Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wildlands Philanthropy - Slideshow - Thursday April 2

Abraham Lincoln said, "Laws change; people die; the land remains." Honest Abe was spot on with his statement, and local activists at the Coastal Conservation League (CCL) work hard to protect what they can within the constraints of those laws, in order to leave a legacy of environmental accomplishment for future generations to observe. On Thursday April 2, at 6 p.m. CCL will host a narrated slideshow by author Tom Butler at the American Theater, focusing on his book Wildlands Philanthropy: The Great American Tradition. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students and the evening begins with a reception and snacks provided by Fish restaurant. Copies of the book will be available for sale, but the purpose of the evening is to relay how others have saved great places and to inspire people here in the Lowcountry to come together for conservation. Locals can appreciate that two of the forty locations featured in the book are nearby: Francis Beidler Forest and the Tom Yawkey Center. Lowcountryoutdoors.com asks - Did you know? The Tom Yawkey Center is part of the North Inlet / Winyah Bay ecosystem, and one of only 27 state and federal joint-funded research areas in the U.S.! Also, Did you know S.C. is the only state to have TWO of these joint-funded projects - with the other being the ACE Basin's NERR project!! The slideshow will feature photography by Antonio Vizcaino who has published many books, and whose images appear on this blog post: 1)Floracliff in Kentucky and 2)Acadia National Park in Maine. Vizcaino's photos are used by permission, all rights reserved. Thanks to Pat Rose PR and publisher Earth Aware Editions. Wildlands Philanthropy also includes a thoughtful Foreward by Tom Brokaw. The lecture and slideshow is sure to be a who's who of Charleston conservation, so make sure you are there. Pick up the phone and call Nancy Cregg (CCL) at 723-9895 for more information.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Velux 5 Oceans Yacht Race - Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

The ultimate solo challenge is sailing around the world alone, and the Velux 5 Oceans Yacht Race will make Charleston its penultimate port during the 2010/2011 event. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was the first man to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1969, and this sailing legend visited Charleston today to promote the race and said, "This race was born in the USA and has always used an American port of call." Lowcountryoutdoors.com fondly remembers the previous contests known as the BOC Challenge and Around Alone that used Charleston for a port of call. The South Carolina Maritime Foundation and its director Brad Van Liew, a past winner of the ultimate solo challenge, are both raising awareness about the aspiring skippers preparing to undertake the Velux 5 Oceans race. Van Liew said, "This race is special because its more than the high-tech boats involved, this race is about the spirit of the single-handed sailor - it's about the heart." Two fleets of 60-foot class yachts, modern yachts and Eco-yachts (or those built before 2003) will set sail from La Rochelle, France and complete five "ocean sprints" to 1)Cape Town, South Africa 2)Wellington, New Zealand 3)Salvador, Brazil 4) Charleston, S.C. and 5)La Rochelle. For any individual, sailing around the world alone can be a physical, psychological and emotional challenge - one reserved for only the hardiest of competitors. For more information visit www.velux5oceans.com

My photos show two veterans of the ultimate solo challenge; Brad Van Liew and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sharing a laugh about which is better - a driven pheasant in England or a wild turkey hunt in the Lowcountry, and corporate sponsor Velux America President Timothy Miller (in blazer) with Velux rep Chan Hoyle of Fort Mill.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Forest Landowner Association goes to D.C.

The Atlanta-based Forest Landowner's Association (FLA) is hosting its members for their bi-annual Washington D.C. Fly-In Lobby Day on 3/30/09. The Spring Fly-In event begins today with a dinner meeting at the Old Evitt Grill in D.C. where FLA members will hear about which legislators they have appointments with, and which message is the most important they can deliver. A member visiting from South Carolina might meet with Representative Henry Brown or Senator Lindsay Graham, and if time permits they may also visit with legislators from neighboring states like N.C. and Ga. The day of Congressional meetings on Capital Hill is organized by FLA legislative liason Brendan Davis, and begins with breakfast at Charlie Clomer's restaurant. Fly-In participants will educate members of Congress on the importance of America's private forestland. Key issues to be discussed are the use of wood for renewable energy and the specific definition for "biomass", the elimnation of the death tax (or estate tax), the practice of common sense environmental standards like water regulation and the importation of Canadian lumber. If this sounds like an event you wanted to attend, then start making plans to attend the Fall FLA Fly-In in September 2009. 

