Head out on horseback with Sunshine Riding Trails to the Econfina Wildlife Management Area

Sunshine Riding Trails offers a day of equestrian fun. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Sunshine Riding Trails offers a day of equestrian fun. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Interested in taking a guided horse trail ride through Northwest Florida’s beautiful Econfina Wildlife Management Area? Head on over to the Sunshine Riding Trails, the great folks there will saddle you up for a day of enjoyable riding.

Owned by Kathy and David Rich, Sunshine Riding Trails offers Tennessee Walkers and Paso Finos for most every age and skill level. They offer 1 2, 3, or 4-hour rides along the area’s beautiful equestrian trails. A day of sightseeing is in store as you meander through long leaf pine restoration areas, ponds, small creeks, and moss covered forests.

This young gal is ready to head out. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

This young gal is ready to head out. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Riders will receive a bit of training before the ride to ensure you will be comfortable handling your horse. Be prepared to spoil your ride, as a pouch of carrots will be supplied keep your steed happy.

Learn more at: http://sunshineridingtrails.com

Hours:  Mon–Sat

Trail Ride rates:
1 hour: $35.00
2 hour: $50.00
3 hour: $75.00
4 hour: $100.00  (includes lunch)
Overnight camping trips: $175.00 per person

Rates are per person adult or child

Call for reservations at: Toll Free: (888) 335-8530 or  (850) 773-1900
2273 Rolling Pines Road
Chipley, FL 32428-3658

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Santa Rosa Beach resident enjoys beautiful luna moth visitors

Sherry McCall captured this photo of a luna moth on her workshop wall.

Sherry McCall captured this photo of a luna moth on her workshop wall.

Santa Rosa Beach resident Sherry McCall enjoyed a few unusual visitors to her workshop this week. Early on in the week, McCall was treated to a luna moth that took up residence on the exterior of her workshop wall. Then, over the next few days two more moths appeared.

On Thursday, McCall spotted two of the luna moths gracefully in union on the wall. Then, as the moths magically appeared, they disappeared into the night.

Luna moth union on the wall. Photo courtesy Sherry McCall.

Luna moth union on the wall. Photo courtesy Sherry McCall.

However, the magical moments are not over for McCall, as the female left eggs deposited on her door. She will witness the cycle of metamorphosis, as the eggs will transform into caterpillars, then cocoons, and then another moth.

About luna moths:
Common Name: Luna moth
Scientific Name: Actias luna (Linnaeus)
Order: Lepidoptera

Luna moth eggs. Soon there will be caterpillars. Photo courtesy Sherry McCall.

Luna moth eggs. Soon there will be caterpillars. Photo courtesy Sherry McCall.

Description: These moths are large, with a 4 to 5 inch wingspan. Wings are light green, marked with transparent spots and a pink-purple or yellow forewing margins and hind wings bearing long twisted tails. Caterpillars are translucent light green with a pale yellow horizontal line along each side and reddish-orange fleshy knobs (tubercles) on each body segment. They grow to be 2 3/4 inches long.

Life Cycle: Adults begin to emerge in the spring (March) to mate and lay oval eggs. Caterpillars develop through several molts before spinning a papery cocoon among dead leaves that usually falls to the ground. There are two generations per year.

Habitat and Food Source(s): Caterpillars have chewing mouth parts. Adults have siphoning mouths. Caterpillars feed on leaves of walnut, hickory, sweetgum, maple, oak, persimmon, willow and other trees. Adults can be attracted to lights, or males can be attracted to an imprisoned female. All colors will fade in preserved specimens when exposed to light.

Pest Status: “Moon” moths are active at night and are harmless, caterpillars feed on tree leaves but are rarely found in large numbers; medically harmless.

Management: None, harmless.

Information courtesy https://insects.tamu.edu

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DeFuniak Springs community garden in the works

Photo courtesy Kevin Chilcutt.

Photo courtesy Kevin Chilcutt.

What was an on and off community garden over the last few years is now on again thanks to DeFuniak Springs residents Kevin and Barbara Chilcutt.

Big plans are in the works according to Kevin, with plot areas now being offered to residents.

“The garden is open and free. This year we are not even charging a garden plot fee. We are running late, but did get it tilled this past weekend. I am now taking 10 by 10 (or bigger if really needed) plot requests. There will also be a large patch planted and open to anyone who wants to harvest. Even if they do not help, they can just share from whatever grows,” said Kevin.

Garden design plans courtesy Kevin Chilcutt.

Garden design plans courtesy Kevin Chilcutt.

Additional garden bed variations are also in the works including pyramid, pallet, and bucket. Future plans include a small flower and herb garden, and planting of fruit trees. They also have plans for a sitting and working area.

The City of DeFuniak Springs is providing the land and water for the garden which is located next to the downtown water tower. The Chilcutts are seeking volunteers and materials for what will be an ongoing project.

“My hope is to see people enjoy the ground and plants, feel the sunshine and smell the dirt as they also watch the plants grow and see the fresh produce. I hope there will be a lot of sharing and that the garden even becomes a showplace for creativity. I hope the local school kids can help with things like painting signs and feeding plants. My personal goal is to get a little exercise while working the garden. And, my 5-year-old wants pumpkins. While they are hard to grow here, we will try to have a small patch. If he finds it worthy enough maybe the Great Pumpkin will appear,” said Kevin.

