Walton County providing heat relief locations Aug. 22 – 24, 2014

walton-county-logoIn an effort to provide a place of respite for the elderly and medically needy during this period of extreme heat, Walton County Emergency Management, in partnership with other community organizations, has arranged for the follow comfort stations.

John Horton Senior Center
194 North County Highway 393
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
12 – 5 Friday
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Council on Aging Offices
454 N. Baldwin Avenue
DeFuniak Springs, FL
12 – 5 Friday
Sat. 12 -  5 p.m.

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Black skimmers successfully nest at Henderson Beach State Park

Black skimmers on nest with chicks. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Black skimmers on nest with chicks. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Learn about the shorebirds and see the chicks up close through a birdscope this Sat. and Sun.

A pair of black skimmers have successfully nested and hatched three chicks at Henderson Beach State Park this summer. These beautiful shorebirds arrived at Henderson right after July 4, 2014. Approximately 4-5 days later, three eggs were laid three days in a row.

Black skimmers are not often seen in the Okaloosa/Walton area, and this species typically nests within a colony of other skimmers.

Black skimmer parent watches over chick. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Black skimmer parent watches over chick. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Mates take turns scraping the sand to create a nest, kicking sand behind them with alternating foot strokes. They then rotate in their scrape to create a saucer-shaped depression. The average scrape is 10 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep.

It’s been a precarious journey for the little ones as the eggs were hatched in a congested area along the beach and close to the shoreline. A large area was roped off for their safety according to park services specialist Lynda Smith.

As of Aug. 22, so far so good according to Smith. The three chicks are doing well and may be ready to fledge in another two weeks.

If you are interested in seeing these beautiful shorebirds and their chicks, head over to Henderson and take a peek. There will be an Audubon shorebird steward with a scope for better viewing on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Click here to learn more about Henderson Beach State Park.

Cool facts about black skimmers:

  • The Black Skimmer is the only American representative of the skimmer family. The other two, rather similar, species are the African Skimmer and the Indian Skimmer. All use the same unusual feeding method.
  • Although the Black Skimmer is active throughout the day, it is largely crepuscular (active in the dawn and dusk) and even nocturnal. Its use of touch to catch fish lets it be successful in low light or darkness.
  • At hatching, the two mandibles of a young Black Skimmer are equal in length, but by fledging at four weeks, the lower mandible is already nearly 1 cm longer than the upper.
  • Possibly the best description of the Black Skimmer’s bounding, head-down foraging style came from R. C. Murphy in 1936. He said they look like “unworldly… aerial beagles hot on the scent of aerial rabbits.”

Cool facts information courtesy allaboutbirds.com

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Take a guided hike to No Name Lake at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Aug. 29

campbelllakesmDate/time: Friday August 29th, 2014, 2 -3 p.m.

Come join the rangers at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park on a hike to view the parks’ natural beauty. This ranger led hike will take you through several of the ecosystems that make this park unique. The walk will culminate on the shore of No Name Lake and perhaps with a glimpse of the resident alligator. Please no open toe shoes. Meet the ranger at Tram Stop 1.

A $6.00 entry admission per vehicle into the park. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330 ::MAP::

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Historical tour of Coffeen Nature Preserve Sept. 3

coffeenTime: 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Hosted by Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Discover Roads Less Traveled eco-tours will introduce you to some very special places in Walton county.

Explore the Coffeen Nature Preserve and its history of World War II missile testing. The 220-acre nature preserve is owned by the Coffeen Land Trust, a local environmental non-profit organization dedicated to preserving it “as a place of peace and quiet and a haven for all God’s creatures.” Its history however is far from quiet. It was used as a secret missile test site by the Army Air Force during World War II. Hundreds of JB-2 “Buzz Bombs,” (the first pilotless, jet propelled missiles) were launched from the dunes into the Gulf of Mexico.

Join Susan Paladini, the resident manager, and explore the site where America’s strategic missile program began. You will view the original military photographs inside the “mess hall” and learn about the generous gift of the founder, the late Dorothy Coffeen.

