Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rain, Rain, Save the Day

It was beginning to look like there would not be any canoe trips at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest due to the minimal rain since August 2012.  With yesterday's rain on top of the rain last week, that is no longer an issue.  In fact, two groups were on the canoe trail yesterday.  The morning group beat the rain and the drop in the temperature, but the afternoon group did not fair as well.  It was still a beautiful paddle, but hot beverages and maybe a warm fire were on most of the post-paddle schedules.

Last Tuesday, we took advantage of the "eye of the storm" to make a quick walk around the 1.75-mile boardwalk.  We quickly spied a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) and a Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), both likely in search of mates.

A shower of Red Maple debris greeted us early along the boardwalk.  Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are messy eaters.
Red Maple seeds on boardwalk - Mark Musselman
Depressions in the upland areas created by Hurricane Hugo-felled trees filled with water.  Amphibians will use these ephemeral, fish-free pools for breeding.  You may have heard the chorus of frog calls in your neighborhood too.

Upland forest - Mark Musselman
Elsewhere, water has reached even the elevations where the Dwarf Palmetto grows.

Swamp - Mark Musselman
Water flowing by knees - Mark Musselman
If you stand near the fork (#115) on the boardwalk, you will likely hear what appears to be the roar of a mountain stream.  Obviously, that is not the case here in the nearly level coastal plain. What you will be hearing is the cumulative noise of water flowing over the quarter mile of beaver dam.  The log near #154 that skims debris floating on the water's surface is also close to being overtopped.

Log across channel - Mark Musselman

We saw plenty of birds that were also taking advantage of the break in the rain.

Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, Dorchester, US-SC
Feb 12, 2013 1:55 PM - 3:55 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.75 mile(s)
Comments:     Mostly cloudy, 60Fs
25 species

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  2
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)  2
Barred Owl (Strix varia)  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  9
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)  4
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  5
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  3
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  4
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  1
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  11
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  10
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  12
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)  1
Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)  2
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  7
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)  6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  9
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)  3
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  1
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  20
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  6

At #7, an Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus) took the opportunity to catch some sun atop the log it uses for its winter den.

Eastern Cottonmouth - Mark Musselman
Beaver gnawing on Sweet Gum - Mark Musselman

Approaching Goodson Lake, evidence of fresh beaver (Castor canadensis) foraging could be seen on numerous trees and knees.  Like many of us, we're sure the beavers are looking forward to the warmer, sunnier weather of spring.  However, unlike the beavers, we do not need to worry that the warming temperatures allow the alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) to feed once more.

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