After following the first Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition (One thousand miles in one hundred days), Ranger Pam Darty says she was thrilled to be invited to ride bikes with these conservation heroes on a January Wednesday in 44 degree weather. All of them being Florida natives, they nearly froze. The next day, Pam met them on the Dixie Mainline and drove them for a picturesque walk along Shired island. She has been a huge fan of Carlton Ward Jr's for a long time; she greatly enjoyed finally meeting him. Later in the day, Friends members and others hosted a bar-b-q reception in Suwannee for the expedition members.
Our next nature walk will be at the Cedar Key Scrub at 9am on 3 February. It will be a two hour walk on a sandy trail and we will be observing scrub trees and plants and any wildlife we happen upon! If you are interested in joining along, we will meet at the Cedar Key Scrub entrance on Hwy 24. Those interested in carpooling from Cedar Key can meet me, Donna Thalacker, at the town park parking lot at 8:45am. I hope to see you then.
The Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge partnered with the Cedar Key Arts Center this year to sponsor a new mural featuring the 2015 Old Florida Celebration of the Arts design contest theme, “Seeing the Art in Nature.” The artwork invites visitors to experience nature’s artwork in the wildlife refuges surrounding Cedar Key.
Local artist, Travis Parks, designed and painted this mural with the hope of “inspiring people to get out and enjoy all the beauty around us.” The peaceful openness of the refuges waterways and flats are contrasted against the quiet darkness of the scrub. As you look closely you can see a kayaker off in the distance and a hiker leaving the forested area, all overseen by a Great White Heron and a three “painted” turtles.
Thanks also goes to Stoney Smith of Hudson Foods, Inc. who supported the project by making the northeast wall of the “gas station” Jiffy available for the project. A dedication plaque commemorating the 51st Annual Spring Arts Festival was installed on Monday, January 19. More information about the festival which will be on March 28 & 29 this year can be found on the festival website at www.CedarKeyArtsFestival.com.
Submitted by Bev Ringenberg
The Refuge’s River Trail is a great place to take a nature walk. The walk started at headquarters, where the ten of us took a few minutes to look at the dormant butterfly garden. From there John and Donna Thalacker led Sally Beveridge, Charley and Patty from New Hampshire, Nancy Salamon, Siri from Maine, Peg and Russ Hall and Bev Ringgenberg to see Gopher Tortoise burrows, the newly remodeled bat house, where we stopped to listen to the bats, and then on to the River Trail. In a little over a mile, nature walkers can see Gopher Tortoise dry sandy habitat and live oaks for excellent bird watching, walk across a freshwater swamp that has many of the trees and plants identified and labeled, stand out over the Suwannee River for a chance to see Gulf Sturgeons jump, and then along a sandy trail with well marked upland plants and trees already identified. The River Trail really is a premium trail to walk! Soon the River Trail will begin to show lots of color as the Red Maple trees bloom and the Butterweeds border the trail with their bright yellow flowers.
Many thanks to Peg Hall and Barbara Woodmansee for their picture contributions. We were able to get some really good close-up looks at Black-and-White Warblers and Pine Warblers, but not good enough to capture a picture from my click-and-shot camera. Thanks, Barbara Woodmansee, for the excellent warbler picture!
The weather looks perfect for a winter walk in the Refuge on Friday, January 16. This time we will walk on the River Trail and see what we will see! If you would like to come along, please meet me at the Refuge Headquarters parking lot at 10 am. We will walk along the road and the River Trail and see some gopher tortoise homes, the new bat house and look for birds.
Refuge Headquarters is at the north end of the refuge and is well sign-posted on highway 347. Enter the road from Hwy 347 and follow it to the headquarters buildings. Those who would like to carpool, please meet me, Donna Thalacker, at the Cedar Key park/beach parking lot at 9:30. I hope to see you then!
A Friends Science Team is being organized to create a database of refuge biota. The Team will use a smart phone application, iNaturalist, to record the data. Additional members are being sought. Contact Russ Hall at email@example.com for more information.
There is a new mural in Cedar Key by artist Travis Parks. The mural was jointly sponsored by the Cedar Key Arts Center, Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges, and the 51st Annual Old Florida Celebration of the Arts, which will be March 28 and 29.
An Artist-in-Residence Program
Friends member and artist, Anne Lindgren, has been selected for the 2015 Seahorse Key Artist-in-Residence program. The program is a collaboration of the Seahorse Key Marine Lab, the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, and the Cedar Key Arts Center. Click here for more information about the program.
Anne’s focus will be to capture, through photography, vignettes of the flora, fauna and the unique environment found on the island. Her interest in interpreting nature using photographs can be seen in some of prior work and exhibits, including Weed Study: A Meditation.
The residency span several months, so she could observe the diversity of island life over time. She will particularly be looking at the mud flats and creatures that inhabited them during the negative tides. The work from this project will be on display in the Cedar Key Arts Center during April 2015.
A Photography Class
Friends member and nature photographer, Ann Kamzelski, will offer a photography workshop in February and March. It will include two evening classes at the Cedar Key Art Center on Wednesdays, February 11 and 25 at 7:00PM, and a field trip to Shell Mound on the Lower Suwannee Refuge on Thursday morning March 5. Ann's website is Photo Art by Ann.
Last week, Friends President Bob Hudson went fishing in the refuge. He does that often and it might not be news to report to you, except that he caught a fish he'd never seen before. It was a Sunshine Bass.
According to Dan Barrand, resident expert on staff of the Lower Suwannee Refuge, the State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission stocked the Apalachicola River with them a few years ago. They obviously worked their way down the coast and into our waters. A young man at the tackle shop in Gainesville told Bob they were seeing more and more of them in the Suwannee River. Being a hybrid cross between the Striped Bass and White Bass, they are sterile and cannot spawn. Dan says they are a “cold water fish” so that’s why Bob caught it mingled in with a school of Redfish this time of year.
This is a beautiful time to visit the Lower Suwannee Refuge. These are Bob's photos.
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The official government websites of the Refuges
"Escape to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge" video by Visit Florida