Monday, February 26, 2018

Now you see it Now you don't

I've been hit with spring fever! The daffodils bloomed and some are still coming out, so far no new frosts to kill stuff...I have not had to split firewood, and that is nice.  I've had the windows open been having breakfast on the porch then going out to the "slab" with my dinner...(the slab is my new outdoor space on the cement slab where the old shed used to be) 
Today I tried to detail it, sweep out the leaves piled up around the flower pots etc. with the leaf blower. I seem to have no control over those things! The leaves circle around and land behind me..

Last week when I went down to the "low country" to see the Long tailed Duck, I stopped at a couple other spots along the way back home...I figured I'd make a whole day of it...After the success of the duck I took off from the residential area where that duck was hanging out and made a bee line to Givhan's Ferry State Park. The Edisto River is the big draw is the longest free flowing blackwater river in North America! I have always wanted to Kayak from Collerton State Park down to Givhan's's a 23 mile paddle....I haven't even been able to buy a kayak damn! But it's not off my list, it's just You gotta have someone drop you off or have a car sitting at the end..WAWA... let me stop moaning.  

Givhan's Ferry has a Florida feel with all the saw palmetto trees along the river's edge. 

It was built by the CCC 988 acres of flood plain...there are some remarkable views but the trees make it hard to get a good vantage point...I love trees, I love views so I'm torn in both directions.   

Riverfront Hall...

There's 25 campsites with hook ups, and tent sites, and cabin rentals too...there's 2 hiking trails...I did my walk along the river's edge.

Of course you can find birds everywhere you go...I ran into a lot of back-lit birds on this walk...this Carolina Wren came down to rattle at me...

And I spotted this eastern phoebe scanning the water for gnats and bugs...

I would really enjoy camping here once I get that kayak so I can enjoy some of those views...

Yellow Rump Warbler

My next stop was at Santee NWR.  I hiked the Wright's Bluff Nature Trail...another place that really needs to work on access...the trail is so overgrown you can't even see the water...only one boardwalk brings you to the water and this one is overgrown with reeds...


I could hear tons of geese, ducks, and swans, but I could not see them...

I did see an Osprey hovering...



I picked out a Yellow Throated Warbler up in the canopy...

On the way out on the highway bridge I caught a glimpse of the waterfowl...


I'm thinking Tundra Swans about 30 of them...shovelers, wigeons, gadwalls and others that were just too far away, a nice boardwalk along this stretch of shoreline, just 100 ft would be awesome wouldn't have to cut any trees, it could be put right alongside the water's edge...because this is the most protected area,,,,a narrow leg out of the main body of water where the waterfowl concentrate.  I should have put this in their comment box, but I feel it would be a waste of time...surely they know?  Access is the biggest challenge to Eastern birding.  

This is the current view of this  section...the edge is muddy, and the view is obscured by tangles and scrub trees...I know it would be expensive but I'm sure volunteers would help build it. See the swans out there this would have been a much better vantage point to view the waterfowl.  If people can't see anything they soon stop coming, then what???

I am not saying get a bull dozer in there I'm saying ecologically minded and sound access is important to protection of species and habitat.  So on the way home I saw this really cool mural of Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox..It really shows all the awesomeness of the low country the Black Bear, the Red Fox, the humans on horseback the Cypress Trees and their knees... the Spanish Moss, the Great Egret.. and look really close on the right side just above center....

and then look carefully on that right side....

a Carolina Parakeet...extinct since 1918.
a crop of the image

The cutting of old growth forest is given as the most likely cause of the demise of this bird that used to live as far west as Colorado, as far north as Wisconsin...what a gorgeous bird it was...Our Ancestors....what were they thinking?? Maybe if they had  known about this bird they would have thought twice about how it could have continued to live alongside them.

I'm falling behind on posting so I will catch up this week..

Every day is a new Adventure.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Long Tale about...

Not giving up!

Sometimes you only get one chance at something... it's OKAY to say wait a minute...and get up and dust yourself off and try again! So that is what I did.  Not just once but 5 times! 

I'm speaking about my attempts to see the long-tailed duck! First report came in on Nov 21st, 2017.  I drove about 1/2 hr west to Lake Wateree in Lugoff, that was when I saw the Black Vulture effigy...didn't see the duck.  That didn't surprise me since Lake Wateree is a HUGE body of water with miles of shoreline.  Then the Holidays came and I sort of didn't even look for it during that time. I was off looking for the Ross Goose!

Then 2018, Jan 16th another report, about one hour north west of me, in Jenkinsville, SC I made an attempt at the Nuclear Plant lake when my sister met me and we beat a cold wind all day looking and came up empty handed...that was the day the man's boat got away from him.

