Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From Master Naturalists to 3rd Graders

Yesterday, the master naturalist group from Spring Island visited the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest. We're not sure who forgot to pay the global warming bill, but the day was gray and never made it to 60F. Nevertheless, the group walked the boardwalk and the bluff above Mallard Lake under the guidance of their instructors, Chris Marsh and Tony Mills. We tagged along to provide Beidler Forest-specific information, but the information exchange was heavily weighted in our favor. We learned a great deal about tree identification from Chris.

Along the boardwalk, we saw the ubiquitous Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), several Eastern Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) desperately trying to warm themselves, a pair of Carolina Chickadees feeding their young in cavity that was possibly created by a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), and a Barred Owl (Strix varia) catching and eating a crayfish. Participants left with a better understanding of the bald cypress-tupelo swamp and cameras full of images.

Today, third graders from Flowertown Elementary School worried that the continuing cool weather would prevent them from seeing all that the swamp has to offer. However, just as yesterday, the same snakes (too cold to move) and same species of birds were seen. In addition, the alligator was curious enough to move off its sunny spot on the bank and swim into view.

Even though the weather is cooler than normal, this is certainly the time of the year to visit the Francis Beidler Forest whether you are interested in birds, reptiles, plants, amphibians (like the Squirrel Treefrogs) or simply a place like nowhere on Earth.

Images by Mark Musselman

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