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A Romp in the Swamp with Bob (my patch)

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Old Saturday 20th October 2007, 05:45   #1
Accipiter91
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A Romp in the Swamp with Bob (my patch)

First I would like to say that this patch UNFORTUNATELY does not belong to me...however, I asked the land owner for permission so it is all good! My patch is located in Autryville, NC and consists of a small private cemetery scattered with mature pines, oaks, hickories, and sweet gums. If you follow a trail adjacent to the cemetery through the woods you will come to the second part of my patch the swamp. This is a medium sized tupelo/gum swamp with a generous smattering of tulip trees (poplar), oak, hickory, and the occasional pine around the perimeter. My patch is where I do most of my birding, herping, and butterfly watching and this is where the bulk of my life lists comes from.

Tonight I set out towards the graveyard in hopes of seeing the elusive Southern Flying Squirrel Glaucomys volans. Armed with a head lamp and a walking stick I set off through the warm night air. Crickets trill in the background and the miniscule eyes of spiders glow like tiny embers in the darkness. A Barred Owl Strix varia hoots softly in the distance but otherwise all is peaceful. That is when doubt and apprehension begin to set in. I listen to the sounds around me very hard and I become tense. That voice in the back of my head starts talking "Why are you out here in the dark walking towards a graveyard?" "It's not to late to turn a around ya know." Thats when the battle begins, one side of me wants to stay and possibly see a squirrel but the other side is fearful and begs to turn around. I walk faster as if I can outrun my growing dread. Suddenly I find myself in the graveyard...it is as silent as the grave. (sorry for the pun! ) I shine my head lamp around uneasily, the blue light reflecting eerily off the marbel tombstones. Suddenly I see it streched out in the grass...instantly my fear is gone and I am only thinking one thing...SNAKE. I walk forward slowly until I am able to identify the serpent. It is a novenemous Red-bellied Watersnake Nerodia erythrogaster. I crouch down to observe the beautiful snake. Its belly glows orange like a candle in the night. I would love to have a pic of this snake but I don't have my camera...that means I would have to catch the snake and take it back home then bring it BACK after the photo shoot. Mom will not be pleased but I have made up my mind. Now...how to go about doing this...Watersnakes are known for being grumpy and will not hesitate to strike when annoyed. I decide to take the risk and gently put my hand around the snakes tail...so far so good...the snake doesn't move...I gently lift the snake up and rest my stick under its upper half. Success! The snake is very calm and doesn't attempt to bite once...

Unfortunatley I did not see the squirrels but did encounter a very beautiful snake! The photo shoot went well and I returned the snake back to the woods where it crawled rapidly away.

Sorry about the qaulity of the pic but my Mom took it and she wouldn't get very close...

