Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge

2012 got off to a healthy, outdoorsy start when Alesia and I visited one of the wonderful wildlife areas in the Charleston area.  The ACE Basin is a vast protected wilderness south of Charleston.  ACE stands for the three rivers that converge here- the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto.  Thousands of acres, many of which were rice fields dating back to the 1700s, are now protected. 
I was excited to see and photograph my first Northern Harrier at this site. A fellow birder we ran into helped with the identification, pointing out the Harrier's owl-like face as a key characteristic.
It's not the best photo, but here's one of the two Bald Eagles we saw at the very end of our Hollings ACE Basin first-time visit. I saw three Bald Eagles yesterday at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Audubon Swamp.  No photos from that encounter, but did see lots of migrating ducks.  That will be a future posting!
Bobwhite...Bobwhite!  Yes, that's what these birds are. I came upon them even before we got to the refuge entrance.  There they were, on the side of the road.  I stopped the car right next to them and took the above shot.  When I moved up the car a bit and got out, they started to move into the grass and pinestraw. Then we saw a bunch more emerge from both sides of the road. 
We saw maybe 20 Bobwhites, three or four at a time in groups along the road.  They made a whimpering sound, not the eponymous "bob WHITE" call.  Eponymous- Oooh, big word, impressed?
The two birders we met were doing an Audubon count and they were very impressed with our Bobwhite sighting and photos.  I think we got an assist for that one on their bird list.
I got lucky with this American Crow "action" shot! Caw...Caw!
A Snowy Egret perched on a rice field trunk.  It's quite an interesting history lesson at the Hollings refuge and other state wildlife management areas along the South Carolina coast.  You can learn about how these trunks controlled the water levels in the rice fields.  And you can easily envision the slaves toiling hard cultivating the popular "Carolina Gold" brand of rice. 
Snake! The temperature of around 70 was comfortable for us and other critters too to be out and about.
We came across this snake near the old plantation house. It was about two feet long and very beautiful in a snakey kind of way.  Some kind of water snake probably.  My friend Rick believes it to be a type of water snake. 
Glad to have that long lens! I don't think this snake is venomous, but better safe than sorry.
This ACE Basin preserve features a plantation house that dates to 1828.  It is one of only three in this region to have survived the Civil War. The park offices are in the old house.  It was closed on New Year's Day so we looked in the windows.
The walk up to the house is just glorious!
Love the Spanish moss!
Just beautiful out here!
Beauty, education, and exercise- lots to see and do if you're up for the drive and lots of walking.
The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin is a National Wildlife Refuge located off SC Highway 174 near Adams Run.
Click here for directions and other information:
Already in 2012 I've had this and a few other outstanding nature and bird outings.  Look for upcoming postings from another National Wildlife Refuge, this one near Savannah, from Magnolia Plantation and Gardens near Charleston, and of course, Magnolia Cemetery (subject of my that came out in late 2011).

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