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Bird Detective, a Program for Beginning Birders

Bird Detective, a Program for Beginning BirdersFernandina Beach, FL – Would you like to be a birder and know more about the many species of Florida birds that live on or visit Amelia Island?

Do you know how to begin this birdwatching quest?

Wild Amelia and the City of Fernandina Beach, Department of Parks and Recreation, have announced that a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Program, Bird Detective, may be the answer to those questions.

This hour-long program will be offered to beginning birders of all ages on Saturday, February 16, at 10:00 a.m. in the Rec Room of the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center.

This program is free!

The instructor for the Bird Detective program will be Carole Adams of the Duval Audubon Society who has been a birder since the age of 10. A popular, in-demand lecturer, Carole has served as President of two Audubon chapters and has been a member of the Board of Audubon of Florida. She has worked tirelessly on habitat protection in Florida and was thrilled to be among a team of three who discovered the Great Sand-Plover on Huguenot in May 2009.

This informative Fish and Wildlife program, Bird Detective, explores the six clues to bird identification: body types, distinctive markings, bills, behavior, habitat and sound. Further, the program reveals what these clues teach about a bird’s identity and more!

Though the Bird Detective program was originally written for 3rd through 5th graders, it is useful for beginning birders of all ages. So both the young and the young at heart are welcome to attend!

Individuals who would like to attend the Bird Detective program should pre-register by calling the Recreation Center Administrative Office at 904-277-7350.

For more information about the Bird Detective program, check out floridabirdingtrail.com.

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Join White Oak for a Sunset Safari

Join White Oak for a Sunset SafariOne of these days I am going to make it to White Oak Conservation Center and this Sunset Safari sounds wonderful. Here is there latest adventure:

Join our Conservation Center staff for a tour of the wildlife area as the sun sets and the animals are most active!

Evening is the perfect time for photographs, and the tour’s open-air trolleys provide a great view to capture the magic of White Oak at sundown. The 600-acre Conservation Center is one of the world’s premiere wildlife breeding, research, and training facilities, and is located along the St. Mary’s River in northeast Florida.

After the tour, enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a gourmet dinner in one of White Oak’s beautiful dining areas; the beautifully appointed Great Hall formal dining room, or the outdoor Pavilion located along a scenic stretch of the St. Mary’s River.

This event is ideal for couples looking for a unique dinner experience, or wildlife enthusiasts searching for that perfect zebra picture.

Guests can combine the Sunset Safari with an overnight stay in one of White Oak’s distinctive guest houses to create a weekend to remember.

Three events are scheduled:
Saturday, September 22nd, October 13th and November 17th
5:30-8:30pm September and October dates. 4:00-7:00pm in November
$175 per person and $300 per couple
Overnight packages are available, call (904) 225-3285 for pricing information.

For questions about supporting White Oak Conservation Center, please contact us at (904) 225-3396 or visit www.whiteoakconservation.org.

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Indian Rhino Calf Born at White Oak Conservation Center

Indian Rhino Calf Born at White Oak Conservation CenterWith all of the negative things in the news lately, here is a positively exciting tidbit from the White Oak Conservation Center:

Yulee, FL – White Oak Conservation Center’s female Indian Rhino gave birth to a male calf on June 2, 2011. This birth marks the first Indian rhino born at White Oak Conservation Center and is the result of the Center’s collaboration with the AZA Indian Rhino Species Survival Plan. The infant’s sire (father) was the first Indian Rhino born in North America (1974) who came to the Center in 2006 from the Toronto Zoo after siring calves there. The calf is doing well being raised by his dam (mother) who came to the Center in 2009 from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“A new rhino calf is always an exciting addition for both staff and guests, but this particular birth took years of planning and coordination,” said Steve Shurter, Director of Conservation. “With the help of zoo partners, and a lot of patience and care from our vets and keepers, we were able to provide just the right environment for the parent rhinos to produce and raise their bouncing baby rhino calf. We couldn’t be more pleased with the result.”

The Indian, or Greater One-Horned Rhino, is considered to have a vulnerable status in the wild with a population of approximately 2,500 remaining. They are found in Nepal and India where they live in moist river valleys. The lifespan is expected to be 35-40 years. The Indian rhino is known as the “plated rhino”, having thick shields of skin that protect the animal’s vital areas during attacks or fights with other rhinos.

