Monday, April 25, 2016

April 24, 2016 - Definitely Not Wicwas

We were away for a couple of weeks, on a trip down the east coast to get a little jump on summer.  For the first stops on the trip, Shenandoah National Park and the mountains of South Carolina - both part of the Appalachian Mountain range - many of the plants and animals are similar to those we have here in the northern section of that mountain range, though the plants were much farther along.  Various shades of green were evident at the lower elevations, but at 4000' there were no signs of even budding.
Appalachian Trail near Hawksbill Mountain (4049')

Some of the animals at the top of the range, 3500' to 4000', were the same we have at lake Wicwas, including a bobcat we saw stalking a gray squirrel on an early morning hike up Hawksbill Mountain.
Turkey Vulture
Barred Owl
White Tail Deer
Farther along in South Carolina we found ourselves, as always, attracted to the lakes.
Lake Jocasee

This was Lake Jocasee in the very northwest corner of South Carolina, and we even saw a loon that hadn't yet moved on to its summer breeding grounds.

In winter, Lake Jocasee has about 250 loons;  they think most of them come from the mid west and the Great Lakes, so probably not our Wicwas loons.  In this area we saw Mountain Laurel blooming, similar to our Sheep Laurel.
Mountain Laurel

Also two types of trillium, which in NH won't bloom until mid or late May (or maybe earlier this year).
Trillium Discolor

By the time we arrived in Savannah Georgia, both flora and fauna had changed dramatically.  We were now into the land of seabirds and warm weather reptiles.

We don't see this in New England!

Some of the animals of Savannah are similar to ours, like this relative of our Great Blue Heron.
Tricolor Heron

It would dash in to catch a fish, then rush back to shore before a 'gator could grab it

Other species are nothing like our inhabitants.

White Ibis (Immature)

Our final stop was back in South Carolina at Congaree National Park.  It was formerly called Congaree Swamp, but the name was changed to make it sound more enticing.

Congaree National Park
It was a startling difference from our northern forests which have very few old growth trees.  Congaree has the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood trees in North Americal, with trees over 165' tall and more than four feet in diameter.

Water Tupelo
Because you have to stay on the trail in the swamp, you can't get a picture with any sense of scale, but these are truly impressive trees.
Loblolly Pine
We saw quite a few animals here, including egret, lizards, snakes (big snakes!) and butterflies - but no mammals (ok, one squirrel).  There was one animal we were happy not to see:  the wild pig, which is an invasive species causing serious problems in the south.  They can be found in 35 states now - will they get as far north as New England?  It gives us renewed energy in our fight against invasive species.

Broadheaded Skink
Great Egret
Palamedes Swallowtail

It was a great trip, perfect to whet my appetite for spring.  We're now back in New Hampshire, hopefully just in time to watch spring break out all over again!

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