SIB’s Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest Trip

The wonderful presentation by Matt Johnson on March 27, 2019, on the Prothonotary Warbler inspired Seabrook Island Birders to join him on a walk. On April 11, 2019, ten SIB members joined Matt for a two hour tour (which became a three hour tour) of the boardwalk through the Four Hole Swamp in the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest.

SIB Beidler 4 Jackie Brooks

It was a busy day at Beidler with our group, one from the Sierra Club, and a class of elementary school students. Matt and the staff did an excellent job of keeping the groups separate so we could enjoy the many sights and sounds.

The forest, essentially untouched by human hands consists of tall, stately trees. A raised boardwalk snakes through the wet environment of towering bald cypress, black gum, and the occasional pumpkin ash and red maple.

Mayfly

In addition to birds, the swamp provides a home for an array of reptiles and amphibians. Remarkably, because the water flows through the swamp, pesky insects are practically non-existent. A mayfly is a great indicator of clean water.

While the 32 species of birds that were identified were the focus of the day, our attention frequently wandered to everything and anything we could find. We had no clue where to look first.

We had not gone far before Matt spotted a cottonmouth sitting on a log. It proved to be the first of three. In addition we saw a brown water snake, a cottonmouth mimic.

At another spot, a palm sized fisher spider gave a brief show before dashing out of sight before anyone could get a picture. Later, a smaller one sat on the walkway rail giving everyone who wanted to a chance to study it carefully.

Also seen were several broad headed and five-lined skinks.

Matt also pointed out some man-made features—a dugout canoe and a camp site—that the staff had added to provide an educational opportunity to teach about the Maroon culture—escaped slaves that lived by hiding in the swamp.

The highlight of the day were the birds. As often happens in a tall forest, some of the birds, like the very vocal and secretive hooded warbler, proved difficult to see. We had nice and clear songs from birds like Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, but never got our eyes on them.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Swallow-tailed Kite only gave some of the group a good look.

That said, other birds performed. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron posed for some pictures.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

Michael Audette captured a series of pictures of a spider walking up and over a Prothonotary Warbler, a mistake because it ended up in the Prothonotary Warbler.

As we returned towards the visitor center, Matt commented that the only target bird we did not see or hear was the Barred Owl. Remarkably, within seconds after being teased by Michael about the money back guarantee, Matt spotted one only about 30 feet off the boardwalk and just above eye level. A great last bird for the day.

Many of the participants ate a picnic lunch with Matt where we talked more about the unique wonders of the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest. What a delightful way to end another successful trip.

Article written by: Bob Mercer

Photographs credits:

  • Michael Audette’s Barred Owl, all of the Prothonotary Warblers, and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.
  • Jackie Brooks’ Yellow-billed Cuckoo, mayfly, 5 lined skink, people, and maroon camp implements.
  • Bob Mercer’s cottonmouth, spiders, and broad-headed skink.

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