Work

If it were possible to sprout wings and fly between my place of employment and my husband’s, it would be about 30 miles in linear distance. Driving, it’s about 40 to 55, depending on where you are in the park.

From atop School House Peak looking all the way to Humboldt Bay and Woodley Island

Cropped version of the above photo

Happy New Year!

Birds and Beach

I have managed to pry myself out of the grasp of homework a few times over the past two weeks. Those rare moments can be grouped into three categories: Birds, Beach, and Edisto [which will be the next post].

We’ll start with birds:

We walked the short trails of Patriots Point State ‘Park’ and found an abundance of robins with a smattering of other feathered species.

The Noisy Robins

I’m at a loss on this one…a duck.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Cedar Waxwing

Yellow-rumped Warbler

And transitioning from birds to beach, here are some birds at the beach:

Double-crested Cormorants

Willets

Willet again

Piping Plover [I think the same individual I saw last winter]

And more rare [down here] than the Plover, a Snow Bunting! They aren’t often found on SC beaches. Thanks to BirdChick for the ID.

On to the beach:

Click to enlarge.

And just to prove it hasn’t been cloudy the whole time:

The Yorktown at sunset.

Apologies for the super long post!

Picasa Album: https://picasaweb.google.com/sniehans/20110201GrandmaAndBirds#5573750912795129538

Congaree National Park

 On our visit to Congaree National Park, we found out just how scared we both are of squirrels. Perhaps scared isn’ t the right word; maybe cautious is more accurate, but being on an 8ft high boardwalk with nowhere to run and a very curious squirrel is a situation in which one should be….cautious. [Most injuries at Grand Canyon National Park are caused by people trying to feed squirrels and their kin!]

Other than the squirrels, we had a wonderful visit to a floodplain that has been preserved for future generations. Eighty percent of this amazing park floods about ten times a year [hence why sections of the boardwalk are 8 ft above the ground]. If you ponder it, many National Parks feature erosion [Grand Canyon, Badlands, Bryce, Yosemite, Arches, etc] and only a few are dominated by deposition, but Congaree is a story of both, washing away and depositing sediments.

There are plenty of trails to walk or canoe in the park. The walking trails are both on boardwalk and on the ground and are great for spotting birds, looking at large cypress and tupelo trees, and just using your legs! Even though you are on the boardwalks, it doesn’t mean that you’re separated from the natural world. There is plenty of nature LIVING on the boards and if you look closely, you’ll spot a few neat critters, I am sure!

The neat story behind this park is that it was ‘saved’ from chainsaws. The virgin timber was in high demand but the area had, up until that point, been relatively untouched [sound like ANWAR??]. Through the conservation efforts of one man rallying the community, the trees were saved and steps were taken to preserve what is now the largest area of old-growth floodplain forest in North America.

Lots of walks, talks, and guided canoe trips are offered, even in the winter.  For mosquito season [it is a swamp, of course!], they have a screened-in patio with seating that is apparently for interpretive talks. And to take the guesswork out of how many mosquitoes are out there, they have a “mosquito meter” above the bathrooms, ranging from ‘All Clear’ to ‘War Zone’.  The visitor center is large, lovely, and has lots of neat information [ignore the exhibits mentioning it as a National Monument--it just recently became a National Park].

The moss marks the average flood line.

 

A canoe trail

 

A tiny Magnolia Jumper patrolling the boardwalk.

 

Reflections in the swamp's blackwater.

 

Why hello there!

 

A beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk that didn’t mind us.

For a few more shots of the Park, you can visit my Picasa site: http://picasaweb.google.com/sniehans/20101222Congaree

For official information about the park, go to www.nps.gov/cong

Clouded Sunsets

It’s almost pure science! Skies with a few clouds make beautiful sunsets, and the mid- and high-level clouds are especially helpful. Read all about Sunsets here, photo examples included: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/publications/corfidi/sunset/

I’m currently working on the Berlin trip post, so until then, enjoy these!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hunting Island State Park

Took another trip down to this state park (Official Site), about a 2 hour drive from Charleston, to see what it was like in the summer months.

The marsh grass, Spartina, was much greener than before, but we didn’t see any alligators about like we thought we would around the park.

 

While the Spartina grass is native here, it has been introduced in California and is unfortunately doing too well for the natives’ own good.

On the opposite side of the island from the marsh you will find the beach. It stretches for four miles, with the northern half being covered in snags claimed by the sea and erosion.

We did see a few more wild creatures than the time before. The fiddler crabs were more colorful, almost resembling bird droppings, and as territorial as ever. The little fellow in the photo below spent a lot of energy trying to get the attention of the larger crab in order to spar.

 

Here are a couple other animals spotted around the park, including a Red-bellied woodpecker, a barrier island subspecies of raccoon [though I don't think the white mask indicates that], an over-heated grackle, and a cute chickadee.

I’m sure if you spent some time, and not just a couple hours, on Hunting Island, you’d see quite the list of creatures! While the island is busy, there are many little quiet spots tucked away for both wildlife and crowd-shy visitors.

As for the lighthouse, they currently charge $2 to climb the 150+ stairs [you have to be over a certain height--not small kid-friendly]. The view was beautiful, though the day cloudy and a little drizzly, so not any great photos from the top. The staircase is nicely detailed and there are signs to read as you climb.  This is the only lighthouse open to the public in South Carolina.

Lighthouse grounds

View from a Lighthouse Window

We went to the Pier to watch the fishermen, but there was more crabbing going on, and anyone with a line in the water was losing their bait to the crabs. Attached to the Pier is the Nature Center–definitely worth the visit!

Scenic Sunday Snow Degrees

First, I want to start out apologizing for some of your wonderful comments that manage to get themselves in the Spam Box!  Sorry about that!  You all leave wonderful comments and that just isn’t the place for wonderful comments like that!  I’ll be more vigilant about checking in the future!

Now to the Scenics.  Since some areas of the United States are getting snow and many are seeing VERY cold temperatures, I thought I’d go with the theme. 

I bet this Badlands formation is one of the most photographed: it sits right outside the Ben Reifel Visitor Center!  You walk out the front door and this is the view you are greeted with!  Wonderful, eh?!

These are three pictures with varying degrees of snow.  They were taken on the same day or over two days, I don’t remember, but I do remember the snow melted quickly that time! 

For more Scenic Scenes, CLICK HERE!

~Click on each picture to enlarge it~