Friday, April 30, 2010

Out The Office Window

There have been plenty of "out our office window" blog entries for the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, but yesterday we added another species.

Although Summer Tanagers (Piranga rubra) have been around the nature center for a number of years, the male often was singing high in the canopy and obscured by layers of leaves.  This year the male has been low in the trees around the nature center and has been gleaning insects or spiders from the window casings.  We cannot identify the prey items in his bill, but the fact that he has failed to eat them suggests that he will be taking them back to a female on the nest.  When not cleaning the exterior of the nature center, Summer Tanagers will raid beehives and paper wasp nests to capture adults and larvae.

The male Summer Tanager is red like a male Northern Cardinal minus the crest.  As Northern Cardinals are common, the Summer Tanager may be overlooked due to a case of mistaken identity.  However, the Summer Tanager's call "Picky-tucky-tuck" won't be confused with the Northern Cardinal's call or song.  The female Summer Tanager can be greenish-yellow over her body or greenish-yellow with orange blotches.  Side note:  The cover of Jeff Mollenhauer's book Birding South Carolina: A Guide to 40 Premier Birding Sites (available in our gift shop or at shows a Summer Tanager in molt.

Images by Mark Musselman

Computer Returns

Yesterday, the UPS man delivered the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest education department computer, which had been absent for repairs for two and a half weeks.  With the computer and software back in the office, this blog can get back in business.  We'll begin with by pulling images from the collection that accumulated while our computer was inoperable.

Nature is full of examples demonstrating that nothing goes to waste...even waste.  While in the swamp north of the boardwalk and powerline looking for Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) for Project PROTHO, we came upon a log covered in FRESH River Otter (Lutra canadensis) scat.  The moist scat reeked of fish and crayfish (think of discarded shrimp parts sitting in the sun for a few days) and was just starting to attract flies.  As we inspected the scat (yes, we do that), a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Pterourus glaucus) flew in and began sampling the buffet.  How does that saying go?  When life give, lemons, make lemonade.  Yeah, that's it.

Now, back to cataloging the backlog of images!

Images by Mark Musselman

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Computer Issues Continue

Our computer continues to reside in the Audubon repair shop.  We'll use a home computer to prepare some of this week's images and post them on Monday.  In the meantime, here is an image and description from an Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest visitor.

 I took the picture attached on 4/20 between 9:30 and 10:00 in the morning. This owl appeared out of the woods at about stop 2 on the boardwalk and followed along with my wife and me for about 20 or 30 minutes until we got to stop 4.  I was about 20 feet from the owl when I took this picture, and apart from having my camera at full zoom (16X), it's a totally undoctored picture. Since we heard another barred nearby and the receptionist told us that there were owlets in a nest in that area, I'm guessing that this owl was following us to make sure that we didn't make any threatening moves in the direction of the nest.  Even without a close encounter with the owl, Beidler Forest would have been a jaw-dropping experience for us. The owl just put the experience off the charts.
Indeed, there is a Barred Owl (Strix varia) nest north (left) of #116 along the boardwalk.  The nest is in a hollow section of a tall Bald Cypress tree, but is no longer visible from the boardwalk due to the leaves that have appeared on the trees between the boardwalk and nest tree.  Especially now that the owlets are growing, the adult owls will be increasingly visible as they hunt during the day in the shallow, crayfish-filled pools of water.

Although this nest site information did not make version 1.0 of our iPhone/iPod Touch app, it is the type of bonus coverage you will receive if you download the free app prior to visiting the old-growth swamp! 

Image by Leon Galis

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We're Still Here

Spring is a busy time of year at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. Unfortunately, after returning from vacation, we found our computer had died. Although we have all of our files backed up, all of the software and bookmarked webpages that we use to efficiently manipulate images and research topics remain trapped on the inoperable computer. Good news is that the issue is simply a bad power supply and can be easily repaired.

The cool spring seems to have slowed everything in the swamp.  Only a few Easter Lilies (Zephyranthes atamasco) have emerged, reptiles are few and far between, and Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) battles for breeding territory have been less frantic.  Although everything may be moving at a slower pace, there is still plenty of action.

The slam of the car door as we reported for work last Sunday triggered a response from a male Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).  The call was startling in the relative quiet of the early morning and was quickly answered by a distant male.  As soon as the camera could be assembled, the gobbler emerged from the middle of the parking area and moved toward the upland area along the swamp's edge, possibly to investigate that distant response.

Hopefully, by the end of the week, we will be calling again from the swamp!

Images by Mark Musselman

Monday, April 05, 2010

Spring Break

This blog will be silent for the remainder of the week as the principal contributor will be on vacation.

Last week, we took some images of the Southern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) in the burned section of a Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) stand.  When looking at the images, we thought the eye looked "off."  With our best CSI skills, we magnified the image and caught the photographer reflected in the reptile's eye.

We will be back on April 10th in time for Wine & Warblers at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest!

Join expert birdwatchers for an evening on the boardwalk and explore the wide variety of songbirds that travel to Beidler Forest each Spring. Enjoy hors d'oeuvres and wine tastings as you explore the ancient swamp forest. Proceeds benefit Audubon South Carolina.

$40 per person. Reservations and advance payment are required. Walks begin at 5:00 p.m. Please make reservations for your time slot by calling (843) 462-2150.

See you there!
Images by Mark Musselman

Friday, April 02, 2010

Luna Moth

The Luna Moth (Actias luna) in the image was spotted on a Sweetgum (Liquadambar styraciflua) in the parking area at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.

The Sweetgum is a host tree for the Luna Moth.  The adult Luna Moth does not eat.  The adult's mission is to find a mate and reproduce.  Based on this individual's fresh look, it likely emerged from its cocoon recently and has not yet had time to tatter its wings in search of a mate.

Images by Mark Musselman