In the World of Technology, Change is Good

As we begin another new year with Friends of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, what better time to freshen up our look and our communications. Good website design, believe it or not, calls for a
redesign about every two to three years.  Change is good, no?  So, there's a new banner in place, plus a few more subtle visual improvements. Plus, if you go to our Friends' Facebook page and our Friends' website, you will see that we've carried these branding elements over to all of our communications. 
The editor

WHO Festival Just Three Weeks Away

The 12th annual Wildlife Heritage & Outdoors (WHO) Festival will be held on  Saturday February 3 from 11 am - 4 pm at the Refuge.
Demonstrations and events at this year's festival will be very diverse. You will be able to learn about camping and camp fire techniques, like the important best ways for roasting marshmallows, along with securing camp foods and setting up your tent. Also, children and adults will learn ways to identifying some of our native Florida wildlife by their skins and skulls.  For the fishermen in attendance, learn how to cast with a fly rod, and try your hand at catching a "bass on the grass". The trails near the Education Building will be open so that visitors can observe animal tracks, and you will learn about phone apps that can assist with documenting sightings on the hiking trail. Finally, demonstrations will discuss digital photography techniques, identifying medicinal plants, archery, safety in the woods, and more.
Music will again be offered by Hot Tamale, and the Friends' cooking crew will serve yummy, hot Bradley sausages.
Regular entrance fees apply. Due to live animal exhibits and wildlife tours, please leave your pets at home.    

Article courtesy of Senior Supervisory Ranger, Robin Will; photo, the editor

Lighthouse Artifacts Surface

Whenever construction takes place to make something look better, there is always that not-so-glamorous time when things are in disarray. And, that is the case right now at the lighthouse. In order to stabilize the keepers' quarters, which is  one major goal in this part of lighthouse work, a lot of careful, hard work needs to take place to de-construct old interior walls, ceilings and floors.  Then, as the scope of deterioration is analyzed and repaired, we will begin to see how attractive the interior becomes as workmen give new life to the quarters.

Recently, when floors were being removed in the "second" room (four rooms comprise the quarters and are numbered 1-4 as they extend beyond the tower) a number of key artifacts were unearthed. They may appear simple on casual view . . . a pottery piece here, a hinge there . . . but these are the kinds of materials that help tell the day-to-day story behind life at the lighthouse. More artifacts will undoubtedly come to light as construction continues, and they will all be part of exhibits that tell the Keepers Quarters' story.

Article courtesy the editor;  photography Craig Kittendorf, Refuge staff  

Carney Interns - Key to Conservation Success    

Thanks to significant financial support from Dr. Ed and Hilda Carney over the past 4 years, Refuge conservation projects have profited from a steady stream of advanced college students serving as interns. Known as the Carney Interns, these dedicated and enthusiastic students have been the driving force behind the success of Refuge efforts to establish colonies of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers (RCW) at St. Marks and rebuild populations of the threatened Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders.


On January 16th the Refuge will welcome two new faces, Shelby Bauer from Oregon State University and Shaylee Church from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, to carry on this important work under the guidance of Refuge biologists Joe Reinman and Jonathan Chandler.  Shelby and Shaylee will be building on work related to the RCW project begun in 2014 by the original two Carney Interns as well as the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander project started by the second round of Carney Interns in 2015.


The earlier Carney Interns helped establish RCWs at St. Marks. Now Shelby and Shaylee will be charged with monitoring the progress of the active clusters. Refuge biologists want to know how successful recent translocation projects have been and where translocated RCWs are nesting within the Refuge. They will also continue the site restoration work critical to RCW translocation by removal of habitat invasives such as cogon grass, torpedo grass, and cuban bulrush.