If you have muscle, plants, seeds, or good ideas, give Kevin (850) 333-1852 or Barbara Chilcutt (850) 892-3119 a call.

Check for updates on the garden’s Facebook page.

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Find the Easter eggs in North and South Walton April 19 and 20

Freeport Arts and Craft Festival and Easter Egg Hunt April 19

eastergreetingOn Saturday, April 19 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. the Town Planters Society of Freeport will be hosting their annual arts and craft festival. The festival will be held in conjunction with the annual Car Show and Easter Egg Hunt.

The events will be held at the Freeport Regional Sports Complex in Hammock Bay located off of CR83A at 671 Hammock Trail East, Freeport.

There will be arts and craft vendors, food concessions, face painting, entertainment, silent auction, and door prizes. A portion of proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society / Relay for Life. For more information call Judy Aultman 850-835-1737 or email judyaultman@gmail.com

Saturday, April 19:

Cluster Springs Baptist Church – 10 a.m.
Easter basket drawing, free games, story time and more. Cluster Springs Baptist Church is located at 1333 CR1084 in DeFuniak Springs.

Alys Beach – 10 a.m. – 12 Noon
Alys, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter cordially invite you to a tea party at Fonville Press. Mingle with the characters and decorate your very own hat. The event is free and open to the public but hats are limited to the first 150 young guests. A suggested donation of $5.00 will be accepted to benefit the Seaside Repertory Theatre. Don’t be late!

Sunday, April 20

Seaside Easter egg hunt will be held on the Lyceum Lawn next to the Seaside Neighborhood School. They will offer two separate egg hunts, one for ages 1-4 at 1 p.m. and for ages 5-10 at 1:30 p.m. Don’t miss out on the regions largest Easter Egg Hunt with over 15,000 candy filled eggs!

WaterColor Marina Park
Sunday’s festivities begin at 9 a.m. with an Easter Brunch at The LakeHouse overlooking Western Lake where the guest of honor, the Easter Bunny, will visit with the kids until 11 a.m.; so, parents can capture those special photos.

At 12:15 p.m., the Easter Bunny arrives to join the afternoon festivities in true 30-A fashion — via stand-up paddle board onto The BoatHouse dock. Yes, our Bunny paddles in… instead of hops.

From 12:30 – 2 p.m. kids of all ages can enjoy face painting and crafts. Easter egg hunts on the resort greens are separated into three groups for children 4 and under, 5 to 8-year-olds and 9+ year olds with one special egg at each of the hunts having a larger prize inside. And, the popular Egg Toss contest starts at 1:30 pm with winners of each age group getting a prize.

For more information call 866-426-2656 or visit www.stjoeclub.com .

Union Springs Missionary Baptist Church – 11 a.m.
Easter program and egg hunt starting at 11 a.m. Union Springs Missionary Baptist Church is located at 416 Rail Road Ave., DeFuniak Springs.

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Choctawhatchee Audubon events for May 2014

CAScolorlogoMay 1:
Monthly Meeting and Program: “Caught on Camera: Butterflies and Moths,” MaryAnn Friedman, Butterfly Enthusiast. MaryAnn will present an amazing photographic collection of butterflies and moths with an emphasis on the many varieties of Florida Lepidoptera. Conservation issues, identification pointers, and some outstanding nearby butterfly locations will also be discussed. The meeting will be held in Room 130 on the ground floor of the Student Services Center at the Niceville campus of Northwest Florida State College, and will begin at 6:30 p.m. with socializing and light refreshments. The meeting is free and open to the interested public. For more information, call Walt Spence at 850-582-7064.


May 10:
Birding paddle: Join photo paddler and birder, Walt Spence, for a bird paddle on Niceville area bayous. Walt will demonstrate birding and photography by canoe in places where he has guided hundreds of trips for some of the region’s best bird and nature photographers. Participants must register by calling Walt at 850-582-7064. Space is limited and is available on a “first-come-first-serve” basis. There are no charges or fees, and participants must furnish their own canoes or kayaks, as well as paddles, safety equipment, and personal supplies. Those wishing to bring cameras or binoculars are advised to bring water-proof storage, such as a dry bag or large zip-lock. Meeting time will be 7 a.m., location given at registration.

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FWC sets Gulf recreational red snapper season

redsnapperSeason set for May 24 – July 14

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) set the Gulf recreational red snapper season in state waters April 16 at a meeting near Tallahassee. The season will be a total of 52 days in 2014 and will start the Saturday before Memorial Day (May 24 this year) and remain open through July 14, closing July 15.

Starting the season the Saturday before Memorial Day will provide recreational red snapper fishing through an important holiday weekend, helping attract more visitors and bringing economic benefits to our coastal communities.

The federal season is currently projected to be 11 days long, starting June 1 and remaining open through June 11. This season is subject to change depending on projections by NOAA Fisheries for when the recreational red snapper quota may be caught.

