Nancy Appel, our Development Director since 2014, took a few weeks away from her daily work to explore the natural wonders of the South Carolina Coast with Conservation League donors. Below are emails and photos she emailed out during her time away to document her adventures. When she returned to the office on June 14, we thought others might be interested as well. Enjoy!
Nancy’s Adventures, May 5, 2021
I was encouraged by Peter K. this morning to send a few highlights of my adventures, so here is the first edition.
On Saturday we went with friends Jen and Craig to Cypress Gardens. So beautiful. Highlights were a Prothonotary Warbler not five minutes in, singing above us and prominent. Also the boat trip where we saw two groups of Wood Duck parents and ducklings. 18 species reported on eBird. Four people.
My first Monday of adventures began with a sunrise kayak on Shem Creek. A special thanks to Chris Crolley and the CEx team! Lisa and I enjoyed beautiful skies and dozens of skimmers.
Just returned from a wonderful trip to Nemours Wildlife Foundation. Perfect weather. Terrific tour from Ernie and Bo. Many bird highlights, including two Purple Gallinule and a Loggerhead Shrike. I’m attaching a photo of an Eastern Kingbird, because many of you know that I had a Western Kingbird in my backyard for two weeks this winter. We also saw countless large and very large gators. 66 species reported on eBird. Eleven people.
Next up: Pinckney Island!
Nancy’s Adventures, May 7, 2021
Today was terrific. Pinckney Island near Hilton Head. Great weather again with a wonderful tour of the island by Monica and Will from USFWS. Thanks to Pooh for stories about her grandparents who owned it before donating it in the mid-‘70s. If you haven’t been to Pinckney, I highly recommend it!
22 species, including an Eastern Wood Pewee, several Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, and hundreds of Egrets (and the cutest babies) in the rookery. Eight people.
Next up: Wambaw Creek Blackwater Kayak on Sunday (and maybe an outing with Mitch tomorrow!)
Nancy’s Adventures, May 9, 2021
Yesterday, Mitch and I walked at I’on Swamp in the Francis Marion. I’m always surprised at how beautiful it is, no matter how many times we go. Lots of warblers, few seen. Also two White Ibis and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron in the swamp. Summer Tanager in the parking lot (of course). 14 species, two people.
Today was Wambaw Creek kayak with Coastal Expeditions. Beautiful and peaceful. One Swallow-tailed Kite and many, many Prothonotary Warblers. I got an ok photo of one. 9 species (didn’t have my phone for fear of it falling in the water, so just from memory), 14 people.
Next up: Congaree River!
Nancy’s Adventures, May 12, 2021
Yesterday we went to the Congaree River with Chris Crolley of Coastal Expeditions. He took us up the river where we docked and went searching for the Champion Trees in the national forest. I was grateful it was quite dry and that we only got wet and muddy feet right around the trees. Such a fun time. Cliff Swallows, Yellow Warblers, Yellow Billed Cuckoo, and a Barred Owl were highlights. 26 species in eBird. 11 people.
Next up: Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve on Friday!
Nancy’s Adventures, May 15, 2021
More great adventures! Yesterday, Betsy, Emily and I went to Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve. It was incredible. I was told that all of a sudden you’ll realize you’re in the midst of venus flytraps, and that was definitely the case! They were everywhere, along with orchids and pitcher plants. Really beautiful and unique. We also had a close encounter with a Common Nighthawk that was sitting on eggs in the middle of the recently burned forest. What a master of disguise. Also got a good photo of a passion flower with a big bumble bee inside. 5 species on eBird (and lots of warblers I couldn’t see to identify). Three people.
This morning Mitch and I saw the sunrise at IOP. 15 species on eBird, two people.
Next up: Red Knots in Cape Romain!
Nancy’s Adventures, May 20, 2021
On Tuesday we partnered with Audubon SC and Coastal Expeditions to seek out Red Knots in Cape Romain. We saw some wonderful birds, including Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Black Skimmers, Oystercatchers, Glossy Ibis, and about a thousand nesting Pelicans. And we did see Red Knots! Most had flown north for the summer, but we did see a few. Thanks to Anne for the attached photo. 28 species on eBird, 14 people.
Yesterday, Ginny and I went to Caw Caw County Park and to the new Stono River County Park. Many unidentifiable bird songs in two very beautiful and highly accessible public spaces. As a trained entomologist, Ginny was full of great info about snails, beetles, moths and other great beings. 14 species on eBird, two people.
Next up: A weekend at Caesar’s Head!
Nancy’s Adventures, May 24, 2021
Hope you all are doing well!
We had a wonderful long weekend at Caesar’s Head State Park, our first time away from our home together since 2019. So many great places to visit. Saw many amazing animals, including Swainson’s Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, Yellow-Breasted Chat, a Black Racer Snake, and a member of Brevard’s white squirrel family. One of the best places we visited was the Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve outside Travelers Rest. So many birds! The Indigo Buntings, Chats and Common Yellowthroats were plentiful. 57 species for the weekend, with 21 new to my list!
Next up: Western Wisconsin to visit my mom and hopefully a trip to Crex Meadows, home to 280 bird species and 96 butterfly species.
