Saturday, October 29, 2011

ARHS Nature Trail Workday

The nature trail construction workday at Ashley Ridge High School was a tremendous success! 
The National Audubon Society and Toyota have joined forces to launch TogetherGreen, a nationwide initiative that aims to inspire environmental leadership and community-based action.  Details for this project can be seen here.

Image by Emily Cavell

Students from the environmental studies classes of Ms. Minde Wheeler and Mr. Jerry Kociuruba helped plan the workday by forming committees for the construction of small footbridges, a 26-foot footbridge, benches, outdoor classroom, and trail enhancement (clearing, gravel, pine straw).  The poles for the 26-foot footbridges were generously donated by South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G).

Image by Jim Tatum

More photos by Jim Tatum of the Summerville Journal Scene can be seen here.

With the help of staff from the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, students were able to complete one of the two 26-foot footbridge (the other poles were not yet in place), all the smaller footbridges, the outdoor classroom, and the gravel trail from the parking area down to the ditch spanned by the bridge shown in the above image.

Image by Emily Cavell

With the outstanding work by the students and Audubon partners, access is now available to the natural areas on the Ashley Ridge High School campus.  Not only will the students in the environmental studies classes be able to use the trail and continue to make improvements to the trail, but other students and teachers have the opportunity to work trail visits and exploration into their studies!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hermit Thrushes Are Here

Although the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest is closed today, there is still plenty going on outside the office window!  The other day, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were clearing the fruit from the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) trees.  Today, it was the Hermit Thrushes' turn.

These are the first Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus) we've seen this winter and they are wasting no time harvesting the available fruit.  Hermit Thrushes have a relatively spotted breast and a reddish tail that contrasts with their brown back.

Although eating plenty of fruit in winter is typical Hermit Thrush behavior and not indicative of a impending cold winter, the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) outside the back door appeared to be preparing for a winter worthy of an extremely dense nest.  In the few minutes we were on the back porch, the squirrel made no fewer than twenty trips to prune small branches full of leaves and then carry the insulating material back to the nest in the crook of a Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa).

Images by Mark Musselman

Friday, October 21, 2011

Migrant Visitors

Although the cooler weather has limited the sightings of wildlife along the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, there are still jewels to be found!

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus) were seen again outside the office window eating Flowering Dogwood fruit.  Black-throated Blue Warblers (Setophaga caerulescens) were spotted in several places around the boardwalk (#4, #14) and in the parking area.

Male Hooded Warblers (Setophaga citrina) are still being seen regularly around the boardwalk, especially near the swamp edge between #2 and #3 and along the return loop at #14.

An Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) was spotted walking under the Dwarf Palmettos near #1.

Today, the first Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) was spotted moving low at the swamp's edge behind the outdoor classroom.

Other residents like the cool weather just fine as well as the sanctuary from those with guns!

Images by Mark Musselman

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rosebrock Park

There is a new park in Dorchester County!  The park entrance is located at the intersection of Hwy 61 and Hwy 165.

From the Dorchester County Parks and Recreation webpage:

Richard H. Rosebrock Park is 76 acres including 2.4 miles of walking trails and also has picnic shelters and an outdoor classroom. Future amenities include a canoe/kayak launch and a fishing pier on the Ashley River. Park hours are 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Standard time and 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM, Daylight Savings time.

See trail map here.

Audubon South Carolina contributed some of the images shown on the kiosk at the trail head.  During a recent visit, we saw or heard a variety of birds including Gray Catbird, Pine Warbler, Brown Thrasher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Veery, Northern Cardinal, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Belted Kingfisher, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-eyed Vireo and American Redstart.

Ashley River under Hwy 165

We'll look for you on the trail!

Images by Mark Musselman

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Audubon is Birding the Net

The National Audubon Society has launched an online scavenger hunt, to introduce millions of Americans to the fun of birding—and to highlight our work to save birds and their habitats. Put your birding skills to the test in this online scavenger hunt that runs through November 7th.

We've released birds all over the Internet for you to spot and collect on Facebook. So get birding and compete to win awesome prizes, including a trip to the Galapagos.

Start playing now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Early Morning Turkey

Nearly every day, we see Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) on the drive to or from work at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  As previously reported, the turkeys in our area are the descendants of birds reintroduced here in 1987.  Therefore, spotting a Wild Turkey is not unusual.  However, hearing vocalizations beyond a tom's gobble is not a common occurrence.

While camping at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Music Festival last weekend, we woke to the early morning conversations of a flock of eleven turkeys moving through the adjacent field.

Birding can happen anywhere, even on the Internet.  Birding the Net is on!  The National Audubon Society opened the window to the Internet and birds have taken flight all over the Web. So pull out your virtual binoculars and spot as many as you can. You could win some amazing prizes!

There are plenty of birds to find, and the Internet is a big place. You’ve only got until November 7th to win, so get started now.  Ready, set, bird!

Video by Mark Musselman

Thursday, October 06, 2011

TV Crew in the Swamp

On Tuesday, a crew from WLCN television came to the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest to film a new show hosted by Tara Bailey.  The show aims to highlight the variety of outstanding, low-cost outdoor experiences available to residents of the Charleston area.  For the first show, what better site than the old-growth swamp!

At Beidler Forest, the ancient trees, the wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater all await you. Frequented by nature photographers from all over for its unique landscape and dynamic ecosystem, the swamp at Beidler Forest offers a beauty unsurpassed by any other nature sanctuary in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Beidler Forest sits within the Four Holes Swamp, a 45,000-acre matrix of black water sloughs and lakes, shallow bottomland hardwoods, and deep bald cypress and tupelo gum flats. Four Holes Swamp is also a major tributary of the Edisto River, part of the Charleston area’s famous ACE basin. Over 16,000 of the swamp’s acres are owned by the National Audubon Society and make up what is known as the Francis Beidler Forest, which is less than an hour from Charleston and Columbia and located just north of I-26 outside the town of Harleyville, SC. It is easily accessed from either I-26 East or West, as well as I-95. Beidler Forest was originally established to preserve 1,800 acres of old-growth swamp forest, one of only two such stands still left in the state. A visitor center (hours & admission), 1.75-mile boardwalk trail, and a canoe and kayak trail for naturalist-guided paddling tours provide visitors the chance to explore deep within the swamp’s interior.

Stay tuned!  After production work is completed, we'll let you know when Backyard Explorers will air.

Image by Mark Musselman

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Rose-breasted Grosbeak on Migration

Another first for the education department's office window at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest!

While working on the computer, movement outside our window caught our eye.  Earlier, an adult and a first-year Pine Warbler posed outside the window comfortable in the knowledge that our camera was still in the bag.  Naturally, once the camera was out and ready, the birds found a better place to be.  Throughout the day, birds, mainly Northern Cardinals of which we have plenty of pictures, had been clearing the Flowering Dogwood of its fruit.  However, the combination of black, white, and red in the last mass of movement must have set off alarms in our subconscious. Looking up, there was no mistaking the rose-colored breast and the need to get the camera into position.

Funny thing about gives you the opportunity to make something happen, but you still need make it happen.  We failed to adequately navigate the space between our window and the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  A small twig was all that was necessary to blur our shot before the bird went about his business beyond our sight.  Patience, however, is said to be a virtue.

Within the hour, a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak returned with a female to dine on the fruit of the Flowering Dogwood.  Not only did we have our camera ready, we had our window open, which eliminated one obstacle to a clear picture.

The swamp has been getting a touch of red from Poison Ivy, Cardinal Flower, Flowering Dogwood fruit, but the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a treat!

Images by Mark Musselman