Friday, June 14, 2013

Changes in the Swamp

This blog has been rather silent for the last month.  Since January, the education director has also been the land manager.  Collis Boyd, the part-time land manager, retired and the land manager position became a full-time position.  The last three weeks of May saw 638 students and 166 adult teachers/chaperones take the boardwalk tour and this week began three weeks of summer camp at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  Needless to say, blog writing time has been tough to schedule.

On June 21st, Matt Johnson will assume the position of education manager and on July 1st, Mark Musselman will assume sole responsibility as the land manager of the 17,000+ acres of the Francis Beidler Forest.  Therefore, we would like to introduce Matt Johnson.

Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson, new Education Manager, was born and raised in West Columbia, SC, where he spent most of his time fishing and exploring Congaree National Park with his father. Matt attended Clemson University in 2003, where he earned a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Matt pursued a graduate degree in Biology, which he completed in 2009. While working on both degrees at Clemson, Matt worked as a producer for the Emmy award-winning nature documentary “Expeditions with Patrick McMillan.” In 2011, Matt started working as a Lecturer in the department of Biological Sciences at Clemson, where he taught undergraduate courses relating to botany, science writing, and current events in science. Matt also helped initiate the Keowee-Clemson Bird Club while living in the upstate, a group that now boasts about 100 members. In his free time, Matt enjoys bird-watching, hiking, reading, and learning more about the natural world. Matt is eager to start working for the National Audubon Society and looks forward to taking up residence in the Lowcountry.

Matt Johnson
Other changes include Prothonotary Warblers leaving the nest, fawns navigating the hazards of the swamp, higher water levels due to the recent rains, and new property at the entrance and along the driveway.  First, several of the Prothonotary Warbler nests we noted previously have fledged their chicks.  We had observed A037  earlier in the spring, but he disappeared sometime in April.  We do not know where he nested, but on Wednesday we spotted A037 with two fledglings at #146 along the boardwalk.

White-tailed Deer fawn - Mark Musselman
Before the last round of heavy rains, earlier rains had bumped up the water levels in the swamp.  A fawn that appeared to be only several days old failed to navigate over a branch wedged between several cypress knees.  Visitors saw the fawn step over the branch, but fail to touch bottom on the other side.  With its belly on the branch and zero hooves on the hard bottom, the fawn was stuck.  The White-tailed Deer doe may have returned and nudged the fawn off of the branch, but after an hour, we decided to help the fawn to dry land to avoid hypothermia.

White-tailed Deer fawn - Mark Musselman
Currently, the water is high enough to cover all land and most fallen trees.  There are few places in the swamp to haul out of the water and any dens, like those of the Nine-banded Armadillo which we noted had arrived in 2008, are flooded.  High though it may be, the water has not reached the nature center and the armadillo den under the front ramp. 

Young Nine-banded Armadillo - Mark Musselman
Young Nine-banded Armadillo through humidity-fogged lens - Mark Musselman
Finally, Francis Beidler Forest increased in size by 67 acres with the acquisition of land across from our entrance and along the north side of the driveway (shown shaded in yellow).

Latest Land Acquisition - Mark Musselman
Currently all in soybeans, the smaller parcel across from the entrance will be converted to a native grassland demonstration site and the fields within the larger parcel will be planted with Longleaf Pine.  You can read more about our other Longleaf Pine tracts and management here on this blog.

One of the best aspects of nature is that it is always changing...never static!

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