Wildlife photography program in Santa Rosa Beach Jan. 3

Osprey with speckled trout catch of the day. Photo courtesy Walt Spence

The Walton County Coastal Library is hosting “Winter Community Programs” Wednesdays, Jan 3rd – Feb 28th 2018 at 10:00 am. Winter Community Programs are designed for our adult community and families having educational and entertaining value while learning about our community and neighbors.

January 3, 2018Wildlife Photographer – Walt Spence

Walt’s earlier photos have appeared in publications such as Southern Living and Florida Living, and mostly involved human subjects and situations. But Walt had always harbored a latent desire to pursue nature photography. The stimulus to do it seriously came in 2006 when he and his friend Doug Buck realized that no one had ever produced a truly comprehensive photo survey of the wildlife of the local bayou country. They embarked on a prolific multi-year effort to record the amazing diversity of species that lives there. The Boggy Bayou Birds project has since captured thousands of images, many from a canoe, and its focus has been on educating and entertaining the local public. Walt’s nature photos have received multiple awards in the Mattie Kelly Environmental Institute’s nature photo contest and are featured in the Institute’s annual calendar. He is Past President of the Choctawhatchee Audubon Society, and is a founding member of the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.

The events are sponsored by Friends of Coastal Library. For more information call Linda Thompson (850) 267-2809. The Coastal Library is located at 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach behind the South Walton Government/Education Complex on HWY 331 South. Free for the public with limited seating.

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FWC approves several changes to Gulf cobia management

At its December meeting in Gainesville, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) took final action to approve several changes to the management of cobia in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

These changes are based on stakeholder input and concerns from anglers, and will further promote sustainable management of this fishery.

Approved changes will go into effect Feb. 1, 2018, and include:
• Creating a Gulf/Atlantic management boundary defining all state waters north of the Monroe-Collier county line as “Gulf state waters” for purposes of managing cobia.
• Making the recreational and commercial bag limits for cobia in Gulf state waters the same by reducing the commercial limit from two to one fish per person.
• Reducing the recreational and commercial vessel limit in Gulf state waters from six to two cobia per vessel, per day.

The current 33-inch minimum size limit will not change.

For more information or to view the presentations given at the Commission meeting, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings,” then click on the link below “Next Meeting.”

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Walton County fishing report for Dec. 7

Fishing is good

Bay: Still a decent trout bite, black (mangrove) snapper, sheepshead, black drum, and redfish. Fish biting on gold spoons and live shrimp.

General gun season opens this weekend.

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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Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance seeking volunteers for native plant garden Dec. 16

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) will be planting new native plants in their Demonstration Garden and Trail on Dec. 16 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and are seeking volunteers to lend a hand.

They have tools and gloves, but feel free to bring your own and remember to dress for the weather. If you would like to donate native plants from your garden, they would love the new additions. Bring the whole family, as there is something to do for everyone. Refreshments and snacks will be provided. Come see how beautiful native plants can be in your garden.

For more information contact Ali Jean at jeana1@nwfsc.edu or call 850-200-4175.

CBA is located at 109 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach.

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30A Songwriters Festival Jan. 12 – 15

The 9th annual 30A Songwriters Festival is set for January 12-15, 2018. The festival, held in venues along scenic Highway 30A in South Walton, will feature main stage performances in presenting partner Grand Boulevard’s Town Center by esteemed artists Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, The Zombies, North Mississippi Allstars and Lee Ann Womack. Also confirmed for premier nighttime performances are Charles Kelly of Lady Antebellum, Patty Griffin, Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls with her solo Murmuration Nation band, Shawn Mullins and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members Mike Reid and Craig Wiseman.

Among the 175 stellar songwriters who will perform at the 2018 Festival are Tommy Stinson (the Replacements, Bash & Pop), John Gorka, Gretchen Peters, Jeffrey Steele, Kim Ritchey, Mary Gauthier, Jeff Black, Will Kimbrough, Dan Navarro, The War & Treaty, Wyatt Durette, Farewell Angelina, Griffin House, Levi Lowrey, Gabriel Kelley, Michael McDermott, Peter Case, Charlie Mars, Peter Bradley Adams, Chris Stills, Emerson Hart (Tonic), David Ryan Harris (John Mayer Band), David Hodges (Evanescence), Erick Baker, Heather Horton, Jesse Terry, Joe Crookston, Old Salt Union, Peter Karp, Randall Bramblett, Robby Hecht, Don Dixon and Marti Jones, Becky Warren, Alex Guthrie, Jemina & Selina, Mary Bragg, Blue Jays, Josh Osborne, Jaren Johnston, Mark Irwin, Jonathan Singleton, Jeremy Stover, Matt Dragstrem, Adam Hambrick, Jacob Davis, Austin Jenckes, David Berkeley, Davin McCoy, Matt Hires, David Robert King, Eliot Bronson, and Michele Malone.

The 30A Songwriters Festival production team transforms amphitheaters, town halls, restaurants, theaters, bars and covered patios into unique music venues ranging in capacity from 75 to 500 seats indoors and 5,000 outdoors A variety of festival weekend passes are now available starting and can be purchased at www.30asongwritersfestival.com.

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Sandhill cranes winter in north Walton County

More than two dozen sandhill cranes are wintering in North Walton County. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

More than two dozen sandhill cranes are wintering in North Walton County. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Winter visitors a welcome sight for local bird lovers

For the last several years, migrating sandhill cranes have been spending the winter months in north Walton County in Paxton. Foraging in a wetland area and private pasture near Lake Jackson, more than 24 sandhill cranes spend several months in the area every year.

Typically migrating in mid-December and staying until mid-March, the cranes are a welcome sight.

Lesser sandhill cranes have a wingspan of up to 78 inches and stand more than 3 feet tall. Lori Ceier

Lesser sandhill cranes have a wingspan of up to 78 inches and stand more than 3 feet tall. Lori Ceier

With a wingspan of 73 inches and standing more than 41 inches tall, the sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) is one of the largest birds in North America. There are several subspecies of the sandhill crane with the Lesser Sandhill (Northern) migrating from the northern U.S. and the Greater Sandhill (Southern) year-round residents in southern Florida.

Sandhill cranes are omnivores, eating mostly grains and seeds, some insects, other invertebrates, and small vertebrates. The cranes are primarily birds of open fresh water wetlands, but the different subspecies utilize habitats that range from bogs, meadows, and open grasslands.

Sandhill Cranes are heavy bodied, long-necked, long-legged birds with bugling calls, often heard well before the birds are seen. The birds are also known for their elaborate courtship dancing. They are among the oldest living birds.

Information courtesy National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab or Ornithology, and International Crane Foundation.

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