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The Florida Keys Curry Hammock State Park

September 23 marks the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere, despite summer-like conditions persisting in Florida.   Even so, bird and butterfly migrations signal a seasonal change is "in the air."  One of the most dramatic of bird migrations occurs each fall in the Florida Keys.  Thousands of falcons, hawks, kestrels and other North American raptors (birds of prey) funnel through the island chain en route to warm wintering grounds in Central America and South America.  To witness the river of birds, plan a fall visit to Curry Hammock State Park., near Marathon.  Between mid-September and early November, this 1000-acre park hosts staff from HawkWatch International.  They monitor more than 15,000 migration raptors including nearly 2,000 peregrine falcons, the highest count for this species in North America.

Curry Hammock is a site on the Great Florida Birding Trail.  In addition to raptors and other seasonal specialties, expect to see more common year-round populations of wading birds, shorebirds, pelicans and osprey.  White-crowned pigeons, mangrove cuckoos and black-whiskered vireos are sought-after rarities.  The park plays a key role in the annual Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival, scheduled this year for October 12 through 14.

While birding is excellent, park visitors enjoy paddling, swimming, snorkeling, bicycling, seasonal camping and fishing.  A section of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail creates a scenic route through the park for bicyclists, incline skaters, walkers and runners.  Try a peaceful paddle in canoe or kayak and skim over shallow seagrass flats and nose into narrow mangrove creeks.  Spotted rays, nurse sharks, bait fish, and the occasion al porpoise or manatee are spotted  in and around the park.  A 1.5-mile nature trail winds through a rare rockland hammock, lush with tropical trees and shrubs typical of the Caribbean, including the largest population of thatch palm s in the U.S. Schaus butterflies, tree snails, and other rare wildlife depend on these hammocks.

Curry Hammock is a part of the Circumnavigation Saltwater Paddling Trail, a 1,500-mile sea kayaking route that follows the Florida coastline.  For information, visit

An oceanfront campground is open November 1 through May 31.  For more information, visit

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