A Super-Star Arrived at the Refuge Recently    
We've had unusual wildlife show up at the Refuge over the years, there's no doubt about that.  But, none could quite match the showy finery of the recent appearance of a flamingo.
Jeff O'Connell is a Tallahassee birder who leads field trips for the local Audubon chapter. "I've never been down to South Florida to chase one, so this is the first I've seen in the wild," O'Connell said."The flamingo is a tough bird to find anywhere, even in South Florida, so a lot of people are interested in adding it to their ABA (American Birding Association) list."
The last sighting of a flamingo at the Refuge dates to 1995 and prior to that, 1972.  Perhaps because of the size of this bird and its brilliant coloration, it has received a lot of attention from both avid birders and, certainly, wildlife photographers.  (The photos here were taken by our award-winning photographer and Board of Directors member, Karen Willes.)
At the time of this newsletter publishing, December 15, it was still being spotted in some of the more secluded reaches of the Refuge marsh areas.   
Article, the editor    

Your Past Experience Is Our Future
Become a Volunteer
"Volunteering is the ultimate experience in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in." (Anonymous)
The fact that you are reading this newsletter indicates that you appreciate the Refuge: whether it's viewing wildlife; photographing and painting scenery and birds; hiking; launching your kayak or fishing boat; visiting the lighthouse; or any other of the myriad reasons that we visit. Maybe you just want some good revitalizing time away from your work or busy lifestyle.
I first started volunteering at the refuge about 25 years ago working in the Visitor Center on weekends. I had been visiting the refuge for many years enjoying its beauty and occasionally counting on its serenity to regain my senses during rough times. I wanted to give something back to this incredible place. Being a nurse, I was uncertain that I had any skills that were needed. Well, how wrong I was! I found that greeting and helping people in the Visitor Center was immensely rewarding and educational. Many wonderful years later look where I am now.
Research shows that there are 5 Reasons why you should consider volunteering.
  • Volunteers live longer and are healthier
  • Volunteering establishes strong relationships
  • Volunteering is good for your career
  • Volunteering is good for society
  • Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose
Although it is not well-understood why volunteering provides such a profound health benefit, a key factor is assumed to be that volunteering serves to express and facilitate opportunities to carry out one's sense of purpose. (Psychology Today, March 2014.)
There is something incredibly satisfying in helping to support the Refuge's diverse environment and its history. Working with the Friends group is working with like-minded people who want to give back to the refuge.
Would you like to give something back to the place that provides so much joy for you?
The Friends group can always suggest volunteer opportunities that will help us fulfill our mission. We would not be able to continue doing our work without people joining the effort.  
Perhaps you are interested in planning activities or working with fundraising or bookkeeping. Maybe you are only able to work inside at the Visitor Center. There are plenty of things to do. Every project that I have worked on has given me great joy and satisfaction. That includes pulling invasive weeds to putting on ice cream socials. Sometimes it is tiring but it is all rewarding.
Everyone has expertise to offer, and we would love to have you volunteer with us, work with us, and help us.  
Article courtesy Susan Cason, President of the Friends Board of Directors
If you are interested in volunteering, email us today.  

A Look Back at the
Monarch Butterfly Festival
The annual Monarch Festival took place again this past, late October, just as usual.  But, the 'just as usual' part was a little precarious this time around due to Hurricane Michael showing up prior to the big day. While the festival looked to be an iffy proposition due to storm damage, the call was made to have it, and the public did not disappoint - a great crowd materialized again this year. 

Refuge staff and lots of volunteers were present, as always. As you can see from the photos here, the day  was a great success. Thanks to everyone who attended, and a huge thanks to those who MADE it happen.  
Note:  A special thanks to the musical duet of Hot Tamale (directly below), consisting of Adrian Fogelin and Craig Reeder. Adrian and Craig provide music outdoors during the Monarch Festival and at the WHO festival annually as "volunteers". We thank them, and ALL of our volunteers, so much.  
The editor 

Graphic art courtesy Rita LeBlanc, Nature Store Manager    

Toy Exhibit at the Lighthouse 
The holiday season is upon us, and the Refuge is proud to announce the opening of a very special exhibit at the lighthouse. At the request of our younger tour guests, we have answered the question of "What toys did the lighthouse children play with?"  
During our regular Lighthouse Tours in the months of December and January, you and your family will be able to take a step back in time and try your hand at games like "ball & cup," or rock on a wooden rocking horse or experience the
magic of looking through a stereoscope to see a 3-D image emerge before your very eyes. You will be welcome to take a seat on the rug and build a tower with letter blocks, try spinning a wooden top, take a gallop on a hobby horse, and maybe even hug a friendly doll or teddy bear.  
You will be surprised to find that dominoes were not always rectangular, and dolls used to have leather bodies. As an added treat, photos of some of the children who played in the Lighthouse will be interspersed throughout the exhibit so that you can meet them and learn their names.
Costumed Interpreters will be present to answer all your questions and share in the fun. What a perfectly delightful idea for a family outing.
NOTE: Open to the public on Sunday, December 30th from Noon to 4pm (last tour begins at 3:30pm); Friday, January 4th and Saturday, January 5th from 10am to 4pm (last tour begins at 3:30pm). The admission fee for the St. Marks Lighthouse Tour is $2 per adult, and children under the age of 12 are free. Please call the Refuge at 850-925-6121 for further information. 
Article courtesy Refuge ranger, Connie Clineman; Photo of Al Kudrick provided by his family and it was taken in the lighthouse in the 1950s. Toy exhibit photo, the Refuge  

