For the Birds Eckerd College hosts the Seventh Annual Florida Birding and Nature Festival this weekend, a four-day event celebrating the area's abundant wildlife population. Nature lovers can enjoy a lineup that includes a nature expo, over 30 seminars and talks led by expert speakers, field trips to some of the region's most impressive coastal wildlife areas, a native plant sale presented by the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, a raptor exhibit, a butterfly tent and Busch Gardens' live animal show. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Pinellas County Environmental Fund, a program of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners. 5:30-9 p.m. on Thu., 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on Fri., 10 a.m.- 7:30 p.m. on Sat. and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 7-10. Admission to the festival is free; seminars are $7, keynote talks are $12 and guided field trips are $40-$60 per person. To register for any of these activities or for more information, go to www.flabirdfest.com or call 1-866-352-2473. Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. 727-864-8297.
Diverse Expressions The Gulf Coast Museum of Art presents three new exhibits this weekend. The first, Demi y Arturo: Por El Amor y la Vida, features works by Demi and Arturo Rodriquez, Miami-based husband and wife artists who create paintings that are candid expressions of their life and relationship, and which reflect their parallel experiences and struggles as Cuban exiles. William Schaaf: Equine Visions introduces Schaaf's take on the mysterious symbolism of equine imagery, where the horse figure serves as a metaphor for power, freedom and spirituality. Works include ceramic and bronze sculptures, as well as paintings and prints. Finally, visitors can check out multimedia outdoor sculptures by Gavin Perry. From This Point On It Only Gets Rougher is an exhibit exploring the "hybrid world of Scandanavian Design and the Ghetto Fabulous" in a series of pieces created from various materials, including plywood, neon lighting and stainless steel. An opening reception for all of the exhibits takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. this evening. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tue.-Sat. and noon to 4 p.m. Sun. Exhibits continue through Dec. 26. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students, and children 10 and under enter free. (Admission is free to all from 10 a.m. to noon on Sat.) Gulf Coast Museum of Art, 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. 727-518-6833.
Hard-Knock Life M.A.D. Theatre opens its 2004-05 season with Annie, a musical that can be appreciated by theater lovers of all ages. Basically, the story goes something like this: A lovable, red-haired orphan is rescued from a life of servitude to enjoy a blissful interlude with billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, a seemingly cold and heartless man who arranges the visit as part of a publicity campaign. Needless to say, everyone is surprised when he begins caring about the girl — but then again, it is theater-land, which means that anything's possible. Directed by Nancy Topper. 8 p.m. on Fri. and Sat., and 2 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 8-17. Special showing at 2 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 16. $15 adults/$14 students and seniors. Performances take place at Hillsborough Community College Theater, which is located on the corner of Palm Avenue and 15th Street in Ybor City. 813-884-6500.
Masterpiece Puppet Theater If you're looking for an alternative to the typical tired and uninspired Shakespeare production, El Chonchon's Juan Romeo y Julieta Maria attempts to deliver. The puppet company is made up of two men from South America, who present an updated version of the bard's romantic tragedy using four puppets. These puppet protagonists tackle all the roles in the play, fussing with their wigs and the sets like real actors, charming and innocently serious while valiantly attempting to achieve all the behavior necessary in a "real" Shakespeare show. Performances take place at 8 p.m. on Fri. and Sat., and 4 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 8-10. (Sunday's show is performed entirely in Spanish.) Tickets: $18.50. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center — Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. 813-229-7827.
Cantankerous Wit Whether he's musing on the exasperating ironies of everyday life or figuring out fresh ways to verbally assault political and religious stupidity, George Carlin's humor is legendary and unmistakable. The comedian has released over 20 albums, won three Grammies, appeared in 12 HBO specials, and exercised his cinematic chops in a slew of films. (Can any of us forget his hitchhiking cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back?) At 67 years old, he's reached the peak of his career, and you can see him preparing for his 13th HBO special during three local shows. 6 and 9:30 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 9. Tickets: $43-$70. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater, 727-791-7400; 8 p.m. on Mon., Oct. 11. Tickets: $40-$50. Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 941-953-3366.
A Natural Project Second Nature is the latest show by Project Creo: Center for Art and Design, a modern art gallery founded to support contemporary artists who pursue innovation in every artistic medium. The exhibit features works exploring how and why we affect the environment in our modern way of life, and offers a unique display of talent from artists such as Kristin Beal, John Langley and Maria Licodo. An opening party occurs this evening from 6 to 11 p.m., featuring food, refreshments and live entertainment. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wed.-Fri, noon to 8 p.m. Sat., and noon to 6 p.m. Sun. Continues through Dec. 1. The Pier, Third Floor, 800 Second Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg. For more information, call 727-898-8318 or visit www.projectcreo.org.
One If By Air The skies come alive with the buzz of planes in this year's Suncoast AirFest, a two-day air show hosted by the Albert Whitted Airport Preservation Society. Headlining the event is the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, which performs a series of difficult feats with vintage North American T-6 airplanes. Also appearing are nationally renowned air show pilots Fred Cabanas, Jim "Fang" Maroney, Bud Walker, John Mohr, Steve Coan and John Black. On the ground, folks can check out historic, vintage and experimental aircraft, as well as an array of classic cars. Vendors provide plenty of food and refreshments, and Bay area bands perform each day. For the young 'uns, there's a "Kid's Zone" and several types of simulators at the Young Eagle's Flight Experience. Gates open both days at 9 a.m.; aerobatic performances begin at noon on Sat. and 1 p.m. on Sun. Admission is $12 for adults, $5 for ages 6-12, and children under 6 enter free. Entry to Albert Witted Airport is located at First Street and Fifth Avenue S. on the waterfront near downtown St. Petersburg. For more information, go to www.suncoastairfest.com or call 727-822-1532.
Unique Fusion In the beginning, Jazz Mandolin Project consisted of Jamie Masefield and any jazz players who wanted to join him and perform for practically no money. The principle was that it wouldn't be a strictly jazz gig, but rather a session where the musicians would play whatever moved them regardless of the genre. Eventually, the first real incarnation of the project took shape, leading to five albums, national tours with a revolving lineup of musicians (ex-Phish member Jon Fishman sometimes guests on drums) and a growing fan base that includes jazz lovers and jam band enthusiasts alike. You can see them perform two sets of lively jazz-fusion this evening at Jannus Landing. 8 p.m. Tickets: $18. 16 Second St. N., St. Petersburg. 727-896-1244.