Prior Carney interns established a "nursery" for Frosted Flatwoods Salamander larvae so that greater numbers of the federally threatened species could be returned to their natal ponds. Shelby and Shaylee will inherit 40 tanks filled with larvae. Their tasks will include maintaining the tanks and tagging the new salamanders to track project success. Without the Carney Interns Refuge biologists estimate fewer than 10 tanks of salamander larvae could be maintained. This translates into many more salamanders going into many more ponds throughout the Refuge.


Refuge Biologist Joe Reinman summed up the immense contribution of the Carney interns by noting "the Carney Interns have been the biggest boost to the Refuge's biological program in my 36 years at St. Marks".  


Article courtesy of John Haines, Friends' Board Treasurer 


Please join us for breakfast on Sunday March 4 at 10 am, prior to the 2 pm First Sunday presentation in the Education Building at the Refuge. The menu isn't completed as yet, but we do know that "Egg Muffins St. Marks" will be part of the fare for this late winter time of year.  
Our membership chair, Susan Cason, does not disappoint, as you will remember from last year's breakfast. "We look forward to having Friends here in numbers to, more or less, usher out the cold weather and bring on spring," said Cason. "The most important aspect of this get-together is (aside from promoting the idea of becoming 'a Friend') the wonderful camaraderie that occurs. We have so much talent here - photographers, writers, biologists, artists and more - and everyone seems so excited about sharing their knowledge.  It's always a lot of fun," she said.
Look for an update to this event in the following, February, issue of Reflections.   
The editor

Whooping Cranes Update   

To the best of our knowledge, there are only two male whooping cranes on the Refuge at this time. One is an adult male while the second is a yearling. The adult male summered on White River Marsh Wildlife Area in Wisconsin and wintered on the St. Marks NWR every year since 2012. He befriended the yearling throughout the entirety of last summer in Wisconsin, then made the migration with him here. 

Most Friends are probably aware, by now, of the extreme sensitivity of the Whooping Cranes initiative. Operation Migration whooping crane researcher and pilot Brooke Pennypacker arrived mid-December, and he is tracking the two cranes on the Wakulla Unit and two cranes in Madison County Florida.  
Finally, mark your calendar for the First Sunday event at the Refuge on February 4 when Whooping Cranes highlight the presentation!  
Article, the editor and 'one dedicated volunteer'; watercolor illustration, editor 

Watercolor Class  
Join Friends' Board of Directors' member, Phillip Pollock, on Saturday, February 24, from 1-3:30 pm as he leads beginner and intermediate art students through some basic watercolor concepts for landscape painting. Work on a wintry scene like that above, or let Florida salt marshes be your subject.
This class will involve a bit less instruction and a lot more participant painting and instructor feedback.  There is no fee for this class, though, as always, there is an entrance fee to the Refuge. 
Call the (850) 925-6121 to sign up and receive the course description. There are only 6 slots available for this class, so call now. 
the editor

Pollinator Art Contest 
Whether you are a proponent of Oscar Wilde's idea of "life imitating art", or you subscribe to the converse of that quote, it is safe to say that the young artists who competed in the 2017 Pollinator Art Contest illustrated key concepts relating to pollination. Take a look at some of the artists' work here that won the attention of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service judges in the 2017 competition. Go to the website to see all of the entries.
The editor. Photos courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service    

Refuge News    
New Kiosk Takes a Look at Refuge Trails and  
Hiking Opportunities
Did you know that the Refuge comprises 150 miles of refuge roads, and 75 miles of marked trails (including the 49.5 mile Florida Trail)?
Check out the new kiosk at the base of the lighthouse the next time you are there to read more and see some of the beautiful sights available along these hiking trails.
Exhibit design and photo, Giedre Mazelyte 
Martin Luther King, Jr Day 
Monday, January 15, free admission 
Birding and Wildlife Observation
Monday, January 29, 9:00 am to noon.  Join Matt and Cyndi Johnstone for a behind the gates wagon tour.  Seating is limited.  Call (850) 925-6121 to register.

Refuge Bird Survey
Check out Don Morrow's January 6 survey on the Friends' website.

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