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Celebration of White Oak 2012

Celebration of White Oak 2012White Oak Conservation Center is having their annual Celebration of White Oak on Sunday, April 29th and space is limited so get your tickets now!

From 1:00 to 5:30 PM, experience unforgettable animal encounters of the Conservation Center, then enjoy a delicious dinner along the St. Marys River. Please dress for a casual afternoon spent outdoors.

Space is limited and tickets are $200 per person. ($100 of the $200 qualifies as a tax-deductible contribution to White Oak Conservation Center, Inc.)

For reservations or more information, please call 904-225-3396, or visit the website at www.whiteoakconservation.org/events.

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WOCC Welcomes Pair of Cheetah Cubs

WOCC Welcomes Pair of Cheetah CubsNassau County, FL – White Oak Conservation Center is celebrating two of our newest residents, a pair of female cheetah cubs. These cubs are the offspring of Pia and Duma. This is the second litter for Pia. Duma has sired several litters, including one last year!

The two female cubs are being hand-raised because their mother was unable to produce enough milk to feed them. When the cubs were newborns, they were fed by bottle 9 times a day by our keepers. Today they receive a raw meat diet 4 times a day.

These cubs are being raised as part of our ambassador program to help teach the importance of cheetah conservation to guests at the Conservation Center.

Currently there are fewer than 10,000 cheetahs in the wild. This is the first litter for WOCC this year. Last year, two litters were born at White Oak Conservation Center.

For questions about supporting White Oak Conservation Center, please contact them at: (904) 225-3396 or visit the website: www.whiteoakconservation.org.

Lunch and Learn with the Birds

Lunch and Learn with the BirdsJoin White Oak for their Lunch and Learn with the Birds on October 15. This is one of their Safaris, a special series of lunches designed for you to learn about different species of animals, while enjoying lunch in the field!

This month will focus on the birds, The Avian Collection.

You will enjoy a trolley ride to the animal area, an educational experience about the animal, the opportunity to take photographs and see the animals up close, and when you leave, you will receive a commemorative photograph of that day’s species!

Each Safari will have time available for you to ask our keepers and staff questions about the species.

Tickets are $75 per person for non-members, $50 per person for members (Friends level and up only) and this includes lunch, animal experience, and a souvenir.

For More Information visit their website at wocenter.org/lunchandlearn.asp.

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Sea Turtle Survival on Amelia Island – For what it’s worth

Turtles on Amelia Island

Only twenty hatchlings survive the coldest night of the Amelia Island Turtle season.

Hatching is the most dangerous time for sea turtles. Guided by the low, open horizon, newborns dash for the sea and only safety in numbers protects them from birds and crabs. And the next part of their trip is not too cozy either as sharks and predatory fish patrol shallow waters, waiting to prey upon hatchlings. Scientists estimate only 1 of 100 turtles live to become an adult. However, once these turtles become adults, some 20 years after having hatched, there are very few ocean organisms that predate them. Of course there is always mankind to make that statement false. The Turtle survivorship curve is known as Type III because hatchlings endure high mortality rates, while adults thrive.

Oh I know I’m not going to be popular in certain circles with the following opinion piece, but I need to say something about the turtle protection ordinances on this island and maybe the State of Florida, that may help creating a better sustainable future.

We have written on numerous occasions about the need to protect Turtles and my disclaimer for the following opinion hinges on the fact that even though I love all animals, when it comes to economic dependency, I will try to find a realistically sustainable balance .  Not always easy, especially not when there are so many diverging interests at play on this island.

When I see a snake on the road warming on the asphalt, I chase it back into the safety of the brushes, before the next joyriding teenager needs to prove that he can kill a snake with a car. When I see a turtle cross the road I stop traffic for a safe crossing in stark contrast to jerks in trucks who swerve across the road just to hit the poor animal (you know who you are!). Last year I asked a surfer to take a little struggling hatchling on his board way out into the water and release it there. I was trying to give it a fighting chance, even though I knew it was probably not going to be strong enough to make it. But it was quite a sight seeing the surfer pushing his board with that little turtle sitting in the middle of it. I’m a softy when it comes to animals and I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to protect them as we are more and more encroaching on their territories. But don’t for one minute think I’m a bleeding heart. Because realities dictate life, even for animals and especially for Sea Turtles.

