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.

So, How Was Your Summer?    
As you probably realize by now, we took our usual July/August Summer break to catch our collective breaths. How did you spend your time?  The  following is a short take on the way our Friends' Board of Directors member, Karen Willes, spent some of her time.  The editor
One of my favorite places in St. Marks, especially during the summer, is the covered overlook at Headquarters Pond at the Refuge.  It rises several feet above the edge of the pond and offers sun and bug protection, too.  I enjoy setting up my spotting scope and spending time to see what, or who, might show up.  In addition to great birding, I enjoy talking with visitors and sharing close-up looks of the pond residents through my spotting  scope.

Even after summer passes, you'll still often find me enjoying the wildlife at the Headquarters Pond Overlook.  

Article and phonescoped images, courtesy Karen Willes, Friends' Board of Directors

The Monarch Festival is Coming Your Way Soon
This is a reminder that the annual Monarch Festival is almost upon us. It is a great family event that allows everyone to learn about the importance of monarch butterflies, as well as other wildlife at the Refuge. Educational opportunities abound during this October event.    
This year, be sure to stop at the membership booth during your visit. The Friends are offering a buy-one-get-one-free offer at several of the lower membership levels.  What a perfect way to take care of some of your holiday shopping early by treating yourself to a new membership and then be able to give a like membership to a friend.  

In addition, while the Friends gave seed packets to visitors last year, this year, a couple of different varieties of milkweed plants will be given to those who would like to plant them at home.  As you know, milkweed is an essential plant in the monarch life cycle.
Also, there will be local musicians present, and craft projects will set up especially for children. A truly informative aspect of the festival is the "behind the gates" tour of the Refuge that guests can take at scheduled times. These tours are often highlighted by unusual animal sightings. Join us Saturday, October 28 from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. Again this year, food will be available at the festival for purchase. It's a great time to be at the Refuge.
   The editor  
Volunteers Make a Huge Difference

To help in our effort to bring more attention to the Monarch Festival, a new kiosk (adjacent to the lighthouse) will be in place over the next couple of days.  The kiosk has been a way to draw attention to Refuge projects and programs over the past years. 

This exhibit signals a changing of the guard. A new volunteer is offering her help in a variety of ways with the Refuge, and this beautiful, colorful display is just one. Giedre Mazelyte brings strong photographic skills to the forefront with this work above, while at the same time, she works at the Visitor Center on random weekends. She will also help us during events at the Refuge. Giedre is outgoing and very knowledgeable our beautiful refuge, so the next time you see her, please introduce yourself and welcome her.
The editor
Lighthouse Updates

Bids for the major restoration of the lighthouse tower and keeper's quarters were released to contractors with historic preservation experience on July 12. Bids were received about a month later, and Rippee Construction of Tallahassee was the low bid.  Rippee staff paid an additional visit to the lighthouse late in August. (See photo below, with Refuge Senior Ranger, Robin Will at right)   
The contract for Rippee Construction was sent to the Division of Historical Resources for their required approval, and we are awaiting their acceptance before executing the contract.  Work is scheduled to be completed by June, 2018.   
Additionally, we received the executed agreement with DHR on July 31 for funds to construct the ramp to the keeper's quarters for people with disabilities. This should be completed in the same time frame as the major restoration.

Courtesy, Tom Baird, Friends' Board of Directors Vice-President
National Public Lands Day, September 30        
National Public Lands Day was established as a day to connect people, in a variety of ways, to public lands in their community, as well as to inspire environmental stewardship and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation, and general health.  

