Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Season Cycles in Focus for ACE Basin Book

ACE Basin cover depicts flora and fauna
A new book on the fledgling legacy of the ACE Basin brings together observations from the field by author Pete Laurie with nature photography by Philip Jones. This dynamic duo worked together for years at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and they leveraged those experiences to produce The Ace Basin: A Lowcountry Legacy.

Opening with a chapter on the history of the formation of the ACE Basin project, simple geography is a part of the conversation. Many of large acreage plantations along the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers were involved in rice culture. This practice involves putting water on agricultural land and then being able to manipulate the water levels, so proximity to the rivers of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto was pivotal.

Indeed, due to the unique conservation efforts in the ACE Basin of South Carolina, the outlook for future avian migrations is looking good whether it is shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, ducks or neotropical songbirds. Many good viewing areas in the ACE Basin are just about an hour from Walterboro, Charleston and Savannah and they are well worth the drive time to watch nature in motion. 

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

To view past blog entries about encounters with the natural world click on Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar Hooded Warbler - American Oystercatcher Bats - Snakes - Honey Bees - Wood Storks

To view my latest Field Notes and Photos click on October 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 10/27/2015

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Undecided Voters have a water-based candidate to consider
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond from Haddrell's Point West shares that late October can offer SCARY good fishing! Trout anglers should dress up their hooks with a Zman Slim SwimZ in order to get a treat. And don't forget Trout Tricks for specks too - between the two artificial baits its like playing Truth or Dare with the trout. Sheepshead are racing around rock piles and bridge pilings like the headless horseman looking for fiddlers to eat - and don't forget the 'Capture The Convict' sheep tourney that is going on now. Redfish are feeding aggressively before winter, making this a great time for longrodders to present a fly in the march grass, before tailing season winds down. The ghoulishly flat flounder are trying to slip by inshore anglers on their trek to artificial reefs for winter, so don't forget to drag a mud minnow, or maybe tip a bucktail with a candy corn so there is no need to Guess Who's Coming To Dinner! For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Offshore Report: Scott states that bouncing some bait at bottom numbers this time of year is a must! Huge triggers, b-liners and sea bass are turning up in 75 to 130-feet of water and cut squid and vertical jigs are doing the best job. One catch of note was an 11-pound trigger weighed in by Prowess last weekend - now that's some good eating! High speed trolling along the ledge is still producing wahoo, and a few surprise tuna as well. Sailfish top off the Halloween weekend offshore selection.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillars Crawl into Fall

Notice the fake eyes to spook predators
How many do you see?
Imagine my surprise when I notice that multiple leaves have gone missing on a volunteer sapling Tulip Poplar. My fall yard work chores included taking out unwanted woody vegetation and I did a double-take when I saw that this job was being done for me. Even though a host of mosquitoes was in nearby bushes and ready to attack me, I looked closely at the sapling and saw nothing out of the ordinary at first. I saw something that looked like a bird dropping, and only THEN did I notice a large green cucumber-colored caterpillar on one of the partially eaten leaves. A - HA!!

Bird dropping or caterpillar?
Quite the cool caterpillar, I went to my trusty stack of handbooks that relate to the natural world and identified the guest as a Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar. I had seem several mature Tiger Swallowtail butterflies in the yard visiting the lantana, but this sapling was in a different location of the yard. Over the next several days the more I looked at the tulip poplar the more of the caterpillars I began to see. As of right now I see five caterpillars, and in my opinion they are well hidden from birds and other predators at this time.

Two caterpillars coming out to play!
I will be watchful for the caterpillars to enter the Chrysalis stage, which is when they turn brown and become stationary, before a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly emerges after 10 or so days. The caterpillar stage is pleasing to view and photographs well, and I did see a fair amount of activity one day as two caterpillars were moving about and rolling around on each other. My research also reveals that this species is the South Carolina state butterfly - so they shall enjoy my stewardship as long as they occupy a spot in the yard.

To view past blog entries about encounters with the natural world click on Hooded WarblerAmerican Oystercatcher Bats - Snakes - Honey Bees - Wood Storks

 To view my latest Field Notes and Photos click October 2015

Caterpillar and Butterfly depiction

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Field Notes and Photos - October 2015

Adult red-bellied snake underside
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 Field Notes click on September 2015August 2015 - July 2015 - June 2015 - February 2105 - October 2014  September 2014 - August 2014 - June 2014 - March 2012 - February 2012 - October 2011 - September 2011   
Turbulent Phosphila caterpillars congregate

Hawkmoth on flower

This ain't Geico - THIS is Gecko!!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

2015 Quail Preserve Season Opens - Southeast Outdoor Press in Eufala

Owner / Guide Keith Wade in heavy bird woods
A harvested Bobwhite quail makes a striking subject
The season for quail hunting preserves runs from October through the end of March, but warm weather can deter hunters in early October. With much more seasonal weather coming, the call of the bobwhite quail and the sight of a bird dog on point are enough to make any wingshooter ready to hunt. Hunters continue having difficulty finding enough wild quail for hunting purposes, but they continue to own bird dogs and intend to carry on upland hunting traditions passed down through the generations.  This makes quail preserve hunting a good option for upland enthusiasts.
Guides assist hunters to get into proper position
At a recent meeting of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) at Lake Eufala, Alabama I visited one such quail preserve for a hunt. The Piney Woods Hunting Lodge is family-owned and run by Keith Wade, and it consists of about 450-acres of rolling terrain. Piney Woods Creek bisects the property, and the associated backwater is just one of the scenic vistas this visitor found, including an old barn in the woods that provided a sense of small farm authenticity.
Polly Dean and Jill Easton - with trophy bass lake behind
“We serve fresh quail with biscuits and tomato gravy to all our first time visitors,” said Wade. Pouring four mason jars of tomato preserves into a large black iron skillet, it was Wade himself who prepared the meal, and we learned a little about Alabama hospitality at supper that evening. They keep it simple and they aim to please.

Alabama Black Belt Adventures hosted a welcome reception and dinner at Shorter historic mansion in downtown Eufala for SEOPA.  Over the next couple of days, many went freshwater fishing at the Eufala National Wildlife Refuge and the fish were biting great. This was my first visit to the Quail Trail in Alabama and was glad to find it located near to the Georgia state line, and just close enough to tempt a return visit.

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

To view past blog entries about the opening of Quail Preserve Season click 2012

To view past blog entries about SEOPA click on 20142013 - 2012 - 2009