Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Spring at the Beidler Forest Audubon Santuary

Boardwalk in the Francis Beidler Forest -- photo by Carl Miller, April 16, 2011 (Wine and Warblers)

I sometimes say that my car has great difficulty resisting the magnetic pull from the swamp as I head west on I-26 from Charleston, such is my love of place for SC Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest.  If there is time to spare on a road trip, this is indeed one of the most worthwhile spots you can visit (Exit 177 if you are heading east and Exit 187 if you are headed west -- directions available here).  I recommend though a planned visit (at least 3 hours) so that you can savor at length the promenade along the 1.75 mile boardwalk through this glorious virgin cypress forest.  If I cannot convince you that this bird-rich, flora-rich, critter-rich nature-lover's swamp paradise is a must-see destination, then consider this:  Beidler Forest has been named as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and was also featured in the January/February 2011 issue of Audubon Magazine.   Take a look at these links and learn more about my preferred swamp.  I have been delighted to see this favorite spot, and the wonderful group of people who make this Audubon Center a reality, earn such national and international recognition.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron -- April 16, 2011 (Wine and Warblers)
Carolina Wren -- April 16, 2011 (Wine and Warblers)

Reflections in Goodson Lake -- April 23, 2011

Male Prothonotary Warbler -- April 23, 2011

Every season has something to offer but I confess that my favorite months to visit are April, May and June.  Why? -- Because of the frisky, sing-in-your-face golden-boy bird, the male Prothonotary Warbler!  The slightly less brightly colored female is interesting to watch as well.  If you watch long enough, you might see first-hand evidence of her capacity for infidelity.  These long-distance travelers migrate in the Spring from the Eastern Caribbean and Northern South America, where they spend their winters, and arrive in the swamp in late-March/early April.  This beautiful, bold, golden-boy happily sings for anyone ready to listen along the boardwalk in its quest to find a mate, and to establish and maintain its territory.  Also, if you visit the swamp during these months, you can participate in the Audubon Center's on-going citizen-science research project, Project Protho, as you observe the prothonotaries along the boardwalk.

Female Prothonotary Warbler -- April 23, 2011

Barred Owl -- April 16, 2011 (Wine and Warblers)

April is particularly special due to the Audubon Center's annual fundraiser, Wine and Warblers, to which Carl and I have been designated this year as their most loyal patrons since the inception of this event!  Who knew!?  Wine and Warblers begins in the late afternoon with delicious hors d'oeuvres and a glass of wine in the center and then continues with a guided tour with an always interesting naturalist around the boardwalk.  As the tour progresses, the naturalist shares his knowledge of the flora and fauna seen.  The ultimate goal is to find that singing golden wonder, the Prothonotary Warbler.  Bonus:  there are additional wine and hors d'oeuvre stations along the way to sate your appetite!  All told, yes, it becomes a bit of a party celebrating the swamp and its inhabitants!  I recommend it to all!  And I know that I do not need to tell the Center staff that we will be there in April 2012.  They always have us penciled in at the top of the reservation list -- a benefit of being a regular!

An elegant and delicious spread at Wine and Warblers, April 16, 2011-- photo by Carl Miller

Male Prothonotary Warbler -- April 16, 2011 (Wine and Warblers)

Because I never get enough of the warblers at Wine and Warblers, I always make a repeat visit to the swamp in April.  This year, 2 very good birding buddies went with me on April 23.  We found 3 active nests including one with an interloping male visiting the brooding female.  Also, I cannot fail to mention how great a swamp is for the creepy-crawlies like spiders and snakes!  I hope you enjoy the photos and will consider a visit to Beidler!

Female on the nest in a cypress knee -- April 23, 2011

Spider -- April 16, 2011 (Wine and Warblers)

Yellow-crowned Night Heron -- April 23, 2011

 Banded Water Snake -- April 23, 2011

Another Spider -- April 23, 2011

An older Eastern Cottonmouth with a mosquito on its snout! -- April 23, 2011

A smiling Yellow-bellied Slider -- April 23, 2011

A younger Eastern Cottonmouth -- April 23, 2011

And a more curious Eastern Cottonmouth -- April 23, 2011

Eastern Cottomouth -- April 23, 2011

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