Then on the 19th of Jan I went up to the Dam and down under the bridge to see the Greater Scaup... that was a lifer also and on that same day when I left the Dam I drove 2 hrs south to the town of Branchville where a long tailed duck had been reported the day before...I found the ponds, and some friendly donkeys, but no 3rd fail on the long tailed duck.
Image From Cornell Labs range of the Long-tailed Duck

Every morning I open my laptop with the hopes of a possible sighting.  My chances to see this duck wane with each passing day, soon any that are around will head north to Canada and beyond to breeding grounds. SO really time is getting short.  If you look at the map I snagged off Cornell you see the duck spends all their time many miles away from SC where I am.  So the report that came in on Saturday Feb 17th from Ridgeville, SC was such a surprise and I left Sunday morning for the 2 hr drive south down the dreaded I-95! And you know I dipped on that as per my last blog post...and I was so disappointed and then Monday morning I saw someone had seen the duck one hr after I left, GRRRR I wanted to break something... But I took it like a mature individual and ranted at home alone.  

Monday I had a planned lunch date with my sis, but Tuesday Feb 20th when I got up there it was reported again in that same by 8:20 I was on the way to the dreaded I-95 again..only this time in a heavy FOG! 

After 2 hrs of foggy high speed driving...I was in a state of shock, and I kept telling myself this was nuts.  I had not eaten and had barely had coffee.  Upon arrival I did a quick drive by then parked and walked the frontage of the lake on the road's edge. 

When I scanned the smaller pond the to the left of this house....I saw that flash of white and I knew I had spotted him...I had to walk down the frontage road and then up a residential side street to the farther-est eastern corner beyond the house in the smaller lake and that's where he was diving. 

                                        this property is for sale

And there he was in all his groovy colors. Snowy white head, big psychedelic white eye ring, dark pinto looking cheek patch, dark sides with a white back and long pointed tail..oh and the pink and black bill.  

If at first  you don't succeed try, try, try, try, and try again!!  That is the male Long-Tailed Duck!  I was so gratified not even the man in the house nearby giving me the stink eye from his garage  for standing close to the edge of his yard could deter me the glory of this duck. Honestly I had figured  out if he said something to me I was going to say, "No Englesh Senor," and hump my shoulders like I dunno what you're saying...

I guess he decided I was harmless even though I don't think I even combed my hair and I believe I had on the same clothes I had worn on Sunday so if that man saw me then he probably recognized me as that crazed looking loonie in the plaid shirt from Sunday who was out in the drizzle with her hair all a frizzle!

Not the greatest photo but it sure looks good to me!

If you zoom in on this map you see 2 ponds with the red dot, I parked at the blue dot Priority One Waste... now look to Lake Dr, and then look down to Austin Lane, I walked down the road along the lake scanning with my binoculars, then headed up Austin and finally I stood right there in that corner at the end of Austin, and viewed the duck.  I think he had been in the other pond behind that small island on Sunday.  

I am amazed at how long this duck stays under water when they dive..

It felt so great to be able to finally see one!!  Now normal life can resume...My Long Tailed Duck story is done. 

Every day is a new Adventure.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great  Backyard Bird Count was this past weekend.  Birding for me was tough! We had a very gusty system come through, and it just made it hard to locate birds.  Most of the birds were hiding out of the wind.  As for my yard, the regulars showed up I got 15 species.  So I sent in that count.  I wish the Backyard count had been on Wednesday I had a better day of birding then..and I had a Fox Sparrow in the yard.  I watched him through the window for a while before trying for a better shot. This was taken through the glass...but he was gone when I got outside. 

I hit 2 locations on Friday but came away almost empty handed...Like I said, It was better on Wednesday.  I had some cemetery looking to do up in Marlboro county so I stopped at Lake Paul Wallace.  
Last time I was here it started to rain this time it was threatening...but just remained cloudy.
The walking trail is 1.3 miles one way and splits the lake into 2 sides...the ring billed gulls hung out about half way...

                             check the guy in the center..wa wa

Tons of Ruddy Duck were around,  hanging out in small groups of  10 to 15,  

I made a count of about 50 altogether.  They're getting into breeding plumage.   I spotted one female Bufflehead in the group. 

..and a couple of fish crows watched from the light post...

This heron was funny he waited while I got close to him he didn't move a I gave him as wide a berth as I could, as you see the walking tail is not very wide.  He watched me as I went around behind him and once I actually got past him he started honking and screeching and make a huge leap and took off in a tiff!



Lots of Double Crested Cormorants hung out in the dead trees in the water...

Then on the stumps to dry off...

Up near the edge I saw a merganser fishing with a couple of the gulls..only she was doing all the work...I think they had a plan to steal something from her but they never got a chance she was so fast. 

She finally swam out a bit away from the edge and I took this shot of her before she swam out of range...

red breasted merganser 

That bit of white on the upper beak is a reflection... I haven't seen one of these in a long time so I was happy to watch this lady...Sure wish one of the gorgeous males would have been around.  I ran out of time I had intended to drive to the other side of the lake and see what was happening there, but is it just me or is a day way shorter than it used to be? 

