Friday, January 08, 2010

It's Freezing!

Ice in swamp at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest by Mark Musselman
The staff at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest knows that there are plenty of places on Earth that are colder than the Lowcountry of South Carolina! However, we are not used to sustained below-freezing weather. Last night was the seventh day in a row with low temperatures at freezing or below, which is one day short of the record set in 2001 at the National Weather Service office at the Charleston airport. The high temperatures remain well below normal. The death of one of the nature center's heat pumps did not help the situation!

Although ornamental plants and family pets need special care during the cold weather, native plants and animals have evolved to handle the natural variability of our climate. Obviously, individuals that are weakened by age, injury, disease, etc. may not survive a prolonged cold snap. Many of our bird species have migrated south to warmer weather and greater food supplies. Most reptiles have found shelter (under bark, below ground, under fallen trees, etc.) that will keep their body temps above freezing. Trees, including the swamp's needle-bearing Bald Cypress, have dropped their leaves and will remain inactive until the warming weather of spring.

Yesterday in the late afternoon, there was still some ice hugging the edge of the swamp or encircling the bases of trees and cypress knees. Meanwhile, Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) methodically marched through the upland forest in search of acorns or insects hidden within the leaf litter.

Wild Turkey at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest by Mark Musselman
Wild Turkey at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest by Mark Musselman

It may be tough, but the strong will survive (especially now that the heat pump has been replaced)!

Images by Mark Musselman

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