Saturday, August 10, 2013

Francis Beidler Forest Offers New Early Morning Bird Walk!

Francis Beidler Forest -- August 3, 2013 

              Those of us South Carolina birders who know and love the Francis Beidler Forest, an Audubon sanctuary located in the Four Holes Swamp area of our coastal plain, have often wondered what it would be like to visit the very birdy swamp in the wee first daylight hours!  Well, we need not wonder anymore.  The Francis Beidler Forest now offers once-a-month early morning (7 am) guided walks around the boardwalk on the first Saturday of every month!  This walk begins 2 hours earlier than their normal operating hours and is led by the new Education Manager for Beidler, the talented and enthusiastic Matt Johnson!

Matt Johnson -- Education Manager for Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Sanctuary -- August 3, 2013

             If Matt's face and name seem familiar to you, then you are likely a fan, like me, of the PBS  Emmy-winning television series, Expeditions with Patrick McMillan.  As a graduate student at Clemson University, Matt worked with Patrick on the show as an occasional guest host and as a producer.  You can learn a bit more about Matt's background in this SC Audubon blog post.  Or, better yet, sign up for one of these walks!  The next one takes place on Saturday, September 7 at 7 am.  How do you sign up?  Just call the office at Francis Beidler Forest: 843-462-2160.  

          Being eager to see and hear the swamp in the early morning hours, Carl and I, along with Pat Campbell, master woodcarver from Isle of Palms, attended the inaugural early bird walk last Saturday, August 3.  Even though August is a hot and quiet month for woodland birding, we found the experience to be delightful, just like our host!  Matt has an excellent ear for the various bird songs and calls and a good eye for picking out critters navigating through the swamp.  Our first such critter was a rare Spotted Turtle.  I am sorry to say that I missed on that photo as it was rather dark and the camera was not ready.  I did, however, capture a shot of this juvenile Mississippi Kite who likes to hang out on a snag close to the center.

Juvenile Mississippi Kite -- Francis Beidler Forest -- August 3, 2013

          One of the potential obstacles that you may encounter as the first person on the boardwalk are the spider webs traversing the walk.  Carl saved me from running head on into this gal as I was looking to my right rather than straight ahead.

Neoscona Orb Weaver -- Francis Beidler Forest -- August 3, 2013 

           Since we are well past the breeding season, we did not see a large number of bird species but we certainly heard them in the canopy.  Again, with August being a fairly quiet month for woodland birds, we got this list of the typical August birds.   I imagine though that as migration picks up, the early morning stroll around the boardwalk will garner more diverse species.  Thus far in my early August walks on the sea islands, I have already seen a Yellow Warbler, a Black and White Warbler and a pair of Redstarts!  Just imagine the possibilities for the swamp in September!

          Other photos from our boardwalk stroll include this cooperative Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron -- Francis Beidler Forest -- August 3, 2013

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron -- Francis Beidler Forest -- August 3, 2013

This Barred Owl also obliged me with a nice profile shot.  Look at that beak!

Barred Owl -- Francis Beidler Forest -- August 3, 2013

           Carl and I thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the boardwalk with Pat and Matt.  Matt is an affable birding guide with a great deal of talent and a strong desire to help others learn about birds and about Francis Beidler Forest.  The team at Francis Beidler chose well indeed when they selected him for the position of Education Manager.  Matt is eager to meet more Lowcountry birders.  Like many of us, he already knows many names just via the eBird lists.  Thus, again, I recommend that you take advantage of this new opportunity to visit Beidler in the early morning hours.  Both the birding and the guide will delight you!  Call the office and reserve your spot for the first Saturday of the month -- 843-462-2160.  

Note:  Yes, the new boardwalk is now under construction but the old boardwalk will remain accessible for most (For the mobility-impaired, please call the center for more details).  You may have to hike across the forest floor in the initial stages to reach it but the Center plans to make that as easy as possible.  See this SC Audubon blog post for more information, or again, call the center, if you have additional questions.       


  1. I look forward to meeting Matt and birding with him soon!

  2. Matt is a valuable asset to the Low-country birding community. Pam F.