By Kate Quesada

This month is the peak migration time for more than 180 species of birds in Central Florida and residents are invited to learn about that and much more at the Florida Birding and Nature Festival, taking place October 13-16 in Ruskin.

With a mission of promoting appreciation and conservation of Florida’s wildlife and their habitats through nature-based tourism and public awareness, the Festival offers three days of education, field trips, work shops and social events at Hillsborough Community College’s SouthShore Campus.

“Festival registration gives you access to a wide array of field trips exploring both coastal and inland destinations in a five-county region on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, plus 25 on-campus programs Friday and Saturday, on topics ranging from plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals to how-to workshops for creating wildlife habitat in your own back yard,” said Ann Paul, Audubon Florida regional coordinator and planning committee member who added than between 400 and 500 attendees are expected at the festival.

According to Paul there is something for nature lovers of every skill level with workshops focusing on identification, nature photography techniques, conservation initiates and wildlife corridors. In addition, activities for families and children will take place on Saturday including hands-on discovery activities provided by the Florida Aquarium, the YMCA, Crystal Springs Water Ventures and Sensing Nature environmental experts. Residents can sign up for the whole weekend or just specific events.

“Bird-house building, art work, microscope exploration, and many other activities will be included in the programs,” said Paul. “We encourage parents to bring their children and experience the Kids Activities with them.”

Residents can also attend the scheduled social events throughout the weekend without festival registration. “The experts giving the key note talks are among the premier naturalists in the country,” said Paul.

To register, visit www.floridabirdingandnaturefestival.org. Cntact Melanie Higgins at 642-0799 or melanie@questecology.com. The South Shore Hillsborough County College campus is located at 551 24th St. N.E. in Ruskin.