Sunday, May 15, 2016

Views on Nature from the Back Deck Swing -- Saturday May 14, 2016

Bijou -- Age 16 going on 17 -- April 23, 2016

       Ah yes, the simple, sweet moments in life -- a bit of sunshine & fresh air on a Spring day along with birds and other critters to watch from the back deck swing!  When you are old and do not still have a lot of oomph left in you, life can be still be savored with the aforementioned special pleasures.  For me, I do still have a little oomph but I had some work obligations yesterday -- grading papers.  Bijou convinced me that the best place to do that was the back deck swing!  And she was right!  And so with coffee, papers, red pen, laptop, binoculars and camera, I perched outside on the swing alongside my old girl, graded papers and watched the wildlife.

       We have several families of birds, parents and young who hang out in the trees nearby as our bird feeders hang off of the deck.  So I was able to watch the antics of Blue Jays, Carolina Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, Downy Woodpeckers, House Finches.  The goofy begging youngsters are wonderfully entertaining.  Several other species, not with young in tow, were also observed:  Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwing, an occasional flyby egret, Chimney Swift, Northern Mockingbird, American Crow, Mallard, Brown Thrasher, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Kingbird, Great-crested Flycatcher and American Robin.  And yes, there is a Mama Wood Duck on eggs in the nestbox and so I did see her fly into the box after her morning feed.

      Quiet time on the deck allows for a few decent photographic moments of the wildlife.  With camera ready, I took advantage of it.  Here is what I got:

Carolina Wren -- Parc Perlière -- May 14, 2016
Northern Cardinal -- Parc Perlière -- May 14, 2016

House Finch --  Parc Perlière -- May 14, 2016

       Bijou is much more into the watching and/or snoozing, than in the chasing these days so neither I nor the anole worried too much about his safety as he traversed the deck in front of us.

Carolina Anole -- Parc Perlière -- May 14, 2016

        My favorite photo of the day was my lucky shot of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird!  He did not really give me but one opportunity and thankfully, the light was right and the camera ready!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird -- Par Perlière -- May 14, 2016

         Yes, indeed, these quiet moments in nature are a delight to share with my old girl who loves the sunshine, the fresh air and the swing.  Sitting still and watching reveals so much about the lives of our wildlife -- even right off of the deck!.  It can also be a great place to unwind from the more hectic pace of the work week.  Sometimes all you need is a bit of nature, binoculars, a comfortable, swinging perch and the cheerful company of a cozy kitty!  Thank you, Bijou!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spring Visit to the Fabulous Francis Beidler Forest -- May 7, 2016

Prothonotary Warbler -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

          The beginning of May, Spring has most definitely arrived.  One of the best places in South Carolina to witness a truly natural, uncultivated version of Spring's renewal is in the Francis Beidler Forest.  The swamp is teeming with new life easily viewed by the observant from the boardwalk. This year, on the last weekend of April, I made our annual trek to SC Audubon's  Wine & Warblers event at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center and Sanctuary solo.  Carl was out of town on business, unfortunately.   I thoroughly enjoyed the event and was quite sorry that Carl had missed out because the swamp was quite busy with multiple species of warblers, plenty of snakes, interesting insects, crayfish and other wildlife.  I took note of where I saw nesting warblers, and when Carl returned home, I convinced him to return last weekend to the swamp.  He was quite happy to see much of the same wildlife that I had experienced at Wine & Warblers.  

The Hooded Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and the Yellow-throated Vireo were in the same area close to the center, as was the family of Barred Owls.  We also saw quite a handsome American Redstart.   We had excellent views of all of these species and we were wonderfully serenaded by warbler song but we did not experience as much luck photographically.  The exception was in capturing the delightful, head-bobbing owlets.  I enjoyed a game of Peek-a-boo with one of them!

Barred Owl youngster --  Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

         As we progressed from the uplands into the swamp, we encountered a decent-sized and friendly group of photographers from the Columbia chapter of the Carolina Nature Photographers Association.  They were camped out in front of a cypress knee housing a nesting pair of Prothonotary Warblers who were bringing food to the chicks inside.  

Female Prothonotary Warbler at nest -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Male Prothonotary Warbler at nest -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

          Continuing down the boardwalk, we found what appeared to be a possible nesting cavity for a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers.  We did see one of them enter, but the birds did not make regular trips to the tree so we are unsure of what the nesting status may be there.  

          This Spring seems to be exceptionally good for the crayfish -- which in turn is quite good for the other wildlife such as Yellow-Crowned Night herons and the owls!  

Crayfish -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Yellow-crowned Night Heron -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

        We saw a few species of turtles (mud, box, and yellow-bellied sliders) as well we several skinks, including this romantic pair of Five-lined Skinks.

Five-lined Skinks making more -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Then, we encountered this ambitious fellow (or gal?) attempting to finish off a dragonfly!

Five-lined Skink attempting to make lunch of a dragonfly -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

We saw the skink wrestle with the dragonfly twice as the odonata did manage to get away -- twice.  So sadly, the skink did not enjoy a dragonfly entrée for lunch -- even after all that effort.  

         There was no shortage of snakes!  The most beautiful one was this golden-hued and venomous Eastern Cottonmouth!  Funny, I used to cringe when it came to snakes.  Now, I am absolutely fascinated by them and, I also maintain a very healthy respect for them -- particularly the venomous varieties.  

Eastern Cottonmouth -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Further down the boardwalk, we continued to find active Prothonotary Warbler nests.

Male Prothonotary using a nestbox -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Female Prothonotary presumably on eggs -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016
An Acadian Flycatcher also showed us the way to her nest.

Acadian Flycatcher -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Acadian Flycatcher -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

             And as different birds are in various stages of the nesting cycles, we also witnessed some adorable, recently-fledged chicks, such as this little Downy Woodpecker who truly needed a longer tail.  Nonetheless, he managed to climb this tree balancing on his stubby tail feathers!

Downy Woodpecker chick -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

We were entertained by a family of four Northern Parula chicks chasing after Mom begging for food.

Northern Parula chick -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Northern Parula chicks -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

The wildlife in the sanctuary are habituated to seeing humans on the boardwalk and since they never experience hunters and because the humans in their habitat do not leave the boardwalk, many are rather fearless.  And thus, we watched this pregnant White-tailed Deer unabashedly approach us to nibble on some choice green leaves close-by.  

Female White-tailed Deer -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

Female White-tailed Deer -- Francis Beidler Forest & Audubon Sanctuary -- May 7, 2016

        Such beautiful moments in the Spring in our southern forests!  And the Francis Beidler Forest critters allow for close at hand observations into their family lives.  Carl and I found it hard to leave last weekend.  We actually doubled back on the boardwalk after one complete circuit.  I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the forest now.  Go slowly and quietly, listen and look -- the forest will not disappoint!  It is a wonderful place for connecting to nature.  And thus, you should not be surprised to find me out there again if you do visit.  Hmm -- perhaps tomorrow!