Florida state waters in the Gulf are from shore to 9 nautical miles. Federal waters extend from where state waters end, out to about 200 nautical miles.

The daily bag limit will remain 2 per person in state and federal waters.

To learn more about this agenda item, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and click on “Commission Meetings.” To learn more about recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Snapper.”

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Walton Bay, river and shoreline fishing report for April 16

pompanoFishing is good and dependent on the weather

Choctawhatchee Bay: Folks reeling in some large speckled trout, some small redfish, a few sheepshead and black drum.

Shoreline: Great reports of good size pompano being caught. One report of a 6 lb. catch. Cobia being caught, still on the small size.

River: River is high.

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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Snake avoidance clinic for dogs at Hammock Bay April 27

snakeavoidanceThe Emerald Coast Vizsla Club is hosting a Snake Avoidance Clinic with Dr. Bud Calderwood, DVM at Hammock Bay on Sunday, April 27, 2014.

Dogs are trained to associate the smell, sound and site of a snake with a negative reinforcement. Dr. Calderwood fits the dog with an e-collar to provide negative re-enforcement. The strength of the correction is calibrated for each dog and is somewhat stiff, so expect your dog to react accordingly. Bear in mind, this training could be LIFE SAVING. The snakes used in this clinic have been rendered safe by removing their fangs and taping their mouths shut.

The clinic consists of a small course where various venomous snakes are arranged in several situations. The dog’s handler is instructed to lead the dog through the course on a leash. Dr. Calderwood’s expertise in canine and reptile behavior allows him to apply the right correction exactly at the right moment for each snake encounter. He has gained this insight through years of experience with many hundreds of dogs. The dog is then lead back through the course to gauge its reaction to subsequent snake encounters. This training is used to allow your dog to associate the sound and smell of a snake with danger and train them to avoid the situation. In our “neck of the woods” this is a very important training that may save your dog’s life.

$50 for first dog in family, $40 for any other dogs in that family, $35 to re-check a previously tested dog. Please make checks payable to ECVC. Click here to download registration form: ECVC Snake Avoidance Clinic Flyer 2014

Requirements:  This is a community service and ALL BREEDS of dogs are welcome. Dogs must be leash-trained, over 6 months old and weigh at least 20 pounds. If you have a dog that is less than 20 lbs., but over 6 months of age, you may be granted a waiver, but will need to call first for special instructions from Dr. Calderwood. Priority will be given to pre-paid entrants and to members of the ECVC. Day of event entries may be taken as space is available.


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Take a guided eco tour of Western Lake on a kayak or stand up paddle board April 28

greategretwesternlakeTime: 8:30 – 11:00 a.m.

You will travel from where the water comes in to Western Lake to where the water goes out from Western Lake to the Gulf of Mexico.  Discussion topics will include history, coastal dune lake ecology, and local anecdotes, as well as efforts to preserve the lakes and how the lakes preserve us. Your guide will be Karl Renelt.

Moderate or higher exertion level, depending on wind conditions. Participants are asked to bring forecast compatible clothing and personal comfort items (i.e. sunscreen, bug spray, etc.). Kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rental included in the cost of the tour.

Space is limited to 8 participants. Minimum of 4. Location: Meet at The Boathouse at WaterColor, 34 Goldenrod Circle, Santa Rosa Beach.

Fee: $65 for kayak, $70 for stand-up paddleboard. Click here to register online or call 850-200-4160, Ref# 090602 – KAYAK, Ref# 090603 – STAND-UP PADDLEBOARD. Have your credit card ready.

Event subject to cancellation. In the case of inclement weather, registrants will be notified by email or phone the afternoon/evening prior, and fees will be fully refunded.

Hosted by Choctawhathcee Basin Alliance, Discover Roads Less Traveled eco-tours will introduce you to some of these very special places. Click here to learn about various upcoming events.


Posted in Beaches, Eco adventure, Environment, Kayak/Canoe, Nature, paddle/surf/boat, Parks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Choctawhatchee Estuary Family Festival in Niceville April 26

estuaryThe Seventh Annual Choctawhatchee Estuary Family Festival, a free family and community event for all ages, will be held Saturday, April 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, located at 4281 Highway 20 East in Niceville.

There is no park entrance fee for the festival which offers fun activities, hand-on displays and environmental awareness. The event is hosted by the Mattie M. Kelly Cultural & Environmental Institute at Northwest Florida State College, with support from the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks.

The Choctawhatchee Estuary Family Festival features activities for the whole family including fish printing on t-shirts, operating an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV), explore the deep ocean and learn about critters that glow-in-the-dark, learn how to paddle board or take a kayak tour in the bayou, view wildlife displays, learn about our local environment and more.

The event will also include displays by the Okaloosa County Health Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, Audubon Society, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and others.

All activities and entertainment are free of charge! No need to RSVP- just be prepared to have a great time!

Families are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch and come learn about the local waters of our estuary and the people living and working there. For more information on the festival, contact the Mattie M. Kelly Cultural & Environmental Institute at 850-729-6469.

For more information: http://www.mattiekellyinstitute.org/env-estuary-festival.cfm.

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