Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.
Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table in for foyer to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date Daily Schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures including contact numbers for key staff, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. The Group Leader will accompany field trips with different birding experts participating on varied days based on their expertise. Program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own.
Dinner: In our private meeting room, enjoy a tasty and nutritious catered meal with salad, entrée, side dishes, and dessert plus coffee (regular/decaf), tea (iced/hot), bottled water.
Evening: Spend time becoming better acquainted with participants and program staff. Find out what you have in common beyond a love of learning! The rest of the evening is yours to continue making new friends or just to relax and prepare for the full day of activity ahead.
Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles during all field trips today.
Breakfast: In our meeting room, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as assorted cereals and hot oatmeal, breads, muffins, bagels, butter and jams and cream cheese, fresh seasonal fruit including whole bananas, a variety of fruit yogurts, juices, coffee, (regular/decaf) and herbal teas.
Morning: We will be joined by a birding expert who will provide an overview of key identification characteristics of birds in the area through a power point presentation. From the hotel, we will take a short walk to Lake Osprey to search for wide variety of birds such as Common Moorhens, American Coots, Pied Billed Grebes, herons, ducks, and terns. With our expert, learn how natural and human incursions have affected the lake’s wildlife.
Lunch: In our meeting room, enjoy a catered lunch with a delicious wrap stuffed with your favorites, a side dish, dessert, fresh-brewed coffee, and teas.
Afternoon: Please note on every field trip there will one bottle of water per person. When there is a picnic lunch there will also be an bottle of water per person. Our field trip will be to visit Oscar Scherer State Park in Sarasota County. Within the park’s acres are several families of endangered Florida Scrub Jays, Common Ground Doves, Brown Thrashers, and several species of hawks and woodpeckers. Gopher Turtles can be found in the park’s dry sandy scrub habitat. Our birding expert will lead our search for the birds that are present, especially the elusive Florida Scrub Jay. Next we will explore the very special Venice Area Audubon Rookery which is internationally known by birders and photographers for the viewing of wading birds at close range. The birds use the island in the lake as a safe haven to roost in at night and to nest (November to June). Birds that regularly nest at the Rookery are Black-crowned Night-Herons, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Anhingas. They are protected from land predators by alligators which patrol the water around the island. If you have cameras, bring them. The Rookery offers outstanding close up viewing and photo opportunities.
Dinner: In our private meeting room.
Evening: Presentation: Our birding expert will give a power point presentation on Gulls, Terns and Hawks, found along the Gulf Coast. This will appeal to any level of birder to better identify these species.
Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles; uneven terrain.
Breakfast: Early in our private meeting room.
Morning: With an early departure from the hotel, we’ll ride to Fort DeSoto Park, comprising five keys in the Mullet Key Bayou and one of the premier bird-watching locations in the eastern U.S. Its varied habitats support a wide range of plant and animal life. Our expert will review the Rare Bird Alert for reports of any sightings in the park. If any rare birds have been sighted, we will do our best to track them down. Such rarities as Bananaquit, MacGillivray's Warbler, Kirtland's Warbler, Purple Sandpiper, Heermann's Gull and Brown Crested Flycatcher have been recorded previously. The park administration has kept track of bird sightings over the last 60 years. More than 325 species have been sighted, with new additions every year.
Lunch: At Fort DeSoto Park, we’ll have a picnic with a sandwiches, chips, a sweet treat and bottled water. Watch and listen to the waves lapping on the beach. Fort DeSoto was named America's Top Beach for the second consecutive year by the world's largest online travel community, citing its combination of soft white sand, calm, clear water, and laid-back atmosphere.
Afternoon: We’ll continue our birding adventure in the park. Located between the Gulf and the Bay, birds begin arriving as early as August to outlast the winter. Many species of shorebirds, hawks, ducks, and more can be seen from the various islands in winter months.
Dinner: In our meeting room.
Evening: We’ll be joined by another birding expert who will discuss Wading Birds and Rookeries.
Activity note: Board a pontoon-style boat and explore Sarasota Bay.
Breakfast: In our meeting room.
Morning: We'll board our bus and drive to Siesta Key Beach in search of shorebirds such as the Snowy Plovers, Willets, Red Knots, Black Skimmers, terns and gulls. Learn how groups are attempting to protect beach nesting birds from predators.
Lunch: At a park, we’ll have a picnic with sandwiches, chips and a sweet treat, and bottled water.
Afternoon: Next, we will board our bus to beautiful Sarasota Bay at Marine Jack area and board a pontoon-style vessel used for marine science classes with and take a private boat ride to Roberts Bay Rookery where we will observe breeding birds. Observe Florida wildlife while learning about the ecology, history and folklore of the area. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.
Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions. A bus will be available for those who wish to go to Lakewood Ranch area restaurants and return after dinner. Group leader will have a few menus to look through ahead of time. There is also a business computer available for no charge for all participants to look up local restaurants.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles at a slow, steady pace; uneven surfaces. Optional climb to Canopy Walkway observation tower, approximately 75 feet to the top.
Breakfast: Early in our meeting room.
Morning: It’s early departure from the hotel for our full day field trip to Myakka River State Park. As we explore the park with our birding experts, learn how invasive plant and animal species have affected bird life on the lakes.We will visit the aptly named Alligator Bridge, the Weir, the Fishing Pier, the Birdwalk, and the Canopy Walkway and observation tower. At 85 feet long and 25 feet above the ground, this wooden suspension walkway was the first public treetop trail in North America, modeled after those in South American rainforests. There are two wooden towers, one at each end. The second reaches about 75 feet into the air and provides 360° views, great for viewing raptors and other birds that may be in the area. Shallow lakes, wetlands and diversity of habitats account for well over 100 birds species are recorded as common or abundant on the park's bird list; including Roseate Spoonbills, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Red Shouldered Hawks. Shorebird species including Long billed Dowitchers, Black Necked Stilts, Caspian Terns, Forsters Terns are seen frequently as well as some diving and dabbling ducks. . Please note some of the stops in the park are under repair or re-construction, therefore closed to the public. It is our expectation that most of the work will be completed before this program start date.
Lunch: At a spot with views of Upper Myakka Lake and the inlet nearby, we’ll have a picnic with sandwiches, chips, something sweet, and bottled water.
Afternoon: We’ll continue exploring at Myakka State Park, then return to the hotel.
Dinner: In our meeting room.
Evening: Tonight is for the birds! We’ll gather in our meeting room to compare notes with our birding expert on the birds we’ve seen on this program, other Road Scholar programs, and rare birds you may have seen on your own travels.
Activity note: Walking up to 3/4 mile. Hotel check-out is by 12:00 Noon.
Breakfast: Early in our meeting room.
Morning: We will depart the hotel early for our field trip to the Celery Fields, where we will observe waking birds, marsh birds, ducks, and raptors. Since surveys began in early 2001, 206 species have been recorded to date. These species take advantage of the Celery Field’s open marshland, deep ponds, shallow pools, and canals that are flanked by oaks, willows, and pines on two sides. The Fields also host breeding birds as both a nesting site and a food source. While we are here, keep an eye out for several species of sparrows, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, Black-neck Stilts, King Rail, Barn Owl, Eastern Meadowlark, and even Black Hooded Parakeets and Short-eared Owls. Since this is our second trip here we will visit the two boardwalks for easy birding and possible sightings of Purple Gallinule, Least Bittern, King Rails and American Bitterns. Returning to the hotel in the late morning, the group leader will have a wrap-up discussion of birds observed at the Celery Fields over lunch and say farewell to new-found friends.
Lunch: You are welcome to stay and enjoy the buffet or make your own box lunch to go. We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and we look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!