Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bird-A-Day Challenge Begins New Years Day 2012

Bird-A-Day Challenge Begins New Years Day 2012

Whether you are an expert birder or a casual backyard observer, you can have fun playing this free birding game beginning January 1st!

It’s called “Bird-A-Day.” The objective: Count how many days in a row you can find a “new” bird. (New = recorded for the first time in this game.) The rule: You must never repeat a species, nor go a day without seeing a new one. If you do, you are out of the challenge.

Rene will be blogging about the adventure here on “The Perch,” and posting daily Bird-A-Day updates and quizzes on Facebook and Twitter. Whether you join in, or just follow along, the goal is the same: Have fun!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wild Pigs Worldwide Problem

As we have reported in the past, Wild Pigs(Sus scrofa) are an invasive problem at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.

Today's Washington Post article reports that wild pigs are a major and increasing problem in Pakistan. A quick search on the Internet will reveal that the problem with pigs and habitat destruction is worldwide.


What can be done to control the problem? South Carolina's Department of Natural Resources' news release describes the issue and regulations, including recent legislation passed to control the transportation of wild pigs throughout the state.

DNR encourages those who have wild hogs on properties they own or hunt to lethally and legally remove every hog they have the opportunity to remove...Feral pigs have been called by some an "ecological train wreck" and the destructive nature of this invasive species lends itself easily to such a description. All feral pigs share an unbridled appetite and can destroy hundreds of acres of farmland as well as native plants and wildlife habitat in just a few short nights. Free roaming pigs reproduce at a prodigious rate and are capable of producing two litters of up to a dozen piglets a year.

As noted in the Washington Post article, ignoring the problem does not make it go away and in fact as the exact opposite effect!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Bird Count - Initial Report

All the precincts have yet to be counted, but early returns suggest that this year's Four Holes Swamp Christmas Bird Count (CBC) numbers will be significantly lower than last year's.  With three of the 13 areas yet to report, the comparison to last year is 86 versus 100 species, and 7700 versus 17,300 individual birds.  The lower numbers were unexpected, since last year's weather rose to a high (read that as HIGH) of 34F and was blustery, while this year's weather quickly rose from 34F into the upper 60Fs and was sunny and calm.  Maybe the birds did not get the email specifying the date and time of the count.  Thank you to the 22 volunteer counters who turned out to help six members of the Audubon South Carolina staff.

While overall numbers are certainly lower, some groups had busy days, including team #11 counting in Harleyville and The Bend of Four Holes Swamp.

We had a great count yesterday.   We had 15 Sandhill Cranes, about 100 American Pipits, and 7 Wilson's Snipe as highlights for us. We had not previously recorded pipits or snipe in the past 3 years on this territory.  The pipits prevented us from reaching Giant Cement on time, so you can blame them!  The Giant Cement property did prove fruitful, giving us some wading birds, Bald Eagles, and Fox Sparrows.

Keith L. McCullough

 Taken Feb. 2011 near Harleyville

Keep watching this space!  We'll post the results of the CBC as soon as the counters of the remaining three areas send in their data sheets.

Image by Mark Musselman

Friday, December 09, 2011

Beidler Forest Hotspot

The Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest is an eBird hotspot!  From the eBird webpageA real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

eBird documents the presence or absence of species, as well as bird abundance through checklist data. A simple and intuitive web-interface engages tens of thousands of participants to submit their observations or view results via interactive queries into the eBird database. eBird encourages users to participate by providing Internet tools that maintain their personal bird records and enable them to visualize data with interactive maps, graphs, and bar charts. All these features are available in English, Spanish, and French. A birder simply enters when, where, and how they went birding, then fills out a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing.

You can record your bird sightings anywhere you travel.  If you are someplace new or visiting your favorite old-growth swamp, you can use the eBird option on the Audubon Birds app.  The eBird option allows you to see what birds are being reported near your location, especially at hotspot locations.  If you are in our area, the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary is designated as a hotspot.  A quick look at the bar chart shows how abundant a species of bird is at Beidler Forest and when that species is present.  For example, in the images below, Carolina Wrens are frequently seen throughout the year, while Prothonotary Warblers are abundant when present from the end of March to September.

The Christmas Bird Count for Four Holes Swamp will be held on Monday, December 19th.  We can still use you help counting birds!  Call 843-462-2150 to join the count!

Expeditions with Patrick McMillan will feature Francis Beidler Forest at 7:00 pm (new time) on January 1, 2012.  With plenty of distractions on New Year's Day, we understand if you record the show for later viewing!  We have yet to see any of the video, but we were there live when it was captured and you won't want to miss what we experienced.  It was a typical day in the swamp, but typical here is always magical!

Images by Mark Musselman

Friday, December 02, 2011

Focus on Birds

Winter does not conjure within most people thoughts of birding.  However, the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest will certainly be focusing on birds over the next few months.

First, from the Lowcountry Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Youth Grant Committee, we received $2000.00 to purchase 26 pairs of 8x40 binoculars. The binoculars will be used to launch a program to develop young birders.

Image by Mike Dawson

This birding program will enhance the boardwalk experience for students by allowing them to see and identify birds that would remain elusive to the naked eye. Albert Einstein said, "Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift." We can provide the old-growth forest in which a density and variety of birds exists throughout the year. However, we cannot bring the birds close enough for young (or old) eyes to see sufficiently in order for the observer to appreciate a bird's beauty or the subtle field markings necessary for proper identification. Lightweight, yet powerful binoculars allow students to use their observation skills to obtain the information necessary to identify a bird using a field guide like the one loaded to all of our iPod Touches

With the ability to look using binoculars, students will have the tools necessary to move toward comprehension, which we believe leads to appreciation and a desire to conserve the resource for future generations.

Next, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is rapidly approaching.  We will be conducting the Four Holes Swamp CBC on December 19th.  To conduct a count, CBC volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.

From David Yarnold, Audubon president:
Both Audubon and the CBC trace their roots to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Audubon movement grew out of public outrage at the slaughter of wild birds, killed so that their feathers could be used to decorate the hats of fashionable women. This was the case with the magnificent Great Egret, hunted to near extinction in the early 1900s, and now the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

The Christmas Bird Count, proposed by one of Audubon’s founders, Frank Chapman, began in 1900 as an alternative to bird-hunting competitions. In these contests, called side-hunts, hunters would choose sides to see who could kill the most birds. Chapman challenged birders to count rather than kill birds. This “new kind of hunt” became the Christmas Bird Count.

Finally, it is not too early to begin thinking of the Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb. 17-20, 2012)!

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes or longer, if one wishes, on a single day or on each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Mark Musselman, education director at the Francis Beidler Forest, will be birding at various sites around Summerville on Day 1 (Friday, February 17th).  The count will begin at the parking area near the tennis courts in Azalea Park at 8:30 a.m.  Other stops will include Ashley Ridge High School, The Ponds and Middleton Place. Anyone can join this group for all or part of the day, especially those looking to learn about birding or improve their bird identification skills.  Anyone wishing to join this group or simply to follow the progress can check @TheSwampThing (!/TheSwampThing) on Twitter.

Go forth and bird! 

Images (#2, #3) by Mark Musselman