Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Typical Day? Of course!

Today, the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest hosted two interns from Santee Cooper. Maggie and Laura began their day at the swamp with a tour around the boardwalk. Naturally, we told the young ladies that it was just a typical day at Francis Beidler Forest.

Immediately upon entering the swamp, we were greeted by the loud singing of a male Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea). We saw other birds, flowers on the Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides), Ebony Jewelwings (Calopteryx maculata), uneaten crayfish parts, and a couple of Yellow-bellied Sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta). The "typical" day continued once we reached the main creek channel that passes by Goodsen Lake. First, we spotted a large Brown Water Snake (Nerodia taxispilota) sunning on a branch over the water. However, our attention was quickly diverted when we saw a female River Otter (Lutra canadensis) and her two pups moving through the channel toward us. Before we could spend too much time on the otters, we noticed an Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus) nearby with a dead Brown Water Snake securely within its jaws. Back to the otters...we got ahead of them as they left the channel and entered the upstream end of Goodson Lake. Spotting us, the otters dove underwater and their bubble trails showed that one of the pups missed a turn signal. When the family surfaced, mom and a pup were 30 yards from the other pup. After a momentary panic and a few distress calls to mom, the family moved up the channel at the end of the lake. Typical day.

As we headed back to the nature center, we came upon a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawn parked in a dry spot between a cluster of cypress knees. We hurriedly snapped a picture and moved on before the fawn felt the need to flee. On the other side of the boardwalk a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) hunted crayfish. Farther down the back side of the boardwalk loop, we encountered a Barred Owl (Strix varia) perched above the water waiting to rain death down upon some hapless crayfish. Just beyond the owl, we found a female Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) laying her clutch of eggs in a rotted cypress log. Before leaving the swamp, we saw a Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata fasciata) chase a small fish into the shallow water and eventually capture and consume it. Typical day.

We got paid to be here. Typical day.

Images by Mark Musselman

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