Sunday, December 23, 2007
As with other counts during the year, the Christmas Bird Count provides scientists and conservationists with bird species numbers that in the long-term (the last 40 years) show trends and alert us to species that may be suffering from declining populations. Habitat loss remains a critical threat, but early detection of population declines, especially in bird species considered to be common, can help identify other threats. The image shows a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus).
Watch this blog for results of the local Christmas Bird Count and check the national webpage for results across the Americas!
Friday, December 21, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
4.25.1 – CarolinaCaching: A Geo-caching Curriculum
CarolinaCaching refers to an educational geocaching experience. This session will review the process for instructing students in the basics of GPS, the development of an instructional guide for creating navigation courses at individual schools, and the implementation of virtualcaches statewide to instruct students in the unique physical and cultural attributes of those places.
Jerry Mitchell, South Carolina Geographic Alliance; Mark Musselman, South Carolina Geographic Alliance
Today was spent creating a "GPS in the Classroom" package that can be used by a teacher to instruct students in the basics of GPS operation. Along with GPS units that can be borrowed from the South Carolina Geographic Alliance (SCGA), the teacher will have instructions on how to set up an on-campus course for students to practice using a GPS unit, instructions on how to set up a course for use during a field trip, and information on other recreational or career applications for GPS technology.
Although this work is interesting and the final product will be rewarding, it required another day in front of the computer and not outside. With record warm temperatures, we had spring fever in December and were lamenting our indoor prison term. Just then a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) hit the ground outside of our office window. We had ring-side seats to whatever death was about to occur, but the prey was not obvious. After a few stabs with its talons into the leaf litter, the hawk pulled out a Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis) and swallowed it whole.
Red-shouldered Hawks hunt mainly from perches and eat reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and birds. As Gary Larson of The Far Side once drew, "Birds of prey know they're cool!"
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Knowing that Mr. Cottonmouth was out, motivated us to wear our snake boots when we stepped out to post boundary signs along the swamp's edge. Although we covered many miles of property boundary lines, we did not spy any snakes. We did flush an American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) and some White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We also, much to our dismay, saw plenty of fresh signs that feral hogs (Sus scrofa) have been feeding and wallowing on the sanctuary.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Hear ye! Hear ye! The Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest will admit one child or adult for each trash bag (black or brown) that is full of packing peanuts. For all the Santas out there wanting to bring us these gifts, our address is 336 Sanctuary Rd., Harleyville, SC 29448. Any mapping software will show you the way.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
New Report Identifies Species at Greatest Risk
This small shorebird winters along the coastal beaches from North Carolina to Mexico. There are three separate breeding populations: the Atlantic and Great Plains populations, which are listed as Threatened, and the Great Lakes population, which is listed as Endangered. Overall, there are only an estimated 6,400 Piping Plovers left in the entire world.
This species nests in large colonies on barrier islands along the east coast of the U.S and on sandbars in the rivers of the Mid-West. Due to loss of habitat many are now building nests on the pebbled flat roofs of malls, schools, and other large buildings near the coast. In South Carolina, there are few remaining Least Tern nesting colonies in natural habitats and little is being done to protect tern chicks from the hazards of rooftop nesting.
Widespread throughout the eastern U.S., this species breeds in large tracts of mature deciduous forest in South Carolina. The melodious, flute-like song of the Wood Thrush reminds us that spring has once again returned. They are a neotropical migrant, meaning that they breed in the United States and Canada during the summer, but fly south for the winter to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central or South America. Wood Thrush populations in South Carolina have declined by more than 80% since 1966.
Prothonotary Warbler, the stunning yellow bird so typical of the swamps, rivers, and wetlands of the eastern U.S., has declined by more than 40% over the past 40 years. Like the Wood Thrush, the Prothonotary Warbler is a neotropical migrant with wintering grounds as far south as the northern tip of South America.
This secretive sparrow breeds in longleaf pine savannas throughout the southeastern U.S. During the summer months, their distinctive song rings through the open piney woods. It is estimated that longleaf pine forest once covered as much as 90 million acres in the southeastern U.S.; now there are less than three million acres remaining. With little prime habitat remaining for the sparrow, its population has decreased by nearly 50% in South Carolina over the past 40 years.
Name: Jeff Mollenhauer, Director of Bird Conservation
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Years of inexperienced canoeists or cypress knee ambushes have led to dents, holes, and metal fatigue along the seams of the canoes. Although not in danger of sinking, the Four Holes Swamp Fleet was in need of some dry dock attention. The bracing and welding is being accomplished at the dry dock facilities of our corporate partner, Lafarge Cement. The fleet will be in working order long before the scheduled canoe trips in the spring.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Shortly after his birth, his dad joined the U. S. Air Force and the moving began. New Jersey to Georgia to Mississippi to Georgia to Mississippi to The Philippines to Mississippi to Texas to Hof and Ramstein and Zweibruecken, Germany to Grandview and Belton, Missouri to Florida and finally to Brussels, Belgium. The family continued moving, but after 15 different schools, he graduated high school at the Brussels American School and headed to the University of South Carolina. Little did he know that his best friend in Brussels would be his wife eight years later.