This will be followed by a hike of approximately 1. miles around the property, which will include walking along two original missile launch ramps, stepping down into concrete launch bunkers and viewing other military buildings. Enjoy the natural beauty of the Preserve and Fuller Lake. This is the most western of Walton County’s globally rare and imperiled coastal dune lakes.

Participants are encouraged to wear a hat, sunscreen and insect repellant and to bring bottled water. Closed-toed or other suitable walking shoes are a must.

Space is limited to 16 participants. Minimum of 2 required.

Location: Coffeen Nature Preserve, Santa Rosa Beach

Fee: $20

Click here to learn more, then call to reserve your space at 850-200-4160.

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Enjoy a guided tour of the wet prairies and rare plants of Point Washington State Forest Sept. 1

wetprairies2Hosted by Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Discover Roads Less Traveled eco-tours will introduce you to some very special places in Walton county.

Guide: Tom Green ($10 for instructor, $5 CBA) Time: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

We will visit several wet prairies in Pt. Washington State Forest. Observe and identify pitcher plants, sundews and other carnivorous plants, plus many other native plants that are typically found only in this kind of habitat. Several of these species are threatened or endangered. The history and ecology of the prairies will be discussed, as well as, the role of fires in these precious ecosystems. This tour is led by an accomplished biologist who has been involved in describing and mapping wet prairies in south Walton County.

Moderate difficulty, walking about a mile, including over boggy ground that may have some standing water. Bring water, sunscreen, insect repellant, and hat. Wear long pants and closed-toed sturdy shoes (no sandals or flip-flops) that can get wet and muddy. A walking stick and camera are recommended.

Space is limited to 15 participants. Minimum of 4.

Location: Meet at South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College, 109 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32549. Vehicle caravan to event location.

Fee: $15 + $2 forest entry fee at entrance of park.

Click here to learn more, then call to reserve your space at 850-200-4160.

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Bayfest coming to Freeport Regional Sports Complex September 20

freeportbayfestThe City of Freeport will be hosting their inaugural ‘BAYFEST’ on Saturday September 20, 2014 at the Freeport Regional Sports Complex at Hammock Bay from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The festival will feature a variety of entertainment for everyone with musical genre including country, gospel, jazz, blues and rock-n-roll.  Other events include a fishing tournament, hosted by Nick’s Seafood Restaurant, a 5k run and gumbo cook off the morning of the festival, antique car show, kids fun zone, arts and crafts, as well as plenty of food vendors.

Musical performers will take the stage at 11a.m. beginning with: Gospel group, The Freedom Hill Quartet followed by Elvis impersonator, Jerome Jackson, at 1 p.m. Blues music will be performed by the David Geralds Band at 3 p.m., and the sensational jazz music of Jones and Company will start at 5 p.m. Country music recording artist, Shane Owens, will take the stage at 7 p.m. to entertain with hits such as “Bottom Of The Fifth”, “Redneck” and “19″.

Freeport Regional Sports Complex is located at 671 Hammock Trail East, Freeport, FL. 32439.

This is a tobacco-free facility. No alcohol, pets, coolers, bikes, or skateboards.
Armbands will be sold at the gate the day of the event.  Admission is $5 for students and $10 for adults.

Application and Registration forms can be downloaded at www.FreeportBayfest.com.
For further information contact Freeport Mayor, Russ Barley, at 850-835-2822.

Sponsors:  The City of Freeport, Crystal Beach Development, Regions Bank, Chelco and Nick’s Seafood Restaurant.

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Holmes Creek clean up day Sept. 16

holmescreek2Free kayak and canoe rentals for participants

Date/time: Tuesday, Sept. 16, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The Washington County Tourist Development Council along with Holmes Creek Canoe Livery, Old Cypress Canoe Rentals and Snaggy Bend Outfitters will host the first annual Holmes Creek Clean-Up on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 from 9 a.m. -1 p.m. The meet-up location will be at Holmes Creek Livery (near the Hwy. 79 bridge) at 2899 Highway 79 in Vernon. ::map::

Come help keep Holmes creek clean by removing trash from the summer season. Three segments of the creek will be cleaned along with the boat landing parks. The Holmes Creek liveries will provide free canoe rentals along with plenty of bottled water. Be the individual to collect the most trash and you will win a two-night vacation to Top of the Gulf condominiums on beautiful Panama City Beach donated by Snaggy Bend Outfitters. Other prizes for runners up include free canoe rentals for the 2015 season. Be sure to bring your grabbers and gloves.