Friday I had some good counts but no good photos...except this pair of Mallard...I felt his emerald green head was just beyond awesome!

This was at Sandhills NWR...many sparrows were around, but it was almost impossible to pull them out of the deep cover where they clung to branches to keep from being blown away! 

Savannah sparrow in deep cover

Saturday I was exhausted and stayed home to catch up on household chores..and then Sunday...showed such promise in the morning it was sunny and blue sky,,,so I made an impromptu decision to drive about 2 hours south to Dorchester County I had seen 2 reports of birds I need to see! Again I chased the long tailed duck and dipped and I dipped on the LeConte's Sparrow too! Before I even crossed the county line, the clouds came in the mist developed and the weather quickly deteriorated.  But I was committed so I carried on.  Trying to see through fogged lenses is no fun. 

I came away with very little to show for my time, but I still enjoyed myself. Quite a few floaters there... I came away with 11 species at this lake, Ruddy duck, Hooded merganser, Ring-necked duck, Greater scaup, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Red Winged Blackbird, Double Crested Cormorant, and American Robin to name a few.  

ring-necked duck

red-winged blackbirds

This pond is part of an estate that is for sale, so of course restricted access...(I found out this morning that a male and a female were spotted at 3:50 pm that was exactly 45 minutes after I left I rechecked the pond at 3:06 before heading back home...*SIGH* Maybe I'll try again....I'm rather frustrated at t his point)

Next I hit a new not yet fully open Audubon  Sanctuary and it had restricted access too.  I had to stay on the Sanctuary road and was not able to explore the habitat.  They had a sparrow workshop there the day before I should have gone... but had to be there at 8:30 am meaning I had to leave home at 6:00 am and I just wasn't feeling in on Saturday.  Wish now I had that's when they saw the 2 LeConte's Sparrow .  I heard one, they have a very distinct call so I listened to it to get familiar with it.  I wonder if they played the call on the sparrow walk?  Since it's a new bird for me, I only count sightings, once I've seen it then I count a heard only.  The drizzle continued and I ended up in the van for a while waiting it out.

red bellied woodpecker

Came away with very few photos...but ended up with 30 species here...mostly woodland birds...

Saw 4 red-headed woodpeckers, got this one yukky shot, up in the white sky.  Remember when I used to see so many  in my own neck of the woods, not so much anymore...I think it's the pine tree farming, the old dead trees were pushed down and that whole area, about 40 acres planted with yellow pine.  So no snags no red heads!

red headed woodpecker

All in all I had a good count 48 species with 688 individuals on 6 checklists.  for my weekend GBBC!  

Every day is a new Adventure.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Clemson Experimental Station

So far February has been cloudy and rainy.  Some days complete wash buckets of on the sunny breaks I'm ready to get out and go someplace! I took a short ride over to this spot called the Clemson Sandhills Experimental Station.  It's a pretty cool spot to hike, dog walk, and bird! I packed a sack lunch and drove over, its not too far away like 18 miles. There's 2 ponds and a lake.  I hiked the lake trail it's about 2.1 miles, outlined in blue... 

The trail meanders over the dam, over an eagle scout project boardwalk and 

through the woods....

Lots of American Robins up high picking berries I ran into them throughout my hike....maybe 50 in total

They did have some competition the cedar waxwings...saw about 10 darting in and out of this tangle of brier. 

In the woods area I saw 2 pair of Northern Cardinal, and they appeared to be searching for a nest spot...just the way they called to each other and the way they behaved made me think of Amor'e.

Near one of the smaller ponds this Eastern Bluebird was hunting in the Sycamore trees...

In the water I spotted 4 Pied Billed Grebes,  and 8 Double Crested Cormorants...all pretty far from the edge, 

 I found a bench to sit down and eat my sandwich this Carolina Wren started to have a fit...

carolina wren

I enjoyed his antics, and he stirred up a few more birds in the woods.  A Hermit Thrush  in the edge gave me a quick peek and higher up the Red Bellied Woodpecker squealed his displeasure too!  

Hope this one gets put back right before nest building gets  underway
Love the white bark on the tall Sycamore Trees. 

The bark...

After the lunch break I finished the lake hike and stirred up the interest of this Myrtle Yellow Rump Warbler.  

There is a young Pecan Orchard on the grounds and a few Northern Mockingbirds were patrolling the branches... 

There is an open area where they experiment with sod of various kinds, about the time I got over there an Eagle flew over way up high...and down on the fence line another Eastern Bluebird...

a heavy crop to pull this one out of this shot...

I would def go around here again...there is enough hardwood to make some pretty fall color behind the lake, so I must make a mental note! 

Every day is a new Adventure.