Tis the season… the days are shorter, the lines at the stores are longer, and everyone is busy getting ready. This newsletter is about natural resources and nature – so I was thinking about how we could all enjoy the spirit of this holiday for the wildlife and for our own peace of mind. Maybe we could think in terms of the “12 days of Christmas” that could benefit wildlife and ourselves. Give it a try!
1st Day of Christmas: Donate to a Wildlife Sanctuary or a local Pet Shelter
This is a great way to start off. Most wildlife sanctuaries and animal shelters are need of items over the colder months. They are on tight budgets – as we all are – and giving is good for you as well. Providing a bag of pet food to our local animal shelter is another way to help our furry friends and it will make you feel better as well.
2nd Day of Christmas: Take a Walk Outside
This is one of the best times of year to live in the panhandle. The skies are beautiful day and night. The crowds are down and there are a lot of interesting things that walking our beaches and hiking in the woods. It is very calming in this season of busy and rush. Take a day (or evening) and enjoy it.
3rd Day of Christmas: Think About Bottled Water and other Plastic Items
We continue to find a lot of plastic items washed ashore along our beaches and roadsides that are serious problems for many of the organisms that live there. Plastic bottles, bags, and food wrappers (not to mention cigarette butts) are still collected each weekend along our beaches. Maybe this Christmas you can have some way of reducing these problems at your holiday gatherings. A good thing to continue throughout the year!
4th Day of Christmas: Participate in a Bird Count
There is the official Christmas Bird Count that occurs each year (find out more by contacting your local Audubon Society) or do one of your own while you enjoy the back porch. Much of the panhandle wildlife disappears this time of year – birds are one of the few that remain active (if not more active). You’ll be amazed at the variety we have here this time of year.
5th Day of Christmas: Consider Removing Invasive Species
Not everyone has these in their yard but some do. Some species have become a real problem and controlling them is a need. If you have an invasive plant consider removing it. If you need advice on how – contact us here at the Extension Office. Let’s try and keep the serious invasive species at bay.
6th Day of Christmas: Go Paddle Boarding or Kayaking
It is a bit cold for most of us to enter the water this time of year but the waters are usually pretty calm and very clear. There are a lot of neat things you can see from a paddle boards or kayaks. Don’t have a paddle board or kayak? There are plenty of locations in the panhandle that rent them – it will be worth the time and money to get out outside for a while.
7th Day of Christmas: Think About Packaging
It really is not Christmas without beautifully wrapped presents beneath the tree. But we tend to generate a lot of waste with packaging. Some items are not even used more than the time it takes us to drive home – then they go straight into the trash can. We need color to make the season bright but take some time to think about how you could reduce the packaging issue.
8th Day of Christmas: Go Fishing
Even if you do not fish – or are real bad at catching fish – fishing is a very relaxing way to spend a few hours during the busy holiday. Who knows – You might catch a big surprise! Be aware of monofilament though. This is a big issue for aquatic wildlife also. There are monofilament recycle bins at many locations in the panhandle and boxes from Berkley Fishing Line that will recycle this line into other products.
9th Day of Christmas: Help the Sea Turtles
It is not sea turtle season yet but now is not a bad time to begin thinking about changing your outdoor lights to become more turtle friendly. Most of those living and working on the beach will have to make this change so why wait. If you have questions about how to become turtle friendly you can contact the county extension office.
10th Day of Christmas: Enjoy the Holidays Lights
This time of year we decorate our homes with beautiful Christmas lighting. It was common when I was a kid to take a ride one evening and just admire the lights – do it. It is really a great break from the hectic day. If you want to keep it traditional – hot chocolate when you are done!
11th Day of Christmas: Check for Derelict Crab Traps
This time of year the tides are lower than normal. Between the tide and the north winds – the water levels are low enough to expose derelict crab traps in the water. If you see one of these let us know here at the Extension Office. Removing crab traps from open waters (even if there are derelict) is illegal in Florida. We can get permission from the state to remove those. But we need to know where they are. Derelict traps unfortunately continue to catch crabs and other marine life – a waste of a good resource really – let’s change it.
12th Day of Christmas: Enjoy a Sunset
And finally – end your day with one of the best sunsets you will see all year. We are all lucky to live in a place like this. Celebrating the sunset is a wonderful way to be thankful for it.
Enjoy family, friends, pets, and wildlife this season. Take some time.
Happy Holidays Everyone!