Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Break Volunteers

Not every college students thinks beaches and parties when it comes to Spring Break.  Last week, volunteers from The University of Missouri spent their break volunteering at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  The students spent their evenings in our rustic (emphasis on rustic) cabin and spent their days helping us clear tasks off of our to-do list.

Cabin - Mark Musselman
Day 1 included power washing the ramps into the nature center, reattaching deck boards on the education boardwalk where the pressure treatment in the wood had corroded the uncoated deck screws, and repair to the main boardwalk where an oak's rotten base had given out and a section of the boardwalk paid the price.

Fallen Oak - Mark Musselman
Fallen Oak - Mark Musselman
Repaired Boardwalk - Mark Musselman
Day 2 involved clearing oaks from the first longleaf pine plot planted a Beidler Forest.  The plot had not been managed aggressively enough and oaks had crowded or were in the process of crowding out the longleaf pines.  A broken chainsaw and cold weather ended the day early, but not before the remaining forest of oaks snickered at the minimal damage.  We'll be back in the fall with herbicide in backpack sprayers to deal with the remaining oaks, which will give the longleaf pines the access to water and nutrients they will need to grow.  After that, routine prescribed fires will keep the competition at bay.

Day 3 involved more oak removal at a younger longleaf pine site (see previous entries here) where the oaks are young and plentiful, but easier to remove with loppers.  After cutting, the stems were treated with a dyed herbicide to prevent resprouting.

Volunteer Loppers - Mark Musselman
Treated Stems - Mark Musselman
Although a day's work only affected a small percentage of the total tract, the effect is obvious in the before/after images.
Before (area 1) - Mark Musselman
After (area 1) - Mark Musselman
After (area 1) - Mark Musselman
Before (area 2) - Mark Musselman
After (area 2) - Mark Musselman

As opposed to the previous day being able to see the fruits of their labors made for a happy group of volunteers!
Mizzou Volunteers - Mark Musselman
While at the site, students received a basic lesson in longleaf pine ecosystems, including the longleaf pine's adaptations to fire.  Although fire killed many of the younger non-longleaf pine trees, the longleaf pines long needles and tight arrangement around the terminal bud protect the bud from the heat and fire.  The needles that are brown will fall off, new needles will emerge and the tree will continue to grow without nearby competitive vegetation.

Longleaf Pine After Fire - Mark Musselman
Longleaf Pine After Fire - Mark Musselman
Longleaf Pine After Fire - Mark Musselman
Longleaf Pine After Fire - Mark Musselman
Likewise, wiregrass and other herbaceous plants will emerge after the fire and provide food, cover, and nesting sites for wildlife, including wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and the disappearing bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus).

Wiregrass After Fire - Mark Musselman
Wiregrass After Fire - Mark Musselman

Day 4 included repair of a meeting building on the far side of the swamp that is used for fish fry meetings.  Although nothing like winter in Missouri, the cool weather was not what had been hoped for, so the day's sunny weather pushing into the upper 60Fs was a treat...even without a beach.

Thank you, Mizzou!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prothos Are Back!

Visitors spotted the first Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) of the season along the boardwalk and our guide spotted several along the canoe trail this morning!

Prothonotary Warbler - Mark Musselman
Prothonotary Warbler - Mark Musselman

Despite the cool temperatures, it appears spring has finally arrived!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Boardwalk Happenings

Although the chill in the air gives the impression that winter has yet to exit the stage, it is officially spring and the plants and animals at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest are responding accordingly.  Over the last two days, we have had master naturalists from the Lowcountry Institute on Spring Island and third graders from Harleyville Elementary School.

We did not see many reptiles on either day due to the cool temps, but we did get some good looks at what did venture out into the open.  We spotted an Eastern Cottonmouth on our way to Goodson Lake.
Eastern Cottonmouth - Mark Musselman
Eastern Cottonmouth - Mark Musselman
Surprised by our return from the lake and in a "box canyon" of logs and trees, the cottonmouth quickly showed its displeasure with the eager paparazzi.  Pop quiz: How did the cottonmouth get its name?