The story of the Sea Turtles is that all species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered. The leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, and hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered. The Olive Ridley and green sea turtles are endangered, and the loggerhead is threatened. The flatback’s conservation status is unclear due to lack of data but they seem to be doing okay in Northern Australia. Green Turtles and Loggerheads is what we host mostly here on Amelia Island.

Learning How to Improve the Survival Rate of Turtles

• One of the most significant threats was, and in certain areas still comes from by-catch due to imprecise fishing methods. Long-lining has been identified as a major cause of accidental sea turtle death. Sea turtles must surface to breathe. Caught in a fisherman’s net, they are unable to surface and thus drown. In early 2007, almost a thousand sea turtles were killed inadvertently in the Bay of Bengal over the course of a few months after netting. We learned soon after that some relatively inexpensive changes to fishing techniques, such as slightly larger hooks and traps from which sea turtles can escape, can dramatically cut the mortality rate. Turtle Excluder Devices have reduced sea turtle by-catch in shrimp nets by 97 percent. That’s a valuable improvement.

• Another danger comes from marine debris, especially from abandoned fishing nets in which they can become entangled. A plastic bag in the ocean is a killer, but even the filter of a cigarette butt can get stuck in a little turtle’s windpipe and kill. Not unenforceable laws, but only human behavior can change this.

• Another major threat to sea turtles is black-market trade in eggs and meat as well as black-market demand for tortoiseshell for both decoration and supposed health benefits.  I know backstreet establishments in Key West where Turtle Steaks are the number one consumed item on the menu, next to Turtle Soup. This is a problem throughout the world. Sea turtles are often consumed during the season of Lent, even though they are reptiles, not fish. Consequently, conservation organizations have written letters to the Pope and other religious leaders to ban sea turtles meat from the approved list of foods.

• Since the attraction to live on the beach is ingrained in the American Dream, beach development has become another area which threatens sea turtles procreation. Since many sea turtles return to the same beach each time to nest, development can disrupt the cycle, but given the actual nest building even in developed beach fronts, protection activities need to change from prevention to include protection. In a growing number of areas on the east coast of Florida, conservationists dig up sea turtle eggs and relocate them to fenced nurseries to protect them from beach traffic.

• With development comes the danger of light. Since hatchlings find their way to the ocean by crawling towards the brightest horizon, they can become disoriented on developed stretches of coastline. Lighting restrictions can prevent lights from shining on the beach and confusing hatchlings. Sea turtle-safe lighting uses red or amber LED light, invisible to sea turtles, in place of white light.

The media hyped case of Dr. Carmen Martinez and the Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast

The first nest of the season

Local and Jacksonville media are now making a big case out of the fact that Carmen Martinez, owner of the Amelia OceanFront Bed and Breakfast on Fletcher Ave, allegedly left ocean facing lights on at her property which caused some hatchlings to be disoriented and instead of scrambling to the waterline were struck and killed by cars on Fletcher Ave. Reality is that Dr. Martinez tried to comply with the ordinances but as an off property operator of the Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast, she entirely depends on her guests to follow the request to not turn lights on at night. Her B&B, which does not have owner quarters, is directly on the beach and if not one but TWO turtle moms decide this year to dig one of their nests 20 feet from the building, the issue of survival for the hatchlings puts a certain responsibility on The local Turtle Watch, instead of leaving the responsibilities with an already beleaguered  business owner. Here is what I found while studying the Amelia Island Turtle Watch website (they keep great administrative track).

It turns out that the 1735 House (renamed by Carmen Martinez into Amelia Oceanfront B&B when she bought the property a couple of years ago) was the recipient of 2 Nests this year, apparently almost at the same spot and in a crossover time frame. The first nest number 88 for the year, was found on June 27 by W. Dewitt and K. Cain, marked as KC6, Insitu, which means the nest was left on site and not removed, located behind the Oceanfront Bed & Breakfast (1735 House) just north of beach access 6.

The second nest, numbered 126 for the year, marked as EH10 and discovered on July 17, just 20 days after the first nest, also received the location marker “North edge of 1735 House, just north of beach access 6 (green turtle).”
It appears that both nests must have been near or on top of each other, reason enough to think that maybe one or both should have been relocated to another site.

