Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Birding Journal Observations / July - August

Dark-Eyed Junco sighting from late June
Hot weather conditions in July and August kept bird sightings to a very limited number as all manner of wildlife laid low in the shade of the forest. Some feeders don't perform well in the extreme summer sun either such as suet blocks which melt and jelly and fruit presentations which draw insects like bees. A bird bath can remain an excellent attractor but they too often dry out in the heat, and it takes a lot of dedication to keep that source refreshed daily for birds to utilize. Despite these challenges I can report a good variety of birds observed during these months.

2014 July / August observations include blue grosbeak, ruby-throated hummingbird, Indigo bunting, cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, red-bellied woodpecker, bluebird, blue-grey gnatcatcher, dove, Carolina wren, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, blue jay, summer tanager, downy woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, yellow-billed cuckoo, brown thrasher and towhee.

To view past Birding Journal Observations for July / August click on 2013 or 2012 or 2011 or 2009.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Field Notes and Photos - August 2014

Mounds of Mushrooms coming up from the ground
MOO cow - I think I'll stay on this side of the fence!
I came across a Luna moth recently that was clearly at the end of its life span, and it made me recall the time I was able to photograph a healthy specimen. This recent moth was pale in color, rather than the bold green coloration of a luna moth in good health. Also, the paper-thin wings of this moth were not whole but rather they were tattered. This moth was on the ground, another sure sign that it was not well since they like to be in habitat that is upright like trees. But nature surprised me when I went to gather the moth to photograph, it simply flapped its wings and was lifted by a light breeze into the top of a nearly live oak and totally removed from my grasp. My guess is that one of the birds in the area was likely to have a luna moth supper very soon, but that is a part of nature that does not surprise me. So here are some of my recent field notes photos.

To view past Field Notes entries click here.


Black and Clear dragonfly - or 'Mosquito Hawk'

Dove and barcode intermingle in urban jungle

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Forestry Company keeps Quail Initiative in focus



Land managers view the open ground at Whispering Pines
that is managed for quail using prescribed fire

A classroom full of quail enthusiasts 
The restoration of bobwhite quail habitat remains a goal for many who love the outdoors. Hunting for quail, sometimes affectionately known as Gentleman Bob, is a southern pastime that still holds an allure for the wingshooters of today. But a huge decline in the overall population numbers for quail has severely limited or halted altogether the pursuit of quail by many sportsmen. A meeting for wildlife managers in Orangeburg on August 14 continued the recent conversation about quail conservation.
            
While the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is in charge of the game species in the Palmetto State, quail habitat recovery must take place on a landscape scale involving many thousands of acres of land. This is why Milliken Forestry Company helped to organize a meeting at the offices of C.F. Evans Construction for land managers to attend. Travis Sumner with Milliken works with wildlife solutions on the properties that they manage, and he started the meeting with introduction of the day’s speakers.
            
Pointer flushing a few bobwhite quail
The decline in quail numbers does not just affect S.C., but rather it affects the entire Southeast and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, or NBCI, was set up around 2009 to address long range quail recovery plans. Nat Ruth is the plantation manager from Mount Pleasant Plantation in Georgetown County, where a revival of quail habitat and quail hunting practices is currently underway. Ruth is dedicated to quail recovery and is glad to share his formula for success, although any blueprint for success must often be customized for a specific property.
            
Ten years of predator management is in the books at Mt. Pleasant and Nat Ruth relays that this job is never really done. “Land managers need to complete a predator index for their property to begin with, to document what animals are present,” said Ruth. “Most properties utilize the early release of pen-raised quail to supplement any wild birds present, and something like 40-percent of released birds are predated before hunting season begins.”
            
I was glad to attend and learn more about quail management
The trapping of predators is a time consuming practice that requires know how and cash flow, making it tough for small private landowners to undertake. Still, it is important that everyone understand that trapping is now thought of as part of the equation to bring back bobwhite quail. The public’s appetite to accept trapping is trending upward with the arrival of coyotes and the discovery that they are having a tremendous affect of deer and turkey.
            
Wild hogs are a bigger problem for those managing land along river systems, and nest raiders like raccoons, opossums and armadillos are seemingly everywhere. Different traps are required for different predators, plus the knowledge of how to place them out and what type of bait to use. Serious land managers understand that they must get in the habit of trapping, and that being more sneaky than those critters is a tough assignment.

The landowner meeting concluded with a field trip to the Whispering Pines Plantation near Cameron where landowner Johnny Evans explained what works for him regarding quail management. Having served on the SCDNR Board, Evans is a wildlife enthusiast who shares that he thinned his timber some to provide more habitat for quail. His journey began with an article in Progressive Farmer magazine abut do it yourself quail habitat, and he relays that he has been very pleased with the overall experience of working to return bobwhite quail to the landscape.

