Reflections newsletter is a benefit of membership for Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. It also serves as an important supplement to
the Friends' web site, 
Both the newsletter and the web site provide members and the public information about volunteer activities and events at the Refuge.
The 2017 Annual Meeting in Review
30 Years of Support for the Refuge

Over 65 Friends filled the Monarch Room at the Visitors Center to attend the 2017 Friends' Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 29.  Board of Directors' President Mary Smallwood led the meeting that highlighted this past year's activity, but more importantly, celebrated the 30 years that have led up to this time. Great food was available for an afternoon snack, and presentations filled the remaining time.

Refuge staff spoke to the Friends about the strong commitment that our support organization has made as well as the positive impact it has had on the Refuge. Dan Frisk, Terry Peacock and Gail Fishman all made short presentations and thanked attendees.

 In particular, Gail Fishman gave a joyful, concise, and animated history of the Friends' support for the Refuge (photo, lower right). She should know, because she was the Board's first treasurer. Later Gail remarked about the enthusiasm that seemed to resonate throughout the Monarch Room all afternoon.  She smiled and said, "This was probably the best meeting I've ever attended".

The annual meeting is also a time when term-limits of Board members are voted on and when new members are invited to join the Board.  As a result, Mary Smallwood, Susan Cason and John Haines were the three members whose terms had expired, but whose Board participation was extended by unanimous vote. By a similar unanimous vote, Karen Willes became the newest Board member and will serve a three-year term.

On a less business-like-note, the thirtieth anniversary "lighthouse" cake was cut (very top, Susan Cason at left speaking, Rita LeBlanc cutting the cake and Mary Smallwood at right), and then everyone gathered in the adjoining Barred Owl Room to hear the informative presentation made by guest speaker, Jeffrey Shanks, Archaeologist with the National Park Service. Jeffrey discussed Weeden Island, Swift Creek and other early cultures who inhabited Byrd Hammock and the Refuge region. Thank you so much, Jeffrey for a great show!

And, thank you to all the Friends who attended to make this meeting meaningful and for helping us celebrate 30 fantastic years of support.   

Article and photos, editor 

Friends' 30-Year History Project
Needs Your Help

One important finding that has surfaced as the Friends began piecing together the 30-year history of the Friends work as a support organization for the Refuge is that we don't necessarily have all the history.  Some early record-keeping and Friends' memories can be scanty over the years, as you might imagine.

Therefore, we are asking our Friends to assist us. If you happen to have any early printed matter related to the Friends' support work, or if you have great recall on specific events/meetings/happenings that took place early on, we ask you to please contact us.

In addition to the above, if you feel strongly about this project and you would like to consider spearheading the project of tightening the history of the Friends, please "reply" to this newsletter/email. We would love to hear from you.

The editor 

Bird Day

International Migratory Bird Day, IMBD, officially takes place the second  Saturday in May for the U.S. and Canada, and in October for Mexico, Central/South America, and the Caribbean. But this date doesn't work well for all bird events, bird festival organizers, or for migratory birds per se. Birds don't migrate on the same day. As a result, a more workable solution to timing declares that every day is Bird Day and IMBD is celebrated year-round.

It is important to keep in mind that when the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1931, it was done so in large part to provide winter habitat for migratory birds. Today, we are fortunate to see that the Refuge continues to provide protection for birds that way. So, whether or not you see our Vermilion flycatcher (directly above) on his/her visits, the brilliant flash of powder blue on Blue-winged teal (top right), or the many other birds that make the Refuge their winter home, take a minute to celebrate their travels. It doesn't matter whether they are coming or going, it's always thrilling to see them.

Go to the IMBD web site now. 

Courtesy, the editor 

  Lighthouse Updates

O n Saturday, May 6, Melissa Wyllie, Executive Director of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation visited the St. Marks Lighthouse along with her daughter Maggie. The mission of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation is to promote the preservation of the architectural, historical and archaeological heritage of Florida through advocacy, education and historic property stewardship. The Florida Trust advocates for legislation and funding in support of historic preservation on behalf of Florida's many historic sites, museums and parks.

Melissa is new to the area, and the Friends were happy to share the rich history of the St. Marks Lighthouse with her. In addition, she was shown the restored lens and lantern room restoration and discussion followed about the next phases of restoration.

Article and photo courtesy Tom Baird, Vice-President, Board of Directors

Karen Willes iPhone Class Continues to 
Draw a Crowd

It doesn't seem to matter how often Karen Willes, Friends' Board of Directors member, offers her iPhone class - the technology and her expertise draw large numbers at each one. On May 6, she presented to her maximum audience of nearly 20 participants.

The class is so well-structured, and Karen keeps everyone on track for a full three hours. The class is broken into three, one-hour segments. The first is spent in an introductory capacity, explaining many aspects of iPhone use and then it segues into digiscoping (the concept of shooting digital photos through a spotting scope). The second hour is the hands-on segment and the class alternately practices using a telescope attached to an iPhone and takes time near the visitor center to capture photos that will be worked on in the last hour of the class.

In that remaining hour, photos are cropped, nudged, tinted, altered, and framed  artfully using a phone app called Snapseed.  The results are amazing. The photo shown here is just one example of the fun that can be had with the application. This image underwent a crop, HDR Scape, Glamour Glow, Grunge and Frame tool or filter to get to this artsy look.   Of course, to do this, it helps to take Karen's class.