Although I did catch this snake I urge people not to catch snakes or any other animal. It can be stressful on the animal and it is usually unnecessary. I would also like to urge people to stop the unnecessary slaughter of snakes. I have never been bit by a snake that I wasn't trying to capture. Snakes are not bloodthirsty man-killers and they try to flee or hide from man when possible, even venemous species. Don't kill a snake just because it is a snake...thanks!
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Old Saturday 20th October 2007, 10:17   #2
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Hello Bob Looks like an intresting patch and i look forward to reading more from it. As it gos along. Dont get bit....lol
Take care
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Old Saturday 20th October 2007, 14:14   #3
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Thanks and don't worry I will try to avoid getting bitten!
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Old Saturday 20th October 2007, 14:38   #4
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Well....I wanted to go out early this morning....but lets just say that I stayed up too late on the forum! Well...better late than never! When I get back I will post my findings.
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Old Saturday 20th October 2007, 20:39   #5
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Well at about 10:00 AM I managed to drag my sorry carcass out of the house. I only had an hour before we left to run "some errands" so I had to make it fast. As I left the house I spotted a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius gouging holes in one of the two silver maples in our yard. Luckily I had the camera with me so I decided to try and sneak up for a closer shot of the busy woodpecker. When I was only about four or five feet from the bird it decided to play peek-a-boo and circled around to the opposite side of the tree. Not wanting to scare the woodie away, I waited a few seconds until the bird circled back around. The pic is posted below if you wish to see it. After spending about 15 minutes with the sapsucker I set off for the swamp. I really didn't see anything except some American Crows Corvus brachyrhynchos and two territorial Eastern Phoebes Sayornis phoebe (a cruddy pic is posted below). I also took a picture of the swamp so you could get a better idea of what my patch looks like. Until tonight (I plan on heading back out) see you later!
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Old Sunday 21st October 2007, 15:38   #6
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Well nothing new last night. I saw an Eastern Cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus and a pair of unidentified eyes (probably a Raccoon or a Cat). My stupid neighbors are having some equally stupid friends over and they will probably ride ATVs all day through the woods...but lets not get me started on the neighbors...
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Old Sunday 21st October 2007, 16:59   #7
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A very interesting thread Bob. There are few things I enjoy more than birds, however Herps and mammals are two of them.
Not many reptile species in England (3 Snakes, 3 Lizards) so I do most of my herping on vacation. Just returned from Florida where I saw my first Black Racer and a juvenile Cottonmouth. My girlfriend also saw a Mangrove Snake.
Keep up the great work and good luck with the Squirrels.
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Old Sunday 21st October 2007, 23:34   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skink1978 View Post
A very interesting thread Bob. There are few things I enjoy more than birds, however Herps and mammals are two of them.
Not many reptile species in England (3 Snakes, 3 Lizards) so I do most of my herping on vacation. Just returned from Florida where I saw my first Black Racer and a juvenile Cottonmouth. My girlfriend also saw a Mangrove Snake.
Keep up the great work and good luck with the Squirrels.
Thanks! I agree birds are cool but herps and mammals are a close second.
I was not aware that England had such a small number reptiles...congrats on your sightings in Florida. That state is blessed with a wide variety of reptile life.
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Old Sunday 21st October 2007, 23:56   #9
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Today was great! My neighbors were gone, the weather was mild, and the bird activity was hot! In my yard I saw the tame Sapsucker that I observed and photographed yesterday. In addition I got a new yard bird in the form of a Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon! I was out on the porch reading a book when the bird flew over the house and alighted on the side of our pool house! The bird remained perched for a second before it was startled by my equally startled sister. I am not sure what the bird was doing but I am assuming it was checking out our swimming pool (which is green and down for the season). In the woods I was further suprised when I saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus! I thought that these birds had left for their vacation home but apparently a few still linger on. Although not a lifer the most abundant bird I encountered was the Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata. These guys were everywhere! I never thought I would say this but I actully missed the "butter butts"! Very good birding overall! A pic of the graveyard is posted below.
Until next time, see you later!

Species Observed
American Crow
Eastern Phoebe
Northern Cardinal
Carolina Wren
Tufted Titmouse
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Carolina Anole
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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2007, 00:32   #10
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Nothing really to report as I went out so late...the bird activity had died down as they were all moving to the roost. I was hoping to get some ducks coming over but no such luck...oh well...The only birds I could ID were Mourning Doves and the rest were "flitters" (small birds that fly into view but you can't ID them)...the most common thing on the wing was Mosquitos! Until next time, see you later!

Species Observed

Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura

Eastern Gray Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis

Mosquito Alwaysus annoyingus
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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2007, 03:21   #11
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Cool patch Bobby! That swamp looks like it would be really fun to explore. Nice sapsucker shot!

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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2007, 12:13   #12
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Thanks Neil! The swamp is a pretty cool place to explore. Thanks for the comment about the sapsucker the photo is actually much better but the internet distorted the image...
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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2007, 23:53   #13
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It was kind of humid today and the bird action was not very good. However, I did see a few species. Frogs, lizards, and turtles on the other hand were out in force so it wasn't a total loss!

Species Observed
Northern Flicker
Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Northern or Southern Cricket Frog
Carolina Anole
Ground Skink
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Old Wednesday 24th October 2007, 17:07   #14
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Any 'gators in your swamp Bob, or are they not get as far as NC?
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Old Wednesday 24th October 2007, 22:05   #15
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Oh the Alligator is found in North Carolina but not in my swamp...its a shame really but the good news is that they are starting to reappear in many areas void of Gators in the past.
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Old Friday 26th October 2007, 01:02   #16
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Well, the past few days have been wet and thus the birding has been mediocre to say the least....however, we REALLY needed the rain due to the drought currently plaguing North Carolina and other parts of the Southeast. Unable to go out in the wet conditions, I decided to count the different bird species that visited my feeders. Not really impressive but... Until next time, see you later!

Species Observed
Mourning Dove
Northern Cardinal
Northern Mockingbird
House Finch
Carolina Wren
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Old Saturday 27th October 2007, 23:46   #17
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

I finally made it back to the swamp after what seemed an eternity and boy oh boy have things changed! What used to be dry land has been transformed into...well...a marsh! 6" of water stood in most areas but some deep holes held about two feet of water! This a substantial increase considering that most of the swamp was bone dry. As you may have already guessed I was confined to the shoreline and hence did not see many birds. However, the standing water meant a boom in frog numbers. Although I only saw one frog the whole time, they could be heard calling everywhere especially from the center of the swamp. All in all it was a mediocre birding trip but it felt great to finally get outside. Until next time, see you later!