  Watercolor Class Revisited    
A beautiful, cool autumn day was the setting for the recent watercolor class that was held at the Refuge on November 10. After approximately ten previous classes that were all geared toward beginners, this was the first offered to intermediate students. And, those who attended did not fudge on their resume.  Everyone who participated displayed excellent technique in the work they created.
Phillip Pollock led the class by demonstrating with a view of the lighthouse taken from the small lookout deck just north of the lighthouse.  His work inspired similar paintings of the keepers quarters and tower, while a few others worked on different subjects.
Two Refuge volunteers were students that day and both turned in excellent finished paintings. Marcia Bjerregaard painted the lighthouse scene shown above, while Jennifer Young created this evocative view of an old out-building (right).  Both paintings display wonderful technique and judicious use of color.   
The next watercolor class will be offered in late February/early March.  Look for a Reflections announcement prior to the date. 
The editor

Smith's Island Acquisition 
A Major Friends' Success Story
Smith's Island in Apalachee Bay barely projects above the high tide line. It is almost entirely salt marsh, with only a few cabbage palms and Spanish bayonet near one end. This minimal presence belies the island's importance ecologically, as a few local biologists and residents know well. For numerous coastal bird species, Smith's Island is a rookery - a hotspot for coastal bird breeding. An annual nest census conducted by St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge biologists has recorded as many as 1,500 nests there each season.
Protecting an important island such as this has been a top priority for a long time. Several years ago the Apalachee Land Conservancy, a 501.c.3 conservation partner, was fortunate to receive by donation a 50 percent undivided interest in the island, but was unable to secure the other 50 percent interest, which was in private hands.
John Whitton had known about the importance of Smith's Island as a coastal bird rookery for a long time, and loved to watch the birds there from his deck. So, when he learned that the half of the island that was in private hands might be available for sale, this long-time refuge volunteer and member of the Friends of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge stepped forward to contribute $5,000 toward its purchase.
John's generosity was contagious. Almost immediately the refuge Friends group matched his gift, plus agreed to cover closing costs, and another conservation partner, the Florida Audubon Society, stepped up to match John's $5,000 gift. Last March this combination of funds allowed purchase by the refuge Friends group of the 50 percent interest in Smith's Island that was privately owned. And the ball didn't stop there! Just last month the Apalachee Land Conservancy donated their half of the island to our Friends group.
With all the pieces of Smith's Island now combined under one owner, the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge is transferring all 20 acres of Smith's Island to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now all of the island, and all of its nesting birds, will be protected in perpetuity as part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
An important component of this good news story is the partnerships that were activated among several conservation organizations in our region. And, of course, we thank the Alpha Langston Sumner family, whose willingness to sell their interest in Smith's Island has insured its protection for future generations of coastal birds.

NOTE: In addition to the financial assistance from John Whitton, thank you to all of the Friends whose contributions helped in the matching process, making it possible to purchase the privately-owned acreage of Smith's Island.

Article courtesy of Paul Hamilton     

Birding Surveys Assist Our Visitors      
Don Morrow, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge volunteer and expert birder takes in-depth bird surveys at the Refuge frequently throughout the year.  Particularly now that there is good waterfowl diversity throughout the marshy areas and ponds, Don keeps us up-to-date on what we can see from week-to-week. As the administrator of the Friends website, I attempt to keep up with his visits and post his findings there. Go there now to see his latest efforts and read what he's seen most recently. 
On another note regarding Don's activity, he will be the guest speaker at the Visitor Center, in the Barred Owl Room in the Education Building for the January 13, "Second-Sunday" event.  Birds and Birding with Don Morrow . . . you won't want to miss it.
The editor    

A Record of Bird Songs
   Old School Spinnin' the Hits   

Back in the day, before the internet and digital technology (remember that period of time?), recordings of anything were often etched into vinyl discs or records.  What a concept, eh?
Just in case this idea is new to a few of the younger readers out there (or even those folks who want to remember when), I thought I'd display a few old bird song records that I've gathered over time (and even an old cassette
I still warm up my ancient turntable from time-to-time and spin some of these old records.  It's relaxing.  Hard to beat that
repetitive, soothing voice on the Peterson records, in particular, that would say, "Page 138, Chuck-Will's-Widow," followed by the bird call.  
Ah, those were the days.  

The editor 

WHO Festival, Coming February 2, 2019 
The mid-winter season at the Refuge is highlighted by the annual WHO (Wildlife Heritage and Outdoors) Festival. This year, the festival takes place on Saturday, February 2, from 11:00 am until 4 pm.  
Come and join in on the fun and learn about the many and varied recreational opportunities offered at the Refuge. There will be wildlife exhibits inside the Visitor Center, a turkey call contest, fly fishing and archery how-to demonstrations, as well as many other activities for young and old alike.  
Each year, there is food available for purchase at the Visitor Center area, as well as live music. Inside the education building, wildlife art work and other wildlife-related exhibits are on display. 
The editor 

Reflections Newsletter Reminder
Reflections is now being published bi-monthly.  We will continue to give you plenty of advance notice on all events and highlight important Friends and Refuge news; however, it will appear with less frequency.  Look forward to your next issue February 15. 

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 newsletter is a benefit of membership for Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. It also serves as an important supplement to  
Both the newsletter and the web site provide members and the public information about volunteer activities and events at the Refuge.

Reflections Editor, Phillip M. Pollock