On the return loop of the boardwalk, we came upon several Black and Turkey Vultures picking at an unidentified dead mammal at the water's edge.  The Turkey Vulture's sense of smell likely helped it located the carcass below the emerging canopy and the Black Vultures likely followed the lead of their cousins.
Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture eating dead mammal - Mark Musselman
After touring the boardwalk, the masters naturalist group drove to a downstream location at a marl bluff near Mallard Lake.
Master Naturalists - Mark Musselman
The underlying marl causes the soil on the bluff to be more basic than the typical Lowcountry soil allowing for the growth of plants usually associated with the Piedmont and Upstate.  Marl had nothing to do with the yet-to-be-identified fungus on a Muscadine Grape vine as it was down in the swamp.
Unidentified fungus - Mark Musselman
[Note: After searching the web, we have edited this entry and replaced slime mold with fungus.  It appears that the fungus is not a slime mold but a saprophyte (Fusicolla merismoides), which survives off the sap from a wound in the grape vine.  Apparently, in approximately two weeks, all signs of the fungus will disappear and the Muscadine Grape will suffer no lasting effects.]

Bronze Frog - Mark Musselman
Fire and Fern - Mark Musselman
Bloodroot is one of the plants benefiting from the less acidic soil.
Bloodroot - Mark Musselman
Bloodroot gets its name from the red color of its root.  Science is a tricky business.

Bloodroot has red root - Mark Musselman
Master reptile wrangler and leader of the naturalist group, Tony Mills, caught the young Southern Fence Lizard shown below as well as amphibians like the Bronze Frog shown above, Southern Cricket Frogs and several species of salamanders.

Southern Fence Lizard - Mark Musselman
Yesterday was another cool morning when the third graders from Harleyville Elementary came calling.  The young, sharp eyes not only spotted the only snake of the day, another cottonmouth, but also picked out the young Marsh Rabbit shown below.  Can you see it?

Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Around the boardwalk and especially in the parking area, birds are busy fueling for their flights north or they are busy setting up breeding territories here.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers singing in addition to their usual "speee" call.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Mark Musselman

Black-and-white Warbler - Mark Musselman

Female Yellow-rumped Warbler - Mark Musselman

Downy Woodpecker - Mark Musselman
Yellow-throated Warblers and Northern Parulas are singing and a White-eyed Vireo and a Common Yellowthroat were heard for the first time this year.  Finally, Prothonotary Warblers will be arriving within the week!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Help Find Rusty Blackbirds

You can help scientists prepare for the retooled Rusty Blackbird Winter Blitz in 2014 by identifying habitats containing Rusty Blackbirds from March through April 2013.

More details at eBird here.

We have seen Rusty Blackbirds at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest and multiple times along the nature trail at Ashley Ridge High School (ARHS).  See the blog entry here.

Male Rusty Blackbird - Mark Musselman
Female Rusty Blackbird - Mark Musselman

The Francis Beidler Forest contains 17,000 acres of cypress-tupelo swamp (1800 acres of old-growth), but the swamp at ARHS is less than 15 acres.  Therefore, do not feel that a stand of flooded forest near you is too small to warrant an investigation!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wild Turkey

South Carolina's wild turkey season begins today.  As we have posted previously, the wild turkeys in and around the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest were caught in the Francis Marion Forest in 1987 and released here.

Wild Turkey - Mark Musselman
Wild Turkey - Mark Musselman
Wild Turkey - Mark Musselman
Wild Turkey - Mark Musselman
Wild Turkey - Mark Musselman
In the images above taken on 3/11/2013, the males can be seen trying to impress the females and intimidate the other males.  The urge to compete may lead males to right to a hunter posing as a rival.  We have enjoyed our morning and evening sightings of wild turkeys, but suspect that they will be keeping their heads down for the near future.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dwarf Trillium

Dwarf Trillium (Trillium pusillum) has begun to bloom at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  No flowers can be seen from the boardwalk, but plants have emerged from the leaf litter near the boardwalk and will be blooming soon.  Here are entries from years past.