May 27, 2009 will commence the National Forest Landowner's Conference in Amelia Island, Florida. For more information visit www.forestlandowners.com

Hunt Club Digest magazine is just one of the great benefits to being a member of the Forest Fandowner's Association.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

2009 IFA Redfish Tour in Charleston w/VIDEO

The Inshore Fishing Association's (IFA) 2009 Redfish Tour sponsored by Cabela's kicked off the saltwater tournament season in Charleston. This tournament enjoys a strong turnout in Charleston and is one of the IFA's strongest Atlantic Division tournaments, which has been visiting the Lowcountry for several years. A field of anglers from S.C., N.C. and Ga. saw gusty winds but mild temperatures greet them, as the two-man teams fished for red drum using only artificial lures, as stipulated by tourney rules. This is strictly a catch and release tournament for redfish and all fish are measured to be within the legal slot limit of 15 to 23 inches. Tournament official Mike Lott said, "The redfish limit is different in every state we visit, and we are real careful with all our fish." Based out of Macon, Georgia the Redfish Tour means business when it comes to prizes, awarding a new Ranger boat to the first place winner and cash prizes for the top eleven places. Captain Ben Alderman took home $400 for his team's eleventh place finish. The sixth place team of Kirby Marshall and Sean Elko took home $3000 and Marshall accounted for $1500 of that when he caught the BIG FISH of the tournament, a very nice 5.34-pound redfish. The third place team of David Gasque and Justin Lehy took home $1200 for a two fish aggregate weight of 7.11-pounds. James Moore and Stan Allen took home $1500 for second place with 7.37-pounds of redfish weighed in. Isle of Palms' Captain J.R. Waits and fishing partner Hylan Furnis finished in first place with two redfish totaling 7.97-pounds, good for the new Ranger boat valued at $30,000. Lowcountryoutdoors.com extends CONGRATS to this local team! Captain Waits said, "We fished North of IOP in clear water along the edge of the ICW, and my previous best finish in this tournament was fifth place."

My photos show Furnis Hylan and Captain Waits with their first place hardware and Ranger boat title, Big Fish angler and Charleston reident Kirby Marshall, and a father and son team showing off their redfish - with the son getting bragging rights over Dad! My VIDEO show the winning team recounting the day's events.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sailing on the Tall Ship - Spirit of South Carolina

Sailing on the inaugural voyage of the open enrollment program for adult education, the Spirit of South Carolina departed from the Maritime Center and set sail around Charleston Harbor under overcast skies. With winds 15 knots or less and temperatures in the middle 60's it proved to be a fine evening for a sailing trip - minus the normally excellent sunset usually witnessed from the ship's deck. The Spirit of South Carolina mainly works with youth, which is why no adult programs have been offered until now. The Carolina Youth Development Center is one partner that helps to provide "at risk" students the opportunity to take part in Sprit of South Carolina's hands-on programs. Most of these opportunities come from Fall and Spring "Day Sails" which are part of their "Sea Spray Scouts" Program, where duties might include putting out a plankton tow net, or sampling saltwater for the purpose of water quality tests. Onboard educator Beth Spencer told me that the Spirit of South Carolina is 140-feet in length with 90-feet of deck and a 23-foot beam (or width). The adults onboard were tasked with hauling up the mains'l (mainsail) once away from the dock. Bare hands grabbed thick ropes and followed commands like "haul away," "hold," and "2 - 6 - heave" in order to use the "throat halyard" to hoist up the "jaw" and "mast hoops" before the "peak halyard" pulls up the tip of the sail, making it taught. When I walked to the stern Captain Kevin Wells was willing to let me steer the ship for a bit, and we looked at a chart of the Charleston Harbor as he shared that the boat has a 10.5-foot draft. Standing by a hatch that leads to the Aft cabin (which serves as Captain's quarters and navigation station) he told me that the 80-foot mast was made of laminated Douglas Fir, while the ship's frame was constructed of Live oak and the hull was shaped with Longleaf Pine. Snacks and drinks were provided in the ship's galley and main salon, and history lessons were shared on deck. There is perhaps no better station for a Southern history lesson than on the deck of a Tall Ship sailing through Charleston Harbor, with the sounds of maritime bird life serving as a reminder that some things don't change.

