Monday, July 30, 2012

Swimming in the Swamp

We are swimming, figuratively not literally, in the swamp.  Humidity...check local listings.  Although we were casually strolling around the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, it felt more like the 3000 meter freestyle.  Based on the wildlife we did not see, it appears that most of the animals are not any more eager to be out in the soup.

During the majority of our walk, we did not see a single reptile and saw or heard few birds.  However, as we approached the 1000-year-old cypress near #160, we spied a Timber Rattlesnake that visitors have been reporting for over a week.  We have seen several images of the snake, but nobody was able to remember quite where they had seen and photographed the snake.  Based on the images we have seen, it seems that the snake has not changed position for over a week!  That has got to be tough on the neck.

Timber Rattlesnake - Mark Musselman
Timber Rattlesnake - Mark Musselman

As we were returning across the upland area of the boardwalk (#106-#114), we spotted a few birds foraging together.  There was a noisy cast of Carolina Chickadees along with a Tufted Titmouse or two and a female Northern Cardinal foraging in a loose flock.  Nothing worth holding up lunch, but we have learned to stop, wait, and be surprised by the birds that are quietly mingling with the commoners.  We were not disappointed (see the complete list below) as first a pair of Prothonotary Warblers appeared on the boardwalk hand rail and hopped toward us.  They were followed by two Yellow-throated Vireos foraging quietly near a pair of White-eyed Vireos and a Northern Parula.  A Black-and-white Warbler worked its way around a tree trunk with only the sound scratching on bark giving away its location.  A male Hooded Warbler was the only bird to take any notice of us, but quickly directed his attention to chasing off the Prothonotary Warblers which had increased to a group of three males and a female (all unbanded).  A Mississippi Kite perched high and out of view called out and was immediately silenced by a raucous pair of Pileated Woodpeckers.  Finally, a Worm-eating Warbler worked its way through the thick vegetation checking curled, dried leaves and tangled vines for a meal.  Then, like an afternoon thunderstorms blowing quickly thorough, we were once again alone.

Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Dorchester, US-SC
Jul 30, 2012 9:45 AM - 12:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.75 mile(s)
Comments:    Cloudy, humid, 70Fs
26 species

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)  1
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)  8
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)  2
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  1
Barred Owl (Strix varia)  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  10
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  6
Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)  1
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)  4
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)  3
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)  2
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  9
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  16
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  11
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  8
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  7
Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum)  1
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  1
Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)  4
Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)  2
Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)  2
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  1

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 5 of Advanced Summer Camp

Advanced Summer Camp for 2012 at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest ended on Friday.  The final day was spent on the boardwalk counting birds for the week's eBird report.  Our goal was over 20 species with high hopes to reach 30.  It took a spin around the parking area to collect the last three species, but we reached 30! (see complete list below)

Banded Water Snake - Mark Musselman
During our time on the boardwalk in search of birds, we also came across other wildlife like the beautiful Banded Water Snake in the above image.

Below is a map showing the week's activities and sightings.  You can link to the map and select the "show contents of map" icon to check on/off the various layers.  There are layers showing our tracks during the morning and afternoon trips as well as pins with popup windows showing images and information for what we saw at those locations.

View Larger Map

Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Dorchester, US-SC
Jul 20, 2012 9:20 AM - 12:20 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments:    Mostly clear, humid, breezy, 80Fs
30 species

Great Egret (Ardea alba)  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)  1
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)  23
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)  1
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)  3
Barred Owl (Strix varia)  3
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  3
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  5
Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)  8
Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus)  5
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)  2
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)  4
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  8
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  18
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  15
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  8
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  1
Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla)  2
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  1
Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)  2
Hooded Warbler (Setophaga citrina)  1
Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)  8
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)  1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  6

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 4 of Advanced Summer Camp

Day 4 of advanced summer camp at the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest involved catching and identifying insects and herps (amphibians and reptiles).  The wildlife lists at Beidler Forest are complete for birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, but scant for others in the animal kingdom.  In the morning, the campers worked hard with their nets to help add insect species to our list.

Collecting insects at power line - Mark Musselman

Native plants under power line - Mark Musselman

Gray-green Clubtail - Ricky Covey

Eastern Pondhawk male - Ricky Covey

Eastern Pondhawk female or immature male - Ricky Covey

Great Blue Skimmer female - Ricky Covey

Great Blue Skimmer - Mark Musselman

Great Blue Skimmer female that appears to have lost her head during mating - Mark Musselman
The male dragonfly clasps the female behind the head and can puncture her eye or, as in this case, decapitate the female!  Does not seem like a successful mating strategy.

