By Alicia Squillante

Attention all bird enthusiasts! Rich’s Backyard Birds in Lithia will be hosting the first annual Big Birding Weekend from 5 p.m. Friday, January 25 to 5p.m. Sunday, January 27. It is completely free to participate and you can form groups up to five people and spend the entire weekend competing in the event. You can travel anywhere in the state and there is no limit to how many, or how few, birds you can identify-so this event really is for the expert and novice alike. It’s alright if you do not count as many birds as you would like; there are no losers in the event. Everyone will receive a prize for participation and those who “score” the highest will receive bragging rights. The honor system will be used, of course.

How was the idea for this event formed? “The idea came from Leslie Melendez who is not only a customer, but also a really good birder,” explained shop owner, Rich Crete. “She frequently joins us on our monthly bird walks and always helps on the Fishhawk Christmas Bird Count.  Leslie saw the movie The Big Year this spring, and in the movie, the birders try to see how many different bird species they can see in the U.S. in one full year. So, Leslie suggested I organize a Big Florida Weekend and I’ve done exactly that.”

Everyone is invited to participate in the event. All you will need is a pair of binoculars, some good walking shoes, a birding field guide and probably a smidge of patience wouldn’t hurt. To register for the event, contact Rich’s Backyard Birds at or by calling 657-BIRD (2473). Please register by Monday, January 21.

For the photographers participating in the event, send us your osprey photos from the Big Birding Weekend and you may be featured on our front page photo for an upcoming edition! If you can’t get that perfect osprey shot, send us your best photo from the weekend and you can still be considered. Please e-mail your .JPEG photo to by February 1 to be considered.

Please visit for more information.


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