My photos show the mast hoops that hold the mainsail, three gentleman under instruction to "Haul Away!" and the juxtaposition of tall ship rigging versus modern suspension rigging. Beth Spencer's photo shows Lowcountryoutdoors.com at the helm with Captain Kevin Wells.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Turkey season - Reports

Warmer days trigger increased mating drive in male wild turkeys, and Lowcountryoutdoors.com is hearing many reports of vigorous gobbling activity. Down in Jasper County one report claims anybody can go out in the woods and hear a gobble right now - but the bottom line still reads no gobblers harvested for that sportsman because he has not felt comfortable with a shot yet. A Dorchester County report goes like this, the hunter had the bird he wanted pinpointed in his roost, but the next day a jake was bagged when the boss gobbler proved too wary. A later report from this same source saw another turkey tag filled - but not the bird he was "after" - and that bird is making a @#$* name for himself. Finally, my own ears heard the sound of 100 gobbles before the anxious tom flew down from his roost, while other toms could be  heard bellowing throughout the woods. "Roosted ain't roasted" is the phrase that best fits what happened next..... but several days later the same tom was "diagnosed" with a lead poisoning problem from 26 paces. My photo shows the iridescence of wild turkey plumage. Good Luck hunting!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SE Quail Study Group meeting in Columbia

With the first ever Joint Meeting between the Southeast Quail Study Group and the Southeast Partners in Flight set to go down in history on 3/25 in Columbia, Lowcountryoutdoors.com flew like a bird to the Midlands to attend. SCDNR's Billy Dukes is the chairman of the South East Quail Study Group (SEQSG) and was charged with hosting the joint meeting at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Columbia, a task that he handled easily. All the "old" players were on hand from the Southeastern states to continue their conversations on bob white quail and the rest of the grassland songbird team, but they were armed with "new data" in the form of the first ever U.S. State of the Birds report released one week ago by the Secretary of the Interior. The report recognizes that bird groups like SEQSG and Partners In Flight (PIF) are already coming together for landscape habitat management projects for both game and non-game species. PIF's Landbird Conservation Plan is already in place to compliment the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI) - and it seems that the Bob White is being drafted as the "face" of the entire grassland songbird movement. Acronyms aside, this meeting was packed full of information for land managers and is worthy of in depth coverage, so look for the feature article in the 4/8 edition of the Charleston Mercury  newspaper.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

S.C. Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey

Overall the 2009 SCDNR mid-winter waterfowl survey showed an increase in dabbling ducks, diving ducks and geese. The last aerial survey was completed in 2007 and compared to those numbers total waterfowl sighted was up 105 percent, and this banner year also put total numbers of waterfowl 36-percent above the long-term average. S.C. dabbling duck numbers increased, but specifically blue-winged and green-winged teal made a big showing, along with American wigeon. Diving duck numbers fluctuate survey to survey due to weather, but an increased presence of scaup in S.C. helped diver numbers increase 32.5-percent over 2007. Goose numbers were stable in 2009 but an increase in snow geese helped contribute to a 29.6-percent increase from 2007. All numbers are estimates and are subject to the variability of migration.

