Government Shutdown Recovery      
The government shutdown is now in our rear-view mirror, and it's time to push forward into the new year.  
As most of you know, the Refuge was only operating at a minimum level for approximately 35 days recently - staff members were furloughed, the Visitor Center and Nature Store were closed, and restroom facilities were not available.  And, as you might guess, this  posed problems. Primary among those was loss of income from the Nature Store being closed (nearly $15,000 was lost over the closure time that normally goes to support Refuge projects), and of course, loss of pay to Refuge staff. Also, programing for planned events (such as this month's WHO Festival and the Shutterbugs and watercolor classes) did not take place. Nor did behind the gates bird and wildlife tours. Finally, with the general facilities closure and missing staff, trash and litter could have become a problem, but visitors were respectful of the refuge grounds.
Many volunteers stepped up to assist with clean-up as much as possible.  Board members Susan Cason and Karen Willes worked several different days to haul trash away from the Refuge, as did Cyndi and Matt Johnstone. A huge thanks go, especially, to these four volunteers. The three portable toilets at the lighthouse that were available, as you might imagine, created health and sanitation concerns due to lack of maintenance over the long haul.
At least two civic organizations, Sierra Club and Capital City Women's Club, volunteered during the shutdown to assist with clean-up in any way possible. Other groups and individuals that we don't know by name simply stepped up to help, and they were often seen helping with trash and litter.  
Unfortunately, the shutdown also created problems that are not as visible to the public. For example, all of the biological programs such as the Red-Cockaded woodpeckers and the Flatwoods Frosted salamanders failed to be monitored over this long span of time. These and other biological initiatives are sensitive (that's why we nurture them) such that they suffer due to lack of attention. In addition, the interns (university students who are fulfilling school credit requirements) who assist in the monitoring were not able to work on the Refuge and thus their educational obligations were interrupted.    
  As a show of support for the furloughed staff at the Refuge, The Friends group organized a picnic on a very cold and windy January day at Wakulla Springs State Park.
  But, in spite of the weather, as you see here, everyone enjoyed the warm meal and desserts, along with the cheerful and upbeat conversation. Everyone had a great time. (Refuge staff members, Robin Will and Travis Pollard, at right, and above foreground, David Moody along with Friends Board member Leslie Paugh serving food.)  
It is uncertain what may happen in the future (another shutdown may take place within just a few days of the issue of this newsletter), when and if we experience this same problem again, but we have certainly seen the very negative impacts that the shutdown has had on the Refuge.  For all of you who helped, in any way, whether through physical support or simply empathy for the problem at hand, we thank you.  
An important footnote to this story is that, as you might guess, staff were not able to work at the main entrance, thus the public could have entered the Refuge without paying admission during the shutdown.  In spite of this, many visitors still made the payment at the pull-off just beyond the toll booth. In addition, many paid more than required. If you were someone in this group, we applaud and appreciate your dedication.  
If you care to assist the Refuge over this lean period, don't hesitate to make a donation at any time. And, as always, we look forward to your visits and continued support in the coming days, months and years ahead.  Thank you
Article, the editor, photos courtesy Board of Directors member, Karen Willes   


The 2017-18 Annual Report

Available Online Now

We are pleased to present the 2017-2018 annual report of the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, and we're very proud of accomplishments made during this past year. Highlights of accomplishments include:
  • Restoration of the lighthouse Keeper's Quarters
  • Funding for interns for the Environmental Education program
  • Continued funding for conservation interns
  • New POS (point of sale) system for the Nature Store. Check out is now simpler and allows for a continually updated inventory.
These are just the high points of the report. Take a look at ALL of our successes over the previous year now
The editor   

The Takeover
Sometimes things at the Refuge don't always seem quite fair, where the wildlife is concerned, that is.  Take for example the landmark eagle's nest just shy of the lighthouse on the west side of Lighthouse Rd.  Just when you thought it was safe to go out and hunt for your family, and maybe stay away from your nest a bit too long, along come the owls.
And, recently, that's just what happened.  Great Horned owls aggressively took over the large nest that we've always thought of as THE eagle's nest at the Refuge. That's changed, at least, for now, as the owls took possession and forced the eagle inhabitants to move across the road.  So now, while the eagles are a bit closer to the on the east side of Lighthouse Road, they are far less visible.   
Our patient board member, Karen Willes, however, managed to document both the owls in their new dwelling, and the eagles in their very obscure home. 
Article courtesy the editor; photos Karen Willes    

A Continued T-Shirt Success Story
There is a strong positive note related to the recent shutdown. The Area-X  t-shirt sales, a major Nature Store success story that began last fall, are still extremely strong.  
During the shutdown many requests and purchases were made and monitored by store manager Rita LeBlanc.  Even though the store was closed due to the shutdown, Rita was able to access our inventory and mail them out, sometimes to Area-X and Annihilation fans who lived internationally.   
Rita, single-handedly, allowed the Nature Store to show success during the 35 days of closure. The sale of the shirts generated the only income for the store during the shutdown. We are fortunate to have her dedication and volunteer expertise.   
Once again, a huge note of gratitude is due Jeff VanderMeer (Annihilation book author) as he  has generously authorized us to produce and sell the Area-X t-shirts. All proceeds go to the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge to benefit Refuge programs.  Thank you so much, Jeff.   
The t-shirts are still available through the Nature Store. On your next visit, take home a t-shirt and choose from a variety of wonderful nature-themed merchandise. The Nature Store offers a great selection of books.  
Article courtesy the editor   

First Take on Wildlife
On a lighter note, and in the spirit of play, I like to take Friends down memory lane from time-to-time.  And recently, as I was sorting through some old 'stuff', I realized that, for some of us, the Little Golden Books may have been the first real exposure to wildlife when growing up. This would be especially true for children living in urban spaces.     
Regardless of where we started our careers as interested naturalists, the Little Golden Books were often part of our reading arsenal.  They were there when I was little, and my guess is that they were there for many of you reading this now.
A smile certainly came to my face when I looked over some of these book covers - how could you not see the whimsy in these?  And, even if you happened to grow up in a French-speaking household, there was even a Donald (loosely, a bird, I guess) and the Ants volume waiting for you. Enjoy! 
Article courtesy the editor  


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 here. Go there now to see his latest survey taken on Friday, February 8.
The editor    

Coming up at the Refuge

February 17
Bird and Nature Tour with Matt and Cyndi Johnstone.
10 am - 1 pm Meet in the Visitors Center parking lot. Call (850) 925-6121 to reserve a spot. Limit 25.
March 1 and 2
Historic St. Marks lighthouse - keeper's quarters open for tours
10 am - 4 pm. $2/admission. Antique toy exhibit and more!
March 2
Bird and Nature Tours with Don Morrow. 9 am - Noon and
1 - 4 pm.  Meet at the Visitors Center parking lot. Call (850) 925-6121 to reserve a spot. Limit 25.
March 10
Second Sunday at the Refuge, 2 pm.  The Search for Spring Creek, Jeff Shanks, SEAC. Over a century ago antiquarian Clarence B. Moore excavated the Spring Creek burial mound on what is now part of the St. Marks Refuge. NPS archaeologist Jeff Shanks and his colleagues have been searching for the village site that should accompany the mound based on their prior research.

Last 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 April 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