Dwarf Trillium - Mark Musselman
Dr. Richard Porcher began studying the Dwarf Trillium after Hurricane Hugo opened the forest canopy above the plants, which precipitated a spike in the trillium population.  Currently, Dr. Danny Gustafson of The Citadel is studying the Dwarf Trillium and annually brings his ecology class to Beidler Forest to collect data.

Camouflaged Data Collectors - Mark Musselman
A downward trend in the species' population has been detected as the canopy has begun to fill.  In order to help this rare plant maintain or increase its population, we will be conducting some selective pruning in and around the study plots.  We will trod lightly as not to trample any plants or any ants that serve as seed dispersers.  The trillium seeds have nutrient rich appendages, called elaiosomes, which the ants eat once they have carried the seed back to their nest.  Housecleaning throws the unharmed seed out with the trash and new Dwarf Trillium colonies can begin some distance from their parent plants.

Mutualism, ask your kids or a friend's kids, is at work.  The ants benefit, the trillium benefits, and we benefit by being able to see a rare plant right in our figurative backyard.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hiring for Education Manager Position

Position Description

Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest

Immediate Supervisor:
Michael Dawson

Purpose of the position:

The EDUCATION MANAGER plans, creates and supervises the day to day operation of the full spectrum of educational offerings available both at and away from the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. He/She will pay particular attention to the Center’s alignment with National Audubon’s Strategic Plan.  He/She will also assist the Center Director with Beidler Forest Sanctuary management and protection, as well as State Office support as needed.

Essential Functions:

1.  To oversee and supervise the day-to-day development, implementation, and delivery of a wide variety of general visitor educational activities which are designed to bring people and the resources/facilities of the sanctuary together for positive experiences and move them along the continuum from understanding to appreciation to conservation action.

2.  To oversee and supervise the development, implementation and delivery of a curriculum of educational programming created for school children that is tied directly to state Education Standards, while contributing to Audubon’ Strategic Plan and conservation outcomes.

3.  Participate as a member of a team to conduct education and cultivation activities for key constituencies such as private landowners and foresters.

4.  To respond to National Audubon’s lead on aligning Center activities to its strategic plan and to develop, implement and deliver programs and projects in support of the Plan’s conservation outcomes. Particular attention will be paid to the Bird Friendly Communities goals and objectives.

5.  Take responsibility for the scheduling, pre/post information, guide/speaker assignment, etc. for all guided programming and off site outreach for the Beidler Forest.

6.  To create, plan, promote and conduct special events, walks, and programs designed to encourage visitation and participation at the Center.

7.  Build and maintain the Beidler Forest pages of the Audubon South Carolina website, assuring its current content, “tourist friendliness” and teacher usefulness.

8.  Assist the Center Director in the recruiting, training, scheduling, recognizing and keeping of volunteers to the Center. Assist the Center Director in the recruiting, training and scheduling of Seasonal Naturalists in the spring and fall.

9.  To serve as the principal "go to" staff member for all things bird related (identification, biology, monitoring, etc.) out of the Beidler Forest office, as well as assisting the state team in conducting Bird Friendly Bottomland Forest Management site visits, grassland/shrubland bird studies, and assisting with the shore bird Beach Stewards program.

10.  To act as part of the Audubon South Carolina team, endeavoring to achieve its conservation outcomes as addressed in National Audubon’s Strategic Plan.

Additional Functions:

1. Assist Center Director and/or Land Manager as needed with sanctuary facilities and equipment maintenance, biological monitoring and field biology/research.

2. Run the visitor center desk one weekend per month.

3. Plan, promote and conduct a series of at least three weeks of summer day camps for area children with themes and activities in support of Strategic Plan Conservation Outcomes.


Center Director
State Office Director
Development Director
Office Manager
Finance Manager
Seasonal Naturalists
Land Manager
Part-time staff
NAS Centers and Education Staff

Area teachers
Area school administrators
Staff from other education providers
Sanctuary neighbors
Staff from other area non-profits, governmental agencies, resource or educational organizations
Local media
Local Civic and Service Clubs

Equipment: (e.g., computer, typewriter, calculator, copy machines, telephone, etc.)