Common Whitetail - Mark Musselman

Mating Gulf Fritillary Butterflies - Mark Musselman

Mating Gulf Fritillary Butterflies - Mark Musselman

Mating Gulf Fritillary Butterflies - Ricky Covey
Appalachian Brown - Mark Musselman

Unidentified moth - Mark Musselman

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - Ricky Covey

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - Ricky Covey
Chinese Mantis - Mark Musselman

Chinese Mantis - Mark Musselman

Chinese Mantis - Ricky Covey
Reading about itself on the computer, the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) learned that it was introduced into North America around 1895 as a pest control.  Although they primarily eat insects, their large size allows them to dine on small vertebrate prey, mainly reptiles and amphibians, but also hummingbirds!

Chinese Mantis - Ricky Covey
Grasshopper - Mark Musselman

Near the outdoor classroom, we found a young Redbelly Snake away from its leaf-litter habitat where it dines on slugs.  The snake was less than 3" long.
Young Redbelly Snake - Ricky Covey
After lunch, we headed to the bluff by Mallard Lake to explore the seeps and look for herps.  We were not disappointed.  We quickly found the first of many Three-lined Salamanders under a log.  We searched in vain for a Marbled Salamander and missed capturing several frogs, including a healthy Bronze Frog.

Three-lined Salamander - Mark Musselman

Three-lined Salamander - Mark Musselman

Possible Gray Treefrog - Ricky Covey
With all the color variability, this may or may not be a young Gray Treefrog.

Red-femured Spotted Orbweaver - Ricky Covey
We had to keep our head up as there were plenty of webs, including the one belonging to the Red-femured Spotted Orbweaver, stretched between the trees.

Six-lined Racerunner - Mark Musselman
On top of the bluff in the dry, sandy habitat we encounter a half a dozen Six-lined Racerunners.  The one shown in the images was not quick enough to escape Ricky and his minnow net.
Six-lined Racerunner - Mark Musselman

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 3 of Advanced Camp 2012

Yesterday, was about being on the water instead of in the water. The first two days of advanced camp at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest involved some travel on foot through the water. However, with yesterday's starting point at Mallard Lake, which is 15-20 feet deep and home to several large alligators, we thought it prudent to travel via canoe. Of course, being in a water craft, we brought along some fishing gear. We traveled up the canoe trail to Singletary Lake and then returned to Mallard Lake ahead of the afternoon thunderstorms.

You can check out our map here to see where we paddled and where we saw what is listed below.

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron - Mark Musselman
 A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron and several Yellow-bellied Sliders greeted us as we began our paddle.

Ryan and the rest of us on a lazy paddle - Mark Musselman

Cameron and Will wetting hooks in Mallard Lake - Mark Musselman

Emmie and Ricky fishing in Mallard Lake - Mark Musselman

Mallard Lake - Mark Musselman
 Although we did not catch any fish and had not expected to based on the water level, we did have an enjoyable day on the water.

Stopping for lunch - Mark Musselman

Brown Water Snake along canoe trail - Mark Musselman
 We saw several non-venomous, fish-eating Brown Water Snakes and one Banded Water Snake.  As we returned to Mallard Lake, we spied several alligators swimming ahead of us.

Mouse in canoe shed - Ricky Covey
Finally, this mouse bid us farewell as we placed our gear back in the canoe shed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 2 of Advanced Camp

Day 2 of advanced summer camp at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest involved Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation through the old-growth swamp. We started at the nature center and headed to a set of coordinates.  The campers did not know what awaited at the waypoint coordinates, but the target was obvious once they successfully navigated through the flooded forest.

Here is what we saw along the way:
Summer campers preparing to navigate the swamp with GPS units - Ricky Covey
Crossing the power line right-of-way north of the nature center - Mark Musselman
Bald-faced Hornet nest - Mark Musselman

Crab-like Spiny Orbweaver - Ricky Covey
Bald Cypress (waypoint #1) from kneeknocker video - Ricky Covey
Funky cypress knee - Ricky Covey
Barbara's forgot swamp stomp shoes (waypoint #2) - Ricky Covey
Pink-striped Oakworm Moth - Ricky Covey
Bronze Frog - Mark Musselman
Swamp stomping - Ricky Covey
Snail eating slug - Ricky Covey
Dark Fishing Spider with dragonfly - Ricky Covey
Lake north of boardwalk - Ricky Covey
Summer campers and Ricky at platform (waypoint #3) - Mark Musselman
Platform built in late 1970s - Ricky Covey
Brown Water Snake - Mark Musselman
Heading back to the center for lunch - Ricky Covey
Eastern Box Turtle - Mark Musselman
Eastern Box Turtle - Mark Musselman
Although not yet complete, you can check out the map showing our activities so far this week.  Tomorrow's activities and map additions include canoeing and fishing!