Nest KC6 hatched on August 18 with no significant problems. Out of the 156 egg shards counted, 130 hatchlings emerged safely to the water, 10 didn’t hatch, 8 were found live in the nest and 18 were found dead in the nest. All accounted for. Nest EH10 hatched on September 7 and the numbers for this nest are 188 shards, 185 live turtles emerged, while the other 3 decided not to leave the egg.

So far I can only say that the area around Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast is apparently quite fertile and in demand, since both nests were by far the largest of the 2011 Nesting Season here on Amelia Island, and a total of 315 hatchlings made it to the water. Frankly I’m a bit at a loss with the allegation that hatchlings died on the road as a result of lights being turned on at the Inn. Unless other nests in the vicinity hatched (I could only find one, much earlier in the season, on the list of 156 nests this year) and the hatchlings decided to walk the beach parallel until they hit the Inn for a scroll to the road, I cannot find any information on what nest became the victim of night light exposure.

In any case here is how the Annual Process of Turtle Protection on Amelia Island unfolds. In nesting season (May through August) nest spotters (volunteers) come out every morning to clearly mark and picket new nests. I’ve seen it dozens of times since June as I walk a stretch of the beach every morning.

Every nest is dated, marked and numbered. The hatching time for a nest is between 50 and 60 days; 60 days in which several actions could and should have been taken in the case of the Oceanfront B&B.

Turtles on Amelia Island

First turtle of the season

• One or both nests could have been moved to safer spots. Not illogical considering that it was this close to an active Bed and Breakfast business.

• If the day of nesting is known, why not take measures for the date of hatching, even if you give it a 10 day breathing space?
Protection measures such as:
a. check at night which lights could be distracting the hatchlings, once they come out and ask to replace them for the 10 day time period with red or amber LED lights

b. place a 5 feet wide, one foot high net as a chute with the opening facing the ocean around the nest. Even if the hatchling gets caught by the small mazed net, its efforts to get out will ultimately lead to face the light on the surface of the ocean and move that way.

c. Buy a half open wind tent that blocks off any light from the land side and place it around the nest to be hatched. Again the approximate time of hatching is known so it’s a matter of scheduling. I’ll be happy to donate some tents. I see them on the beach every day with young children being sheltered from wind and sun.

d. I have seen in many countries around the globe, where wildlife is protected by road signs and temporary flashing yellow lights during mating seasons and other events. Again, if we know the approximate time frame of hatching, why not mark the street with SLOW signs and yellow caution lights and even the city’s speed meter, and have motorists take part in the responsibility to keep the turtles alive? After all they are the ones that do the actual killing.

Amelia Island is A Tourist Destination

And even though I admire the work of so many volunteers to protect these beautiful reptiles, the responsibility of the burden to protect Sea Turtles can not become a measuring stick in the hands of fanaticism and certainly a harsh fine for Mrs Martinez is not going to change the fact that she has little control over her B&B guests behavior leaving bedroom lights or outside spots on, no matter how many times she prints leaflets to that effect. Besides the fact that this request in a tourism economy is almost impossible to adhere to, since most tourists do not care too much about turning air conditioners off when leaving the room, or turning lights off, or taking short showers where water is an expensive commodity like in the Caribbean. Most tourists spend their money on celebrating life in all its excess while on vacation. I have built and operated several resorts, hotels and inns over the past 33 years and learned that expecting guests to entirely comply with the innkeeper’s requests and local ordinances, is totally stupid. Expect the worst and prepare for the best is my motto.  A phone call from the Turtle Watch to Mrs. Martinez 10 days prior to expected hatching to put dim lights in outside outlets, could have worked much better for all parties involved.

But causes often create a form of emotional fanaticism, and the problem with that is anchored in George Santayana’s definition of fanaticism as “redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim“. Winston Churchill said: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject“. By either description a fanatic displays very strict standards and little tolerance for deviating ideas or opinions. I hope this is not the case here, because I know  Mrs. Martinez to be a caring person, who will do anything in her ability to support the cause of protecting sea turtles, while still being able to run a viable tourist business on the beach.

