Field Trip to Francis Beidler

Prothonotary Warblers, Barred Owls, Water Moccasins, and… feral hogs?  The first few are what comes to mind whenever I think about Francis Beidler Audubon Sanctuary.  The feral hogs were a surprise, but Mark explained how they reproduce quickly (2 can become 36 in a year) and people release them in order to be able to hunt them later.  They can wreak havoc on an ecosystem, so the folks that work there are keeping an eye on them and trying to trap them.

Four of us (and my daughter) arrived at the park around 10:00 on Wednesday for a fantastic walk through the woods with Mark Musselman.  Like every Master Naturalist program I have enjoyed, it took us a long while (four hours for 1.5 miles)to walk the boardwalk… we found something interesting to see at every turn.  There is an incredible respite in the sounds of the forest there… the only sounds are birds and the occasional rustle of a squirrel or skink.  Red eyed and white eyed vireos echoed back and forth, and Northern Parulas and Blue-Gray gnatcatchers sounded off as well, along with Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Three snakes were basking in the dappled sunlight at different locations: two eastern cottonmouths and a banded water snake:  Mark explained how the water snake was more of a climber and the moccasins would stay closer to the ground.  We watched an orchard orb weaver spin a web, and debated about the identity of a water thrush (Louisiana or Northern… please weigh in if you have an opinion after looking at the photos.)  At the lake, we spent some time looking at Great Blue Herons, Yellow Crowned Night Herons, and White Ibis, when the resident alligator wondered what we were up to and came over to investigate.  But the big star of this quiet forest of thousand year old cypress and tupelo is the Prothonotary Warbler.  With huge voices, they sing to make their presence known, and yet this bright yellow bird has an uncanny ability to blend into the trees.  We were fortunate enough to see at least three different birds (Mark knows which is in each territory, and can enter data on each bird because of the bands visible on their legs) bathing, preening, and chasing each other.

We also saw a Big Daddy Bowfin fish guarding a group of young, which roiled the surface of the water.

If you missed this trip, please join us for the next one!