While the famed low country boil meal is the well-known highlight, this Saturday’s Winter Bay Day Celebration at the St. Joseph Bay Preserves has a lot more going on.
The day gets started at 8:30 a.m. with a two-hour Birding Tour beginning at Salinas Park Bayside, 280 Cape San Blas Rd, and weaving in and around St. Joseph Bay. Natasza Fontaine, an Apalachicola shorebird biologist with Audubon Florida, will lead the tour.
“We will bird that area and potentially drive a short distance to a second location that I will scout before the birding walk just to see if there will be birds foraging the Flats,” said Fontaine. “The meeting time will be at 8:30 a.m. and if the second location is active, we will probably end at 10:30 a.m. Regular walking shoes should be fine. It would be great for participants to bring binoculars.”
The Buffer Preserves staff and volunteers will provide free guided tram rides throughout the day to showcase the backwoods trails of the preserve. As one of the most ecologically significant areas in the southeastern United States, the preserve contains interesting animal and plant life, as well as archaeological and historical sites, dating from prehistoric times to the present.
Tours depart from the Visitor Center. Reservations are recommended and will be available on the deck at the Bay Day event. Bay Day tram tour seating will be first come first served, with departure times at 9, 10 and 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., all ET.
While there is no admission charge to attend Bay Day, a $15 donation is requested for the low country boil, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET on the Visitor Center Deck. In addition to the memorable meal, served with drinks on picnic tables, visitors enjoy stunning views of St. Joseph Bay, live music and a silent auction.
The silent auction and fun raffle features lots of donations from community partners that support the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves’ mission to advocate for the St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve and State Buffer Preserve.
“We support the education on those key issues that are important in keeping the bay and preserve one of the most pristine areas in the world,” said Richard Trahan, the Friends president. “These silent auction items cover a wide range of things such as chef at home experiences, fishing charters, art, dining gift certificates and much more.
“We have options to bid on the specific item or “buy it now” pricing,” he said. “Either way, you take all items home that day and have a chance to be a raffle winner.”
Up until the day closes at 3 p.m., exhibitors at Bay Day will have displays set up to share information about water quality, recreational opportunities, seagrass research and monitoring, urchins, scallops (touch tank), updates to the state park, turtles, fossils, shorebirds, and much more of the extensive environmental work done in and around St. Joseph Bay. All the environmental displays will be located down on the grass by the observation tower and along the back of the lodge.
Winter Bay Day exhibitors include: Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserves, St. Andrews & St. Joseph Bays Estuary Program, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Rish State Park, Gulf County UF/IFAS, Audubon Florida, Indian Pass Turtle Patrol, Florida Coastal Conservancy/Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Center, Friends of Gulf County Library, International Dark Sky/Capture the Dark, FWC/Fish and Wildlife Research Institute – Bay Scallops, and FWC/Fisheries-Independent Monitoring Program.