Yes . . . Rainy.
More than 120 Friends members came. They dodged the rain, or were met by the welcome crew, led by Board member John Thalachker with a golf umbrella, came to the registration tent and signed in with the Membership team . . . Marci and Jim Wilcox, Greg Lang, Ann Webster, Mac Cox, Peg Hall, Maria Sgambati . . . and headed off to the Silent Auction, Friends Store, and Presentation Room. New memberships, renewals, and donations at the door brought in over $800.
The Silent Auction was set up on the log cabin headquarters building and on its porch. All 60 items brought multiple bids. Thanks to all the donors who provided the items, to all the Friends who purchased the donated items, and to the organizers especially Barbara Hudson and Donna Bushnell, Friends brought in more than $2,000 from the event.
The Friends Store has always been set up under our "festival tent" in the past. Not a chance in yesterday's rain. So Board members Carmelo Echevarria and Sherry Beauchamp moved it into an office in the fire building. That worked wonderfully. The merchandise was easier to see and make selections. It was a great place to browse while you warmed up and dried off. More than $300 in items to spread the word about the Refuge were sold.
The annual overview of the refuge's work by Refuge Manager Andrew Gude, the review of the year's accomplishments by Friends president Bob Hudson, and the election and installation of officers, all were well received by the standing-room-only crowd.
Dr. Coleman Sheehy's presentation about island ecology and its affect on biodiversity captured the crowd. The question and answer session was proof of how engaging the presentation was. It seemed everyone had multiple questions and comments! Coleman is the Associate Director of the Seahorse Key Marine Lab, which is a University of Florida facility located, by special agreement with the Refuge, on one of the islands that is part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
Then came a part we all look forward to . . . lunch cooked by Ken and Rose McCain. Ribs, chicken, baked beans, swamp cabbage, cole slaw and rolls were abundant, as were desserts brought by members.
Just in time, the rain let up for the lunch line. The refuge staff offered a nature walk after lunch. We visited the bat house to hear from Pam Darty about the bats and the bees, walked part of the River Trail with Larry Woodward, got a preview of the new Tram Trail with Daniel Barrand who talked about the forestry history of the refuge and Vic Doig who talked about the use of prescribed fire.
It was an excellent 2015 Friends Annual Meeting and Refuge Open House.
Photos by Bill Kilborn, Marci Wilcox, Peg Hall. If you have some to share, please email email@example.com
On my way back to Cedar Key from the Refuge this morning, I saw a Swallowtail Kite! This is the earliest I have ever seen one back. In the past few years, they have been sighted the first few days of March, and usually by then there are more signs of spring. There are very few flowers blooming in the butterfly garden or throughout the refuge, but take heart! The arrival of the Swallowtail Kites means that spring is very, very close!
When it comes to picking cold days for our nature walks, I am doing a pretty good job! Not that I plan it that way, it just seems to be turning out that our scheduled walks are on the coldest days of the month. Oh well, Sally Beveridge and I thoroughly enjoyed the day – definitely, we didn’t have to worry about mosquitoes, “no-seeums”, alligators or snakes! But we did have a crystal blue sky and a gorgeous walk.
This 5 mile walk was intended to be a walk in nature, not a bird watching or plant identification walk and walk we did! But we saw plenty of birds anyway, including a pair of nesting Bald Eagles, a flock of wild turkeys and a Pileated Woodpecker, as well as numerous small birds. What we really loved seeing was the path we walked along full of animal tracks and rarely a human foot print especially when we got further into the woods!
On the walk, we viewed a vast salt marsh, crossed fresh water swamps, sandhill pine habitat and mixed deciduous woodland. We saw lots of scat from wild pigs and fox. We could hear the wind overhead, but we were sheltered enough in the woods to be plenty warm! It was a great walk!!
Click here for a list of current members. Remember to bring your check book to renew or join . . . and for the Silent Auction and items from the Friends tent.
Call for Volunteers
The Again Amazing Silent Auction
More than 60 items have been contributed for the, once again, amazing Silent Auction. Remember your check book!! Here is a preview:
Friends member Donna Thalacker plans to lead a longer nature walk - one where the focus is walking in nature and not so much stopping and talking. This walk will be a little over 5 miles in length, would be behind the gates on flat, old logging trails and would not be a round trip walk. It will be necessary to pre-position a car or two at the end of Cabin Road. the walk will start near gate 10, in the south part of the Refuge Nature Loop Drive, and proceed to Cabin Road. It will pass through some of the prettiest and remotest parts of the Refuge. The idea here is to walk but, of course, stop and look at a butterfly or bird along the way. Donna projects it will be about a 3 hour walk.
It is tentatively planned the walk for Thursday, Feb 19 at 09. This is weather dependent - if rainy, no walk. If cold, the walk is a "go". Cedar Key folks can meet to car pool at the town park at 8:30. Please bring water and a snack and good walking shoes. Tick exposure is a possibility, especially since part of the walk will be on unmaintained logging roads (that means higher grass). It will all be flat. Walkers might encounter water over the trail and Donna will plan to carry rubber boots that participants can share if necessary. If you have questions, please call Donna at 352-543-6738.
The sun shone upon ‘Team Pepper Busters’ on Sunday February 8 as University of Florida Professor Jack Putz and his Plant Ecology class took up loppers and tackled a recurring stand of Brazilian Pepper tree on the eastern sandpoint of Seahorse Key. Led by Vic Doig from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and Roger (aka “King” Pepper Buster) McDaniels from Friends of the Refuge group, the volunteers spent a couple hours pulling small plants and cutting and spraying larger plants on the east end of Seahorse Key. According to Vic, Seahorse Key was treated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service several years ago. While this intervention was very successful, follow-up efforts such as this are critical to help control recurring growth.
The Brazilian Pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) is native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. It was introduced to Florida in the mid-1800’s for use as an ornamental plant. Part of the family Anacardiaceae, the pepper-tree counts among its relatives poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Levy County is thought to represent the northern edge of Brazilian pepper tree. Many native Florida plant communities such as hammocks, pinelands and mangrove forests are often invaded and dominated by Brazilian pepper tree. For the past few years, the Friends of the Refuges has been assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in efforts to control and manage this invasive plant. Thanks to Donna and John Thalacker who alerted us to this stand of Brazilian Pepper-tree.
Past President Jay Bushnell, and Friends members Luz Krujalis, Linda Headley and Donna Thalacker spent the afternoon on February 9 cleaning out the Refuge butterfly garden. Most of the time was needed for digging out the grasses so the native wildflowers have a place to spread and sprout. It is looking good!