Happy Thanksgiving from Walton Outdoors

Sunrise on Holmes Creek.

Sunrise on Holmes Creek.


“For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Christmas tour of homes in DeFuniak Springs Dec. 5

hometourCome catch the Christmas spirit at the 23rd Annual Tour of Homes in DeFuniak Springs. Tour five homes decked out in their holiday best, and learn about Historic DeFuniak Springs as you enjoy its old-fashioned ambiance at your own pace on your self-guided tour.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Tickets on sale the day of the tour from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Walton County Heritage Museum (1140 Circle Drive).  Advance tickets available after November 1st at The Little Big Store (35 S. 8th Street), Sanford and Sisters Mall (938 U.S. Hwy 331 South), and Walton County Heritage Museum (1140 Circle Drive).  The 2015 tour is co-sponsored by Partners in Progress and Walton County Heritage Association.  www.waltoncountyheritage.org.  (850) 892-2448.

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Walton County fishing report for Nov. 25

sheepsheadFishing is on!

Bay: Redfish bites and trout still good. Sheepshead starting to show up.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439

(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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South Walton Fire District Elf Ride in Santa Rosa Beach Dec. 6

elfrideThe South Walton Fire District (SWFD) will be hosting their 8th Annual Elf Ride on Dec. 6th, 2015. Elves of all ages will meet at the Western Lake Beach Access in Watercolor at 1:00 p.m. and bicycle/walk to the SWFD’s Water Color Station located at 2109 CR 395 South, Seagrove (approx. 1.5 miles).

Bring an unwrapped toy to benefit the SWFD Angel Tree. Refreshments and a tour of the fire station as well as the fire trucks will be available. Be sure to wear your favorite Christmas outfit and decorate your bike. Parent(s) must accompany all children!

If weather does not cooperate, toys may be dropped off at the Water Color Fire Station on Dec. 6th, 2015. For more information contact Robbie Lund at [email protected] or Luke Thompson at [email protected].

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Festival of trees in Freeport Dec. 4 – 6

freeportfestivaloftrees3Get into the spirit of Christmas by attending the Freeport Town Planters Festival of Trees. The event will be at the Freeport Community Center on Fri., Dec. 4, following the lighting of the Christmas Tree at City Hall; Sat., Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and on Sun., Dec. 6, from 1 – 5 p.m.

The trees have been decorated by individuals, organizations, and businesses; and they will be competing for the People’s Choice Award, to be presented at the end of the show on Sunday. Admission is free (donations accepted) and refreshments will be served.

For more information contact Lois Orsak At 850-588-9945.


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Choctawhatchee Audubon Society December events

CAScolorlogoDecember 3: Monthly Meeting and Program: Pictorial Survey of Birds that are Rare or Difficult to Identify during the Christmas Bird Count by Alan Knothe, biologist. The Christmas Bird Count is an internationally recognized survey monitoring the population of birds. Alan, a noted local birding expert, will explain the key identification features for rare or unusual sightings using high quality digital photography. The meeting will be held in Room 130 on the ground floor of the Student Services Building (Bld. 400) at Northwest Fla. State College. Socializing begins at 6:30 PM, and the program begins at 7:00. Admission is free and open to the interested public. Call Walt Spence at 850-582-7064 for more info.

December 12: Annual Members Christmas Party will be held at the home of Margaret and John Benner in Niceville. There will be a silent auction with birding themed items and a covered dish dinner, BYOB. To make reservations and get directions, call Margaret at 678-6665.

December 14: Christmas Bird Count. Join in the nation’s largest citizen science project! Have positions available for spotters and recorders. No experience is necessary, but be prepared to start early on this day-long event. Call Alan Knothe for more information at 850-208-1780.


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Cut your own tree at Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm in DeFuniak Springs

Linda and Cody Strickland welcome you to their Christmas Tree Farm in DeFuniak Springs.

Linda and Cody Strickland welcome you to their Christmas Tree Farm in DeFuniak Springs.