My experience is also that when the business is rendered unsustainable because of ever encroaching compliance of regulations, taxes and ordinances, we can expect to live on a ghost island soon, especially since the economy does not seem to be bringing  relief anytime soon. Our local authorities and administrators better keep that in mind when they start sharpening their pencils and push even more entities out of business .

Last but not least to be complete on the threats that face Sea Turtles: Climate change may also cause a threat to sea turtles. Since sand temperature at nesting beaches defines the sex of a sea turtle while developing in the egg, there is concern that rising temperatures may produce too many females. However, more research is needed to understand how climate change might affect sea turtle gender distribution and what other possible threats it may pose. Here on Amelia Island we already know from experience that late season nests often have a large number of dead hatchlings, as the sand turns cooler in late September.

Wild Weekend at White Oak with Mikhail Baryshnikov

Wild Weekend at White Oak with Mikhail BaryshnikovWhite Oak is offering a Wild Weekend with Mikhail Baryshnikov, October 8 – 9, 2011. There are only a limited number of tickets available and reservations will be closed on September 30, unless the event sells out first!

This benefit for the White Oak Conservation Center includes a dance performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Your weekend begins with check-in starting at noon, when you can settle in and pick up your gourmet basket lunch at the Big Game Room bar. There will be met basket lunch at the Big Game Room bar. There will be specialized tours of the Conservation Center, lectures in the Big Game Room, or venture out to golf, kayak or shoot skeet.

That evening, enjoy cocktail hour before being treated to a special dance performance and recital at the Baryshnikov Dance Studio, featuring Mr. Baryshnikov’s colleague Aszure Barton and dancers from New York City. After the performance, dine on a gourmet dinner in the Great Hall and bid on special Silent Auction items before finishing your evening with after-dinner activities in the Big Game Room.

On Sunday Morning, begin your day with breakfast in the Cafe before heading to our Cheetah Lure Run area to witness the running of the fastest animal on land. Following the run, feel free to join a tour of the Conservation Center or find another activity to complete your morning… and your Wild Weekend at White Oak!

Tickets are only $2,500 per couple ($1,250 qualifies as a tax-deductible contribution). To make a reservation or inquire about the event, please call: 904-225-3262 or email meredithp@wogilman.com.

Editor’s Note: I do have a birthday coming this week… just sayin’!

Lunch and Learn with the Cheetah

Lunch and Learn with the CheetahJoin the White Oak Conservation Center for their upcoming Lunch and Learn Safari with the Cheetah on September 10, 2011.

These Safaris are a chance for the public to visit White Oak, enjoy lunch, and learn about different animals.

You will enjoy a trolley ride to the animal area, an educational experience about the cheetahs, and take pictures of the animals when you see them up close. At the end of the Safari you even get a commemorative photograph of a cheetah!

Each Safari will have time available for you to ask staff questions about the species featured.

Costs for this adventurous lunch is $75.00 per person for non-members, and $50.00 per person for members (Friends level and up only). The price includes lunch, animal experience, and souvenir. Tickets are available by calling (904) 225-3396.

Please call 904-225-3396 to purchase tickets for one safari or the entire series.

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Alligator Hunting Season in Florida is Approaching

Alligator Hunting Season in Florida is Approaching

Image found at MyFWC.com

Living in Florida means living with alligators. The state is very proactive in their management strategies to control alligator populations.

Alligator hunting permits cost $271.50 for Florida residents and for nonresidents the cost is $1,025.50. This permits the hunter to take two gators.

The Florida Wildlife Commission offers some great advice on living with alligators on their website MyFWC.com/gators.

Many people report all alligators they see as a nuisance, however they are not considered such unless they are at least four feet in length and pose a threat to people, pets or property.

If you need alligator assistance on Amelia Island, or to report a nuisance alligator, call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).

Lunch and Learn with Giraffes at White Oak

White Oak Giraffe

White Oak Giraffe

White Oak Conservation Center is presenting a series of Lunch and Learn Safaris and on June 11, 2011, the lunch topic is The Giraffe.

Nassau County, FL – These Safaris are your chance to visit White Oak and learn about different species of animals, while enjoying lunch in the field! Each month we will focus on a different species or aspect of WOCC, including: giraffe, cheetah, rhinoceros, avian and ASB/Research.

