Our Earth Day Celebration

Our Earth Day Celebration

Our Earth Day Celebration

By Diane M. Loeffler

April 22 was Earth Day. Once again, the local Audubon Club celebrated the day at the West Campus Nature Trails with tours of our own little piece of “the real Florida.” Free fruit, snacks, water, a tent, and a port-a-potty were provided by the Community Association.

Attendees signed up for 45-minute long tours from 9 to noon. The 12 groups were kept at 15 people each so everyone could have their questions answered. Each tour provided general information about the park area. Each tour had a special focus. Melanie Higgins’ Tree Huggers Tours talked about the environment. Ray Webb’s tours talked more about birds. During those tours he stopped to identify bird calls and to use his telescope. John Lampkin identified insects and the plants they fed on and pollinated. He often took photos of small insects and then enlarged them so everyone could see.

Melanie Higgins led four tours. In addition to general information about the park, she spoke about the habitat’s environment.

Raffle tickets could be purchased for chances to win beautiful potted plants. Nature photography and other items were available. Some were free, some could be purchased.

A sign indicated where an avian pole is to be installed. Osprey love to nest high in old, dead trees or on top of power poles. The new pole will be in the field in front of the wooded area. TECO is providing the pole and the Audubon Society has been raising money to cover the cost of installation. In order to avoid any confusion during nesting season, the pole will be installed in June or later this year.

A special thanks to the Community Association, the Audubon Society and the Sponsors: Sweet Bay Nursery, Keep It Green and Sunny Days Nursery.

One of four birding tour groups.

The West Campus Nature Trails are located to the west of Del Webb West, south of Vincennes Drive and north of Seton Hall Drive. Tour guide Melanie Higgins says, “It is a shame more people don’t know about the Sun City Center Nature Trails and use it.”

Be sure to mark your calendars for April 22, 2023 for the next Earth Day celebration. In the meantime, you can take part in John Lampkin’s tours at 9 a.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. You can also just stop by on your own anytime. Just put on closed toe shoes (trails can be bumpy), wear a hat, apply bug spray, and bring your camera. Enjoy the beauty of nature right here.

IN THE TOP PHOTO: Grandchildren of a Sun City Center resident listen intently as John Lampkin shows them insects and the plants they feed on and fertilize.

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The Sun City Center Audubon Society celebrated the 51st anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 at the SCC Community Association’s West Campus Nature Trails. The weather cooperated beautifully with clear skies, a light breeze, low humidity and temperatures in the upper seventies.

Sixty-seven individuals signed up at the trailhead. Most of the participants had not been on the trail before despite living here for some time. One couple, Brent and Brenda Green, just moved into the Community Association a week before. Barb Durant joined the Audubon Society just before the pandemic hit. She is excited about the society’s programs and trips resuming. 

At 10 a.m. master birder, Ray Webb led the Bird Lovers’ Walk. Webb says, “ I have been a birder all my life. I joined the Tampa Audubon Society in 1975 and then here in Sun City Center in 2004.” Webb says he has seen 105 species of birds in the West Campus Nature Trails area. He pointed out the osprey on its nest on an elevated platform near West Del Webb saying, “Ospreys have been coming to this spot for the last three years. Great horned owls nest every year near La Jolla and North Pebble Beach.”

Since the park and its trails are near homes, there have been no prescribed burns. Some plants, animals and birds require an environment that has recently been burned. One of these is the scrub jay. Webb says, “If you want to see scrub jays, go to Duette Preserve in Manatee County, a wide-open area these birds love.”

Webb likes to walk on the West Campus Nature Trails early in the morning.  He says, “The best time to see the birds is around 7:45 in the morning. They are at their most active then. The best place to see them is along the water.”

Melanie Higgins led the 10:30 Tree Huggers Walk. She says, “I am passionate about restoration.” She explained the various habitats we saw along the walk and which plants and creatures need specific environments. Higgins also pointed out examples of the phases trees progress through. Did you know that slash pines and longleaf pines go through a grass phase before looking anything like a tree?

John Lampkin put some Spanish Moss under a microscope so we could see its scales. Lampkin says, “Spanish Moss has a tremendous amount of surface area to absorb water.” Lampkin led the 11 a.m. Bugs and Blooms walk. Lampkin not only tells the names of the “bugs and blooms,” he also describes how they interact with each other and the environment. For example, the button plant— a very tiny plant with a small bloom—is visited by 37 different types of bugs.

Peter Aluotto Is the Chairman of Conservation for the local Audubon Society. This event was his inaugural project. Aluotto says, “We were going to do something like this last year but cancelled because of the pandemic. We hope that residents know about the trails and become familiar with them. If you look at Ideal Living magazine, trails have become a selling point for housing areas. This community is a pioneer in having nature trails.”

Mary Duncan has been the president of the Audubon Society for four years. She says, “ZOOM meetings have continued to take place during the pandemic.” Duncan says, “There used to be field trips every month.  We plan to resume them after things begin to reopen.”

Duncan says, “I love being out in nature. This club is enjoyable on all levels of interest and knowledge of nature and birds. We have a variety of speakers at our monthly meetings. We travel to many places such as the Bishop museum, boating trips and nature preserves.”

Currently, only the south side of the canal is available for walking. The Audubon Society has drawn up plans for developing the part of the preserve north of the canal at some point in time. Doing so would require approval from the board and funds for a bridge and boardwalks.

There is talk of another Earth Day Event possibly being held next April 22. In the meantime, tours are available the first Tuesday of every month at 9 a.m. Bug spray, closed toe shoes and hats are recommended. The trails are on the west side of West Del Webb just south of Vincennes and just north of Seton Hall. Cars can park along the road. Golf cart parking is available in the field or back under the trees.

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