Preserves are paradise for Pinellas | Environment
Residents and visitors will love the natural splendor of Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs and Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg. There are free programs for children, families and adults and opportunities to learn about the environment and history.
Fall in love with Brooker Creek Preserve
There are many free presentations and programs for winter visitors and residents alike nestled in north Pinellas County at Brooker Creek Preserve. Appealing to all ages, from the environmentalist and nature lover to those with specific hobbies or interests, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and learn.
Windows to Our Wildest Place is a hands-on permanent educational exhibit assisting visitors in understanding how Florida has changed over time and the ecological footprints left by those changes. The exhibit is located in the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, closed Sunday through Wednesday and Pinellas County holidays.
Storytime for the younger set
Tots 3 to 5 years old will hear a different story every Thursday in February beginning at 10:30 a.m. designed to introduce them to the wonders of the natural world. The story will be followed by crafts, games or other hands-on activities. This fun-filled 45-minute activity will be a highlight of their week and one which they will look forward to again and again.
The perfect destination for hikes
Children ages 6 and older and adults will enjoy 90-minute guided hikes beginning at 9 a.m. Two hikes are scheduled on Saturdays, Feb. 4 and Feb. 25, and both will explore changes of the land in the preserve and ecological effects left by those changes.
Adults interested in discovering and collecting observational data on the diverse bird species found in the preserve will enjoy this 8 to 10:30 a.m. Birds of Brooker hike along the trails of the preserve. The group will find having binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras handy companions throughout this hike on Saturday, Feb. 11.
A Florida welcome
Florida can be challenging to newcomers and natives alike especially in learning about the tropical plants and strange, sometimes menacing-looking critters. Weather and conservation issues also become special concerns. On Saturday, Feb. 18, a two-hour program beginning at 10 a.m. features a Sensing Nature biologist who will help to separate nature fact from folklore. After the indoor presentation, participants will experience Florida’s natural wonders on a nature walk. This is the initial presentation of a three-part Brooker Creek Preserve Wild Florida series. These programs are appropriate for adults and families.
From the garden to the table
Learn how to prepare and grow fresh vegetables. On Saturday, Feb. 4, this three-hour workshop beginning at 9 a.m. will introduce vegetable gardening and nutrition. From composting, growing and preparation of fresh garden vegetables, this workshop provides all one needs to know for healthy dining.
Back to school with your child
Who lives in that skin? What’s the difference between a carnivore and an herbivore? Whose tracks are those? These are questions both you and your child might have that can be answered at this open classroom anytime between noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, with a variety of self-guided nature games and activities. Volunteers will be on hand to assist in answering questions at the Brooker Creek Environmental Education Center.
Florida snakes, native necessities or invasive predators
Appreciating the benefits of our native snakes can be difficult for some, while removing the problematic non-native invasive snakes can be almost impossible. Join a Sensing Nature biologist on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 10 a.m. for this 90-minute presentation and discover venomous and non-venomous snake identification tips, theirhabitats and the snake’s role in Florida’s landscape. After the indoor presentation participants will enjoy a nature walk while discussing Florida’s natural wonders. This is the second of the three-part Brooker Creek Preserve Wild Florida series.
Brooker Creek Preserve protects more than 8,700 acres of natural ecosystems and is located at 3940 Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs. The preserve, horse trails and Friends Trail are open daily and holidays. The Environmental Education Center trail is open Thursday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to one hour before sunset.
The Environmental Education Center in the preserve features interactive exhibits and 22 discovery-oriented experiences that are fun for the entire family. It is operated by the Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources Department and is open Thursday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed Sunday through Wednesday and all Pinellas County holidays.
To learn more about Brooker Creek Preserve and its upcoming programs and events, call (727) 453-6800. To register for programs and events visit www.brookercreekpreserve.org. Videos featuring Brooker Creek Preserve can be viewed at www.youtube.com/pcctv1.A perfect time to visit Weedon Island Preserve
February’s weather is generally very kind to Pinellas County winter visitors and residents, lending favorably to outside activities. There is plenty in offered in St. Petersburg’s natural wonder – Weedon Island Preserve. These free special programs for children, families and adults are opportunities to learn about the environment and history while enjoying every minute.
Connecting People and Place is an art-inspired, permanent hands-on educational exhibit of the area’s history, ecology and people at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, available for viewing whenever the center is open.
Hikes, hikes and more hikes
Guides are available every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. for a two-hour hike to assist visitors in navigating the preserve while learning about the ecosystems and the early residents of Weedon Island. Hikers explore coastal uplands along the boardwalks through mangrove forests. These hikes are best for ages 6 and older.
