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Celebrate nature at Pinellas County’s preserves
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People often take a break from the hustle and bustle of life during the holidays. Pinellas County’s preserves offer family-friendly opportunities to get outdoors and connect with nature.

Brooker Creek and Weedon Island preserves offer a variety of activities during December.

Brooker Creek Preserve’s Saturday hikes continue through December. On Dec. 15 and 29 volunteer guides lead groups to see how the land has changed over time and the ecological footprints left by those changes.

Closed-toe shoes, water and hat are recommended on this 90-minute, 0.75 mile walk beginning at 9 a.m.

On Saturday, Dec. 22, trained volunteer guides will conduct a special, extended 2.8- to 4-mile walk from 9 to 11:30 a.m. All ages are welcome on these hikes. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult; those younger than 10 may find these hikes challenging.

A special 90-minute hike to identify birds common to Brooker Creek Preserve will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8 starting at 8 a.m. A leisure stroll along a one-mile trail to gather information on the birds heard and seen is a must for all bird lovers. Binoculars will be helpful. Bring water.

Hiking opportunities are plentiful at Weedon Island Preserve each Saturday in December. A special two-hour hike designed for adult photographers, the perfect opportunity to hone skills, is scheduled for Saturday Dec. 15, starting at 8 a.m. After a classroom session highlighting specific wildlife behaviors and focus tips, guides will assist participants in capturing the natural beauty outdoors. Also, the ongoing two-hour guided hikes, beginning at 9 a.m. will continue each Saturday in December. Participants learn about ecosystems and the early residents of Weedon Island Preserve while hiking the coastal uplands and along boardwalks through mangrove forests. These hikes are best for ages 6 and older.

Learn the identifying marks and behaviors of our feathered year-round residents and seasonal visitors and help compile an annual checklist of the preserve’s birds during Weedon Island Preserve’s Bird Quest. This two-hour hike beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 14, is designed to take advantage of all levels of birding experience. Binoculars and bird guides will be available.

Just for kids

On Thursdays in December, the ever-popular book time for tots ages 3 to 5 continues at Brppler Creek. Beginning at 10:30 a.m., for 45-minutes, they have the opportunity to connect to the wonders of the natural world through stories and crafts, games or other hands-on activities. The book featured on Thursday, Dec. 6, is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. On Thursday, Dec. 13, Where Would I Be In An Evergreen Tree? by Jennifer Blomgren will be read to the children. The books on the following two Thursdays, Dec. 20, Forest Bright/Forest Night by Jennifer Ward and, Dec. 27, River Otters by Hope Irvin Marston round out the month.

Children ages three to five continue to be treated to 45-minutes of a selected story, crafts, games and hands-on activities that connect them to their environment through Wee Time at Weedon. Beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13, they will hear Where Would I Be in an Evergreen Tree? by Jennifer Blomgren, and on Thursday, Dec. 27 the featured book will be Mary Manatee, A Tale of Sea Cows.

Other events at Brooker Creek Preserve

- Interested in attracting birds to your garden using Florida native plants? What birds can you expect in your Florida garden? How do you identify them? Join Lynn Sumerson on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10:30 a.m. and learn why birds are attracted to gardens.

- Birds of Prey, their adaptations for success and their roles in the ecosystem are the subjects of this one-hour presentation on Saturday, Dec. 15, beginning at 1 p.m. Several live birds of prey will be used to illustrate aspects of predator-prey relationships, adaptations that ensure their success as predators and their role in maintaining healthy, balanced ecosystems. The basic natural history of each species will also be discussed, along with the impact of humans on their habitats and populations.

- The ongoing exhibit, Windows to Our Wildest Place, continues every Thursday through Saturday during regular center hours at Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center. These hands-on, educational exhibits help visitors understand how natural Florida has changed over time and the ecological footprints left by those changes.

Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs, protects more than 8,700 acres of natural ecosystems. The preserve, the horse trails and the Friends Trail are open daily and holidays.

Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center features interactive exhibits and 22 discovery-oriented experiences that are fun for the entire family. The Center is operated by the Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources Department and is open Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed Sunday through Wednesday and all Pinellas County holidays.

More events at Weedon Island Preserve

- Wild Wetlands, Florida Aquarium is the topic of this Saturday’s, Dec. 8, one-hour presentation beginning at 10 a.m. Since the Florida wetlands are home to many diverse animals, this group will explore the wonders of Florida’s wetlands through biofact investigation and encounters with live animal ambassadors from the Florida Aquarium.

- On Thursday, Dec. 20, from 7 to 8 p.m., an archaeology lecture – Life and Death at Windover: Excavations of a 7,000-Year-Old Pond Cemetery is presented. Dr. Rachel Wentz’ latest book examines the discovery, and analyses of Windover, one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. This fascinating site at Titusville produced the well-preserved remains of 168 individuals along with hand-woven textiles, a beautiful assemblage of artifacts and ancient soft tissue.

- 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. The center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; closed Sunday through Wednesday and holidays.

To learn more about Weedon Island Preserve and its upcoming programs and events, call 453-6500. To register for programs and events visit Videos featuring Weedon Island Preserve can be viewed at
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