The Navy gave him a NROTC scholarship and encouraged him to take a technical major to better serve the nuclear Navy. After 2.5 years of that, he switched to the USMC side and changed majors to something more interesting...history. Why then, many have asked, did he get a 3.2 GPA? That would be directly attributable to the non-standard history electives: 2.0 years of calculus, chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, fluids, statics, solids, etc.
After being commissioned a 2ndLt., he spent four years on active duty and two in the reserves. While working at Tupperway Tires (Summerville, SC) as the warehouse manager, he was called up during the First Gulf War. Although few give him wartime credit for his service, few can argue that Saddam Hussein made no effort to attack via the Western Front. He obviously saw the Marines standing tall into the breeze off of the Pacific Ocean. Those paying attention in geography class can help those that were asleep. For some, the first war was spent repairing equipment in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Tough duty, but that's why they sent "The Few. The Proud."
Upon returning from the burning sands of the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station's golf course, he worked temporary jobs while earning a Masters in Teaching. After three years of teaching science, he became a stay-home dad for his 6-month-old daughter. Although a stay-home dad for eight years, which included the arrival of daughter #2, he remained active in the educational community, including a spring session as a seasonal naturalist at Beidler Forest. That is when he knew what he wanted to do when he grew up! From that point forward, every decision was made with the thought of eventually working full-time at Beidler Forest.
The journey wasn't a straight road from New Jersey to Beidler Forest, but it was certainly educational and enjoyable. Hopefully, one of the guys pictured to the right makes it to your table along with the friends and family that make your journey worth remembering!
We'll be taking a break until next week.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Audubon South Carolina supports alternate power sources and technologies that reduce fossil fuel consumption. Part of our job is to present these options and possibilities to our audience as ways to preserve our energy resources and reduce the degradation of our environmental systems. The solutions are not easy. However, we feel it is important to present all the information (pros and cons) to ensure that our audience can make honest evaluations regarding the issues. Therefore, the use of coal to generate the electricity that powers the plug-in Prius battery needs to be presented as a cost in order for the "fuel savings/greenhouse gas reduction" equation to balance. Doing so will produce a less-than 100 mpg value with respect to fossil fuel consumption, which is still better than the vast majority of vehicles on the road. However, simply shifting the power input to another fossil fuel is ultimately not the answer.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
- Frantz Kafka
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
From the Master Naturalist webpage: What is a Master Naturalist?
A Master Naturalist is a person who has undergone specific training and who regularly volunteers time toward various projects. Typically, Master Naturalists seek to make a difference in helping to maintain the quality of our native ecosystems through training designed to help ‘read’ the landscape of the state. This includes understanding the underlying geology, specific inhabitants (birds, plants, mammals, etc.), ecology and the impacts of humans on the landscape including how we conserve our amazing natural environments. Once trained, Master Naturalists volunteer in a variety of projects. In essence, the Master Naturalist program aims to turn out volunteer citizen scientists who can positively impact the natural resources of the state.
While learning about the geography and characteristics of the swamp, the participants were also practicing the tree and plant identification skills they had learned during previous field trips. The images show the group once it moved from the boardwalk to the bluff overlooking Mallard Lake, which is approximately two miles downstream. The high bluffs have underlying limestone near the surface giving rise to a plant community called the calcareous forest.
From Richard Porcher's and Douglas Rayner's A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina: The calcareous forests occur on bluffs, slopes, or moist flats that overlay calcareous substrates. The substrate is either marl or limestone that was laid down as marine deposit when the ocean covered the coastal plain. The calcium from the underlying substrate is a major factor shaping the diversity and composition of the vegetation. Certain species of plants, referred to as calcicoles, thrive in a basic to circumneutral soil that results from the presence of calcium ions. These species generaly are mixed with the flora of the surrounding community to form a diverse community. Classification of the various calcareous communities is not well developed; however, we do recognize two well-developed types. (One is the calcareous bluff forest which the group visited at Mallard Lake).
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
Is the snake in the image a poisonous or non-poisonous one? Pat yourself on the back if you said, “Neither.” There are no poisonous snakes, only venomous snakes. Next question, “Is the snake in the image a venomous one or not?”
How does the safety rhyme go? “Red on yellow can kill a fellow…red on black a friend of Jack.” The only Jack we know is deathly afraid of spiders, so we don’t think any snake will be a friend of his. Maybe the rhyme is, “Red on yellow is a friend of a fellow…red on black means take a step back.” Frankly, we can never remember the rhyme when we are safely in our office, so we doubt that we’ll remember it when faced with possible death! We prefer to keep it simple and use brain cells already filled securely with useful safety information. When you are driving and the light is yellow, you know that the next color will be red and that means stop…even if you thought the correct answer was “mash the accelerator.” Therefore, if the snake has yellow next to red, STOP! This would be the venomous Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius). As you can see, the snake in the image has red next to black, so it is the non-venomous Scarlet Kingsnake (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides), which is a subspecies of the milk snake.
Scarlet Kingsnakes are secretive and rarely seen crawling about during the day. They are active at night, and spend the day hidden below ground or behind the bark of trees, so their bright colors are not a liability. These snakes eat mostly lizards, especially skinks, but will also eat small snakes and rodents.
Photo by Jeff Mollenhauer