Thursday, July 18, 2013

Come High Water!

The rain over the last weeks has produced water levels not seen along the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest since the spring of 1997.  Although feet below the aftereffects of Hurricane David in 1979, when walking on the boardwalk would put one knee deep in water, this has been a significant water event for Four Holes Swamp.  We have posted a video at the end of this blog.
Hurricane David High Water Mark - Mark Musselman
A nail about a foot above the base of the Mockernut Hickory tree marks the extent of the water dumped by Hurricane David.  The current rain event has pushed water up to the base of the tree.
Marsh Rabbit - Mark Musselman
Although Marsh Rabbits (Sylvilagus palustris) are comfortable swimming, they apparently have their limits.  This individual was high in the pine woods directly behind the Loblolly Pine sign.

Water in High Pine Woods - Mark Musselman
Water often pools in the pine woods, mainly in depressions created by tip-ups when Hurricane Hugo knocked down 80% of the canopy.  However, during this rain event, the high ground was flooded and the water was running across the pine woods.

Water in High Pine Woods - Mark Musselman
White Ibis in High Pine Woods - Mark Musselman
A trio of White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) were foraging in the high pine woods because everywhere else in the swamp was too deep for wading.  We were not sure what they might be finding as the newly submerged habitat is not known for crayfish or fish.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron in High Pine Woods - Mark Musselman
A Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) was wading in the water on the opposite side of the boardwalk from the White Ibis.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron in High Pine Woods - Mark Musselman
Approaching the fork in the boardwalk, the water could be seen up to the cross supports.
Swamp Edge - Mark Musselman
Although the boardwalk is relatively level, the 1977 construction was mainly accomplished by volunteers not professionally certified in carpentry, so the keyword is relatively.  The low spots could be detected by the various depths of water across the deck.
Approaching Fork in Boardwalk - Mark Musselman
In some cases, the water had already receded.
Water Over Boardwalk - Mark Musselman
Fork on Boardwalk - Mark Musselman
The return portion of the boardwalk parallels the edge of the swamp and is often dry under the boardwalk.  In the image below, the water can be seen close to the deck.
High Water at #20 - Mark Musselman
At the #3 rest area, the water is up to the deck supports though the reflection off the water gives the impression of space below the boardwalk.
High Water at #3 - Mark Musselman
If any Prothonotary Warblers had nests below the level of the nest boxes on the signs, the nests were submerged and a loss.
Sign at #3 - Mark Musselman
Looking out from the rest area at #3, not a single one of the thousands of cypress knees can be seen due to the high water.
No Knees Visible From #3 - Mark Musselman
The cypress tree felled at #4 by Hurricane Hugo was under water except for a small portion at the root end.
Water Over Fallen Cypress at #4 - Mark Musselman
 Looking back at the Meeting Tree, the water can be seen approaching the boardwalk deck.
High Water at Meeting Tree - Mark Musselman
High Water at Meeting Tree - Mark Musselman
The high water limited the above-water options and made it treacherous for emerging aquatic insects.  A Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) made a meal of a dragonfly that had selected poorly and emerged on a boardwalk cross support.
Dark Fishing Spider - Mark Musselman
Dark Fishing Spider - Mark Musselman
The large knee at #5, which many state looks like a wave, is barely exposed above the water's surface.
"Wave" Knee at #5 - Mark Musselman
 Though the knees in the channel at #5 are quite tall, not a one could be seen above the water.
No Knees Visible at #5 - Mark Musselman
Approach to #6 - Mark Musselman
Rest Area at #6 - Mark Musselman
No Knees Visible Beyond 7' Knee - Mark Musselman
High Water at #8 - Mark Musselman
 The shadows make it difficult to see, but the water is just below the deck at the #9 rain shelter.
Rain Shelter at #9 - Mark Musselman
High Water at T on Boardwalk - Mark Musselman
High Water at T on Boardwalk - Mark Musselman
 Animals of all sorts took advantage of any resting spots out of the water.
Yellow-bellied Slider with Eastern Mud Turtle - Mark Musselman

High Water at #10 - Mark Musselman
Bald Cypress at #10 - Mark Musselman
View of Second Platform From #10 - Mark Musselman
Tower at Goodson Lake - Mark Musselman
Tower at Goodson Lake - Mark Musselman
The average water level at Goodson Lake is 4.0'.  The level at the time of the image on Tuesday was 7.53' down from the morning level of 7.6'.  The heavy rain yesterday will likely counter some drop in the water level.
Goodson Lake Gauge - Mark Musselman
Looking back from the tower at Goodson Lake to an area that is almost always dry or extremely shallow, the water can be seen covering all the cypress knees, including one that had been used as a nesting site by Prothonotary Warblers earlier in the season.
Boardwalk to Second Platform - Mark Musselman
 A Southern Toad (Bufo terrestris) could find no dry ground except for the boardwalk.
Southern Toad at #10 - Mark Musselman
Elsewhere, a small Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus) also sought high ground on the boardwalk.
Eastern Cottonmouth - Mark Musselman
The high water has basically eliminated all above-water basking sites except for the boardwalk we installed.  Fear not!  After taking the first image from a significant distance, the snake quickly retreated as we tried to get a more artistic ground level shot.  Dry is nice, but humans are huge and scary and retreat is the best option.  Remember, the majority of people have problems with snakes once they begin to mess with the snakes.
Eastern Cottonmouth - Mark Musselman

If you have not seen the swamp with high water, do not wait another 15-20 years for the next event!

1 comment:

Theo said...

This is gorgeous!