Carolina Wetlands Association kicked off 2016 American Wetlands Month with our first ever field trip! Despite a stormy forecast and thunder rumbling in the distance, seventeen wetland enthusiasts ventured into Francis Beidler Forest with Mike Dawson, Director of the Audubon Center & Sanctuary at this internationally recognized swamp.
Mike led a fantastically fun and informative tour, covering the swamp’s ecology and history as well the history of Audubon’s conservation efforts there. The 1.75 mile boardwalk makes it easy to access and enjoy the interior of the swamp. Surrounded by bald cypress knees, we marveled at the 1000+ year-old trees, including one that is more than 1600 years old.
We observed countless industrious, bright red crayfish scavenging among the swollen tree bases, roots, and downed limbs on the swamp floor. We spotted green frogs, green turtles, ringed snakes, brown snakes, and the site’s “mascot,” the brilliant yellow prothonotary warbler. Above us, the forest canopy resonated with birdsong throughout our tour. Perhaps the most exciting moment was watching a yellow-crowned night heron stalk and devour several crayfish, which are on the menu for lots of creatures in this swamp.
CarWA is recognizing Francis Beidler Forest among our inaugural group of Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas. This site comprises nearly 18,000 acres of Four Holes Swamp in the coastal plain of South Carolina, and includes the largest stand of old growth cypress-tupelo swamp forest remaining anywhere. CarWA recognizes and celebrates the swamp as well as National Audubon Society’s long-term investments in protecting and managing this magical natural treasure. Next time you’re in the Charleston area, take a side trip to visit Francis Beidler Forest!
Thank you to Mike Dawson and all of the participants for making our first field trip a success!