Monday, November 10, 2008

Spring Island Master Naturalists

Once again, the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center welcomed the Master Naturalist class from Spring Island near Beaufort, SC.

With a diversity of backgrounds from which to draw, the participants "read the landscape" during the tour of the 1.75 miles of boardwalk through the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp. The uniformity of tree sizes through the first pages of boardwalk that cross over a high, dry portion of land told of the destructive force unleashed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which laid down 80% of the canopy. A few hundred meters farther down the boardwalk, the Dwarf Pametto (Sabal minor) line indicated the transition from the dry chapters to the wet chapters where the story of the swamp began. Out in the swamp, the majestic Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees filled the pages with more than a thousand years of history in which Hurricane Hugo was but an annoyance felling but 10% of the canopy.

During lunch in the outdoor classroom, participants used dried bird specimens to identify the differences in bill design. The specimens were collected with a permit after having die via window strikes or vehicle all-to-frequent occurence. The first two images show a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), both of which are currently vacationing here at Beidler Forest.

Next, a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) share a bag for educational purposes.

The final stop had the participants reading the high bluff over the swamp near Mallard Lake. Here the plants appear to be out-of-place as they prefer soils that are more basic than the soils typically found in the area. Without digging through the soil, the buried pages of underlying limestone could be seen via the plant community on the surface. The abundant leaf litter provided cover and a food source for a Wolf Spider (Hogna helluo) and the seeps exiting the bluff provided a narrow micro-habitat for a variety of salamanders, including the Three-lined Salamanders (Eurycea guttolineata) shown in the image and a Southern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus auriculatus) that was not shown.
Images by Mark Musselman

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