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2015 Hunks and Hounds calendar to benefit Alaqua Animal Refuge

LouiWMAlaqua Animal Refuge is offering the 2015 Hunks and Hounds calendar to benefit the refuge. Animal lovers can now pre-purchase the much anticipated calendar at hunksandhounds.com for $24.99. On September 1, 2014, the calendar will be available for $29.99 on the website as well as south Walton area retail stores. The calendar is set to be printed in October.

Stay tuned to hunksandhounds.com for updates. Hunks and Hounds photo shoots are still going on and photos will be added to the website as each shoot concludes.

It costs over $55,000 each month to operate Alaqua Animal Refuge. The refuge relies on fundraising and private donations to meet their rising costs. This calendar will give Alaqua the opportunity to raise a portion of the much-needed operating funds so they can continue to give animals shelter, safety, and second chances.

Alaqua Animal Refuge is the premier no-kill animal shelter in Northwest Florida. Since Alaqua’s inception in 2007, the refuge has placed over 10,000 animals of all kinds into homes. Alaqua has grown to become a recognized leader in animal welfare and animal cruelty prevention.

Local talent Dawn C. Whitty of Dawn Chapman Whitty Photography along with Keri Atchley of Design 360 have donated their time and services to create the website and design the calendar.

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Explore the Native Plant Demonstration Garden and Trail at Northwest Florida State College South Walton campus

A pitcher plant bog is one of the many features of the Native Plant Demonstration Garden and Trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A pitcher plant bog is one of the many features of the Native Plant Demonstration Garden and Trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Interested in learning about native Northwest Florida plants and ecosystems? Head over to the Northwest Florida State College South Walton campus and explore the Native Plant Demonstration Garden and Trail in Santa Rosa Beach.

The Native Plant Demonstration Garden and Trail is a joint project of the Walton County Master Gardeners, Northwest Florida State College, and the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance. This trail was developed to familiarize residents, visitors, and students with some of the most common native trees, shrubs and wildflowers that thrive in this small ecosystem in South Walton County.

CBA trail guide 4_fold.inddThe multi-modal trail wraps around the south-and-western edge of the college’s South Walton Center. There are interpretive markers along the trail which provide educational information on various plant species. The garden demonstrates best practices for the use of native plants, water conservation, and other Florida-friendly gardening techniques for the home landscape.

The easily navigated trail was well planned out and offers something for most every nature lover. The area boasts creative sculptures and painting by local artisans, a meditation area, seating, and is also ADA accessible. The area also connects to the larger Creek Trail.

Click here to download TRAIL GUIDE

For more information, contact the NWFSC South Walton Center at (850) 200-4160. South Walton Center of NWF State College is located at 109 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach.

 Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is hosting a guided tour each Wednesday in Sept. and Oct. at 3 p.m. “Getting to Know the Natives- Garden & Trail Tour.” Cost is $15. Learn more by clicking here.


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Tread softly around Cnidoscolus stimulosus

Tread Softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus). Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Tread Softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus). Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Tread Softly (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) is a small herbaceous wildflower we commonly find along our sandy beaches, coastal scrubs, and sandy forest trails. If you happen to step on or brush up against one, you will not soon forget your encounter. Although their tiny white flowers are fragrant, this is one you should avoid close encounter.

Tread softly is also known as stinging nettle, finger-rot, and probably a few other names if you’ve ever stepped on it barefoot. Not actually a nettle, it is a perennial herb of the Euphorbiaceae family and covered in stinging hairs that will produce a painful short-term rash. Symptoms from contact with this plant include pain and stinging sensation and typically last an hour or so. However, rarely, some people may experience a severe reaction, in which case, you should contact a physician immediately.

Enjoy these flowering beauties from afar.

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