Leyland cypress, Southern Red Cedar, Arizona Blue Ice Cypress available

Bring back an old holiday tradition, or start a new one as you select and cut down your Christmas tree at Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm. Located in DeFuniak Springs, the farm is owned by Cody and Linda Strickland. The 60-acre farm is one of the largest in Florida, and offers three varieties: Leyland Cypress, Southern Red Cedar and Arizona Blue Ice Cypress. The Strickland’s have now planted Virginia Pine and Florida Pine for future harvest. A few small Virgina pines are available.

Started in the early ’60s by Strickland’s grandfather with just a few trees, popularity soon grew, and more trees were planted every year. Practicing good stewardship, this third generation farm has expanded to more than 10,000 trees.

More than 60 acres of Christmas trees at Strickland's farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

More than 60 acres of Christmas trees at Strickland’s farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

“We replant a minimum of three times what we sell,” said Cody Strickland.

Live wreathes will be available as well for purchase.

Pricing is $7/ft. up to 8 ft., $8.00/ft. 8 1/2 – 10 ft. tall, $9.00/ft. 10 1/2 – 12 ft. tall, $10/ft. 12 1/2 ft. tall, $11/ft. 14 1/2 – 16 ft., $12/ft. 16 1/2 – 18 ft., $13/ft. 18 1/2 – 20 ft., $14/ft. 20 1/12 – 22 ft., $15/ft. 22 1/2 and up. A 10% discount is offered to military personnel. Delivery is available, inquire for prices. Wholesale pricing is offered for more than 20 trees.

Arizona Blue Ice Cypress is one of the varieties of Christmas trees you can choose from at Strickland's Christmas Tree Farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoor

Arizona Blue Ice Cypress is one of the varieties of Christmas trees you can choose from at Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoor

Tree stands, preservatives and removal bags are available on site. Hand saws are provided in addition to assistance cutting trees down if needed. Measuring poles are also available. Baling is offered for a minimal fee in addition to shaking to rid the trees of bugs.

Hot chocolate, soft drinks and snacks will be available.

Strickland Tree Farm is located at 1602 Kidd Road (CR183) in DeFuniak Springs. Their hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mon. – Sat. 12 – 5 p.m. Sun. Trees will be available from the day after Thanksgiving until Dec. 22. For more information, call (850) 951-1005 ::Map::

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Keep your eyes to the sky for white pelicans migrating through Northwest Florida

White pelicans resting along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

White pelicans resting along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

By Stan Kirkland, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

One of the many benefits of living in the Florida panhandle and particularly near the coast is the vast variety of wildlife we often see. Daily, you’re apt to see bald eagles, ospreys, fox squirrels, black bears, wild turkeys, deer and numerous other species. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

One species you may miss that’s migrating through our area now are white pelicans. Just like a number of other migratory birds, white pelicans leave their summer home in the West and Midwest and head south as winter approaches.

Where our common brown pelican has a 6 ½ -7 ½ foot wingspan, white pelicans have a 9 – 9 ½ foot wingspan. White pelicans are also substantially heavier, weighing up to 17 pounds. Brown pelicans rarely weigh more than four pounds.

White pelicans take flight along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

White pelicans take flight along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Stephen Nesbitt spent 35 years working as a wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). He’s retired now but still does a significant amount of work with the FWC on brown pelicans and bald eagles.

He says white pelicans nest in early summer along freshwater lakes in Northern California, Utah, North Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, and well into Canada. Unlike the brown pelican, which is a “plunge diver,” white pelicans scoop and eat all sorts of small freshwater fish such as various minnows, suckers, shiners and anything small that’s unfortunate to swim near them.

Nesbitt said it’s in the fall, as temperatures change, that the pelicans begin a southward migration that can lead them to Florida, Louisiana, Texas or even Mexico.

“To be such a big bird they’re fairly light but they have a big wingspan. Like many birds, they migrate following fronts on high pressure. They catch the thermals and they can go forever,” he said.