My photos show a brace of blue-winged teal and a male wood duck, two hunting buddies with a trio of Canada geese, and the last photo is a test. Who can name this species of duck - a rare visitor to our Lowcountry outdoors?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Birdwatching in the ACE Basin

The SCDNR and NERR Outdoor Education Program Series took birders to Bear Island to look for neotropical migratory warblers, wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors. Coordinator Kim Counts and about 20 members of the public joined Dean Harrigal, Regional SCDNR biologist for a two-hour wagon ride around the Wildlife Management Area. Guide Pete Laurie and DNR agent Al Seegars were tasked with the burden of identifying all the avian life seen for the birdwatchers. Bear Island is 12,000 acres, with about half of that acreage in the form of wetlands. Harrigal said, "Bear Island is managed for public waterfowl hunts, but far more recreational use is available for non-hunters." Bird watching is one such recreational use, and what better place to look for birds than an area that is managed for wildlife. Lowcountryoutdoors.com did a yeamon's job of listing the birds sighted, so without further adieu: barn swallow, northern harrier, mottled duck, woodstork, red-tailed hawk, cardinal, kestrel, red-bellied woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, grey catbird, red-winged blackbird, bald eagle, mockingbird, meadowlark, carolina chickadee, yellow-rumped warbler, northern flicker, black-necked stilt, dowitcher, tri-color heron, lesser yellow-legs, green-winged teal, blue-winged teal, willet, dunlin, great blue heron, snowy egret, great egret, pie-billed grebe, shoveler, coot, greater yellow-legs, crow, turkey vulture, sharp-shinned hawk, cormorants, little blue heron, towhee, kingfisher, bluejay, carolina wren, common yellowthroat and little green heron. The birders were inundated with hatching midges while touring some of Bear Island's 45 miles of dikes around impoundments like Upper and Lower Hog Island ponds.

To read about the 25th Anniversary of the ACE Basin click here.

My photos show the Bear Island sign, a wood stork fishing for a meal, birders enjoying the view from their wagon and a pond filled with dowitchers and circled by a flock of green-winged teal.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cassina Point Plantation - Antiques Sale

Edisto Island's Cassina Point Plantation was the third plantation established by the Seabrook family on their favorite Sea Island. The historic house was built in 1847, and it looks across West Bank Creek towards Oak Island Plantation. It survived the Union occupation in 1862 and is now protected under conservation easement by the current owners. Lowcountryoutdoors.com paid this unique property a visit during the weekend antiques show.

My photos show the welcoming sign, a massive and lovely live oak, the view from the dock towards Oak Island and an antique Pie Safe - a cupboard for storing food outdoors when the weather was cool.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Palmetto BBQ & Brew at Prospect Hill

A sunny, breezy day dawned on Edisto Island and brisk temperatures in the 50's greeted the barbecue cooking teams that had slow-cooked their pigs overnight, preparing a feast that would benefit the Olde Charlestowne Sertoma Club and serve as a competition for best tasting barbecue. The Plantation grounds at Prospect Hill were in top condition for all the visiting patrons to enjoy. Lowcountryoutdoors.com is well pleased to promote an event that supports charity, and gets so many families into the pastoral setting that is Edisto Island. Live music, fairground rides, a corporate hospitality tent and sweeping views of the Edisto River provided the entertainment - besides all the BBQ and Brew sampling that defines the event. Trophies were awarded for first through fifth place for the following categories: Showmanship, Whole Hog, Shoulders, Ribs and "AB" - anything but. Of course there can only be one Grand Champion and the winner is...... Fat Back and the Flaming Pig team - CONGRATS! Britton's BBQ of John's Island won the Showmanship Award for their display of pig cooking memorabilia entitled "The Pigsonian Museum of Sertoma BBQ." Other teams with great names included Smoke Shack Barbecue, Kornbread & Gunpowder, Butt Masters, Hoggy Bottom Boys and Hog Wild. Spectator Chris Raispis said, "It's not a hobby for these barbecue teams, it's a passion!"