You will enjoy a trolley ride to the animal area, an educational experience about the animal, the opportunity to take photographs and see the animals up close, and when you leave, you will receive a commemorative photograph of that day’s species!

Each Safari will have time available for you to ask our keepers and staff questions about the species.

Pricing:
$75 per person for non-members, $50 per person for members (Friends level and up only)
This includes lunch, animal experience, and souvenir. (Friends level and up only)

Purchase tickets for the entire series: $325 for non-members, $225 for members

To purchase tickets:
Please call 904-225-3396 to purchase tickets for one safari or the entire series.

FAQs:

When do the Safaris take place?
The second Saturday of May, June, September, October (will be the third Saturday) and November.

When should I arrive?
Trolleys will depart starting at 11:00 am. Please plan to arrive at White Oak Conservation Center 15 minutes before your scheduled departure time.

Can I bring a camera/binoculars?
Yes! Please feel free to bring a camera or binoculars to make your experience even more exciting.

What if it is raining?
We will reschedule that animal’s date. If you are unable to make the new date, you are welcome to use your ticket for another future Safari.

What animals will I expect to see?
Each safari will be focused on specific species. We will announce each month’s species a month in advance. We cannot schedule further in advance due to the nature of the Conservation Center and the potential needs of our animals.

What should I wear?
Please dress comfortably and for the weather. You will be in a natural environment for our animals.

Will I be able to get out of the trolley?
Yes, pending animal needs. You will stop at the area for that Safari’s designated species. You may not be inside the enclosure with animals, but close enough to take great pictures!

Is there an age requirement?
No age requirement, although children will be required to have tickets.

Can I purchase souvenirs?
Yes! We will have our Gift Shop open and will have some new items focusing on the Safari Species.

For More Information visit: wocenter.org/lunchandlearn.asp

Yellow Fly Bites are Nasty

Yellow Fly Bites are Nasty

(UF\IFAS\File Photo)

May and June seem to be the busiest time of the year in Northeast Florida for those nasty yellow flies. You may not notice when they land on you, but you will notice when they bite! I am on a personal mission to reduce the population of these pesky blood-suckers.

I must be allergic to their bites as each time they snack the area swells to the size of a bread plate, turns red, is hot to the touch and I get nauseated. After the swelling goes down, the bites itch like crazy!

These flies, from the Tabanidae family, congregate under the shade of my oak trees along the green belt which is in my backyard. They tend to be most active in the late afternoon and make going outside a risky endeavor this time of the year.

I found this home remedy on Walton Outdoors, courtesy of the South Walton Mosquito Control and they claim it not only provides bite and sting relief from a yellow fly bite, but also mosquitos, chiggers and jellyfish bites.

Ingredients:
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup ammonia (Windex is mostly ammonia)
1/3 tsp. papain (meat tenderizer)
1 crushed aspirin

Directions:
Mix thoroughly and store in refrigerator (be sure to label container). When needed, shake well and apply with cotton swab, and rub briskly.

Taking Kids for a Night Prowl

Big Brown Bat

Big Brown Bat by: Chris Burney

Tallahassee, FL – During spring and summer months, as temperatures warm up, nocturnal creatures that are usually quite secretive become more active and easier to locate. This is the perfect time of year to go out with children for a night prowl.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida are working to reverse the growing trend of our youth spending too much time inside.

One way you can interest your children in nature is to take them on a night walk. We often overlook the wildlife that come out at night, and this is a great way to get your children excited about conservation.

Insects are particularly active on warm nights. Try looking for fireflies, moths and crickets. An easy way to look at them closely without causing injury is to capture the insect in a clear jar and cover the top with cheesecloth held down by a large rubber band around the rim. (Remember to release the insects once you are done). Cicadas are a favorite with kids, as they are strange looking, make very loud sounds and are fun to handle.

Barn OwlOwls, such as barred, great horned and eastern screech, are often quite vocal at night. Learning the calls with your children and listening for them is a lot of fun, especially if you learn to call back. Chuck-will’s-widows also call actively on moonlit nights. They sing loudly, mimicking their name. During the spring, you may also hear our state bird, the northern mockingbird, singing his heart out to attract a mate. These birds learn more than 100 songs over the course of their lifetime.