According to Nesbitt, the white pelicans that end up in Florida likely follow the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, and then head east. He said they’ve probably been coming to Florida for thousands of years.

Nesbitt said typically there’ll be large flocks of wintering white pelicans near Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast, but most spend their winter months on lakes and rivers from the St. Johns River down to the Kissimmee chain of lakes and Lake Okeechobee.

He said one noteworthy characteristic of both white and brown pelicans is they’re sensitivity to harmful chemicals or pesticides in the water. He said they are “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to dangerous pollutants.

Just a few years ago, several hundred white pelicans and several other species of birds died when they fed on a flooded vegetable farm near Lake Apopka in North Central Florida. The culprit – highly toxic pesticides that lay bound in the soil until the lake was filled.

Around 1960 a similar pesticide spill or case of illegal dumping cost the state of Louisiana virtually all of its brown pelicans, according to Nesbitt. Overnight almost 40,000 pairs of pelicans disappeared. Nesbitt said Florida later played a part in restoring their populations by sending dozens of pairs of birds.

For now, though, look to the sky, particularly to the west, as you drive anywhere along the coast. If you’re lucky enough to see a flock of migrating white pelicans, they’ll typically be 2000-3000 feet high and drifting along in a lazy line, or as they are prone to do, flying in a circle on the thermals.

Their stay here in the Sunshine State in fairly limited. By March or early April they reverse the process and leave Florida behind as they fly back to familiar grounds.

White pelicans soar above the bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

White pelicans soar above the bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

About the American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos):

Size & Shape: A huge waterbird with very broad wings, a long neck, and a massive bill that gives the head a unique, long shape. They have thick bodies, short legs, and short, square tails. During the breeding season, adults grow an unusual projection or horn on the upper mandible near the tip of the bill.

Color Pattern: Adult American White Pelicans are snowy white with black flight feathers visible only when the wings are spread. A small patch of ornamental feathers on the chest can become yellow in spring. The bill and legs are yellow-orange. Immatures are mostly white as well, but the head, neck, and back are variably dusky.

Behavior: American White Pelicans feed from the water’s surface, dipping their beaks into the water to catch fish and other aquatic organisms. They often upend, like a very large dabbling duck, in this process. They do not plunge-dive the way Brown Pelicans do. They are superb soarers (they are among the heaviest flying birds in the world) and often travel long distances in large flocks by soaring. When flapping, their wingbeats are slow and methodical.

Habitat: American White Pelicans typically breed on islands in shallow wetlands in the interior of the continent. They spend winters mainly on coastal waters, bays, and estuaries, or a little distance inland.

Information Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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Christmas Reflections in DeFuniak Springs Nov. 27 – Dec. 31

A full moon rises on Lake DeFuniak during the Christmas Reflections. Lori Ceier/Walton OutdoorsChristmas Reflections in DeFuniak Springs runs from 5 – 9 p.m. nightly Nov. 27 – Dec. 31. See how six million Christmas lights multiply to 12 million when reflected on the perfectly round lake which is the centerpiece of the DeFuniak Springs Historic District. This incredible display on the original grounds of Florida’s Historic Chautauqua has no equal. $3/person, Season Passes $35, ages 6 and under free.

Carriage rides by High Horse Farm LLC will be available for an additional fee on November 27, 28, 29; December 4, 5, 6; and nightly December 11-31.  Sponsored by the Christmas Reflections Committee of the City of DeFuniak Springs.

For more information, call (850) 892-3950.

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Outdoor movie night in DeFuniak Springs Nov. 27

miracleon34Enjoy a movie with your family “the old fashioned way” at the outdoor amphitheater on Circle Drive in DeFuniak Springs beginning at 7:30 pm.  The movie is Miracle on 34th Street (1947 color version).

Food vendors on site to settle your appetite and qualifying food purchasers will be entered into a chance to win a raffle. Free admission. Sponsored by the City of DeFuniak Springs Special Events Committee.

For more information, call (850) 892-8500.

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