Bonnie Ferran spoke expertly about Florida marshes and wildflowers as she walked on a trail Tuesday afternoon in Leffis Key.
She bent down to point at a wildflower and said its three prongs make it very easy to distinguish from other flowers. Ferran's husband, Hector, and their 3-year-old daughter, Beatrice, walked closely behind.
"That's one of the things that we'll talk about besides birds on the tour is wildflowers, different forageable plants," the 29-year-old said.
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Ferran and her husband are the co-owners of AMI Bird Nerd, a new bird watching and nature tour service on Anna Maria Island. The service, which had its soft launch Saturday, will officially kick off on Sept. 27 with a free tour at Leffis Key.
The couple, who moved to Bradenton Beach from downtown Bradenton in November 2013, also plan on launching an Indiegogo campaign to coincide with the official kickoff to raise funds for their service. Their initial goal is to develop free and paid apps for bird watchers. The apps will feature step-by-step information and descriptions as customers walk through the trail.
"What we'll end up doing is meeting you pretty much at whatever park you want (on Anna Maria Island), giving you your (binocular) rental and making sure you have the appropriate thing downloaded to do your self-tour," she said, adding that she and her husband want to also do guided tours. Before they can, the couple has to first establish a working relationship with the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department before a contract would be granted.
Though that is still down the road, Hector said part of the free tour he and Bonnie are giving on Sept. 27 is to build up promotion for their fundraising campaign and to let the county learn how they plan to operate their new business.
He said it's also to show the county that they respect the environment.
"We're not trying to bring a great influx of people but provide the people that want to learn about birding that are beginners in it with the information and the tools they need to respectfully and adequately get that experience," the 28-year-old said.
On this preview tour, Bonnie and her family stopped at a fish hatchery, one of the stops on the tour.
"The tide's looking kind of low right now," the 29-year-old muttered, adding that the hatchery is where fishes lay their eggs and where juvenile fish find protection from the deep waters they will eventually go into.
As they continued along the Leffis Key Boardwalk, Bonnie spoke about how the idea for AMI Bird Nerd came about.
"I'm a Florida girl. I like the outdoors; I like nature; I like outdoorsy things," she said. "Being in Florida, it's hard to miss nature. There's so much going on down here."
Something clicked when her family moved to Anna Maria Island last year, and Bonnie began to see different species of birds everywhere due to migration.
"You notice it when you're in the neighborhood. Neighborhoods aren't typically home to as much of a variety of birds as we get in my neighborhood," Ferran said. "I had a blue-gray gnatcatcher in my backyard last year and I see those here."
Ferran was just saying how she considers herself a "bird nerd" when she suddenly gasped.
"Roseate spoonbill! You see that pink bird out there?" Ferran asked as she pointed over the boardwalk overlooking Sarasota Bay.
The bird looked peaceful on the water.
"That squawking that we hear is an osprey," she added. "Oh, it's really low tide right now; there's some great stuff out here."
Behind her, Hector said they might be able to spot the osprey around a bush nearby. Everyone gathered around him as he pointed toward the bird, which was perched on top of a tree.
"See straight through those leaves over there? That's an osprey," he said. "Sometimes they call them fish hawks because that's what they love to eat."
AMI Bird Nerd is not the first endeavor the couple has taken on together. They once managed an arts and culture magazine titled "The Village Magazine" in Bradenton.
"All of our past endeavors were very advocacy-oriented. Before, it was letting people in the community know about arts and culture in the region," Hector said.
Manatee County, Hector said, is really a linchpin for arts and culture in the area.
"We're taking those skills we've built and doing the same thing here," he said, "where it's about advocating for the environment and for wildlife ... that's part of why we're doing this, to help educate people so they actually understand what's in their backyard."
For more information on AMI Bird Nerd, visit www.AMIBirdNerd.com or call 941-405-2972.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.