Meet Our Two New, Soon-To-Be, Board Members        
Meet Laura Rush and Giedre Mazelyte. They are new to our board and will become official members of our Friends' Board of Directors after our Annual Meeting in the Spring.  (A vote of approval by Friends' members is required in our bylaws.)
Laura (at left) brings a strong legal career background to the board, but in addition, she has a great love for hiking and outdoor activities of all kinds, music, art and public land protection.  

Giedre (right), similarly, is very active in many outdoor pursuits. She is a student and excels in wildlife photography (primarily Florida springs) and kayaking.  In addition, Giedre has been volunteering for the Refuge by updating the informational and graphic kiosk at the base of the lighthouse.
On your next visit to the Refuge, please welcome both Laura and Giedre when you see them.
The editor
 Rare Black-headed Gull at the Refuge

Recently, a few of our local and regional birders had the luxury of sighting this rare visitor to Florida - the Black-headed Gull shown above. Only about 10 such sightings are recorded in Florida. Of our birders, Doug Beach snapped this photo. But, before you rush to the Refuge to catch a glimpse, you should know that a predator took this bird within several days of its initial appearance. It is possible the bird was injured, sick or simply vulnerable. However, the sighting is instructive for birders everywhere - on any given day, rare birds may cross your path. Many thanks to Doug for letting us share this impressive photo, and to Matt Johnstone who helped me piece this short story together. If this information appeals to you, read Don Morrow's survey below from only two days ago to get some ideas on what you may currently see at the Refuge.  
the editor  

December Bird Survey
(Don Morrow regularly provides us with sighting info, this from 12/14)

I t was a cold morning with a good late morning tide. I made a quick decision to go for a combined duck and shorebird survey. In 7.5 hours starting at 6:00 a.m., I logged 97 species. I had 2,068 ducks of 19 species including Black Scoter. I had 17 shorebird species, but numbers are down because Stony Bayou I is flooded. I had a Wilson's Warbler in the willows along Lighthouse Road at the South end of East River Pool and a Vesper Sparrow on the levee at Tower Pond. Some highlights of my day (and where I made sightings) were:

Stony Bayou II (South Levee is now closed to the public, use the
North levee)
  • Roseate Spoonbill 2
  • Wood Duck (111 in the morning flight)
  • Teal (576 GW and 87 BW)
  • Black Duck (6)
  • Mallard (49)
  • Northern Shoveler (10)
  • Northern Pintail (79)
  • Redhead 1
  • Ring-necked Duck 2
  • Scaup 26 (mostly Lesser)
  • Bufflehead 65
  • Hooded Merganser 58
  • Red-breasted Merganser 7
  • Sora (many calling along the North Levee)
  • Merlin (seems to be hanging out for the winter)
  • Vermilion Flycatcher (two females)
Mounds Pool III (most birds on the South end, accessible from Tower Pond Trail)
  • Gadwall (3)
  • American Wigeon 3
  • Black Duck 2
  • Mallard 11
  • GW Teal 31
  • Bufflehead 24
  • Hooded Merganser 19
Lighthouse Pond 
  • American Wigeon 8
  • Blue-winged Teal 2
  • Northern Shoveler 3
  • Canvasback 8
  • Redhead 15
  • Scaup 150 (mostly Lesser)
  • Bufflehead 7
  • Hooded Merganser 2
  • There were almost 800 shorebirds of 13 species; mostly Dunlin and SB Dowitcher, but including Marbled Godwit.
  • Common Loon
  • Horned Grebe
  • Black Scoter ( a pair flew by)
  • Common Goldeneye 15
Picnic Pond (really hopping this year, primarily in the Northeast corner)
  • Gadwall 57
  • American Wigeon 163
  • Mallard 1
  • Northern Pintail 6
  • GW Teal 25
  • Canvasback 5
  • Redhead 1
  • Ring-necked Duck 2
  • Scaup 21
  • Bufflehead 22
There were 67 Ring-necked Ducks on Headquarters Pond; Robins at the Double Bridges and a Bonaparte's Gull (I checked carefully) on Picnic Pond. The rock star male Vermilion is still at the Double Dikes. We are in the fullness of winter birding. Dress warmly and go to the Refuge.
Article courtesy of Don Morrow, Friends' volunteer birding guide; Illustration, editor.   