Nancy’s Adventures, June 2, 2021
I had a great time last week in western Wisconsin visiting my mom in her one-room farmhouse. She and my brother live in separate houses on a property long owned by my family, with only solar power and rain barrel-sourced water (there’s also a well in the yard for delicious drinking). Our best bird visitor at her house was a beautiful Golden-Winged Warbler (photo attached).
We also had some wonderful local adventures. My sister joined us for a hike at nearby Straight Lake State Park. The woods were filled with wildflowers and many hiding birds. We saw an Eastern Kingbird, a Baltimore Oriole, a Bald Eagle (and nest right on the trail) and three Common Loons. Then my mom and brother and I spent two days exploring Crex Meadows. Once an ecological disaster from early 1900s harvesting for grass rugs, it’s now a 33,000 acre mixture of fields, grassland and lots of wetlands. We saw about a hundred Sandhill Cranes, a hundred Trumpeter Swans, Broad-Winged Hawks, Ring-Necked Ducks, Black Terns, and the amazing Yellow Headed Blackbird. AND we saw four second-year bear cubs!
Ten new species added to my bird list!
Yesterday I visited the new county park on Rifle Range Road near my house. Today I went to Bonneau Ferry WMA, Strawberry Chapel, and then to Mepkin Abbey. All beautiful, but it was raining! Wish we could have had that rain closer to the coast.
Next up: Driftwood Plantation on Friday with Emily from TNC!
Nancy’s Adventures, June 7, 2021
I hope you’re all doing well. This is my last week of adventures. Wow, the time has gone fast. I’ve seen so many great places and people (and birds)!
Friday’s trip to Driftwood Plantation was postponed due to mud, so Jennifer, Gillian and I went to Folly Beach. I knew a Black Scoter had been seen at the north end, and sure enough, it was swimming alone right off the point. It looked healthy but likely can’t fly, so hopefully it’s just convalescing here this summer and will find friends in the fall migration. Gillian got a great photo, which is attached.
This morning on my walk I heard a very unfamiliar sound in the bushes in the woods near my house. It was unlike anything I had ever heard, so I stopped to see if I could figure out what it was. It was 5:45, so it was still pretty dark and just when I was about to give up, I noticed an Eastern Screech owlet right on the grass in front of me! There were two owlets and a parent. Really cool. I had never seen one before. They were small and fluffy, but were all able to fly. A great start to the morning.
Next up: Roxbury Park and Brookgreen Gardens!
Nancy’s Adventures, June 9, 2021
I’ve had a great week so far! I changed up my plan and went to Fort Sumter on Wednesday and to Morris Island today. What great trips! I saw a juvenile Magnificent Frigate Bird flying near the ferry just past Castle Pinckney. So amazing. I had heard one was seen at Folly Beach, so I was on the lookout. I had never seen one before, and it was unmistakable. I was so excited looking at it in my binocs that by the time I got my camera out it was too far away for a good photo. But it was definitive, per my mom (she’s biased) and Chris Crolley (not as biased). Very unusual and well worth the $30 to take the ferry to the Fort. I also saw (likely) the same Black Scoter from my Folly Beach adventure last Friday. It was on the fort beach and flew away, so it must be relatively ok.
Today I went with Coastal Expeditions to Morris Island and found some great shark teeth. Really amazing that they’re just sitting out there waiting to be found. I also had a great lesson in terns from Layton, so there’s a photo of a Sandwich Tern, a Royal Tern and (we think) a juvenile Forster’s Tern. There’s also a photo of the teeth I found. Shout out to CEx and Olivia and Mike for a great trip!
AND – I continue on my quest to monitor the Eastern Screech Owls in my neighborhood. I’ve seen and heard them for three days straight. I have to get up earlier every day, but it’s well worth it. My 5:30 AM bird walk this morning yielded (in addition to two Screech Owls) a young Great Horned Owl and parent (in my back yard!) and a Chuck Will’s Widow. My eBird checklist had all rare or uncommon birds except for the Great Blue Heron babies who are nearly ready to fledge. Early morning brings great rewards!
I’ve adapted my plan for the rest of the week: tomorrow I’m having a beach day and Friday I’m going to Magnolia Cemetery and to Fort Moultrie.
Thanks for all of your support! Take care,
Nancy’s Adventures, June 13, 2021
Strong finish! On Friday, Layton, Jennifer and I went to Magnolia Cemetery. What a beautiful and bird-filled place! We didn’t see anything amazing, but it we did see several Anhinga, some Green Herons, and lots of Swifts and Swallows. We also think we saw a Mallard mix, but weren’t sure what it was mixed with. Maybe a Black Duck? Then Jennifer and I went on to Fort Moultrie. Many Pelicans and Barn Swallows. Two beautiful, local spots!
Today after church, Jennifer and I went to Charles Towne Landing. We had planned to go to Roxbury Park with Katy but it was still raining so we stayed closer to home. Jennifer, otherwise known as the owl whisperer, brought us three Great Horned Owls! Two babies and a parent. We watched the parent feed one of the young before we decided we were bothering them and moved on. I also got some great photos of Green Herons. With the cloudy conditions, the light was just right.
It has been a great six weeks! I’m headed back to the office tomorrow. I am really looking forward to seeing my coworkers and getting back into the groove. I’ll send one more email with some overall thoughts in the next few days.
I’ll also keep doing these adventures, though more likely on the weekends. Let me know if you want to join in!