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National Wildlife Day

Tomorrow marks a holiday so fabulous that it’s celebrated twice a year. On September 4 and February 22, we celebrate National Wildlife Day, created to bring recognition to not only enjoy and appreciate the types of wildlife we have living on this planet, but to also create a call to action to preserve and protect our biodiversity. While the focus of this day has been threatened and endangered species, the holiday serves as a great occasion to recognize all wildlife.

Now that it’s officially fall, several wildlife viewing opportunities are in full swing here in south Florida. Whether you prefer your feet on terra firma or like getting on the water or even underwater, here are some ideas where you might spend some time over this long weekend.

Bird migration

Depending on the time of year (spring vs fall), songbirds pass through Florida as they head for the Atlantic flyway to travel north or south for the season. Bird-watching opportunities are prolific, whether walking through the hammocks of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, taking a canoe or kayak trip through mangrove stands, or visiting one of Tropical Audubon Society’s suggested locations for birding.

A yellow-throated warbler. Photo: Meg Roush

Sea turtles

Though September falls towards the later end of sea turtle nesting season, the good news is, those nests are hatching and juvenile turtles are starting their life cycle! While this activity occurs at night and can be difficult to observe, several local organizations offer hatchling release programs where the community can safely observe turtle hatchlings being released into the ocean by authorized personnel.

Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program

Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program

Goliath grouper spawning aggregations

Half a dozen Goliath grouper gather in Jupiter, FL. Photo: Ana Zangroniz

If you’re a scuba diver, this time of year is spectacular. The largest grouper species in the Tropical Western Atlantic, the Goliath grouper, gather together in dozens or even hundreds to form spawning aggregations. These fish favor wreck structures in deeper water and observing these creatures is a unique underwater experience. Imagine a fish that’s four to five feet long and several hundred pounds. Now, imagine dozens of them! To see them, you’ll need to head to Palm Beach County and work with a local dive charter to secure your space on the boat. Note: since these are usually high current deep dives, Advanced Open Water certification and Nitrox are typically a requirement.

Paddle trips

Paddling offers a unique opportunity for wildlife viewing. Not only might you see terrestrial species (birds, raccoons, lizards, etc.) but also the chance to observe marine and aquatic species such as manatees, dolphins, fish and invertebrates as well. Concessioners based at both City of Miami and Miami-Dade County parks and marinas offer rental opportunities. If you want a guided experience, you can choose a paddle trip through Miami Eco Adventures. As an added bonus-you’ll get to work on your upper body strength!

If your preference is to observe wildlife in a more controlled environment, please consider visiting some of the wonderful facilities dedicated to wildlife teaching and/or rehabilitation around our state:

Miami Seaquarium

Turtle Hospital

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center

Enjoy National Wildlife Day.