Monday, May 25, 2015

The Sandhills

Ah, the Sandhills! Once a lot more common than it is today, this unique habitat used to stretch from southern Virginia all the way to east Texas! Dominated by Longleaf Pines, it depends on fires to keep the undergrowth low. Many birders know it as the place of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Bachman's Sparrows, Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and Prairie Warblers. Besides a lot of bird life, other non-avians flourish here, including  insects and carnivorous plants!

Carolina Sandhills NWR is a great spot for both birds and other fauna. The burned prairies, like the one above, make amazing habitat for chats, Orchard Orioles, yellowthroats, bobwhite, kingbirds, deer, rabbits, and countless numbers of plants! It's definitely a landscape you wouldn't expect to see in South Carolina.

Yellow Pitcher Plant
Due to the poor, sandy soil, pitcher plants thrive here, gaining their nutrients from flies and other insects that fall into their pitchers. They also have interesting flowers.

Yellow Pitcher Plant Flower
Purple Pitcher Plant
Purple Pitcher Plant Flower
Thanks to Will Stuart, our local plant expert (who happened to be at the refuge the same time as us), he found us those carnivorous plants plus a few extra goodies!

Orange Milkwort with Purple Love Grass
Snakemouth Orchid w/ Purple Love Grass
Hairy Beardtongue
Palamedes Swallowtail nectaring on Clasping Milkeweed

Alright, this is a bird blog, not a plant blog, so let's get to the birds.

It was super full of flycatchers!

Eastern Kingbird

Great Crested Flycatcher
LOTS of pewees!

Of course we saw Red-cockaded Woodpeckers! Bad quality, but I got pictures of a cockade!

We also saw a lot of Summer Tanagers, including a male and his mate...

...and an unusual male, probably in his second year. He had olive/yellow primaries and retrices.

All of these birds are good, but the crown jewel was...


This bird gave us very good views, despite the quality of the pictures. It was a lifer bird for both Matt and I and now currently one of my favorite birds! You can listen to a recording here:

It was a great experience and increased my love for the Sandhills- there's nothing else quite like it!

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