Thursday, December 1, 2016

Field Notes and Photos - December 2016

Slimy salamander I saw crossing a road!
Field Notes is a column I began twelve years ago in the Charleston Mercury newspaper, but as the amount of newsprint space in the 'salmon sheets' has diminished, so has the space for my nature photography. Now when I have a fresh batch of observations I share them via Lowcountry Outdoors. 

To view past blog Field Notes click June 2016February 2016December 2015 - October 2015 - September 2015 - August 2015 - July 2015 - June 2015 - February 2105 - October 2014  September 2014 - August 2014 - June 2014 - March 2012 - February 2012 - October 2011 - September 2011    

Green insect (katydid) seen during a warm afternoon

White-throated sparrow - Roadkill specimen

Milkweed buds one day before blooming

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Drought Affects Outdoor Activities

Image Courtesy U.S. Drought Monitor
November 2016
Yellow means Abnormally Dry,
Brown means Exceptional Drought
Drought conditions persist in South Carolina, particularly in the upstate. The prolonged dry spell has been in effect since Hurricane Matthew passed by on October 6, and is taking a toll on some common outdoor activities like planting fall crops and duck hunting. While drought is a natural cycle from Mother Nature, one silver lining of the dry spell is the dramatic transformation of the Lowcountry landscape with vibrant colors on the leaves of hardwood trees
            
The forecast of La Nina climate conditions calls for below normal precipitation levels to continue for the remainder of the year. The South Carolina Drought Response Committee and state climatologist Hope Mizzell will meet on December 1, and there is a chance that Colleton County’s drought status will change from normal to incipient drought. Portions of the midlands and the upstate are already under moderate and severe drought conditions respectively.

            
The people most affected by the drought are farmers and hunters trying to grow food plots. Row crops that yield a diminished harvest due to lack of water can mean financial hardship, and with some soils turning to dust in present conditions, just planting something like winter oats doesn’t make much sense. Sunny day after sunny day here in the Lowcountry makes for pretty weather, but the environment is stressed when no rain is recorded.

To read the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about S.C. drought click on 2009 - 2014 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bonneau Ferry Youth Waterfowl Hunts Begin

Quarter man's Reserve Impoundment for Youths Only
You can always walk in the woods too!
Some SCDNR properties offer the very best water control and crop management available, and the waterfowl harvest records for last year bear that out. The Bonneau Ferry WMA in Berkley County has completed trunk and dike improvements, and recorded a banner year in 2015 for ringneck hunting, plus a mix of teal and wood ducks. What makes this hunt location unique is that it is only open to youth waterfowl lottery hunts on dates ranging from November 26 through February 11.

            
I recently toured the waterfowl areas at Bonneau Ferry and can report they are in excellent condition, and should be full of ducks soon. My first visit to this sprawling 10,000-acre property came on Tuesday November 16th with biologist Will Carlisle and I found that the vast majority of this Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is planted pine trees. No surprise there, since timber company MeadWestvaco owned the property until 2001 when it was sold to the SCDNR.

This property is a SCDNR diamond in the rough
Birdwatching enthusiasts look at migratory ducks
SCDNR and Ducks Unlimited deserve credit for utilizing a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant to improve 387-acres at the Quarterman’s Reserve area on Bonneau Ferry. They replaced water control structures which allow for flooding and draining of the agricultural crops when it is time to plant for ducks, or to hunt for ducks. Not all of Quarterman’s Reserve was flooded when I was there, but I already saw ducks including blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, ringnecks and wood ducks.

To view the feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about youth hunting click on Duck Hunt - Dove Hunt - Coon Hunt 

To view past blog entries about NAWCA click ACE Basin - Washington, D.C. - 2011 S.C. Partners 




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 Colleton Business at the Backwater

The Black Creek Backwater is the event setting
Tommy Rowe digs in at the oyster table
The 12th annual Business at the Backwater was held on November 17 at Turkey Run Farm, with host Jamey Copeland welcoming the Colleton Chamber of Commerce to his home place in order to network, eat food and be merry ahead of the holiday season. Grillmaster Paul Pye prepared hot dogs, chicken wings and bacon-wrapped quail legs for the guests to savor, before local steamed oysters were served up. The weather was pleasant, and the mosquitoes were nice enough to stay away, so that everyone could enjoy a nice time.

To view past blog entries from Business at the Backwater click on 20152014 


Colleton Chamber prep team

Nicole Garris and Joe Holt

Friday, November 18, 2016

November Hunting Dashboard Lights Up

November Holiday Hunting Dashboard Lights!
For the hunter that is relying on some holiday time off in order to hit the woods in search of game, part of the excitement comes with all the hunting options that are in play. When driving one’s auto a dashboard light comes on every now and then, perhaps the low oil indicator, but that one light hardly catches your attention. But when all the dashboard icons light up, the driver gets a little more excited about what is about to happen. Hunters get the same thrill in November when they get to enjoy quail, dove, duck, hog and deer seasons simultaneously.

            
Quail preserve season begins in October each year, but the preponderance of warm weather hasn’t offered much comfort for bird dogs, and those that walk the woodlands. November mornings tend to be cooler, so time your outing to culminate by lunch, and leave the warm afternoon hours to other pursuits. Since quail season stretches until the end of February, early season hunts serve to knock the rust off your upland routine, which has been dormant since March.

Waterfowl, dove, deer, hogs, coyotes and small game will all be on the outdoor menu. There is one remaining dashboard light in November that toys with adding chaos to the hunting sessions, and that is the fishing indicator. Whether you are a freshwater or saltwater angler, any Indian summer days will have the fish biting, and a fish fry is a popular recreation for many. In review, match your discipline with you schedule during November, and you will surely gain an appreciation for each endeavor.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Charleston Mercury.

For past blog entries from Thanksgiving click on Mixed Bag - Outdoor Cooking - Farm Harvest 



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016 Visit to Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center

Four roseate spoonbills in seclusion near Summer Duck Pond
Mature uplands meets pristine wetlands
In 2015 I made my initial journey onto the coastal islands that comprise the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center in Georgetown County. This property is owned and run by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, a gift of 20,000-acres from the late Tom Yawkey. During the prior visit the mission was to look for shorebirds so we stayed put at one or two ponds, but this visit ran the gamut from front beach to upland pines during a rambling four-hour bus tour of Cat Island and South Island.
            
Jim Lee has been with SCDNR for 30 years and serves as the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the property. Lee met our group at a dock on the Intracoastal waterway and shuttled us over to the property via pontoon boat. A brand new swing bridge to the island was installed in 2015, but wasn’t in use this day, but the real purpose of the new bridge is to allow logging trucks access to the island for the first timber harvesting in decades.

            
Unique Management Formula
These free educational field trips are offered by SCDNR throughout the year, since the two-fold mission at the Yawkey Center is scientific research and public outreach. When the property was founded in 1976, public access to the property was extremely limited, but social media and changing times have opened up much more opportunity for SCDNR to share how they are stewarding the marsh, uplands, swamps and beaches. The Georgetown Lighthouse is also located on North Island, a 4500-acre uninhabited wilderness area.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

White Pelicans overflew our position
To view past blog entries on Yawkey Center click on 2015 Visit - Shorebirds with Manomet

To view past blog on avian conservation click on Cornell Lab of Ornithology - International Crane Foundation