Friday, March 22, 2013

Boardwalk Happenings

Although the chill in the air gives the impression that winter has yet to exit the stage, it is officially spring and the plants and animals at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest are responding accordingly.  Over the last two days, we have had master naturalists from the Lowcountry Institute on Spring Island and third graders from Harleyville Elementary School.

We did not see many reptiles on either day due to the cool temps, but we did get some good looks at what did venture out into the open.  We spotted an Eastern Cottonmouth on our way to Goodson Lake.
Eastern Cottonmouth - Mark Musselman
Eastern Cottonmouth - Mark Musselman
Surprised by our return from the lake and in a "box canyon" of logs and trees, the cottonmouth quickly showed its displeasure with the eager paparazzi.  Pop quiz: How did the cottonmouth get its name?

On the return loop of the boardwalk, we came upon several Black and Turkey Vultures picking at an unidentified dead mammal at the water's edge.  The Turkey Vulture's sense of smell likely helped it located the carcass below the emerging canopy and the Black Vultures likely followed the lead of their cousins.
Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture eating dead mammal - Mark Musselman
After touring the boardwalk, the masters naturalist group drove to a downstream location at a marl bluff near Mallard Lake.
Master Naturalists - Mark Musselman
The underlying marl causes the soil on the bluff to be more basic than the typical Lowcountry soil allowing for the growth of plants usually associated with the Piedmont and Upstate.  Marl had nothing to do with the yet-to-be-identified fungus on a Muscadine Grape vine as it was down in the swamp.
Unidentified fungus - Mark Musselman
[Note: After searching the web, we have edited this entry and replaced slime mold with fungus.  It appears that the fungus is not a slime mold but a saprophyte (Fusicolla merismoides), which survives off the sap from a wound in the grape vine.  Apparently, in approximately two weeks, all signs of the fungus will disappear and the Muscadine Grape will suffer no lasting effects.]

Bronze Frog - Mark Musselman
Fire and Fern - Mark Musselman
Bloodroot is one of the plants benefiting from the less acidic soil.
Bloodroot - Mark Musselman
Bloodroot gets its name from the red color of its root.  Science is a tricky business.

Bloodroot has red root - Mark Musselman
Master reptile wrangler and leader of the naturalist group, Tony Mills, caught the young Southern Fence Lizard shown below as well as amphibians like the Bronze Frog shown above, Southern Cricket Frogs and several species of salamanders.

Southern Fence Lizard - Mark Musselman
Yesterday was another cool morning when the third graders from Harleyville Elementary came calling.  The young, sharp eyes not only spotted the only snake of the day, another cottonmouth, but also picked out the young Marsh Rabbit shown below.  Can you see it?

Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Young Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Around the boardwalk and especially in the parking area, birds are busy fueling for their flights north or they are busy setting up breeding territories here.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers singing in addition to their usual "speee" call.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Mark Musselman

Black-and-white Warbler - Mark Musselman

Female Yellow-rumped Warbler - Mark Musselman

Downy Woodpecker - Mark Musselman
Yellow-throated Warblers and Northern Parulas are singing and a White-eyed Vireo and a Common Yellowthroat were heard for the first time this year.  Finally, Prothonotary Warblers will be arriving within the week!

1 comment:

Swampy said...

Made edit to fungus portion. See note within entry.