Pay close attention to upcoming issues of Reflections for news about her next class or go to the Friends' web site calendar.    
Article and photo courtesy, editor 

Watercolor Class Highlights 
From April 22

Six enthusiastic artists attended the April 22, Earth Day, watercolor class.  All the participants showed exceptional skill in moving color through a water medium to create vivid results. Photos here, show only a few of the successes from the day.  Above left, Annet Forkink displays her "real" bird feather at right and her exacting and subtle watercolor rendering on the left.

Many Friends who have taken Karen Willes's (newest Board member) iPhone classes at the Refuge are aware of her photography skills. Here she showed great attention to stark, and exact color to paint a close-up (above right, working from her own photo at left) of a Roseate spoonbill preening. 

At right, Susan Cason, Board Membership Chair, worked into the week following the class to paint this beautiful Fiddlehead fern.  Her smooth blends of pastel and earth tones give a soft delicacy to her first, serious completed work.

Thanks to everyone for attending the class.  Look forward to another class that will be offered late in the summer, under the "Announcements" section of the Friends' web site home page.  

Article and photos, editor 

   Updates From the Nursery 

As summertime rolls in, the growing season has unfurled, and it is officially milkweed season. Blooming at the Refuge right now are Fewflower milkweed (A. lanceolata), Clasping milkweed (A. amplexicaulis), Sandhill Milkweed (A. humistrata), Aquatic milkweed (A. perennis), Redring milkweed (A. variegata), Longleaf milkweed (A. longifolia) and Michauxii's milkweed (A. michauxii). It is exciting, and there are more to come.

"Milkweed Tuesdays" are back, and we will begin regular workdays on May 16th. These workdays will consist of regular nursery maintenance including transplanting seedlings and sowing seeds (We have about 50,000 seeds to sow), as well as field surveys looking for new and checking on the status of old populations of milkweeds in the Refuge.
We have sown approximately 10,000 seeds this year so far and are actively growing 23 species of milkweeds. The nursery has a new irrigation system installed in one of our greenhouses that we hope to expand to all of the greenhouses. We are working on a design for growing sandhill milkweed in experimental pots. The nursery is also alive with tussock moth caterpillars, queen caterpillars, and of course, monarch caterpillars.
Milkweed Tuesdays begin May 16th and typically last from 11 am - 5 pm, so there is built-in flexibility for volunteers. Follow us on Facebook "Monarch-Milkweed Initiative at St. Marks NWR" to receive updates (Ask us about joining our mailing list.).
Photo top: Clasping Milkweed (A. amplexicaulis) blooming at the refuge. 

Photo above right: Experimental design for pots to grow Sandhill Milkweed (A. humistrata).
Article and photo courtesy Nicole Zampieri, Friends' Board of Directors

Whooping Crane Update
The "Royal Couple", male and female, who ruled the St. Marks NWR whooping crane pen in the winter of 2015-16 are now the stars of the 2017 Operation Migration (OM) Crane Cam !
They were the only pair in 2016 to successfully "adopt" and safely guide a juvenile crane on migration south and back north again.  This included a quick New Year's Eve tour with adopted juvenile PR30-16 to Goose Creek on the Refuge, perhaps for a blue crab snack?  OM's Brooke Pennypacker detected the cranes' radio signals just before they returned to south Georgia to ring in 2017 and spend the winter.
Despite their youth, the Royal Couple made history this April as the first whooping cranes to nest in the new reintroduction area on White River Marsh Wildlife Area in central Wisconsin.  While flying a spring aerial survey, DNR pilot Beverly Paulan deftly photographed the sturdy nest platform the cranes built in deep marsh water atop an old muskrat lodge.  Once the Crane Cam went online 24-7, excitement built as OM staff and volunteers recorded observations of the Royal Couple defending their territory and diligently taking turns sitting through rain, blustery wind, and snow during the month-long incubation.
Misfortune struck on the evening of May 8, 2017 when a coyote predated the nest while the cranes were distracted by intruding bachelor whooper, "Peanut."  The next morning, Brooke found remains of two eggs, both fertile. Hope remains that the Royal Couple, who survived the attack, might attempt to nest again this year.
A total of 8 whooping cranes (4 resident, 4 visitors) graced the St. Marks NWR in winter 2016-17, and one was even reported soaring past the Lighthouse.  Now we wait for these trailblazers to guide more young whoopers to winter on St. Marks' marshes and then get busy up north to create a self-sustaining population.
Everyone who has supported this reintroduction project can be justifiably proud of St. Marks NWR's continuing efforts in working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance habitat to support the eastern migratory population of whooping cranes.

Article credit:  a dedicated volunteer 

Refuge News

Sunday, May 21, E-Tram tour
Join Neil Hosenick, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge volunteer and photographer, as he leads a tour through the back trails at the Refuge. Neil points out so many colorful and interesting sights.  This will be the last of the e-Tours until the fall. The tour begins at 1 pm and there is a limit of 10 participants, so please call the Refuge at (850) 925-6121 for sign up and details.

Saturday, June 3, Extremely Early Birding tour
Join Don Morrow, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge volunteer and expert birder, as he leads a tour at the Refuge from 6 am - 9 am. Please call the Refuge at (850) 925-6121 for sign up and details.


The Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge was the winner of the 2016 Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation for the acquisition and protection of the Byrd Hammock Archaeological Site.

Have you considered including the Refuge in your will?  We would appreciate hearing from you if so. The Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge can provide information and guide you through the process. Just call the Refuge at 850-925-6121, and ask to be contacted by the Friends' Development Committee, or email us.

Reflections Editor, Phillip M. Pollock