To view this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about quail click NBCI or Fall Field Day or QU or Quail Season Finale.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Opening Day 8-Point in Full Velvet for Lady Hunter

Leslie Lawson with her opening day buck from Bamberg County
The Briar Creek Hunt Club in Bamberg County had a very special guest on the opening day of the 2014 deer season when Leslie Lawson accompanied her father to hunt. They sat in separate deer stands, but Mark Lawson never gave up on his daughter's chance to harvest her first ever buck in velvet, urging her on via text message until after 8 p.m. It wasn't until 8:15 when the trophy buck with a wide rack stepped out, giving her the chance to harvest this buck that is now going on her wall.

This young lady began deer hunting only three years, and it was two years ago when she registered her first doe harvest. Then last year in 2013 she moved up to harvesting a buck, a tall-tined 6-pointer that really pleased her and her father. Still she wanted more and began to borrow her father's rifle more and more to go hunting. Eventually she settled into her own rifle, a Savage Axis .308 and that way she could go to the woods as much as she wanted. Though the 2013 season ended, her obsession remained and she dare not miss the 2014 opening day hunt.

Lawson and her 6-point in 2013
Leslie had brought her boyfriend along for comapny and they sat in a stand overlooking young planted pines and  a corn pile. She says that three does came out to eat a little after 7 p.m. and that they watched them for about an hour. When the buck stepped out about 8:15 the does ran off, and the buck turned to look at the deerstand. When she saw the wide rack on this nice 8-point buck she knew it was a shooter and she quickly raised her rifle, looked through the nikon scope and drilled him from 100-yards away.

It was dark when they decided to get down from the deer stand and look for the buck that they knew had been hit. They went to the truck and got a flashlight and soon after arriving at the corn pile they found sign of a lung shot and a good blood trail. The buck weighed 175-pounds and carried a 19-inch spread, which is very respectable for a buck from the Lowcountry. Her gaol for 2014 was to kill a buck in velvet and to harvest a buck bigger than her previous best - and she accomplished both goals with one shot on opening day!! What's next for Leslie - she now says she wants to start bow hunting!! Congrats.
This rack has a 19-inch spread

For past blog entries about Opening Days Deer Success Stories click on 2014 or 2013 or2012 or 2011 or 2010 or 2009. 



FLW Tour's Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Murray, S.C.


Scott Martin of Clewiston, Florida finished in 9th place overall

The FLW Tour is a series of bass fishing tournaments put on by Wal-Mart under the moniker of Fishing League Worldwide. The top bass anglers came from all around the Southeast to take on Lake Murray in the August heat to decide the winner of the season ending Forrest Wood Cup. Two S.C. anglers finished in the Top Five with Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity taking home the trophy and prize money on Sunday’s weigh-in at Colonial Life Arena in downtown Columbia.
            
Fervent fans were evident at the Forrest Wood Cup weigh in
Gagliardi never led during the four-day Forrest Wood Cup which began fishing on Thursday August 14, but he did advance each day in a tournament formula that requires results. Only 45 bass anglers qualify from the FLW tour to participate in the Forrest Wood Cup, which changes states every year. All the anglers fish on the first two days of the tournament, but then the field is cut down to only the Top Twenty, though all the anglers receive monetary compensation.
            
Andy Morgan was in town to fish Lake Murray
The entire week had bass fishing fans in frenzy with practice fishing days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday complete with events for family and media too. The FLW Tour brought a large entourage of tour sponsors with them to South Carolina and they set up a bass fishing expo in the coliseum parking lot for the entire weekend. Displays ranged from fishing equipment companies to Chevrolet trucks, and plenty of fishing celebrities were on hand like Jimmy Houston and Hank Parker.
            
Other sideline events included the State Fish Art competition sponsored by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources where kids of all ages could submit depictions of their favorite freshwater fish. Another fan favorite was the cook off on Saturday put on by the South Carolina Barbecue Association. All of the educational booths provided plenty of reasons for the public to turn out and enjoy the Forrest Wood Cup festivities before going indoors for the daily 5 p.m. weigh in.
            
