Wildflower Preserve was humming with life on Saturday, January 25th. The cool morning gave way to pleasant temperatures as over 350 people visited the Open House held at Lemon Bay Conservancy’s largest preserve. Visitors participated in guided trail walks and strolled among the information booths that showcased the activities of local environmental and gardening groups: the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, the Sierra Club, the Peace River Audubon Society, the Florida Native Plant Society, the Mens’ Garden Club of Englewood, the Coastal Wildlife Club; the high-energy students in the S.T.E.M. program and the Grow Green club at L. A. Ainger Middle School; and 16 Lemon Bay High School students in the Environmental Studies program.
Early arrivals set off on the 8:30 a.m. Tarpon Walk to observe the first-of-its-kind juvenile tarpon research project taking place in the tidal ponds at Wildflower. Under the supervision of University of Florida Graduate Researcher JoEllen Wilson, visitors could see the netting, measuring, genetic sampling, radio tagging and safe release of the young tarpon that are monitored monthly. The data is recorded and will provide a body of information essential to the understanding of tarpon nursery development and habitat.
New to Wildflower this year were the Environmental Safari Walks developed by the volunteers at Wildflower with grant funding provided by the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. The Safari Walks focus on the three different natural areas of the preserve: uplands, freshwater wetlands and estuarine habitats. Dr. Bill Dunson, Bob Cooper and Dave Clayton led the new walks and encouraged visitors to find and learn about the plant and animal species in each unique habitat. In addition, Margaret Dunson led a specialty walk, “ Attracting Yard Birds with Plants”; Jane Wallace led a guided Butterfly Walk; and Dr. Bill Dunson led a fascinating specialty walk featuring edible and medicinal plants found in the preserve.
As if this wasn’t enough to keep everyone busy, several informational talks were presented throughout the morning. Members and visitors heard from Maran Hilgendorf of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program; Bobbie Rogers of Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center; Bob Winter of the Peace River Audubon Society; and Hugh Havlik of the Sierra Club. The L.A. Ainger Middle School students provided challenging environmental games for kids and adults alike. The entire day was an informative and fun experience.
Additional free nature walks will be offered at Wildflower Preserve in the coming weeks. Check our calendar for dates.