Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So Much Happening!

We've been out of the office for the last several days. We haven't been ill or on vacation, we've been busy sharing the awesome old-growth swamp at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest (a.k.a., our office)!

On Saturday, we began the day with an "Exploring New Territory" walk along the wildflower trail along the bluff overlooking Mallard Lake. This trail is only accessible to the public during these special walks. Besides offering topography not normally associated with the relatively-flat coastal plain, the underlying limestone (marl comprised of calcium carbonate from sea shells laid down as marine deposits when the ocean once washed over the region) geology creates more-basic soils allowing for the growth of plants that are rarely found in the Lowcountry. Small wetlands, known as seeps, emanate from the base of the bluff and create critical habitat for salamanders, including endangered species. Additionally, several bird species dropped down low in the forest canopy and offered participants some quality viewing opportunities!

Wine and Warblers filled the evening hours with abundant close-up views of birds, especially the Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea), along the boardwalk along with fine wine and hors d'oeuvres. With perfect weather conditions, Barred Owls (Strix varia) added some base to the various bird songs filling the evening air. If you missed this year's event, mark your calendar for April 2010 (no, it's not too early) and join us for a special swamp experience!

Monday had Audubon South Carolina staff and volunteers back out on the boardwalk banding Prothonotary Warblers as part of Project PROTHO. We set a new one-day banding total with seven banded birds. Additionally, we observed eight previously-banded birds and numerous unbanded birds. The area between the first rain shelter and Goodson Lake continues to be densely populated with Prothonotary Warblers aggressively defending or disputing territorial claims. Elsewhere along the boardwalk, gaps are beginning to fill as either birds are pushed from the desirable territories or later arrivals have appeared at Beidler Forest. As soon as technical issues can be worked out with the webpage staff in New York, we will have pages for each banded bird, which will include the bird's image, sex, age, banding information, mate information, nesting territory, offspring information, sighting updates, and any capture information outside of Beidler Forest.

Yesterday, the Over 50 Club from First Federal visited for a tour around the boardwalk. The two-hour tour stretched to three hours as we continued to see something new and exciting every few steps. The guide's stomach was rumbling for lunch, but the group was in no rush to leave the alligator, various snakes, numerous turtles, Barred Owl, in-your-face Prothonotary Warblers, Yellow-crowned Night Herons (Nyctanassa violacea), or the pleasant walk through the old-growth swamp.

As soon as we returned to the nature center, we grabbed part of our lunch and changed into swamp- stomp clothing (old everything). The impromptu swamp stomp knee knocking from earlier in the month encouraged us to film an all-staff version. Be looking for that video in the coming days!

Come join us in all the action!

Images by Mark Musselman

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