June 27, 2013

Energy Information Seminar –at Green Expo

Want to learn more about natural gas?  Interested in weatherizing your home?
This Saturday, join Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project with City of Clearwater’s Gas and Planning & Development Departments for a free class about energy efficiency, alternative energy, and an update on Clearwater Greenprint, the City of Clearwater’s “green” strategies.
Each participant at the free 1-hour session will receive an insulated tote bag. 
The seminar will be held in conjunction with a Green Expo hosted by the City of Clearwater at Moccasin Lake Nature Park
Green Expo hours are 9:30 am to 12 noon. Energy Information Seminar is at 10:30 am.
Come out and learn about natural gas, energy efficient behaviors, and alternative energy.  Door prizes and informational give-a-ways will be available!

Register at

June 24, 2013

Humans to the rescue

Lara Miller,
Natural Resource Agent

When someone or something is in distress, we tend to have an instinctual reaction to help. Often times providing assistance is an extremely beneficial action, but that’s not always the case with nature. During this time of year, many baby birds are exploring the exciting new world around them. A chance to watch eggs hatch, down turn into feathers, closed eyes begin to open and weak bodies begin to build strength is spectacular, but we have to be careful not to get involved.

Baby birds are extremely dependent upon their parents for survival. Birds often appear helpless during the nestling stage of development, unable to walk or fly. Should you come across a young bird that has fallen out of its nest, look for a nest nearby. If you find one, check to see if the baby bird you found matches others in the nest. If it does, gently place the bird back in the nest and leave the area. If you are unable to find a matching nest site or unable to reach a nest, you can make a temporary nest site for the bird. To do this, you can use a hanging pot plant with drain holes and line the pot with pine straw up to the lip, then place as close to the original nest site as possible. Young chicks should not be separated from their parents for a long time, so it is important to complete these processes as quickly as possible.

During the fledgling stage of development, young birds leave the nest, hopping among shrubs and bushes learning to gather food and building up the stamina to fly. At this stage, birds are vulnerable prey to predators including dogs and cats. Should a pet pose a serious threat, you can gently pick up the bird and place it on a high branch of dense vegetation.

If parents do not return to these young birds within an hour or two, it is advised to contact a wildlife rehabilitator. You can find licensed rehabilitators by contacting the local Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (863) 648-3200. Citizens without federal permits are not legally allowed to care for wildlife. Orphans need around-the-clock care and species-specific housing, nutrition and handling.

In cases like this, humans can come to the rescue if aware of the proper procedures. If you find a baby bird away from its parents, try to get it back to its nest where its parents can care for it appropriately. As much as we would love to care for these small creatures, we are not capable of meeting their needs without appropriate certification.

June 10, 2013

Hurricane Preparedness

Libby Carnahan, UF/IFAS Pinellas County
Sea Grant Extension Agent

Nan Jensen, UF/IFAS Pinellas County
Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent

June kicks off hurricane season and five days into the month Tropical Storm Andrea formed in the Gulf of Mexico, proving that it is never too early to review your hurricane plans. Below are some helpful tips.

Review your Disaster Plan
A predetermined hurricane plan takes the guesswork out of an already stressful situation. It is important to know your evacuation zone and designated shelter (In Pinellas County- Meet with your family and discuss what you will do if advised to evacuate. It is a good idea to designate an out-of-state friend as a contact for your family. Be aware of local resources including telephone numbers and websites; a useful list of local resources can be found at It is recommended that you talk with your neighbors about how you could work together after a tropical storm or hurricane-identify tools and skills of each neighbor, identify elderly neighbors with special needs, and make plans for childcare in case parents cannot get home. Keep the items that you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy-to carry container such as a large, covered trash container, a camping backpack, or a duffle bag.

Stock your Supply Kit
To be ready for a disaster, you need to stock six basics in your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items.

A five to seven day supply of nonperishable foods and water is recommended. Also include items like a non-electric can opener, utility knife, plastic utensils and dishware, plastic wrap or tin foil to keep foods covered and hand sanitizer to lessen the risk of food contamination in your hurricane preparation kit. Before the storm, turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings. After a power outage, refrigerated food will stay cold longer if you keep the refrigerator door closed. Food in the refrigerator should generally be eaten within 4 hours; food in the freezer may remain safe for 1-2 days. But when in doubt if food is safe to eat, throw it out.

  • Ideal foods do not need refrigeration, are low in salt, and do not require cooking. Some examples are canned fruits, peanut butter, jam, low-salt crackers, cereals, dried fruit, canned soups or meats, juices, and non-fat dry milk. 
  • Clean drinking water may be unavailable for days. Aim to have one to two gallons of water per person per day for at least 5 to 7 days. 
  • Include any special foods for those with dietary restrictions, and baby food and formula if you have infants in the household. 
  • Include medications and special needs for babies or elderly. 
  • Don’t forget pet food and water.

It is also important to have key documents in order. Even if you do not need family records during an evacuation, you must prevent them from being destroyed by a disaster. Such records are difficult to replace and may delay an insurance claim or other important matters. Keep these records in a waterproof, fireproof, portable container:

  • Copies of will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds • Passports, social security cards and immunization records 
  • Bank account numbers 
  • Credit card account numbers and companies 
  • Inventory of valuable household goods 
  • Important telephone numbers 
  • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)

The University of Florida IFAS offers many great resources to help you prepare including the new Gulf of Mexico Alliance funded “Florida Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards,” and the “Disaster Handbook”, available online.