It is a very hot July morning as I wend my way to Harleyville and Beidler Forest. Usually the board walk area over the sluggish swamp water is a cooler, mosquito free place. I am looking forward to this and hoping I won’t be disappointed.
I wasn’t. But I was struck by the silence that met me as I started my trek along the familiar wooden path. The only sounds were the occasional chip in the trees and the buzz of a fly around my head, not the usual cacophony of bird calls. A little further along I became aware of two White Eyed Vireos calling back and forth to each other from either side of the boardwalk. And then a cicada began it’s relentless sound. The symphony was warming up the deeper into the swamp I got. I began to wonder if the Prothonotary Warblers had already returned south as last month their song was everywhere. It turns out they and all the other Beidler birds are still here but not calling because they are nesting, not courting and in the current excessive heat they spend their time foraging in the very tops of the trees seeking a breeze rather than down where we usually see or hear them.
Just as I turn in at the Meeting Tree ‘trail’ in search of cypress cones that might have fallen out of the ancient cypress tree sitting at the center of a series of benches, my eye caught sight of a Banded Water Snake languishing on a fallen stick in a series of graceful curves. I stopped long enough to take a picture and confirm its identity with iNaturalist a free app available on your phone. I was able to find a few fragments of cypress cones around and under the benches but the squirrels had beaten me to them and only the obvious rejects were discarded and lying about. It is fun to try to imagine what this remarkable, ancient tree has witnessed during its long life. If only it could talk….
Lots of Blue Tailed Skinks skittering off away from my footsteps and Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies seem to be the insect of choice today. I have only spotted one Mayfly, last month they were everywhere. So interesting how the species change through the weeks and months.
I can hear the Pileated drumming but not calling as they often do. Everyone seems to have lost their voices. Except for one Mississippi Kite calling as it circled high overhead. It is truly one of my favorite sounds whenever and wherever it shows up.
And finally on my way back I caught sight of one little raccoon print down in the mud. No other tracks had been visible all the way out to the lake and back. Rain must have been heavy close to dawn, washing away the swamp’s recent history of nocturnal traffic.