Species Observed
Mourning Dove
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Carolina Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Eastern Gray Squirrel
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2007, 21:17   #18
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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Not many birds out last sunday. It was very cold and the wind was blowing kind of hard! Not much animal life in general so I decided to photograph what was always there...the plant life! The only species that I can ID for certain is the fourth photograph of a HUGE tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera. Until next time, see you later!
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Old Sunday 4th November 2007, 23:49   #19
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Sunday, November 04, 2007

I have been gone for ages but believe me it was not my fault. Our neighbors have finally broken the straw so to speak and now the landowner has barred the entrance to my patch and put up a No Trespassing sign! Until I can speak to the landowner I have been banned indefinantly from my swamp...however, I couldn't stay away so I kind of walked back there just to see what else the landowner had done. Nothing new really except they have placed some logs of various sizes across the path in a futile attempt to stop the fourwheelers. When I got down to the swamp I was pleased to see that the water had subsided...a little bit. With great effort (climbing over logs and jumping across standing water) I made it back to the canal and WOW what a change! Just look at the pics below...the first picture was taken a couple of weeks ago before the rains the second pic was taken today...I think you will see what I mean. The bird action was not very heavy but I did see something amazing! Perched in the trees was a large group of Common Grackles Quiscalus quiscula. Suddenly the Grackles all flew up together and split into two different groups. The trees obstructed my view somewhat but I could see the two groups weaving and twisting in the sky. Afterwards a hawk (Accipiter maybe?) flew overhead empty handed or empty taloned I should say! The hawk had ambushed the blackbirds who in turn expertly avoided the attacker and consequently cost the raptor a meal. I also got another pleasant suprise on my return trip home. I finally saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula my favorite winter bird! Long live the King(let)!

Until next time, see you later!

Species Observed
Mourning Dove
American Robin
American Crow
Killdeer
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Common Grackle
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy or Hairy Woodpecker

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Carolina Anole
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Old Wednesday 21st November 2007, 01:18   #20
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Im Back!

Great news! I finally got permission to resume birding in the swamp! Now that I can bird in my patch again I can finally dust this thread off and get this show back on the road! Woohoo!
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Old Friday 23rd November 2007, 12:43   #21
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Although the weather was mild for November, the wind was blowing and a light rain was falling so I was not expecting to see many birds moving around. However, after being absent from the woods for about two weeks I could not wait any longer so I had to go. Now I know why they don't pay me to think...the swamp was a flurry of bird activity. Yellow-rumped Warblers foraged in the treetops alongside Carolina Chickadees. Woodpeckers of all sizes were busy foraging in the trees and on the ground. The largest species being the Pileated Woodpecker. I watched a male Pileated (I am happy to say there are pics below!) forage on a snag working from the bottom to the top. As I tried to move in closer he flew to the top of a tree where he was joined by another Pileated Woodpecker (I am assuming his mate of the previous year) and a Hairy Woodpecker. Hairy Woodpeckers have been known to follow Pileated Woodpeckers and forage alongside them cleaning up any ants or other insects the larger woodpeckers may have missed so this was pretty cool. In addition I also watched a White-breasted Nuthatch caching food in a hollowed out stub of a tree branch. Recently I have read numerous reports that the Red-breasted Nuthatch along with other Northern species will be probing farther South this winter as the result of a failed Canadian seed crop so I have been looking hard for the Nuthatch. I thought I had found it when I saw a small bird spiraling UP a tree trunk but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it was a Brown Creeper! I was not expecting it to be a Brown Creeper because I had always thought they foraged closer to the ground not in the tree tops. The surprises were not over yet! I was walking back through the swamp and noticed this small blue bird foraging in the brush. As I got closer the bird popped out of the brush over my head and I noticed that only the head was blue....a Blue-headed Vireo! The funny thing is that I had read about the Vireo that morning and just happened to see it! Despite the two lifers and the pics of the Pileated Woodpecker, the best part of the trip occured on the way home. In the brush alongside the trail were atleast four or five Hermit Thrushes singing their haunting flute-like song in unison. I had seen these birds before but never heard them sing. In addition there were two Thrushes chasing each other around. They would both land after a while and resume the chase on foot. This show included much foot tapping, tail pumping and wing fanning. All the while other Thrushes sang as if cheering the two fighters on. Sometimes the birds would fly by so close that I could have caught one if I had been fast enough! All in all a very good trip but now I am about to go back out to the swamp so wish me luck!

Until next time, see you later!

Species Observed
Carolina Chickadee
Turkey Vulture
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Blue-headed Vireo L
Northern Flicker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Brown Creeper L
White-breasted Nuthatch
Hermit Thrush
Golden-crowned Kinglet (this is the first time I have ever seen these and not seen Ruby-crowned Kinglets)
Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Carolina Anole
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