Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Outdoor Event Calendar for September 2015

Sept. 19 is the Bluffton Peanut Festival
There are more than enough outdoor options for everyone in September for those that don’t hunt. The opening day for South Carolina and Clemson football is upon us, and many will travel from the Lowcountry to tailgate and attend the festivities. Whether staying close to home, or wandering just a little off the beaten path, it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors.

Labor Day weekend is still a comfortable time to head to Edisto Beach, providing that recent tropical rains will diminish. Wildlife to watch for at the beach includes loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings and migratory shorebirds. Sea turtle nesting activity has ended by September, but the nests from this summer are still hatching out with great frequency, and a great place to look for them is during early morning walks at Edisto BeachState Park. 

Don’t forget that Sunday is World Shorebird Day, and the first reports of black-bellied plovers are already coming in. A birding handbook and binoculars might be helpful when trying to identify shorebirds. Wading birds like the roseate spoonbill might be found along the marshy habitat all around Edisto Island, including the Botany Bay WMA, so keep an eye out for these large pink birds.     

September 19 is the annual Beach Sweep and River Sweep run by SCDNR.

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

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Prescribed Fire Education Options

August Prescribed fire at Webb Center WMA
The benefit from periodic prescribed fire includes the threat reduction of wildfire, and the continued presence of fire in an ecosystem that evolved with it. Bob Franklin of Walterboro recently finished his career with the Clemson Extension, educating landowners about pine tree management using prescribed fire. Franklin now chairs the S.C. Tree Farm Committee, but also works with the S.C. Prescribed Fire Council and the Longleaf Alliance since many of their agendas overlap. 

Prescribed Fire Burning Kit

Private land managers attend Fire Academy

Bob Franklin and Randy Tate are with the Longleaf Alliance

Most recently, Franklin was a speaker at the Longleaf Fire Academy held at the Webb Center WMA in Hampton County. Franklin advises landowners interested in prescribed fire tactics, that the next date to be looking forward to is September 23 – 24 when the S.C. Prescribed Fire Council (SCPFC) comes to Walterboro. The meeting will begin with a field trip on Wednesday to Clarendon Farms in Beaufort hosted by plantation manager Jason Hewett and the SoloACE longleaf partnership.

Landowners using fire should view programs such as the SCPFC meeting and the Longleaf Fire Academy as a form of continuing education, since a lifetime of experiences can be learned when informative speakers share their experiences. Another tool available to landowners is the S.C. Forestry Commission’s program called Certified Prescribed Fire Manager (CPFM). Since state government administers this course, it actually works within state laws to provide some measure of liability protection to those who practice prescribed fire after taking the time to complete the CPFM criteria. 

To view this story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view a 10-minute video about Longleaf Pine Forests click here.

To view past blog entries about controlled burning click on 2015 Prescribed FirePlowing Firebreaks - 2014 Dry Weather Fire Threat - SCDNR Prescribed Fire 2013 Prescribed Fire - 2012 Prescribed Fire 2009 Wildfire - 2009 Prescribed Fire Council

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 S.C. Plantation Managers meet in Walterboro

SCDNR's Jay Cantrell on Webb Center WMA 

Informal gatherings of plantation managers in South Carolina have been going on since the late 1970’s, so they can compare notes about planting season, prior to the busy onset of hunting seasons. The meeting place has usually been determined by which plantation might be able to host such as gathering, but in the 2010’s the need for a proper facility increased. Colleton County’s farmer’s market hosted the 2015 Plantation Manger’s meeting on August 20 since it is in a central location for much of the coastal plain.
The S.C. Plantation Managers Association (SCPMA) is a group of land managers in pursuit of excellence when it comes to wildlife habitat and crop production. A typical management block might be in the neighborhood of 5000-acres, so this group represents several thousands of acres in S.C. and they consult with their colleagues all the time about conditions in the field. In fact, this meeting commands the attention of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), and they usually send several representatives to give updates and renew partnerships.

Plantation Managers listen to Paula Sisson with USFWS,
speaking about endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers
Billy Dukes is the SCDNR Chief of Wildlife and he addressed the crowd with updates on personnel changes, and touched on recent regulation updates. Dukes announced that SCDNR’s Dean Harrigal is now promoted to Region Four Coordinator for the entire coastal plain. Biologist Daniel Barrineau is now in charge at the Donnelly WMA and Bear Island WMA, which are both based in Colleton County. SCDNR biologist Jay Cantrell addressed the meeting about the latest research that is now underway at the Webb Center in Hampton County, with wild turkeys wearing GPS-type devices in order to track their patterns concerning a decline in reproduction rates.