NPLD is a time to spend the day outdoors giving back to our natural communities by pulling invasive species, maintaining trails, picking up trash, and more. Work that the public provides is a way to ensure our public lands continue to be beautiful places for all to enjoy!
Specific plans at the Refuge this year on NPLD include upgrades and maintenance work at the Visitor Center and the nearby Natures Classroom gardens. Landscaping and planting wildflowers will enhance these two areas greatly. Also at the Refuge, work is planned for the Picnic Pond gardens. Wildflower planting and weeding will be the order of the day at this popular site.
To encourage people to volunteer and visit their public lands, NPLD is a fee-free day at the Refuge and other federal properties. Please plan to join us on this important day, and celebrate the lands that give us so much in return.
The editor 

Volunteers pose with rescued plants: Night blooming petunias (Ruellia noctiflora) and few-flowered milkweeds (Asclepias lanceolata)

Nursery Update

The Monarch-Milkweed Initiative was one of many organizations that partnered under the leadership of Scott Davis and Gail Fishman to participate in a roadside rare plant rescue in Wakulla County.  
The St. Marks bike trail is being expanded along a portion of U.S. 98 that boasts the largest known population of the state endangered night blooming petunia, Ruellia noctiflora, and a sizeable population of the few-flowered milkweed, Asclepias lanceolata. The few-flowered milkweed is one of our target species for conservation that we are actively propagating at the nursery. We were able to rescue thousands of plants extending over a four-day period in late August. They are now being housed in kiddy-pools at the nursery until they can be transplanted. Milkweeds will be planted around the visitor center during the upcoming National Public Lands Day. The petunias will hopefully be replanted around the future bike trail.
This fall season we welcome Louie Castillo (intern) and Jessica Larimer (FSU student doing a research internship) on board with the Monarch-Milkweed Initiative. We are also always working on expanding - we have just installed a brand new greenhouse and a new shed is in the works. We expect to have some fall workdays. Like us on Facebook to stay updated "Monarch-Milkweed Initiative at St. Marks NWR". 
Article courtesy Nicole Zampieri, Friends' Board of Directors member; Photo by Gail Fishman, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Senior Ranger 

Smokey the Bear
I n 1950, a major wildfire swept through the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, and neighboring states had to join forces to quell the blaze. At about the same time the fire had subsided, a major icon in forest protection and safety emerged from the smoldering terrain.
A lone bear cub, stranded along the initial fire line, managed to survive the fire, but not without severe injury. Burns to his legs and paws were extensive. Fire crews left the cub with a rancher who lived nearby. But, soon after, a ranger, who heard about the cub's plight, visited the ranch to check on the little bear. The ranger, realizing the cub needed more attention, had the cub moved to a regional facility in Santa Fe where it was treated and bandaged.
Meanwhile, the public became aware of the rescue, and stories about the bear spread about as rapidly as any forest fire. The public loves happy-ending stories. And, this one was certainly no exception.
Ultimately, the state game warden contacted the Forest Service,    suggesting that the cub would serve as a symbol of conservation and wildfire prevention. Fame followed the little bear. Soon he was on his way to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. where he received gifts of honey and many letters. He also acquired a name - he was dubbed Smokey Bear.
In 1952, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote a popular song - it was titled Smokey 'the' Bear. So, whether you call him Smokey the Bear, or simply Smokey Bear, to this day, he is a forest protection legend.
The editor

Refuge News

Storm Update
Although the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge was affected by Hurricane Irma, most of the problems related to the storm have been resolved. At the time of this newsletter release, only one problem remained, and that was that only one telephone line was operational.  That issue should be resolved soon, however, if you are attempting to call us, please be patient.  Thank you.  
Nature Store 
The Nature Store continues to perform well with Manager Rita LeBlanc in charge, along with helpers Yvonne Zola, Gayle Lanham, Betty Hamilton, Cindi Johnstone, and Melissa Jacoby. Come by and see new store items.  You can find unique gifts at the Nature Store that you simply cannot get at other retail locations.  In particular, check out some of the books that are offered by local authors and illustrators.  
October 1, First Sunday 
Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, with Whitney Gray   

October 28, Monarch Festival
From 10 am - 4 pm. 850-925-6121 for more information about this great event.

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