter (see below). They are mainly woodland birds that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch. They usually have long tails for tight steering.
  • Buzzards are medium-large raptors with robust bodies and broad wings, or, alternatively, any bird of the genus Buteo (also commonly known as “hawks” in North America).
  • Harriers are large, slender hawk-like birds with long tails and long thin legs. Most use a combination of keen eyesight and hearing to hunt small vertebrates, gliding on their long broad wings and circling low over grasslands and marshes.
  • Vultures are carrion-eating raptors of two distinct biological families: the Accipitridae, which only occurs in the Eastern Hemisphere; and the Cathartidae, which only occurs in the Western Hemisphere. Members of both groups have heads either partly or fully devoid of feathers.
  • Falcons are medium-size birds of prey with long pointy wings. Unlike most other raptors, they belong to the Falconidae, rather than the Accipitridae. Many are particularly swift flyers. Caracaras are a distinct subgroup of the Falconidae unique to the New World, and most common in the Neotropics – their broad wings, naked faces and appetites of a generalist suggest some level of convergence with either the Buteos or the vulturine birds, or both.
  • Owls are variable-sized, typically night-specialized hunting birds. They fly almost silently due to their special feather structure that reduces turbulence. They have particularly acute hearing.

The program is included in the admission price but you must enter the park before 5:30 pm and ask for the raptor program pass.  It will be held outdoors and park management suggests you may want to have insect protection handy.  Call 305-451-1202 for more info.

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It’s Never Too Early to Be Planning for the Holiday Season.

DRC child with dolphinVisitors in the Middle Keys area who participate in Dolphin Research Center’s ‘Meet the Dolphins’ program between now and December 19 can bring their own Santa hats, reindeer antlers or other accessories to use while posing. DRC’s experienced photographers will shoot the pictures using high-resolution digital cameras guests go onto a floating dock to give backrubs and share a “flippershake” with a dolphin and have their photo taken.  DRC’s phone number is 305-289-1121.

 

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Key West Chalk Festival

kw chalk festivalThe 3rd Annual Key West Chalk Festival will take place between November 19 and 23.  It’s a pavement art festival where artists use chalk as their medium and the pavement surface as their canvas. Sponsored in part by the Florida Keys Council of the Arts and The Key West Art & Historical Society, the Key West Chalk Festival follows street painting traditions that originated in 16th century Renaissance Italy when artists began transforming streets into canvas using chalk. The Key West Chalk Festival is a family-friendly, pet-friendly event, free and open to the public. Ongoing information and updates are available on the Key West Chalk Festival Facebook page.