The Beulah A. Laidlaw Preserve is 272 acres of land in Washington County, about four miles north of Vernon and west of State Route 79. The Preserve is owned by Florida Audubon Society has a Memorandum of Agreement to manage and oversee the property. There are complications on access across private lands, so the property is not open to the public or to Audubon’s membership except by appointment with one of the key holders. Ed Keppner and Neil Lamb wrote an Adaptive Management Plan for the Preserve in June 2009 have updated the Plan as part of the ongoing work at the Preserve. Dawn Barone is the Preserve Manager with assistance from Neil Lamb and numerous volunteers. We have received various grants for projects such as boardwalks, a pole barn shelter, and other amenities. The management plan is designed to promote wildlife through enhancement of the natural
topography of swamp, bog, uplands, and clearings that support a rich and diverse flora and fauna. Three signature species of the Preserve, the Swainson’s warbler, flame azalea, and gopher tortoise, are present in good numbers on the property.
An Eagle Scout Project and another Boy Scout Project by Troop 562 of Santa Rosa Beach, FL provided benches for the shelter and an outstanding photography blind overlooking the central bog and beaver pond. The trails and points of interest are sign-posted and mapped for use. Management strategies include clearing old man-made trails and game trails to allow easier access while at the same time maintaining more of the edge habitat that supports the species richness of the property. Brush piles created by the clearing are intentionally and strategically located to offer harborage and shelter to many species,especially over-wintering sparrows. Winter mowing of meadows instead of using fire maintains the open areas that are so critical to many species. Purple martin nest boxes, wood duck nest boxes, and Eastern bluebird nest boxes have been installed and are being used. A barn owl nest box is located in the shelter in the hope of attracting a barn owl. Trail cameras are used to augment daytime sightings and have proved most informative about the
gopher tortoise activities, wild turkeys, active movements of the alligators around the
The BCAS Conservation Committee Chair is Candis Harbison. Members include CoChair Lisbet Canteli, Ron Houser, Neil Lamb, and Norm Capra.
ALL MEMBERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND MEETINGS AND WRITE LETTERS AND EXPRESS THEIR PERSONAL CONSERVATION RELATED OPINIONS AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THE NAME OF BCAS MUST BE APPROVED BY THE PRESIDENT OR THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
Congratulations to UF/IFAS Bay County Master Gardeners
In recognition of outstanding efforts to educate the public on the recovery of our natural habitat in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Bay County Audubon awarded its Conservationist of the year Award to the Bay County Florida Master Gardeners The Award was due in part for their timely Landscape Recovery Workshops, recently presented at Gulf Coast State College. In addition, this award was made because this important information is continually reinforced by the “Ask a Master Gardener” program, actual distribution of trees, and other educational activities. We are particularly proud to have collaborated with them last year in the “Birds Bugs and Berries Symposium which focused on the importance of landscaping with Native Plants.
Bay County Florida Master Gardeners are University of Florida-trained volunteer teachers. The program is directed by Julie McConnell, University of Florida IFAS Extension Faculty and Bay County Horticultural Agent. The information disseminated by the Master Gardeners is based on the best available scientific information with a focus on environmental principles to promote biodiversity and sustainability. The award plaque was presented to Program Director Julie McConnell and President, Carol Ann Whitehurst on behalf of all the Bay County Master Gardeners at the BCAS Annual Banquet on May 13th at St. Andrews Episcopal Church.
2019 CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR
AUDUBON ISLAND NESTING MATERIAL
Our chapter has a long history of involvement with this small spoil island next to Port Panama City in St. Andrew Bay. The island is the only nesting place for brown pelicans in Bay County and it is a critical nest location for the entire western Panhandle. Besides the 300+ brown pelicans, several hundred laughing gulls, great blue herons, and a few other species nest on the island. Various storms over the past few years have washed away much of the vegetation on the island, so through the initiative of Dr. John Himes of the FL FWC, some volunteers hauled boatloads of tree branches out to the island for use by the brown pelicans to build nests among the rip-rap and jumbled concrete. The pelicans grabbed the branches even as they were being unloaded.
Click on the thumbnails below for better viewing
Photo by Neil Lamb
Red Admiral butterfly by Ron Houser
Photo by Rpm Houser
Left to right -Carol Ann Whithurst, Julie McConnell, and Norm Capra