The Nature Store
Your Last-Minute Shopping Stop
If you think nature enthusiasts (hikers, birders, kayakers, hunters, fishermen) in your life have every book or guide on their subject, think again. We have a large selection of guides on most nature topics at prices from below $10 to $40. Maps of the local hiking trails, local waters, and local roads are all available in the Friends Nature Store.
Stocking stuffers? We have laminated, foldout guides on over 25 subjects, including butterflies, snakes, ducks, mammals, flowers, and local fish. For birders or hunters, we have a "Ducks in Flight" field guide and our newest 2017 guide book, "The Crossley ID Guide for Waterfowl." For the children or grandchildren in your life you'll find nature-themed books for toddlers to young adults, including subjects relating to St. Marks NWR, biographies of famous naturalists, and novels featuring environmental themes. Always popular sticker and coloring books are also here.
Local authors, including Gail Fishman and Susan Cerulean, have books on area history. And there's a good selection of books about lighthouses & their keepers, including the St. Marks Lighthouse. Choose from a terrific selection of t-shirts featuring Florida plants and wildlife. Also, just in time for cold weather, there are long sleeve t-shirts in navy or gray imprinted with the beautiful St. Marks Lighthouse. We also carry colorful canvas tote bags, mugs, magnets, walking sticks, and so much more!
This Holiday Season why not support the Refuge you love while shopping for the people you love!

Article courtesy of volunteer, Cyndi Johnstone. Photo credits, store manager and volunteer, Rita LeBlanc.

End of Year Giving

Some of you may have seen our recent Facebook postings regarding an end-of-year donation.  This is a last, gentle reminder that, if you had planned to do that, but you had put it off, now is a great time to give to one of your favorite programs at the Refuge 
Whether your passion is one of many wildlife initiatives, the lighthouse, or our environmental efforts, your gift, small or large, will make a difference.
We've had a few minor glitches with this payment link recently, but it's all working beautifully now.  As you will see, you can make contributions as little as $10 on up. Show your holiday spirit. Remember, a Refuge gift gives back every time you visit. 

the editor

Construction Kick-Off at Lighthouse

A Construction Kick-Off Event was held at the St. Marks Lighthouse on Friday, December 1 to highlight the start of Phase II renovations that focus on the lighthouse tower and keeper's quarters. Against a backdrop of construction activity underway, Tom Baird, Friends Board of Directors Vice President, welcomed attendees (below right). Callie Neal (photo below), President of Rippee Construction, told the audience what this lighthouse means to her family and all those working on the grand,
old structure.

Guests included the Florida Secretary of State, Executive Director of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, Chairman of the Wakulla Co. Board of Commissioners, and staff from Senator Bill Nelson's office. Work is slated to be completed in March on this phase. 

As workers have removed the old flooring in the keeper's quarters, numerous items have been found. These include fragments of a 1930s newspaper, pieces of broken ceramic items, a leather shoe sole, a buckle, a flour sack, a domino game piece, and other items. Rick Kanaski, USFWS archaeologist, has taken the items for study and conservation. Most will be  on display in the lighthouse museum at a
future date.
Photo credits - Callie Neal, courtesy Tom Baird; Tom Baird photo just above, courtesy  Richard Chichetti; artifacts at left, volunteer.  

Milkweed Nursery Update  
As fall comes to an end, the milkweed plants grown at St. Marks'  milkweed nursery are settling down for a long winter's nap. As they do naturally, the milkweed is going dormant. This trait is what makes the milkweed we grow so valuable, because it encourages monarch butterflies to migrate south. It also keeps disease at bay by not providing foliage that dangerous pathogens can attack. With a successful fall season behind us, when we sowed over 3,000 Asclepias tuberosa seeds alone, the milkweed nursery is starting to prepare for a vibrant and productive spring when the milkweed awake. This means more workdays, more seeds sewn, more outreach, and more milkweeds.
Article courtesy, Louie Castillo. Photo, the editor  
Montreal Visit and Gift 
Recently, the Refuge was delighted by a visit from our neighbors way north of us. The Montreal Friendship Force, a force of 13 to be exact, were in the area as guests of our local Tallahassee Friendship Force.
As a show of appreciation for being hosted by the Tallahassee group, the Montreal Friendship Force donated $100 to the Friends.  In the photo below, Robin Will, Supervisory Refuge Ranger, accepts a check on behalf of these delightful visitors and their organization. 

When the Montreal group returned to Canada, their visit here was documented in their very own Friendship Force of Montreal newsletter. "On a cool and pleasant morning, we visited the Monarch-Milkweed Initiative nursery at
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. There, we learned from impassioned Ranger Scott
Davis (photo directly above) how the Refuge is growing Monarch butterfly larval food plants," wrote Louisette Proulx. 

The Refuge and the Friends appreciate the gift and really enjoyed these distinguished guests. Thank you Montreal for sharing. 
Article courtesy, the editor. Photos courtesy, Refuge staff 
Refuge News    
Monarch Butterflies
Monarch butterfly tagging has been completed for this year, with the last tagging occurring on November 25. FWCC will complete its findings soon.  
Frosted flatwoods salamanders
Our interns, with USGS interns,  have been working to trap salamanders moving during recent rainfalls. So far, 90 or more salamanders have been trapped, including 30 gravid females. Roughly 80% are new captures. Interns are now collecting egg clusters to transfer to our cattle holding tanks.
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