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

To view past blog entries from the S.C. Plantation Managers click 2009 - 2010 - 2011

To view past blog entries about Quail Habitat Managers click 2014

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 8/25/2015

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Remember to bow to the The Silver King!
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West cheers that September is right around the corner, and he expects the fantastic tarpon bite to continue right through the annual mullet migration. He shares that reports of a solid tarpon bite have been received from up in Georgetown all the way down to Hilton Head, especially around ocean inlets. Large live mullet, live blue crabs, or even a large Hogy artificial have been the baits of choice for pods of tarpon moving into our estuary. Place your tarpon baits into slews between sand bars, and into other drop offs next to channels that these beasts are cruising through. Also, look out for sharks and bull red drum in these same locations - and who doesn't love a mixed bag while saltwater fishing. Back in the rivers, decent numbers of small trout are being caught around creek mouths using live shrimp under a popping float, or using a Zman Trout Trick lure. Sheepshead continue to be found around bridges and almost any heavy structure in 6 to 20-feet of water, and they are looking to inhale fiddler cabs or live shrimp. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Offshore Report: By now, Scott says that most anglers are already in tune with the great wahoo bite going on off the coast. Reports of between two and thirteen wahoo per trip have been coming in from those fishing in 110 to 250-feet of water, and at the Edisto Banks. High speed trolling certainly has produced its fair share of the wahoo, but plenty of strikes are coming simply when trolling Iland lures with a medium ballyhoo rigged behind it. After you put a wahoo or two in the box, slip back to 80 to 90-feet of water and drop down over live bottom for plenty of nice sized sea bass and vermillion snapper.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Field Notes and Photos - August 2015

Armadillo and crabapple in homemade wooden trap
Field Notes is a column I began eleven 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 Field Notes click on July 2015June 2015 - February 2105 - October 2014  September 2014 - August 2014 - June 2014 - March 2012 - February 2012 - October 2011 - September 2011  
Snapping turtle emerges - notice the leeches!
Deer fawn lost in the neighborhood

Blue dragonfly perching on mailbox

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Seasonal Signals Show Summer Changing Into Fall

Beautiful blue dragonfly perching on my mailbox

Insect life is still going full speed with all the sunny and hot weather, which is conducive to an on the go lifestyle. Ants and bees are the most common sightings, especially since they are always actively working to better their home colony. I recently came across a freshly built honeycomb on the underside of a large live oak limb, and I consider such a sighting to be rare. I shared my observation with a friend, and he had also recently identified a similar honeycomb. Not everyone will have the same observations, but keep an open mind about what you are seeing in your neck of the woods.
Some subtle observations have been made since the month of August began. As an avid birdwatcher, I can report that there has been a slight increase in the activity of the hummingbirds. These hummers move in during spring and stick around for six months or more, so this observation is based over time. I still see plenty of flowers in bloom right now, and nectar can be a main source of food for the hummers, but as summer dwindles so too will the blooms.

Other August observations include leaves on hardwood trees already changing colors and beginning to fall off. Go find and look at a black gum tree in the woods right now and you will likely see red leaves, and any early changes might be greatly influenced by the long hot and dry summer season of 2015. As temperatures cool down just a bit, reptiles like snakes will increase their daytime activities and sightings will likely increase. Snapping turtles will emerge from farm ponds with the onset of fall, and the larger specimens are always worth a quick look to marvel at their continued presence on the landscape.

To read this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries on other wildlife click on Bats - Horses - Wood Storks 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bird Hunting Seasons set for 2015 - 2016

Dove hunters will be ready and waiting on Sept. 5

If you are a wingshooter, then the longest layoff of the year is nearing a close. Once Canada goose season opens on September 1, it is followed by a string of bird hunting opportunities, including the most popular pursuit of them all – dove hunting. While it’s good to know the season dates to begin planning your outdoor pursuits, this knowledge also signals that it is time to gather the shotgun shells, camouflage and other tools of the trade necessary for time spent in the field.
Reports up in Canada are beginning to reveal that some birds are moving South. Migratory geese can be part of that first wave of migration, along with colorful songbirds and other avian life. Of course, resident Canada geese are the main target of the month long season that runs until September 30, but migratory geese can mix in with their flocks. It takes a commitment to scouting in order to locate any geese, and even then the daily bag limit of 15 geese per day would be a challenge to meet.
Dove season begins on the Saturday before Labor Day, and the first three days from Sept. 5 – 7 will allow only afternoon dove hunts. Between a Saturday season opener, and the Labor Day Holiday on Monday, this should give wingshooters some great days to get the proverbial rust off of their aim. Also, the beginning of dove season ushers in the social settings that many Lowcountry dove hunting enthusiasts fondly recall as the best part of the hunt, where equal parts of good food and good stories help to flavor the bird hunting ritual.

To read this feature article in the Colletonian click here.

To view past blog entries click on Preparing a Dove Field - 2014 Regulations Update - September's Sporting Song