Ever wondered what the name is of those graceful, yellow-striped butterflies that sail through your yard every morning? Or what type of bird you hear in the trees around you when you take your morning walk?
Then the chances are pretty good that you'll be able to find the answers to those questions and more Saturday at the Chinsegut Conservation Center's Birding and Wildlife Festival and Art Show.
The annual spring celebration focuses on the most active time of the year for native winged critters that inhabit the local scenery, including migratory songbirds that spend their summers up North.
But this year's event features a bit of twist in that it also incorporates the center's annual salute to native reptile and amphibian species.
"We thought it might be fun to combine both events into one big one," said center director and festival coordinator Pamela Murfey. "It's the perfect time of year because wildlife in Central Florida is just becoming active after a long winter."
At any given time, between 50 and 75 bird species can be found throughout the 480-acre wildlife refuge north of Brooksville. However, the arrival of spring attracts species of migratory birds, non-native warblers, sparrows and buntings, which are seldom seen locally at any other time of the year.
But birds are just the half of it. Marc Minno, one of Florida's leading authorities on butterflies, considers Hernando County to be among the state's prime habitats for the showy winged creatures.
"You have a combination of several things needed to attract a lot of different species — a diversity of trees and shrubs, plus lots of different soil types,'' said Minno, who will conduct two butterfly hikes on Saturday. "There are maybe three other places in the state that are as good, in my opinion."
In addition to wildlife hikes, visitors to the event will be able to learn about backyard wildlife and how best to enjoy it.
"Educating residents on the types of creatures they're likely to encounter every day creates the kind of awareness we need to ensure their long-term survival," Murfey said.
The festival kicks off at 6 p.m. today with a dinner workshop presentation from swallow-tailed kite expert Ken Meyer. Tickets to the dinner are $20 per person or $35 per couple. The event is limited to 100 participants.
Saturday's programs start at 7:30 a.m. and are free to the public. Activities include nature hikes, wildlife demonstrations, hands-on activities for kids, vendors and a wildlife art show featuring eight local artists.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]