Thursday, September 16, 2010

New Bird for Beidler Forest

Since its purchase in 1969, the Francis Beidler Forest has been studied and lists have been compiled cataloging the plants and animals within its boundaries.  Some groups of animals have been studied more thoroughly than others.  Insects remain a critical component of the swamp ecosystem, but have received little direct attention.  We continue to add species to the list as we discover them in the process of completing our regular duties.  Birds are another story.

Being that the National Audubon Society formed from grassroots efforts to end the killing of birds for the fashion industry and continues to work for the protection of birds and their habitat, it is no surprise that the bird list for the Francis Beidler Forest is extensive.  Additionally, thousands of people a year have been looking at birds after the completion of the boardwalk in 1977.  There are very few surprises when in comes to birds at the Francis Beidler Forest.  That's part of what makes yesterday's bird sighting interesting.

Previously in this blog (MayJune), we have covered beavers (Castor canadensis) and their return to the Francis Beidler Forest.  Yesterday, we wanted to take the Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and capture coordinates for the beaver dam (shown in blue) in order to show its location on maps of the boardwalk area.  The water level is quite low, so walking along the low dam was not difficult and we were out of the office.  A short dam near the nature center keeps water from leaking up a low draw, while the 1/4-mile section of dam ties the lodge under the powerline to the high ground near the fork of the boardwalk.  There is another 1/4 mile of dam that runs north from the lodge to the swamp across the powerline right-of-way, but we ran out of time and did not gather its coordinates.  Good excuse for another day out in the swamp.

Along the way, we saw or heard a Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon), Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus), a Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), a Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), an Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), and a juvenile White Ibis (Eudocimus albus).  All of these birds were taking advantage of the pooled water and altered habitat created by the beavers' dam.  We were certain that we had not detected all of the animals benefitting from the beaver activity, but we were surprised when an American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) lifted from the tall grass on one side of a swollen creek channel and quickly dropped into the vegetation cover on the other side of the channel before we could take a picture.  Bitterns of any sort have not been seen within the boundaries of the Francis Beidler Forest due mainly to the lack of suitable habitat.  However, with the powerline right-of-way being kept clear of trees and the beavers pooling water that normally would have quickly drained to the Edisto River, the habitat in that small portion of the swamp now has the feel of a marsh...and bitterns feel comfortable in its dense cover.

It was another day in the swamp, but as always, it was something new and exciting!

Images by Mark Musselman

No comments: