Several local parks and preserves offer free guided nature walks, led by park staff and leading local naturalists. Crowds might scare off some of the more timid wildlife, but that will be balanced by the wealth of information your guides will provide. Most are in the morning on weekends, but check their sites for particulars. Space is limited, and I think they all require reservations.
Tell them you heard about it from Lu and B!
Philippe Park, at 2525 Philippe Parkway in Safety Harbor, is a lovely park best known for its stunning Tocobaga temple mound. On their guided hikes you can learn about local nature and several thousand years of local history. So far this year they have hikes scheduled for:
January 19, 2013
February 16, 2013
March 16, 2013
All from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
Call 727-669-1947 for reservations.
Weedon Island Preserve, at 1800 Weedon Drive NE in St. Petersburg, is another perfect spot for people who want to mix a little archeology and history with their nature. They have three different guided hikes.
Every Saturday from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. They have a guided hike through the mangrove-lined coast and the upland areas of the preserve.
Once a month from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. they have a guided bird hike.
Also once a month from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. they have a hike just for photographers. After a short classroom session, you are taken to the best seasonal spots and given lots of pointers to hone your photography skills.
Call 727-453-6500 to make a reservation and to confirm dates.
Huge and gorgeous Brooker Creek Preserve, at 3940 Keystone Rd. in Tarpon Springs, offers Saturday hikes focusing on changes in the environment over time. It looks like this hike is the first and third Saturday of the month, from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m., and that there are bird and photography hikes on the other Saturdays. As always, call for more information and reservations: 727-453-6800
Fort DeSoto Park at 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, in Tierra Verde, not only has one of the world's best beaches, it also has abundant wildlife and a fascinating historic fort. They offer six different free guided walks through the park. (The walks are free, but there is a $5 fee to enter the park, with a toll booth at the gate.) For an exact schedule, visit www.pinellascounty.org/park/pdf/nature-walk-ft.pdf or call 727-552-1862.