Saturday, March 21, 2009

Catching Up

It has been a busy few days at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest! Three days of school visits from Sangaree Intermediate School, Project PROTHO equipment checks, a combination boardwalk/canoe trail tour for Danish exchange students and fruitless attempts to capture an image of the Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica) collecting caterpillar cocoon silk from the eaves outside our office windows.

The swamp is becoming more active with each passing day! The forest is becoming greener and the following plants are already producing flowers: Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia), Atamasco Lily (Zephyranthes atamasco), Butterweed (Senecio glabellus), Squaw-root (Conopholis americana), Carolina Jessamine (Gelsenium sempervirens), Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadenis), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida). Male Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are conspicuously in pursuit of females; birds of every species are singing to announce their territory and attract a mate; and birds, like the camera-shy Yellow-throated Warbler, are busy gathering nesting materials. Unfortunately, the reduced staffing on weekends forces us to remain in the building and experience the swamp vicariously through the excited stories told by our visitors as they exit the boardwalk.

Today's reports include a Barred Owl (Strix varia) fishing for crayfish in the shallow water, a large number of Eastern Mud Turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum) as shown in the image, White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and numerous species of singing birds. The Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), however, has yet to return. We also received an excited report from the Summerville field office.

Upon returning home from a soccer game, the Musselman family spied a large hawk in the driveway hooding its prey. They quietly exited the vehicle, moved wide around the far side of the yard and entered the house on the side opposite of the hawk. From a window in the room above the garage they attempted to get an image, but the hawk's keen eyesight alerted it to their presence and it flew to a nearby branch. At that point, the hooded prey was identified as an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). No need to worry, the habitat has an abundant population of squirrels! The hawk did return for its meal. Best-case senario...that squirrel was converted into young hawk!

Today, was a day to try and catch up. However, like the swamp, the visitor population has become more active and has garnered the majority of our attention! Not a bad thing.

Image by Mark Musselman

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