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October 2004 Shorelines Newsletter Choctawhatchee Audubon Society

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SHORELINES

Volume XXXIII Number 7 October 2004

Dedicated to the protection of bird and wildlife habitat and a greater appreciation of Northwest Florida’s natural beauty.

Meetings, Bird Walks & Events MONTHLY MEETINGS Audubon meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the OWCC Niceville campus, Student Union, Building K, Room K-151. October 7: Biologist Brad Smith of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee will give a presentation on rooftop nesting Least Terns (an endangered species), Black Skimmers, and other birds. He will discuss the ecology of the birds, threats facing them, and recommendations for protection. The Emeral Coast Wildlife Refuge will also be represented.

Tern

November 4: Back by popular demand this month is Mary Ann Friedman, president of the Choctaw chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. She will show more butterfly pictures and share her knowledge of butterflies and how to attract them to backyards. December 2: Don Ware, our bird count coordinator, will show slides of birds in preparation for the annual Christmas Bird Count. January 6: A district representative of the Northwest Water Management District will talk about alternative drinking water sources as well as other timely water issues in Northwest Florida. February 3: Dr. Robert Larson, a local lecturer and sculptor, will give a presentation, "Sculpting, Planting a Vision." He will explain about the Shoal Sanctuary and Sculpture Trail, land near the Shoal River he and his wife purchased to preserve the natural environment. He may share some of its interesting history.

CHAPTER WALKS & FIELD TRIPS October 2: Beginner's Bird Walk to the Destin west jetties and coast guard woods. Meet at the Uptown Station at 7:30 a.m. to car pool or in the Destin Bridge (West) parking lot at 7:50 a.m. This walk is moderately difficult and boots and water are recommended. We should finish by 10:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m.

October 16: Lenny Fenimore leads a Beginner's Bird Walk and Field Trip to Ft Pickens. Meet at Uptown Station at 7:00 a.m. to car pool or in the Battery Worth parking lot at 8:00 a.m. Walking will be easy to moderate; bring water and snacks. We will stop for lunch and return about 2:00 p.m. October 30: Thelma Phillips leads a beginner's bird walk to Ferry and Marler parks and the Okaloosa Island beach and sound area. Meet at Uptown Station at 7:30am. It will be easy walking, but usually warm and humid. We should finish by 11a.m. November 13: Bird walk in Niceville / Valparaiso area - more info to come. December 4: Don Ware leads a beginner's bird walk to FWB/Okaloosa County spray fields and holding ponds. Meet in the Coach-N-Four Restaurant parking lot at 7:30 a.m. This easy walk will last until about 10 or 11 a.m. December 20: Christmas Bird Count - all day. Call Don Ware, 862-6582 to volunteer. January 8, 2005: Beginner's bird walk to the Destin west jetties and Coast Guard woods. Meet at the Uptown Station at 7:30 a.m. to car pool or in the Destin Bridge parking lot at 7:45 a.m. This walk is moderately difficult and boots and water are recommended. We should finish by 10:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. February 5, 2005: Beginner's bird walk to the Fort Walton Beach spray fields and holding ponds. Meet in the Coach-N-Four Restaurant parking lot at 7:30 a.m. This easy walk will last until about 10 or 11 a.m. February 19-21, 2005: Choctawhatchee Audubon Society Weekend Annual Retreat to St. Marks / Wakulla Cedar Key.

OTHER WALKS & EVENTS October 8-10: Alabama Ornithological Society weekend fall meeting at Dauphin Island, AL. Go to www.bham.net/aos for upcoming details. October 15-17: Back to Nature Festival , South Walton County. Includes birding, hiking, boating, exploring lakes and beaches, kayaking, biking & more! Sponsored by South Walton Community Council. (more info on page 3)

The deadline for Shorelines is the 15th of each month. Articles, letters and notices of upcoming events from members are welcome. E-mail newsletter input to Shorelines editor Kendra Addington at [email protected] or call (850) 862-1282.

Bird Watching

A Little Bird Told Me...

By Gee Oakman Now is the time to spot and identify unusual birds as they migrate through. Most of them will be in trees and bushes on the ground; not your feeder, but a few might stop! The brilliant orange and black Baltimore Oriole is one. They are said to like grape jelly! Incoming for the winter is another woodpecker, the yellow-bellied sapsucker. He will probably be in a tree drilling holes to collect sap. He is told by red under the chin. Another showy bird you may spot in the trees is the rose-breasted grosbeak. Rather Baltimore Oriole large, black and white, with a rose-red

throat. The many little warblers flitting thru are more difficult to identify. Many have yellow spots. If you're lucky, you might spot bluebirds, more common in winter. They are said to be fond of mealworms. Another gaudy bird you might see in migration is the scarlet tanager - bright red with black wings. Look carefully - there will be many different birds out there now. If you have saved or set out poke-berry plants, now is the time you will see mockers and thrashers stripping the berries as fast as they ripen. Your feeder too will be appreciated at this time of year by migrating birds who must build up strength for long flights.

