Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Visit to SC Audubon's Beidler Forest in Late June

It was late June and I was ready for another visit to SC Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest.  You may recall my first post (written in July) on this favorite birding destination in which I mentioned that Spring is my favorite time to visit the Swamp.  And if you have not read the earlier post and you are unfamiliar with Beidler Forest, you may want to peruse it as an intro to how the place inspires me.  Of course, you should most definitely check out the link to their site for more details on the forest.

I knew that I would likely have a hard time locating the golden-boy Prothonotary Warblers and their families at this time because most nesting had long been completed and the adult birds generally move their fledglings from the low-lying swamp to the higher forested areas away from the boardwalk area by this time of the summer.  True enough, I did not see any Prothonotaries although I did hear a couple of them singing on occasion.  The forest certainly was not quiet however.  Late June is a time in which many species' goofy and curious youngsters are out and about, exploring and learning about life.  So the young Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and Northern Parulas, and Carolina Wrens were chirping, chattering, &  flitting about in the canopy as I headed down the boardwalk.  It is easy to phish and see these younger birds as they are more curious and bolder (read "goofy") than their parents.  This does not mean that they are easy to photograph; they are still wigglers!  

A fluffy little Northern Parula -- June 28, 2011

As I left the visitor's center, my encounter with wildlife was immediate -- a White-tailed deer and her very young fawn were feeding within thirty feet off the boardwalk!  I attempted to photograph them through the foliage as best I could not knowing that I would be treated to fabulously clear views of the pair 40 minutes later!  (So be patient, and no skipping ahead, you will see photos of them shortly.)  But then I was distracted by quick movement and a bit of rustling at the foot of the boardwalk about 15 feet away.  Suddenly, I saw a family group of turkey hens and their young fledglings moving quickly and quietly away from me!  They were too quick for photos, alas!  There was also the distraction above by all of the young birds, too.  As I was trying to track some birds flying through the canopy, I caught a glimpse of this Barred Owl grooming himself and watching me.

Barred Owl -- June 28, 2011

 Suddenly, I spied a lovely iridescent pale Luna Moth on the board walk in it's last mortal moments.  Even so, it clung nicely to a tree so that I could get some more natural looking photos.  This was my second close encounter with this beautiful creature.  My first encounter, on a  Caw Caw birding trip, was even more momentary when a very large one flew just past my shoulder and beyond our group.  So this time, here at Beidler, I was able to study it closely.  The "moons" (to me they resemble "eyes") on its wings remind me of oriental art and the pale green wings with pinkish-lavender edges are the same shades as the Jordanian rug hanging on my living room wall!  I should perhaps print one of these photos for the living room! 

Luna Moth -- June 28, 2011

Luna Moth closeup -- June 28, 2011

After spending some time photographing this lovely bug, I decided to move on or this visit would indeed take me the entire day as I had not yet reached the first intersection of the boardwalk where the loop begins.  Often, this is an area that we trot through expeditiously in order to begin the trek around the loop as that is the swamp-iest area.  But this day in late June, there was so much going on in this higher area that I was reminded that all areas might reveal some treasures if you slow down to take the time to look.  Ah, Beidler offers some important life lessons!  Just as I folded  up the tripod to continue my trek, I spotted the mother White-tailed deer and her fawn moving through the woods directly towards the boardwalk and ME!  I froze hoping she would feel comfortable enough to come closer.  She did!  You would have thought she was tame!  She and her baby moved just ahead of me and parallelled the boardwalk at a distance of 12 to 20 feet.  I began to speak softly to them and followed them (leaving behind my tripod -- people waving around big sticks can be scary) and they were not bothered at all by my company.  I was awe-struck to be able to watch these tender moments between mother and child.

White-tailed fawn -- June 28, 2011

White-tailed deer -- June 28, 2011
White-tailed family moment -- June 28, 2011

 The little fawn stuck very close to his mother's side.  What I did not realize at the moment that I took the above picture though, is that the mother was telling her baby goodbye.  So I was momentarily surprised and concerned when they began to separate and move in opposite directions.  Then I understood when the baby moved to a little hollow at the the base of a tree and lay down.  This was the time of day that Baby sleeps and Mom moves off to feed. 

The fawn moves towards his hollow -- June 28, 2011

The fawn in his hollow -- June 28, 2011
Well this Baby needed his rest and he seemed a bit more uncertain without his Mama by his side, so I left him to finally begin the loop around the boardwalk.

The swamp was very dry completely without standing water until I got out to Goodson Lake.  But again, the young birds were very busy exploring and enjoying life as youngsters do.  The next set of kids that I came across were a group of 3 Pileated Woodpeckers.

Pileated Woodpecker -- June 28, 2011
Pileated Woodpecker -- June 28, 2011

Also, this Carolina Wren was not very happy about my passage down the boardwalk.  I imagine she may have had a newly fledged baby closeby.

Carolina Wren -- June 28, 2011


I had hoped to see some snakes, but such was not the case this time.  However, I was able to photograph this most cooperative Southeastern Five-lined Skink.

Southeastern Five-lined Skink -- June 28, 2011

Southeastern Five-lined Skink

The day was warming, and in late June in a South Carolina Lowcountry swamp, warming is not an insignificant event.  Wildlife and people both know that it is time to seek respite from the heat, save energy and rest.  The critters were calming and I was sweating, so I headed back towards the visitor's center.  But before that, I checked on the young fawn dozing in his hollow one more time.

White-tailed Fawn dozing -- June 28, 2011

Overall, I was immensely pleased with my visit once again to the SC Audubon Francis Beidler Forest.  Writing this blog today and reminiscing over those special moments shared with the deer family and the young, goofy birds, I am beginning to feel that "magic" pull from the Swamp.  So do not be surprised if you soon read another blog post about an early Fall visit to this special place! 


  1. Thanks for sharing your photos and comments about this trip to Francis Beidler. You got some great photos, and your "read" on the deer family was right on target. So often we humans don't give the animal world credit for having feelings like we have. I look forward to your next post.

  2. Beautiful photos, I found the shape and color of the fawns eyes really interesting compared to it's mothers.