Bats are also a favorite with children. Watch for bats feeding on insects near streetlights, along woodland edges or over water. They are active from sunset to sunrise, although you are more likely to see them just at dusk when there is still a little ambient light.

Flying squirrels are also nocturnal. Though they don’t really fly, they can glide up to 150 feet and are adept at sneaking seeds at bird feeders. They are more difficult to see than bats, as they require forests with tall trees from which to glide.

Skunks and armadillos are usually more active during the night and are fun to watch as they forage for food. Armadillos can’t see very well, so you can sneak up fairly close if you are quiet.

Armadillo

Armadillo By: Kris Bowman

Frogs and toads fascinate kids, and there are more than 25 native species in Florida. These amphibians sing on spring and summer nights, especially if there has been a recent rain. Learning their calls can be challenging, but fun. If there is a source of water nearby, you’re likely to find some. If you catch any, don’t forget to wash your hands well after letting them go.

Remember to be respectful of the animals you observe. Always handle insects and amphibians gently and return them where you found them. Also, white or bright lights at night can disturb wildlife, so try to minimize the amount of light you use. The best method is to use a red filter for your flashlight. Red lights don’t bother wildlife as much, so you are likely to see more animals scurrying around. In addition, if you want to attract more nocturnal animals to your backyard, consider installing owl boxes, bat houses or a shelter for tree frogs.

Learn about the animals yourself, so that when you do run across one, you’ll have some fun facts to pass along to your kids when they ask questions. Or, look up any animals you find with your children when you get back inside; go to MyFWC.com/Wildlife. Cornell University Lab of Ornithology has a good bird guide, and the University of Florida’s Florida Wildlife Extension lists frogs and toads. Also, your child might enjoy combing through BugGuide.net for moths and other insects, using the clickable guide.

Make your nature adventures a regular feature, and your children or grandchildren will begin looking forward to getting outdoors. This is quality family time. Remember to make it fun and a hands-on experience. Soon your children will be telling you about the critters, and you will have helped create a future conservationist. For other ideas how you can preserve Florida’s natural heritage and get children outside, go to MyFWC.com/Youth.

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Manatees, the Gentle Giants

Manatees, the Gentle Giants

Manatees, the Gentle Giants

As part of the Wild Amelia Festival, there is a series of nature based seminars scheduled in the months before the festival. Manatees, the Gentle Giants is the program for January 11th and will be presented by Rachel Cimino, Marine Mammal Research.

Rachel Cimino interned in southeast Florida with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Marine Mammal Division. After an internship Rachel worked in the education department at SeaWorld Orlando until she was hired on as a Marine Mammal Biologist in July with FWC.

The Fernandina Beach Parks & Recreation Department helps to sponsor this FREE lecture series that begins at 7:00 PM in the Peck Center Auditorium located at the corner of 10th and Elm Streets in Fernandina Beach.

Mark you calendars for the 2nd Tuesday of each month to attend these Wild Nites!

For more information call (904) 277-7350.

Florida Bobcat Spotted on Amelia Island

Florida Bobcat Spotted on Amelia Island

Florida Bobcat on Amelia Island

If you think there are no bobcats on Amelia Island, think again! Our sources took this picture this past Thursday while playing golf at the Amelia River Golf Course. The large cat was on the golf side of the airport’s fence, only about 20 yards from the foursome.

The Bobcat (Lynx rufus floridanus)

Florida’s native wild cat, bobcats, are entirely carnivorous and prey upon small animals such as rabbits, rodents, and birds. Occassionally they will prey on large animals such as white-tailed deer. Weighing 15-35 pounds, bobcats are much smaller than panthers and have much shorter tails than the Florida Panther. Bobcats are found throughout Florida and are not listed at the state or federal level as threatened or endangered.

The Bobcat is a warm-blooded and territorial. Bobcats can most likely be found in every county in Florida and in most states in the country. Due to its abundance in Florida, it is classified as a fur-bearing game animal by the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission and can only be hunted during certain months of the year.

Fire Chief Dan Hanes and Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley were playing golf with local Mac McAllister and Peter Mathis, who was visiting from Sonoma, California for the Petanque tournament when Chief Hurley snapped this photo. “Wild Amelia indeed!”