Monday, April 18, 2016

National Park Hounds!

I returned from the mountains on Monday evening, Tuesday I was mowing grass all day...and picking up sticks, and trying to catch up on chores....but Wednesday I threw my bag of tools in the shed and said,
" I'm not working today"! Instead I put some food in the van, my camera, binoculars, and headed for the National Park that is near me! YES we have a National Park...Congaree National Park, it was named Congaree Swamp prior to becoming a NP. I used to bring my Cub Scout Troop here back in the 90's to introduce them to "birdwatching"--aka birding!  So with a light-hearted and free bird feeling - I took off.

Passed many open fields of wild flowers...

I took the same route I always take going over there and it passes through some really wide open spaces..

A lot of hay is grown here and grain crops...the clover is in bloom...

Made my turn onto Bluff road as usual...and Bang!! ROAD CLOSED!  I completely forgot about the major flood back in Oct of last year,,,the bridge had been washed out and was under re-construction so I tried a detour...and wouldn't you know BANG-

Ziegler road all washed out and NOT being repaired! At least not yet...

what a mess....

so third time's a charm right...but now I'm actually arriving an hour and 15 mins later than planned! Oh well..I'm in no hurry!

Right off the bat on the entry road I spotted this black fox squirrel, sporting a white face!

Once parked I went straight to the boardwalk.  There is an extensive boardwalk, part of which was closed for flood damage repairs! There's hiking trails too and so I decided I would take the boardwalk then the Weston Lake trail...altogether it would be about 5 miles of swamp hopping!  Right away a pileated wood pecker landed near me..

He busily dug away at this tree bark...check out the tongue...

this is the low side of the boardwalk it was under water for a few weeks after the flood...

I could hear barred owls calling and hoped I'd see owls as they are very common here but just hearing them would have to do for today...
The base of this bald cypress had so many flutes really a beauty!

some reminders of recent winds too..

Lots of little creeks pass through the park; the Congaree River passes alongside the park, and there are other trails to take you to it...but not this one..

other woodpeckers in the park are the Downy, the Hairy, Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers, Red Headed and the Red Bellied Woodpecker.

at first the trail off the boardwalk was muddy but soon it got better, 

The sunny areas were sporting wildflowers

On the drier areas the trees change to oaks, maples and pines.  I spooked what I thought was a wood thrush up off the forest floor and up on the branch I was able to see it was a Veery !

Been a few years since I saw a Veery!  Also on the drier areas was more fungi, to help break down the deadwood..

It was right around here I saw a Hooded Warbler with no photo as he showed himself and then quickly went deep into the leaf cover.  The trees are so tall its impossible to see the tops.  But on the lower branches A Northern Parula came down to take a look at me. 

this is the area I met a really nice couple from Winnipeg, Canada.  We compared notes of our travels they have seen more of the US than I.  They loved the swamp and said the trees looked so exotic to them.  I wish I had taken more time to ask about what is a must see in Winnipeg! They especially like the Cypress "knees".  

On the back side of the trail I ran into a young guy from California.  We stopped to compare our map points as I expected my turn back towards the boardwalk to be right around the corner he confirmed it was.  He asked me was I a  "National Park Hound"?  He said he is one and he figured I was too as I was wearing my Mt Rainier National Park vest and here we are in a National I replied "I guess I am come to think of it," then we began to compare our bucket lists! He lives closer to most of the places on my wish list..and his memory was way better as he didn't even have to think to recite his wish list. I just LOVE meeting people who love nature the way I do!! 

Back at the Visitors Center they had closed up and gone home! I have my passport stamp from this park already so I didn't need to go inside anyway...and back at the van I was starving ---so I dug out a few things to eat on my drive home...some nice seedless grapes, mixed nuts, and cold coffee from this morning! Yum.  Wilma figured us a route where all roads were present and I was home 1 hr and 15 mins later!

Time...well spent!

Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you think you can not.


  1. At least you found some birds on this trip. Looks like a nice park. But those roads wow that must have been some nasty flooding to take out that much road.
    Thanks for another nice adventure

    1. Hi Jo, I heard soooo many more birds than I saw the trees were alive with the sound of bird song. I had no idea either because I was in the PNW when the flooding hit last fall!! Some road, bridges, and dams have yet to be rebuilt, and there is some question as to when it will get done!

  2. I think getting your National Park passport stamped qualifies you as a National Park Hound, and why not. But its good to support local parks, enjoy and be proud of whats on your doorstep. Some good swamp pictures here and your last one looks primeval. Introducing kids to nature is very rewarding and hopefully its an experience that will stay with them, I bet if you chatted to some of those who you took here back in the 90's they will have fond memories of it.

    1. That would be fun!! All those boys are now 35 yrs old!!

  3. Those photos of Ziegler road are crazy! And I love the Pileated Woodpecker :)

    1. Thank you for the visit! I had to go around the barracade to see this up close for will be a major effort to get this one repaired!

  4. Wow, what a cool place to have an hour and 15 minutes away! Our "local" national parks are awesome but far and covered in snow right now. I adore the black squirrel, never seen anything like it. I'd love to see a parula that well sometime too. Great post!

    1. Thank you Jen! I wanted to get his beautiful tail in the shot but he took off after I snapped that one! I plan to go back cause it it surely has dried up some and some of the longer trails will give even better birds. Gotta go before the skeeters come out!

  5. Beautiful -- amazing spot. I didn't even know what that squirrel was -- so different.

    1. Yes we have them close to my house as well I keep hoping one will come into the yard...We have the jet blacks and the grey ones are very grizzled some with white faces...and they also can be found in red fur!

  6. PS: I was a den mother for a while too -- I don't think my cubs were as lucky as yours were in their leader!!!

    1. I enjoyed being a scout leader but when my son was out of cubs he didn't want to go on in Boy Scouts we had no troop and he would have to go to a different area so he got involved in fishing and bowling so that was my last yr with the cubs.


Comments are appreciated, and reciprocated!