The 14th annual Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival will be held from Tuesday, September 25 to Sunday, September 30, offering participants real-life tips for becoming better birders, outdoor enthusiasts and nature photographers.

Focusing on native wildlife, the family-friendly event is staged at Marathon's oceanfront preserve, Curry Hammock State Park, and features field trips to national, state and private natural areas throughout the Florida Keys. Field trips include free backcountry birding and wildlife tours of Florida Bay by Everglades National Park, botanical and photography tours of the Lower Keys' National Key Deer Refuge, and guided walks in Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Park.

The festival's primary program begins at 7pm Thursday, September 27 at Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The RSVP-only evening features "The Perils and Pitfalls of Birding" with keynote speaker Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher's Digest.

Guided birding walks and activities are planned for Saturday, September 29, in addition to the popular free-admission Environmental Fair and Family Day at Curry Hammock from 10am to 3pm.

Saturday evening, wildlife photographers Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez are to share "Through the Lens," a birds and wildlife photography presentation at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden.

An all-day birding and wildlife photography excursion to Dry Tortugas National Park is set for Sunday 30 September. A ferry to the remote birders' paradise boards at 7:30am in Key West and returns around 5pm. Reservations are required and space is limited to two groups of 20 people each. A Curry Hammock Pedal and Paddle also is planned for Sunday. From 10am to noon, interested festival-goers can take a leisurely four-mile paddle around Little Crawl and Deer Keys, as well as participate in a short beach cleanup.

The entrance fee at Curry Hammock State Park is to be waived for festival registrants. Event registration fees apply for daytime programs and field trips.

For further information on Key West Birding and Wildlife Festival, visit www.keysbirdingfest.org

For more information on the Florida Keys, visit www.fla-keys.co.uk

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