Monday, February 23, 2015

January Getaway - Part 4

On January 25, we headed northeast from north-central Florida to the Jacksonville area. A Purple Sandpiper had been seen at Fort Clinch State Park, at the northeastern-most point of Florida. Walking out on the jetty there, a lot of Ruddy Turnstones were roosting on the rocks, and eventually among them the Purple was found, though rather hidden. At the end of the jetty, a group of four Black Scoters (3 females, 1 male) were more cooperative for the camera.
Black Scoters. Fort Clinch SP, FL

Black Scoters. Fort Clinch SP, FL

Eventually the male cooperated and came closer.
Black Scoter. Fort Clinch SP, FL

We then went north into Georgia, and stopped at Harris Neck NWR. The last time we were here, there was storm damage and the loop road was closed. It was open this time, and there were a few birds around, including Roseate Spoonbills, a new species for our Georgia list. But not much was photogenic there. We continued into southeastern South Carolina. A lot of driving today, not much birding.

On January 26, we continued north into the east-central coast of South Carolina. In the 1980s, we were here in spring and had a Red-cockaded Woodpecker fly right over the freeway through the Francis Marion National Forest. This time, we decided to explore an area that is hallowed ground for birders, the I'On Swamp, where one of the last confirmed sightings of the now-extinct Bachman's Warbler occurred. There was a trail to walk in this area, though it was not too likely the exact place where the sighting occurred.
I'On Swamp Trailhead. Francis Marion NF, SC

The habitat was a fairly typical southeastern swamp, with Tupelo, Baldcypress, and Saw Palmetto.
I'On Swamp. Francis Marion NF, SC

But an important component that the Bachman's Warbler apparently needed, canebrakes, large areas of cane grass, were pretty much gone. Along the road in to the trailhead, there were only a few pitiful scattered individual Giant Cane plants (Arudinaria gigantea).
I'On Swamp with cane. Francis Marion NF, SC

As is our habit in woods with fallen logs, we turned a few over, and fairly soon found a beautiful Marbled Salamander under one, reminding us that they are fall breeders and active in winter some places. We had only seen a handful of them before.
Marbled Salamander. I'On Swamp, SC

Under another log was a rather plain salamander, definitely not a mole salamander type, but a woodland salamander. With some handling, it exuded a sticky white slime that we've come to associate with the Slimy Salamander, and decided that's what it was. Further research indicated it was a lifer, the South Carolina Slimy Salamander, which is most often considered a full species since the taxonomy of Slimy Salamander resulted in a 12-way split a few years ago.
South Carolina Slimy Salamander. I'On Swamp, SC

We next headed to Huntington Beach State Park, just to look for birds that might pad my South Carolina List. There was a nice jetty there, but it turned out that it was a long walk down the beach to get to the base of it. On the way there, shorebirds were here and there along the beach, including a cooperative Piping Plover.
Piping Plover. Huntington Beach SP, SC

Piping Plover. Huntington Beach SP, SC

I managed to sneak up fairly close to a group of Red Knots on the sand.
Red Knots. Huntington Beach SP, SC

Red Knots. Huntington Beach, SP, SC

Red Knot. Huntington Beach SP, SC

Red Knot. Huntington Beach SP, SC

At the base of the jetty, there were a few Sanderlings.
Sanderling. Huntington Beach SP, SC

Sanderling. Huntington Beach SP, SC

Once on the jetty, the birds got farther away, but interesting sightings included a pair of Long-tailed Ducks, and a male Common Eider, both very uncommon this far south along the Atlantic Coast.

January 27 was going to be mostly driving, but first we stopped at an area on extreme southeastern North Carolina, the Green Swamp, and found a parking area for the Nature Conservancy's property there The objective was to perhaps see if we could find a federally endangered plant, the Venus Flytrap, which is endemic to the coastal plain of NC and SC. But it was chilly and windy, with no good information on where to go, so we decided not to walk the trail there. Helping our decision was some timely information from a friend and fellow hummingbird bander, Susan Campbell, who mentioned another location for the plant. Surprisingly, that location was a state park with a trail actually named the Flytrap Trail. And, the naturalist at the nature center was more than willing to let us know where we had to go on that trail to see one. Despite this good information, it took nearly a half our to find one of these small plants, with their toothy leaves at most an inch across. But what a great sight to finally see! It is endangered due to over-collecting. Hopefully this population is well protected.
Venus Flytrap.

From there we headed home, across North Carolina to Virgina and into West Virginia. The next day was an all-driving day into increasingly wintry conditions.

1 comment:

David Lancaster said...

Hi Allen
Enjoyed reading about your trip. Glad you got to see the Venus fly trap. The salamanders were interesting.