Wildlife Alex Pries

Beach Mice

For many of us who enjoy this area our gulf beaches are prime locations for spotting an elusive shorebird, marveling at the ocean's wonders, or catching a bit of the afternoon's sunshine. These beaches serve as important areas of habitat for numerous species of birds, butterflies, and marine species. However, one of our least known furry residents begins to stir as the sun falls below these emerald waters and dusk spreads across our white sand dunes. The nighttime belongs to the Santa Rosa beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus leucocephalus), one of eight subspecies unique to the Florida and Alabama coastline. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially list seven of eight subspecies as threatened or endangered with our local mouse not listed because large tracts of undeveloped land still exist on Eglin Air Force Base and Gulf Islands National Seashore. Researchers poorly understand the ecology of this mouse, one of the smallest members of the genus Peromyscus. What remains certain is that beach mice are indicators of a functional ecosystem and many of these populations are at risk of extinction from coastal development, hurricanes, and introduced predators like feral cats. Beach mice prefer to create their 2-3 foot deep burrows in large primary sand dunes adjacent to the Gulf's high tide line. Scientists from The University of Florida and Auburn University are actively researching the use and importance of other habitats including marsh areas and scrubby vegetation for beach mice to update recovery plans. Defining critical habitat for beach mice and implementing recovery plans often is confounded by the random nature of hurricanes. Feral cats, the scorn of many birders, also threaten the stability and health of beach mouse populations. Programs have attempted to eradicate cats from Okaloosa Island but signs of cats are still found easily in the dunes. Historically, local populations reduced by hurricanes were rescued through dispersal of individuals as dunes recovered. Coastal development has reduced the connectedness of

Page 2: October 2004

these populations and made widespread population stability uncertain. Imagine the difficulty of a mouse trying to cross through the development found on Okaloosa Island between the public beaches near East Pass Channel and the restricted beach areas west of Fort Walton Beach. Unlike the house mouse common in residential areas, beach mice actually avoid areas of human development. Further research on beach mouse movements will be helpful when trying to balance economic development with natural resources management. The Santa Rosa beach mouse likely will be difficult to spot unless you accompany a biologist into the field on Okaloosa Island. Should you spot one late in the evening, it's diminutive size and white fur will give it away (see photo). This coloration is an evolutionary adaptation; the mouse blends in well with the sugary soft sand Beach Mouse - Courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service that defines the Gulf Coast. With an average mass of 15 grams, the Santa Rosa beach mouse cannot be confused with any other small mammal found on Okaloosa Island. Juvenile beach mice can weigh as little as eight grams while pregnant females weigh up to 20 grams. Relying primarily on a diet of herbaceous vegetation and small insects, the health of the Santa Rosa beach mice is tied closely to the health of the coastal ecosystem. Beach mouse tracks are distinctive, a small foursquare pattern evenly spaced every 5-6 inches. Volunteers through Jackson Guard help with their population monitor program by assisting with tracking surveys on a quarterly basis. If interested, contact them directly at 850882-4164 to inquire about the volunteer program.

Choctawhatchee Audubon Society Shorelines

Conservation

Conservation Projects

Mathilda Ravine, Conservation Chair In August, I asked for your input on a chapter conservation project. One reader suggested adopting a project through Eglin's Natural Resources Branch, Jackson Guard. Another suggestion was removal of invasive Chinese tallow (aka "popcorn" trees) in Fort Walton Beach's Ferry Park. With your help, we can do both. Our first conservation workday is scheduled for 9 am Saturday, November 20, 2004 when we will conduct a marine debris survey along a small stretch of beach on Eglin AFB. Each month, Eglin conducts a survey as part of the National Marine Debris Monitoring Program, a joint program of EPA and The Ocean Conservancy. The surveys are designed to measure whether the amount of marine debris is increasing on our shores and to determine the source of the debris. Results are used to address debris sources and prevent debris from entering our waters. CAS volunteers will collect trash then sort the debris into categories and record the results on standardized reporting forms. The data we collect will be added to a national database and used to analyze trends in marine debris. Mark your calendars for November 20 and come join us! I will need a head count, so please call (243-2298) or email ([email protected]) if you plan to participate.

Ferry Park has been a frequent birding destination for our chapter. Kingfishers, woodpeckers, osprey, hawks, and wading birds are frequent visitors along with common neighborhood birds. The park's freshwater stream and native trees also attract migrating warblers, vireos, and other colorful songbirds. Unfortunately, invasive Chinese tallow trees are rapidly replacing native trees along the stream. If unchecked, tallow will spread to the upland areas as well. Because the tree grows back readily from any roots or seed source, the best method to address Chinese tallow is herbicide application. The City of Fort Walton has personnel licensed to apply herbicides and has undertaken tallow removal on other city properties. We can assist the City of Fort Walton by helping tag tallow trees for treatment, monitoring regrowth, removing seedlings by hand, and helping with debris removal. I hope to schedule a workday this spring. If you are interested in helping with this project, please call or email. If you can't wait for the November workday, I encourage you to join the Okaloosa County Environmental Council's fall beach cleanup, which was postponed due to Hurricane Ivan and is tentatively scheduled for Saturday October 16. For cleanup locations and a definitive date, look for information in the newspaper or call 651-7131.