My photos show Chris Raispis with Sertoma PR rep Maria Aselage, Sertoma member and hard worker Chris Thomas and BBQ patron Charlotte Lemon, Jim Bongalis of Publix with Plato the Publixaurus and Jamie Wright at the corporate tent, WEZL personality Rowdy Nites and Sertoma organizer Tommy Brush announcing the award winners, and the Fat Back and Flaming Pig Team accepting their Grand Champion trophy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Palmetto BBQ & Brew Festival - Fireworks Display

The Olde Charelstowne Sertoma Club coordinates one of the most popular barbecue competitions in the South, and this year the Palmetto BBQ and Brew Festival makes its debut at Prospect Hill Plantation on Edisto Island.  In existence for 25 years, and mainly held at the Ladson Fairgrounds, this competition saw 75 cooking teams compete in 2008, including entries from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois. Back in 1984 the event hosted just 24 cooking teams who were mainly from the Lowcountry. Prospect Hill Plantation is a historic property that is on the banks of the Edisto River, and will host the cook-out competition and a fireworks display on Friday night. The BBQ & Brew Festival is also being held in conjunction with the Edisto Island Museum, who is presently hosting the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit "Key Ingredients, America by Food." The exhibit explores how the food we eat connects us to our communities, heritage, and national culture. I predict the folks gathering at Prospect Hill will exhibit how much Southerners like to eat barbecue, which will demonstrate that pulled pork is indeed part of our heritage! The BBQ and Brew Festival has already donated more that one millions dollars to charity, and has a fine corporate sponsor in grocery store chain Publix. Friday night activities begin at 6 p.m. when cooking teams serve up stew, soup or chowder, and get their whole hogs on the grill in order to cook them all night, followed by the Sea Island Fireworks. Saturday's events begin at 11 a.m. and tickets are just $10 for adults and $5 for children. Also on Edisto this weekend is the annual antiques sale at Cassina Point Plantation from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Come to Edisto and enjoy our Lowcountry outdoors! 

My photos show the beautiful grounds at Prospect Hill Plantation on the banks of the Edisto River, a sign that speaks to the caring nature of the cooking teams, a whole hog being prepared for cooking by Fat Boys Barbecue of North Charleston, and some of the awesome fireworks that were enjoyed by all on Friday night.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Harry Hampton Fund and S.C. Prescribed Fire Council

The Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund demonstrated its stewardship for the practice of controlled burning by awarding a $2000 grant to the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council. The mission statement of the S.C. Prescribed Fire Council is to foster cooperation among all parties in the Palmetto State with an interest in prescribed fire. This exchange of information and promotion and use of prescribed fire will help to ensure that it does not become a dwindling practice. Prescribed fire harnesses a natural element and is very beneficial landscape management tool, one that makes for healthier trees and increased biodiversity. The Harry Hampton Fund is a forward-thinking private corporation that partners with SCDNR for the promotion of education, research, and management in order to benefit conservation of wildlife, and out natural resources. The S.C. Prescribed Fire Council was among the first of the fire councils formed, and was modeled after the Florida Council which was born after the Florida wildfires. Wildfire in South Carolina is not out of the realm of possibilities if the use of prescribed fire becomes greatly curtailed for any reason. Woods smoke from prescribed fire in the winter is a symbol of a healthy ecosystem and caring land managers. Lowcountryoutdoors.com will soon be posting PL-ACE meeting information on the website about an upcoming new trend in prescribed fire, so stay tuned.....

To view past blog entries about prescribed fire click here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cabela's King Kat Tourney for Santee Catfish

