Thursday, May 31, 2012

Drought Buster?

The swamp along the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest was rapidly drying even though official summer is still weeks away.  That was before Rainy-day Beryl paid a visit!

The rain gauge at the nature center registered 6".  At Mallard Lake, an inadvertently upright canoe was almost filled to the brim!  Rain that fell in the watershed upstream from us will continue to flow by the boardwalk.  One main benefit of a wetland like a swamp is that it can absorb such a dramatic influx of water and slowly discharge it like an open drain on a bathtub, thereby preventing flooding damage downstream.

Water level gauge at Givhans Ferry State Park

Hopefully, higher water on the Edisto River will make it easier for us to conduct our Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) survey tomorrow on the stretch between Stokes Bridge and Mars Oldfield.

male Prothonotary Warbler - Mark Musselman

The beavers north of the boardwalk are certainly pleased with the additional water behind their dam.  They impound water for their own purposes, but plants, other wildlife, and humans benefit from their engineering.  Read in The Atlantic how beavers were reintroduced to areas in the West and how Washington is encouraging beavers to establish residence in an effort to slow the flow of freshwater into the ocean.

Note to researchers studying the effects of Hurricane Hugo at Beidler Forest:  If you are trying to determine what happened to tree #981, it's that shiny spot on top of the beaver lodge in the power line right-of-way.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Young in the Swamp

We have not seen any young Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) around the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, but the young of many animals are beginning to appear.  A pair of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) along Mims Road have three goslings each from two clutches, a fawn was spotted near #143 yesterday, inch-long Carolina Anoles (Anolis carolinensis) can be seen running for cover along the boardwalk.

On Saturday, we discovered another Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) nest.  The first nest is located between the parking area and the power line corridor north of the parking area (see 2011).  That pair of hawks is nesting in the same location this year.  The new hawk nest is located in a Bald Cypress tree right of #153.2.  However, to view the nest, one must stand closer to #152.
Adult Red-shouldered Hawk returning to nest in cypress

Two fuzzy-headed Red-shouldered Hawk chicks in nest

Away from Beidler Forest, we spotted a female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) sitting on a nest in a small oak tree in a Summerville yard.  The pair abandoned the nest for an unknown reason, but built a new nest a few yards away in a Flowering Dogwood.

Female Northern Cardinal sitting on nest

On May 12th, while scouting the area for Saturday's bird walk at The Ponds community in Summerville, we spotted a pair of Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) and their two chicks.  One adult made quite a show of calling and flying like a wounded bird to distract our attention, which it did momentarily.  However, by see where the adult Killdeer landed, we knew to look 180 degrees from that spot to find the nest or chicks.  The other adult kept an eye on us, but the chicks walked about oblivious to nearby birder/photographer.

Killdeer chick and adult

Killdeer chick

Adult Killdeer and chick

Adult Killdeer

Here are the birds we saw that day:
The Ponds, Dorchester, US-SC
May 12, 2012 3:55 PM - 6:55 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
Comments:    Overcast, 70Fs
26 species

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)  2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  2
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  4    chicks walking, no flight feathers
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  2
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  2
Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)  1
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)  4
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)  1
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)  3
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3
Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)  1
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  8
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  6
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  4
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)  4
Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)  6
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)  1
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)  2
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)  1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  6
Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)  3
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  7

What young life have you seen around your yard or neighborhood?

Monday, May 14, 2012


The new Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest webpage has made it easier for us to share Geographic Information System (GIS) data.  You can learn more about GIS at our GIS page.  We currently have a sample lesson on using GIS data from Beidler Forest in conjunction with the ArcGIS Online site.  There is a selection of GIS data files related to Beidler Forest that can be downloaded from our data page.  These files will be periodically updated with new information and additional data files will be loaded in the coming weeks, so check back often!

The ArcGIS Online map-making site is easy to use and can be a powerful tool in education.  We have used the  site to create a virtual tour of the boardwalk.  Once the map is loaded, click on any symbol to see text and an image for that location.  We will continue to add data to this map.  You can use the map to plan your trip around the boardwalk or use the map after your visit to help share your experience!

The screenshot above was taken from the National Weather Service's Charleston site. The site also offers GIS and Google Earth files of the weather service's imagery.

Today, there is plenty of thunder in the area and the weather service's radar shows rain, but it will take many days of this type of weather to fill the swamp again.  Additionally, those 90F temperatures in coming weeks will accelerate the removal (evaporation, transpiration) of any water from today's system that falls within the swamp's watershed.

The lower water in the swamp has made it trickier to find some of wildlife.  However, we have some new images and will post them shortly.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

New Web Pages for Beidler Forest and Audubon SC

Over the last two weeks, we have been busy building the new web pages for Audubon South Carolina and the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  Audubon South Carolina's page has been up and running, but today the new Beidler Forest page went live.

You will need to update your bookmarks and many of the hyperlinks in previous posts in this blog will no longer work.  However, you will be able to find the same information within the new webpage. We were not able to load all of the images onto the new page before it launched, but we have loaded a sample and will continue to load images to the various galleries.

Some new features on the page include videos, a PDF version of the boardwalk guidebook, a German version of the boardwalk guidebook, and well as a virtual boardwalk tour via a Geographic Information System (GIS) interactive map.

Take the page for a spin and let us know what you think.