The Friday Feb. 10 Bird Quest hike is specifically designed for participants to learn how to identify marks and behaviors of the preserve’s birds. It is conducted from 8 to 10 a.m. The Bird Walk on Feb. 25 takes visitors on a two-hour hike beginning at 9 a.m. with trained volunteers who will assist in documenting the variety of wading birds as well as the many birds of prey frequenting the coastal shores of the preserve.
Adult photographers are invited to an early morning opportunity to hone their photo skills on Feb. 18 from 8 to 10 a.m. After a brief classroom session, guides will assist the group in capturing the natural beauty of the preserve in photos.
Just for the kids
Children ages 3 to 5 can enjoy the popular Wee-Time at Weedon on two Thursdays in February. On Feb. 9, they will hear the popular The Creek, the Kazoo and What You Can Do by Elaine Shimberg, illustrated by Kathy Zimmerman. On Feb. 23 they’ll hear Those Terrific Turtles by Sarah Cussen. After each story they will have the opportunity to participate in a craft, game or other hands-on activity.
For the Love of Weedon
On Feb. 11, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., Weedon Island celebrates its rich heritage from prehistoric times to its present day use as a coastal preserve for education and many outdoor activities. Natives and visitors alike have an opportunity to share their memories and discover what this special place means to the many diverse groups that have walked its land.
Focus on archeology
The archaeology lecture series continues with The Other Face of the Conquest. This program is offered on Thursday, Feb 16, from 7 to 8 p.m. Lawrence Clayton, Ph.D., will present Bartolome de las Casas, protector of the American Indians. In the face of the conquest in our part of the world during the early 1500s, a story of greed and unsavory characters, this Dominican friar became the universal protector of the Indians.
Alert – science and biology lovers
This new 2012 winter/spring marine science speaker series opens with Salty Topics – Squid and Octopods, why the Fascination? at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center on Thursday, Feb. 2, from 6:45 to 8 p.m. Squid and octopods have interested thousands of people over time by being effective predators, masters at camouflage and inventive in hiding from their many predators. This presentation highlights characteristics making this group of Mollusca unique while discussing current research being conducted by scientists around the world. It is presented by Heather Judkins, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, Biological Sciences Department, who balances cephalopod research, course development and working with teachers each year in the Tampa Bay area.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, a two-hour program will be presented beginning at 1 p.m. Going Coastal: Florida’s Sea Turtles, designed for adults, will feature the life histories of the sea turtles, some of Florida’s most beloved marine creatures and, most importantly, what can be done to keep them safe during the nesting season.
The initial presentation of a three-part Birds of Weedon Island series, Beyond Birding© attempts to answer such questions as: why is their bill curved; how does their color help them catch their prey or help them avoid becoming prey; why are they found in some habitats and not others?
On Saturday, Feb. 18, from 2 to 4 p.m. a Sensing Nature biologist will present an interactive birding lecture focusing on bird adaptations, habitats and their ecologic role at Weedon Island. This event is appropriate for families. After an indoor presentation, participants will experience Florida’s natural wonders on a nature walk.
Silent flight, fantastic vision, fast reflexes and piercing talons. All of these adaptations make our Florida owls noble nocturnal predators.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. guests attending the Owl Cast Café will learn from a Sensing Nature biologist how these stealth hunters benefit both nature and us through their chosen diets.
Paddling the Calusa Blueways
On Friday, Feb 24, a one-hour presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m. will take visitors along an 11-day,190-mile paddle of the Calusa Blueways Trail in Lee County, Florida. Discover how the normal things packed, as well as misjudgments and drama, made this time on the water unique.
Weedon Island Preserve protects more than 3,700 acres of natural ecosystems and is located at 1800 Weedon Drive N.E. in St. Petersburg. The preserve is operated under Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources Department and is open to the public seven days a week, including holidays, from 7 a.m. to 15 minutes before sunset. Its many outdoor activities include walking trails, a fishing pier and a canoe/kayak launch.
The Cultural and Natural History Center in the preserve welcomes visitors Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center is closed Sunday through Wednesday and all Pinellas County holidays. The center features the permanent exhibit, Connecting People and Place, which is an art-inspired, hands-on educational approach to the area’s history, ecology and people.
To learn more about Weedon Island Preserve and its upcoming programs and events, call (727) 453-6500. To register for programs and events visit www.weedonislandpreserve.org. Videos featuring Weedon Island Preserve can be viewed on www.youtube.com/pcctv1.
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