Saturday March 14th's overcast conditions did nothing to slow down the monster catfish bite during the one-day Cabela's King Kat Tournament. Fished out of Black's Camp on the Santee Lakes, 88 anglers from 10 different states were locked in a competition for cash, prizes and a coveted invitation to the 2009 Cabela's King Kat Classic  to be held at the Pickwick/Wilson Lakes at Sheffield, Alabama. The weigh-in spectators saw the S.C. team of Tim Farris and Kim Henderson out of Lake Wylie take first place and win $3000. The Tim and Kim team anchored up on the lower end of the lake in shallow water and used cut shad to catch 127.15-pounds of catfish. Second place went to another S.C. team (damn those carolina boys can catfish!) with George Lindsay of Chester and Damon Gibson of Richburg weighing in 118.15-pounds of catfish for a payday of $1200. George and Damon were fishing near the hatchery, drifting in 25 to 28 feet of water using cut shad and cut perch for bait. Third place in the King Kat event went to a team from Catlettsburg, Kentucky weighing in 118.05-pounds of catfish and taking home $600 in cash. The BIG FISH of the day went to a team out of Akron, Ohio when Skip Martin and Christina Jones reeled in a 52.95-pound blue catfish about 2:30 when ole whisker-lips took a drifting bait of skip jack and gizzard shad. 

Thanks to Larry Crecelius for the photos of First place winners Kim Henderson and Tim Farris, Second place winners George Lindsay and Damon Gibson, and the BIG FISH of the day (shown here with some smaller cats) caught by Skip Martin and teammate Christina Jones.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

LOLT at Beautiful Brosnan Forest

A few more photos from the Lowcountry Open Land Trust Annual Picnic are warranted since a visit to Norfolk Southern's Brosnan Forest is so very special. Being on the grounds is a nice experience, but having a guided tour and an invitation to shoot sporting clays is more than memorable.

My photos show a tree marked with a white stripe, indicating that it is being used by the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, The "Upper" Lake which is used for fishing and recreational pursuits like birdwatching for the bald eagles that reside lakeside, Mike Maggard discussing the effects of prescribed fire on a wiregrass / longleaf ecosystem, and LOLT members enjoying lunch inside the Brosnan Forest dining facility.

For another blog entry from the LOLT 2009 Picnic click here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Brosnan Forest hosts LOLT Annual Picnic

Brosnan Forest is the 12,000-acre corporate hunting and lodging facility of Norfolk-Southern Railroad Company. Norfolk Southern donated a conservation easement on their entire property in 2008 working with Lewis Hay and the staff at the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. Governor Sanford has called Norfolk Southern's voluntary act the single largest corporate gift to the South Carolina in state history. The grounds at Brosnan Forest are manicured to suit the outdoorsman's eye and LOLT Picnic activities allowed members to visit the property and experience some of the sporting pursuits it has to offer. Guided one-hour tours of the woodland landscape were a hit with members who rode of tractor-drawn wagons to different areas of the forest. Stops included an area recently treated with prescribed fire and a discussion by Mike Maggard why this practice is beneficial both to the trees and the wildlife, and a location where red-cockaded woodpeckers were inhabiting 100-year old longleaf pine trees. For those guests wanting to shoot firearms both the skeet range and the sporting clays course at Brosnan Forest were open for business. Children's activities included face painting, and a hay ride, but fishing for mountain trout in the pond next to the lodge looked to be the biggest hit! Nature walks for bird watchers were popular with two nesting pairs of bald eagles present on the fishing lakes. Youth activities included Pitch-n-Putt golf, shuffleboard and basketball. Many families attended the LOLT picnic and everyone attending was able to enjoy some form of outdoor activity. Brosnan Forest is a working lodge 365 days a year, and was gracious in extending this invitation to LOLT, their partner in conservation. Some numbers to note: Brosnan Forest has 200 miles of maintained roads (good for logging and hunting access), with 1000 acres of food plots scattered in 300 locations, and 80 colonies of red-cockaded woodpeckers, and a full-time staff to welcome NS employees when they come to vacation at Brosnan Forest. Norfolk Southern's leadership in the realm of conservation is sure to have ramifications that helps to protect quality of life for the future of the Lowcountry.

To view my blog entry from the 2009 LOLT Annual Meeting click here.

My photos show some beautiful camelias blooming on the Brosnan Forest grounds, a youth angler very excited about catching his first rainbow trout, women receiving shooting sports instruction on the skeet range, and LOLT's Will Haynie, Brosnan Forest's Josh Raglin and friend to nature Tom Blagden enjoying some fellowship.