Back to Nature (Published on - Oct. 20, 2004)
Florida is for the birds!
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
With it be beautiful all around me.

– Navaho Prayer

Owls, hawks, kites, spoonbills, egrets, herons, pipers and terns … woodpeckers, turkeys, gulls, pelicans, warblers and more!

Want to see them all? Maybe you’d like to get a glimpse of a Florida Black Bear? Perhaps you want to be up close with a Florida gator? How about delighting in the playful antics of river otters? Then Florida is the place you want to be. Put on your hiking boots, grab a cap and your binoculars. Hop into a canoe, kayak, flat boat, bus or automobile and come along with me, back to nature.

Last year about this time a friend remarked that he could hardly sleep for the excitement he felt that football season was about to begin. I smiled and nodded that I understood how he felt, but for me it’s not the excitement of football, although that does grab my interest on occasion (Go Bucs!) but it’s the excitement of getting out into the wild woods, taking advantage of Florida’s nature festivals, camping, hiking, canoeing the rivers, kayaking open waters, walking the trails, morning saunters upon the beach, catching the sunsets.

It’s all about Florida. It’s why we live here. While others are shoveling snow and scraping ice off their windshields we go birding, butterfly watching and camping. Take advantage of Florida’s balmy weather. Come along with me exploring back to nature.

Many Floridians got a healthy taste of what our unique state has to offer at the incredible Seventh Annual Florida Birding and Nature Festival held at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on Oct. 7 to 10. The festival lineup included a phenomenal cast of seminar and workshop speakers and field trip leaders attracting some of the top names in the birding world such as: Ocean and seabird conservationist, Dr. Carl Safina, birding luminary Kenn Kaufman, and master photographer Arthur Morris.

In addition, a variety of field trips to spectacular destinations were offered: Kayaking Shell Key Island or a boat trip to the Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary or bus tour to Oscar Scherer State Park to view the endangered Florida Scrub Jay.

The Birding & Nature Festival presented Eco Shopping and educational exhibits such as: A large tented butterfly garden, a fun and educational children’s hands-on nature exhibit and a live-bird rescue and falconry exhibit. If you missed this opportunity make certain you mark your calendars for next year’s event, but don’t make the same mistake twice. Gear up for the 2004 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Nov. 17 to 21, on the east coast of Florida in Titusville.

This 2004 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival promises fabulous winter opportunities to get out and about in Florida’s natural habitats and beyond featuring more than 40 field trips, pelagic birding trip, boat trips, birding and wildlife seminars and workshops, paddling adventures, nature based trade show, art competition, keynote addresses. There is a variety of accommodation choices including camping.

From experience, hints before launching your next quest: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with a group on a back woods trail or boat tour when it has rained or become blustery. Bring warm clothing and rain gear. Be prepared. Preparation for any event, nature or otherwise, just makes common sense. It surprises me that even experienced nature lovers fail to include a lightweight rain/wind breaker, a cap, sunscreen, insect repellent and a dry pair of socks. Don’t forget water. Try on your pack before getting out on the trail, adjusting shoulder straps and waist belts accordingly.

Before you leave home add a couple of cans of soup along with your gear to test for weight. If you’re planning for longer, more strenuous escapades, take the necessary time to be ready for the trails. Train, get used to the weight. Take a five-pound weight to your office and work out while on the phone or working on your computer. Your adventures will be a lot more fun if you’re prepared.

Whether or not you hop into a canoe, kayak, flat boat, bus, automobile or walk in your local nature park, get out, enjoy this time of year, take advantage of Florida’s mild weather. Come along with me exploring back to nature.

The Indian sense of natural law is that nature informs us and it is our obligation to read nature as you would a book, to feel nature as you would a poem, to touch nature as you would yourself, to be a part of that and step into its cycles as much as you can. – John Mohawk

Karen can be contacted at

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