Seagulls and pelicans come to mind when considering the winged wonders of the Florida Keys, but the area also boasts the largest transient population of peregrine falcons in the world. The spectacular and powerful predators spend autumn in the area, so now is the perfect time for the Florida Keys Bird and Wildlife Festival. The islands will jam all weekend in celebration of regional wildlife, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday with Larry Manfredi's presentation about pelagic birds, Where the Sea Meets the Sky, at Crain Point Hammock. Bill Keogh will sign his book The Florida Keys Paddling Guide, and wine and dessert will be served.
Many other events abound, including outdoorsy opportunities for real-wildlife encounters. Manfredi will lead a boat trip to a deep-water mound off Marathon in an effort to eye frigate birds, shearwater, marked booby, and many others. The Saturday-morning venture costs $75, but there are plenty of less expensive outings, such as a chance to see falcons at Curry Hammock State Park (admission is only two dollars) all day Saturday.
Although the bulk of activities will take place in Marathon, many events are slated for other parts of the Keys, including trips to Bahia Honda State Park, the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, and the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key. Topics include plant life, bird rescue, and the rare American crocodile. And of course, no matter what, you'll see plenty of seagulls and pelicans.