HIT THE GLADES: pARK centenNiAL
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with a trip to Florida's best, Everglades National Park. January and February are great months for bird watching. Visitors can see large colonies of nesting birds from a respectful distance with binoculars and long-range camera lenses. This is the "dry season" in the park and wading birds gather at traditional and new nesting sites. If you time it right you might see hundreds, perhaps even thousands of birds as they prepare to build nests. Get out your notebook — roseate spoonbills are the first to show up, followed by storks, egrets, herons and ibis. If you are looking for a good place to see the rose-colored birds, check out Paurotis Pond, located approximately 24 miles from the main park entrance near Homestead. For more information, visit nps.gov/ever.
LEARN FROM THE BEST: SALT WATER SPORTSMAN
The Salt Water Sportsman National Seminar Series is the nation's longest-running — 29 years — and most popular educational tour for fishermen. If you are looking for a few tips on how to land the big ones, this show is for you. International angler George Poveromo, host of the World of Saltwater Fishing on NBC Sports and longtime editor at Salt Water Sportsman, will be joined by more than a dozen of Florida's top charter boat captains. Topics include light-tackle fishing for Spanish and king mackerel; kite fishing for cobia and blackfin tuna; how to make stubborn tarpon eat and more. The series runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at The Regent, 6437 Watson Road, Riverview. (800) 448-7360. nationalseminarseries.com.
SPOT IT: GRAY FOX
If you spend any time in the woods, sooner or later you will come across a gray fox, a notoriously secretive but sometimes curious animal. This creature is sometimes mistaken for its cousin the red fox, a non-native species introduced into the state for hunting purposes, because it can have a lot of red hair. An adult gray fox is small, weighing just 7 to 13 pounds. While found across most of the United States, except the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, here in Florida they tend to be spotted in the northern portion of the state. The gray fox is nocturnal. Old-timers might call it a "tree fox" because unlike most canines, it can scamper up a tree quickly. They eat mostly mice, rats and rabbits, although a gray fox won't pass up meat, including reptiles, amphibians and fish.
TAKE A LOAD OFF: CAMP CHAIR
There's an old adage: You can either be a happy hiker or a happy camper, not both. If you want to feel great on the trail, carry less stuff. If you want to be comfortable in camp, bring a chair. Now, thanks to the Helinox chair, you can have the best of both worlds. This is the ideal chair for the outdoor adventurer. It is super compact when folded, no bigger than the size of a man's shoe. And it is ultra-lightweight at just 890 grams, less than a liter of water. The Helinox chair is perfect for hiking, biking, trekking, bushwalking, fishing, sea kayaking and more. $99. Available locally at Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park.