Computer, copy machine, GPS unit, digital camera, hand power tools and other maintenance equipment, canoe/kayak, video projector. Trucks (some with standard shift).
Qualifications: (e.g., education, training, experience, licenses and skills)

Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, one of the Natural Sciences, or Education and previous experience as a Naturalist. Demonstrated passion for birds at a minimum and experience with avian research/monitoring would be a plus. Familiarity with promotions, good writing and public speaking skills, and sense of humor. Demonstrated ability to self start and work with little supervision.

Physical Requirements: (e.g., lifting, reaching, climb, push/pull, etc.)

Must be able to routinely walk the 1.75 mile boardwalk.
Must be able to canoe or kayak.
Must be able to lift 50 lbs. or more.
Must be able to reach, push a garden cart, wield a machete or bush ax, and accomplish
other fairly physical tasks..
Must be able to tolerate the heat and humidity of a South Carolina summer while outside
for hours at a time.
Must be able to endure bugs (especially chiggers, yellow flies, occasionally mosquitoes)


Applicants MUST apply through the Audubon Career Center at the following link…

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

2013 Summer Camp

The Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest has announced the 2013 summer camp dates!

There is a choice of three week-long summer day-camps during June. Francis Beidler Forest contains the largest remaining stand of virgin, cypress-tupelo swamp in the world. This is the perfect setting for stimulating a child’s love for nature!

Campers listening to bird song - Mark Musselman

Birds will be the 2013 theme to guide campers through each week.  Campers will become amateur naturalists themselves by engaging in science, hands-on activities and arts.  You can view images from last year here.

A tentative schedule can be viewed here and an enrollment form can be downloaded here.

The programs for the summer camp are geared for grades 1 through 6. The camp day will last from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm at a cost of $85. Please call Beidler Forest at 843-462-2150 to secure a place for your child in the week of your choice.

The dates for the 2013 summer camp will be:
Session I: June 10-14
Session II: June 17-21

Previous advanced campers - Mark Musselman
For older campers, we will once again host an advanced camp.

Advanced Swamp Camp
For the third year, the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest is offering a day-camp for teenagers (ages 13-16) from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm June 24-28. The cost is $100 per camper. Campers will spend the days outside exploring the various habitats throughout the sanctuary. Those unwilling to stomp in the swamp getting wet and dirty should not apply.  Activities will include GPS navigation, canoeing, wildlife identification, and whatever we encounter!  Explore this GIS map to see where campers went and what they saw in 2012!

Limit: 15 campers. Call Beidler Forest at 843-462-2150

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

2013 Wine & Warblers

 It is almost time for Wine and Warblers!

On April 20th, 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 and the cost is $40 per person. Reservations and advance payment are required. Walks begin at 5:00 p.m. and depart each half hour.  Please make reservations for your time slot by calling (843) 462-2150.

Click here for additional images and descriptions of past years' Wine & Warblers!

Warbler species will begin arriving this month with the Prothonotary Warblers returning on one of the last days of the month.  In the meantime, here is a sample of what has been around the boardwalk in the last week:

Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center and Sanctuary, Dorchester, US-SC
Feb 25, 2013 10:00 AM
Protocol: Incidental
Comments:    overcast, 40Fs, repairing boardwalk
11 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  4
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)  3
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  2
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  1
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  6
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  2

Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center and Sanctuary, Dorchester, US-SC
Feb 26, 2013 2:20 PM - 4:15 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.75 mile(s)
Comments:    Overcast to clear, windy, 60Fs
20 species

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)  3
Barred Owl (Strix varia)  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)  2
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  5
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  2
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  8
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  4
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  2
Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)  3    Saw at #105, #165, and #169
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  9
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  2
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  2
Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica)  1
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)  1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  2

Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Dorchester, US-SC
Feb 27, 2013 1:55 PM - 2:10 PM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:    Partly cloudy, 60Fs, parking area
15 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  2
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  1
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1  (and again yesterday)
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  3
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  4
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  1