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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
The Community Lectures held at the Cedar Key Public Library and organized by library manager Molly Jubitz with input and assistance from a collaboration of community groups, including the Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys NWRs, begin again this month. Many are related to the interests of the Friends of the Refuges. Check with the Library to confirm times and to see what lectures have been added. This is a dynamic series.
The 2015 board of Directors election will take place at the Annual Meeting on Saturday, February 28, 2015. A slate of candidates has been proposed and nominations will also be taken from the floor at the meeting. Terms run from Annual Meeting to Annual Meeting.
The Proposed New Members
I have a BS Chemistry 1973, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and an MS Chemistry 1974, University of California, Berkeley. For 40 years, I worked in chemistry and pharmaceutical research. About half that period was in laboratory research and half in research management. My first job in 1974 was with Mallinckrodt in St. Louis, MO as a research chemist. I stayed with that organization for my entire career, through seven mergers and acquisitions, and retired in 2013 from the position of research director.
I'm a lifelong outdoorsman. When I was younger I was primarily a hunter and fisherman. As I've become older I spend more time hiking, camping, birding and paddling and also do a lot of nature photography. I maintain a web page on the National Park system, http://www.campingintheparks.com/
Other interests include renovating houses, travel, reading, and restoring old cars. I've been a part-time resident and property owner in Cedar Key since 2011 and a full-time resident for about a year.
I worked as an RN (Hospice, Oncology, Psychiatry), Yoga teacher, massage therapist. BA Psychology, MSW. Grew up in NYC; moved to VT in 1989 (from mid-town Manhattan to Bridgewater Corners, VT) .
I discovered Cedar Key three years ago and am really enjoying the challenge of learning about such a different environment; the birds, trees, flowers, butterflies. I love being outdoors: hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming. I have completed the Freshwater Wetlands module of the Florida Master Naturalist course and hope to do the others.
I haves 2 sons and 4 grandchildren, all in VT. I am an avid Geocacher! It helps me discover new places to hike and explore nature.
The Rest of the Board
Those who are continuing on the Board because their terms do not expire until the Annual Meeting in 2016 are:
Jay Bushnell will leave the Board this year, after many years of extraordinary service. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for all he has contributed to the vitality and growth of the Friends. He will continue as an active member and volunteer.
Some National Wildlife Refuges, including ours, recruit resident volunteers for a few months of the year to help with various projects and programs. That is how Maine residents Carolyn Nobbs and Charlie Adkins came to spend their winters volunteering in Florida.
This is their second season living and working on the Dixie county side of the Lower Suwannee refuge. One of their most time consuming chores is picking up litter. Litter seems to jump out for Carolyn, she spots it long before most people could. From her truck she can even identify the type, “that’s a peanut container, we get lots of those for some reason”.
So far this year, in only 36 days, they collected 98 garbage bags which is over 1000 pounds. In addition to the usual bottles and cans they retrieved some unusual things include a car fender, tires, two 55 pound tractor wheel weights and a fishing net.
Charlie wonders why Florida doesn’t offer a container deposit like their home state of Maine. “Most of these cans wouldn’t be here if there was a nickel deposit and the ones we did pick up could buy our lunch” he says. Currently only 11 states have “bottle bill” legislation.
It is often the case that once you start picking up litter you can’t stop noticing it. This seems to have happened to Charlie and Carolyn who also join Suwannee town’s weekly trash group, the Litter Pickers. Monday mornings find the group picking up trash along the town's streets. They typically gather two or three garbage bags of bottles, cans, cups and ice bags. At least that litter that will not make its way into the surrounding refuge.
It was a perfect Florida winter day for a walk in the Refuge. Though it started off cool enough for light jackets, before the walk was over, most of us were wearing the jackets tied around our waists. Bill Peterson, Maggie Funchion, Sally Beveridge, Kit Lane, Jane Reineke , Susan Davis-Hyllested and myself, Donna Thalacker, met at the beginning to Cabin Road and walked the road for a couple of hours. We heard and saw plenty of birds, but it was too cold for alligators and we did not see any otters. So, Jane entertained us by doing a balancing act on a log in the water! Fortunately, she didn’t get wet and thanked her yoga practice for such good balance!
Our first nature walk of the new year will be on Tuesday, 6 January at 9am. We will meet at the beginning of Cabin Road and walk about 2 miles or 2 hours along an old logging road. Ticks have been bad this year, but we should be able to avoid getting ticks on us by staying on the road. Cabin Road is on the right about 2 miles north of the south entrance to the Lower Suwannee NWR nature drive. Enter the nature drive off highway 347. For those coming from Cedar Key and who would like to car pool, meet me, Donna Thalacker, at the town park parking lot at 8:30am. For further information, call me at 352-543-6738.
Visitor Center Hours
10am to 3pm
The Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Visitors are welcome to walk or bicycle around yellow Refuge gates.
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"Escape to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge" video by Visit Florida