The Day One weigh in on Thursday, although met with lots of fervor from the fans, proved to be a little light in the fish weight department. The FLW tour allows for five largemouth bass to be weighed in per angler, but plenty of these bass fishing pros did not bring a limit with them to the scales. Some of the anglers only had one or two fish to weigh in and a couple even struck out altogether.
Cody Meyer was a fan favorite at the Colonial Life Coliseum
            
Bass anglers wait at the aeration station
But with a slow weigh-in came the feeling that no one was out of the game yet, and that a strong second day could really change things. Some anglers had come from as far away as California, and they were not going to go home quietly. Plenty of anglers had sections of family in the crowd at the daily coliseum weigh-ins cheering them on, holding up handmade signs and doing all the things that demonstrate their complete support since winning the Cup brings name recognition, a champions banner and trophy.
            

At the end it was Gagliardi who was the most consistent angler, weighing in five-fish on three of the four days, giving him a grand total of 51-pounds and 2-ounces of bass, which was enough to grab the $500,000 winner’s check. The town of Prosperity, S.C. has a new reason to celebrate after the Forrest Wood Cup, and the FLW Tour can be proud of their champ and of the competition they provided at Lake Murray. 

To read this article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about fresh water click fishing tips or North Santee River or King Kat.




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 8/19/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
The next 30 days might be the best for S.C. tarpon fishing
Inshore Report: Shane Clevenger at The Charleston Angler in West Ashley asks Captain Kevin Blair - What's your Go To setup in August? Blair begins by sharing that a large variety of fish are available right now including big redfish and sharks in deeper waters with flounder and trout more inshore. An inglux of bait like shrimp, menhaden and finger mullet have all predators looking for the opportunity to feed. Blair keeps about six rods rigged and ready and they average at least 7-feet in length.

Of course a couple of heavy-action rods are warranted and Blair keeps them rigged up with 60-pound braid, connected to a 25-inch leader of 50-pound flourocarbon and 6-ought circle hooks. This rig is good for live lining big mullet or menhaden around the jetties for reds and sharks. Attaching an egg sinker is easy to do if the current requires more weight to reach the bottom.

Blair has two rods rigged with 20-pound braid, 3/4-ounce egg sinkers and a 20-inch flourocarbon leader. He uses the 2-ought circle hooks to target flounder and small reds along the jetties or the marsh. Lastly he keeps two rods rigged with 15-pound braid and a 12-pound flouro leader with a 2-ought circle hook. These lighter rigs are good for using shrimp or finger mullet and a popping cork can be added to the line easily.

Blair says to remember to keep a cast net handy this time of year to gather any bait you may encounter. He also shares that it's not a bad idea to buy at least some bait before leaving the boat ramp simply to ensure you aren't ever fishing 'on credit.' For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Charleston Angler.

Editor's Note: Tarpon are being found in abundance along the S.C. coast and the next 30 days are potentially the best for tarpon fishing in the Lowcountry for the remainder of 2014.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Driven Hunt 9-Point in Velvet / 2014 Opening Days Success Story

Harrington Bissell with his velvet 9-pointer,
with horseback drivers ready to assist.
Photo By Chris Silcox.
With the traditional August 15 staring date of deer season falling on a Friday, many hunting clubs celebrated their opening day on Saturday August 16. Though the heat of August is constant, many outdoorsmen will not let it slow down their sporting pursuits. One such story came from the Middleton Hunt Club in Charleston County where a stander used some scouting knowledge to pick a spot in the woods to try his luck during a driven hunt. Keep in mind that doe deer season is not yet open, so viewing any deer on the run calls for discretion, with veteran hunters better able to quickly distinguish the sex of a deer and make a decision about offering a shot.

Harrington Bissell slipped into a section of designated woods that the horseback drivers would soon stir up with their vocalizations and with a pack of hounds. When he found a shed antler from a 6-point buck near his assigned location he felt is was THE spot and set up his stool. The drive began quietly enough, and then a lone hound began to bay, and it sounded like it was coming closer. Scanning the woodlands for movement, he saw a deer bounding in his direction. A lot of small sweetgum saplings made the viewing difficult but when the white-tailed deer closed to within 15-yards of his position he clearly saw antlers in full velvet and squeezed off a shot from his shotgun and cleanly harvested the 9-point buck.

He blew on his hunter's horn to draw the attention of the horseback drivers who came to retrieve the downed buck. A tale of the tape showed the rack had a 13-inch spread with 9-points. This was the hunt club's first harvest in 2014 and it was Bissell's FIRST EVER buck in velvet, and weighed 133-pounds. The venison was shared among the club members and now one more person understands how the early deer season in South Carolina can reap special memories for those willing to get outdoors and hunt in August.

For past blog entries about Opening Days Deer Success Stories click on 2013 or 2012 or 2011 or 2010 or 2009.

To view past blog entries about velvet antlers click on NJ hunter or Bull's Island or youth hunter.