Back to Nature Festival Highlighting the warm days and cool nights of October is the third annual Back to Nature Festival sponsored by the South Walton Community Council (SWCC). Festival activities begin Friday evening, Oct. 15, and end Sunday, Oct 17. Events are spread out over the dunes and forests, lakes, river and bay. They are varied--some energetic and adventurous, some easy and relaxing. Most are educational as well as fun. The Festival has something to appeal to everyone, and past participants agree it's a wonderful way to spend a perfect fall weekend. An opening get-together with entertainment and refreshments will kick off the Festival at Eden State Gardens pavilion

Please help! The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge and other Florida volunteer wildlife organizations have been greatly affected by the hurricanes recently. There has been a major influx of injured and “relocated” animals and birds to the Refuge and their rehabilitators. Volunteers are working very hard to aid these needy furry and feathered friends. If you have a spare hour or some spare change waiting for a good cause, PLEASE consider donating to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge. You may call the Refuge at:: 505 Mountain Drive Destin, FL 32541 (850) 650-1880

Choctawhatchee Audubon Society Shorelines

on Friday evening. The next two days are filled with such events as hiking, boat trips, birdwatching, biking, kayaking, bus tours and many others. For full information about the SWCC Back to Nature Festival--events, pricing and a registration form--go to the web site www.southwaltoncc.org and click on B2N Festival. A complete brochure will be available in August. To contact SWCC or its Festival call (850) 314-3749 and leave a message.

Editor’s Note A few folks have called and asked questions about the Shorelines publication and mailing schedule, and the dates for monthly meetings. The newsletter is published each month through the efforts of VOLUNTEERS and generous donations. Therefore, sometimes there may be fluctuations in the production & mailing schedule due to hurricanes and other human factors. Your patience and support is appreciated as we all work together to get this publication out! Should you ever have questions about upcoming meeting dates and programs or other events, please feel free to contact any member of the CAS Board - contact information for all is listed on the back of the newsletter. Thank you!

October 2004: Page 3

Choctawhatchee Audubon Society Shorelines, October 2004 P.O. Box 1014 Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32549

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Fort Walton Beach, FL Permit No. 110 Printed on recycled paper

2003/2004 OFFICERS President (vacant) Vice president Bill Burke: 678-0440, [email protected] Treasurer Pat Gross: 609-0059, [email protected] Recording secretary Carole Goodyear: 897-2666, [email protected] Corresponding secretary Pat Baker: [email protected] Bird count coordinator Donald M. Ware: 862-6582, [email protected] Conservation committee chair Mathilda Ravine: 243-2298, [email protected] Education Nonie Maines: 862-9588, [email protected] Field trips Charlie Parkel: 678-4728, [email protected] Hospitality Gertrude Oakman: 729-2656 Membership & newsletter circulation Bob Miller: 678-4278, [email protected] Publicity Scott Addington: 862-1282, [email protected] Programs Lois Gilman: 651-5408, [email protected] Shorelines editor Kendra Addington: 862-1282, [email protected]

Shorelines is published 10 times a year by Choctawhatchee Audubon Society, Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It is sent to 500 members and community leaders. To become a sponsor, call Kendra Addington at 862-1282. Your contributions will be taxdeductible. Newsletter sponsors: Charlie Parkel, Niceville In memory of Ken Proteau, Hamiliton and Renee Williams Pam McKenzie, Los Lunas, NM Julia Sublett, Shalimar Business World, Fort Walton Beach Elizabeth Milum, M.D., Dermatologist, Destin/Niceville Wild Birds Unlimited, Destin

Make sure you renew your local CAS membership when you renew your national Audubon membership. Please indicate that you’re affiliated with Choctawhatchee Audubon Society when you renew to ensure your subscription to Shorelines. Introductory Audubon Society Membership (E-11): Current members: Please do not use this form for membership renewals. Name:__________________________________________________ Address:________________________________________________ City:__________________ State:__________ Zip:_____________ Phone: ________________ E-mail: _________________________ Introductory membership is $20/individual or $15/student or senior citizen to join national, state, and local Audubon groups and receive Audubon magazine and the Shorelines newsletter. To join, mail this form and a check, payable to National Audubon Society, to NAS Membership Data Center, P.O. Box 51005, Boulder, CO 80323-1005. Chapter Code: E-11 7XCH

© 2004 by Choctawhatchee Audubon Society. All rights reserved.

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