Last week, a group of SINHGers headed all the way north to Harleyville to visit Beidler Forest, a 1,800-hundred acre Audubon preserve that sits within the immense Four Holes Swamp. At this time of year, it’s absolutely beautiful, and perhaps more importantly, the very particular nesting grounds of the Prothonotary Warbler. No pun intended, but people literally flock to Beidler from around the world to capture images of this bird in the wild. Indeed, while we were there, several very determined and expensive tripods and cameras jostled by us in pursuit of this elusive quarry.
For those of you who ponder the meaning of ‘prothonotary’, the word refers to a group of Catholic scribes who wore yellow hooded bands. In the photograph below, taken by our own Patricia Schaefer, you will see that this warbler is aptly named.
Our guide for the morning was Ricky , a young man who grew up in suburbia scouring the ditch in his backyard for insects, frogs and anything that crawled and slithered. We extend our deep thanks to his mom who nurtured this passion and otherwise put up with all his creepy-crawlies.
One of the more interesting things Ricky told us was that 90% of the trees at Beidler were lost in the huge winds of Hugo back in 1989. Left standing were pretty much the giant bald cypress trees that tower 100’-120’ high and often bear the scars of repeated lightning strikes and storms. The canopies of these massive trees are veritable ‘apartment houses’ for all manner of wildlife—birds, animals, insects, etc. Cores taken from their trunks have enabled scientists to date them with accuracy. The oldest one in Beidler—which we saw—was a seedling 1,500 years ago! Compare that to our magnificent Angel Oak—a mere teenager at 400 years old.
The regrowth of the forest following the hurricane has been astounding and Beidler continues to be home to all sorts of swamp forest denizens. Below are some fabulous photos taken by Patricia of some we encountered on our walk. This image is a brown water snake curled up on a branch.
The second photo is the female of a pair of barred owls we saw nesting in the forest .
Lastly, a poisonous water moccasin.
Fabulous trip! This is an old chestnut—be sure to look for it again next spring.
–Submitted by Carol Bane