Monday, September 30, 2013


Shifts in job responsibilities and the ongoing boardwalk construction have kept us from blogging. Here are some of the things we have been doing.

Hog management continues to be a full-time job. As noted in previous blogs, hogs are not native to any North American habitats and they cannot exist without adversely affecting the places they inhabit.
Wild hogs inspecting a trap
We have had limited success in eliminating hogs from the property as they can move off of our property and they breed throughout the year. Here two adults and four young hogs inspect the trap, but avoid entering it.  Below, hogs have inflicted serious damage to a neighbors soybean field. Wild hogs cause an estimated $1.5 billion (that's with a "b") in agricultural damage each year in the United States alone. Those costs do not include damage to water quality or to native ecosystems.

Wild hog damage to nearby soybean field - Mark Musselman

Although the wild hogs near the center have learned to avoid the trap, deer, raccoons, and this bobcat cannot avoid the game camera's motion sensor.
Bobcat on patrol
Boundary painting is an important and never ending task. To avoid confusion at the property lines, the lines must be clearly marked. Signs are posted denoting the various state and federal restrictions on the property and survey blazes are painted to further highlight the property line location.
Boundary line paint - Mark Musselman
Currently, the Francis Beidler Forest (FBF) has 102 miles of exterior boundary lines plus an additional 30+ miles of interior boundary lines. Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is being used to manage the FBF property, but all the data must first be collected and verified. The map below shows all of the lines that are overdue for painting, have an unknown status, or are due for painting in 2013.
Boundary lines remaining to be checked and/or painted in 2013
If you thought, "That looks like everything," you are close. However, in addition to painting when visiting the lines, location data on the survey corners, access points, and signs are gathered to be entered into the GIS database. The on-the-ground data collecting has helped us detect errors in Berkeley County's GIS database, thereby allowing them to revisit survey plats and update their files to accurately reflect our property lines. There is still work to be done with all three counties (Berkeley, Dorchester, Orangeburg) in which FBF holds parcels.

The new boardwalk continues its march and has moved beyond the fork. You can follow the progress on this map.
Boardwalk construction at the fork - Mark Musselman
Boardwalk construction at the fork - Mark Musselman

As construction has now moved beyond the fork, access has been restored for all individuals. Visitors will now walk out on the newly constructed boardwalk (see below) to the fork and then walk on the old boardwalk along the edge of the swamp, which is the reverse of the normal direction on the boardwalk. Once visitors encounter the construction zone on the front side of the boardwalk, they will need to retrace their path back to the nature center. Construction is scheduled to be completed by April 2014.
New boardwalk completed up to the fork - Mark Musselman

One does not need to go deep into the swamp to encounter wildlife. Plenty of birds are in the parking area, especially now during migration, but an occasional water snake ventures up to the high ground in search of a meal. Below a Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata fasciata) found a sunny spot on a log and allowed for a few pictures to be taken.
Banded Water Snake - Mark Musselman
Banded Water Snake - Mark Musselman
Longleaf Pine restoration work in March removed some of the competing oaks.
View in March 2013 - Mark Musselman
The view of the same site was quite different this week. Wiregrass grows in bunches, but the grass grows long and lies down over a wider area. Small animals can easily move beneath the drooping grass while benefiting from the cover it offers from predators. When it is time to burn, the wiregrass will allow the fire to carry across the plot.
View in September 2013 - Mark Musselman
In addition to the wiregrass, a multitude of native plants are flowering. We will post images in a separate blog once we have identified all of the plants.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Boardwalk Construction Continues

The construction of the new boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest continues with workers reaching the high ground between the nature center and the boardwalk fork. The lack of rain over the last week has allowed the construction bypass trail to dry out, so the boardwalk is open again except for individuals with certain mobility limitations. Once construction reaches the fork, there will be no need for the off-boardwalk bypass trail and access will be regained for all individuals. You can keep track of the construction progress by visiting the boardwalk map here.

Boardwalk Construction - Mark Musselman
Boardwalk Handrails - Mark Musselman
While checking the boardwalk for fallen limbs and damage, we noted some birds in migration and other wildlife on or near the boardwalk. American Redstarts have been seen recently and we spied both a Northern Waterthrush (also calling) and a Louisiana Waterthrush along the edge of the swamp between #174 and #179.

Near the Meeting Tree at #120, we observed a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the boardwalk handrail and later spotted it picking at crayfish-filled raccoon scat near the hollow tree at #179.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron - Mark Musselman
It posed nicely for some additional shots, which we can add to our library.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron - Mark Musselman
On the second platform out at Goodson Lake, we found a large, non-venomous, fish-eating Brown Water Snake taking advantage of the sunlight and the low visitor count.

Brown Water Snake - Mark Musselman
How can anyone be frightened by this mug?

Brown Water Snake - Mark Musselman