Monday, March 3, 2014

Marching into March at Donnelley Wildlife Area

I took advantage of the beautiful weather on Sunday, March 2 to drive down to the ACE Basin for a visit to the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. The WMA site is located about 40 miles south of Charleston off Highway 17. The ACE Basin is one of the Lowcountry's true treasures- tens of thousands (at least) of acres of protected lands in a region named for the confluence of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto rivers, hence the ACE acronym.

Traffic was light on a pleasant Sunday morning and my spirits were as bright as the clear blue skies!
What a gorgeous day it would be. Temperatures would get up to around 70 degrees. Soon enough I was in short sleeves to go with my short pants. Pretty nice, especially after the turbulent snow and ice storms of February.

Below are a dozen (or more!) of my favorite shots from Sunday's Donnelley visit. This WMA, among several in the Lowcountry, consists of more than 8,000 acres of land, from pine tree forests to former rice fields developed in the 18th-19th centuries when wealth in the region was built upon the backs of slaves cultivating rice in conditions not normally as pleasant as this day's weather. 
There were lots of birds in and around Donnelley's various waters, including (above) the Egret family's long and short of it. The Great Egret, of course, is at the top of this photo, and the elegant Snowy Egret at the bottom. Below, a Tricolored Heron strikes a regal pose. 

Egrets and several Heron types are common year-round in the Lowcountry, but not the ducks shown above. Several pairs of Northern Shovelers were in the big pond near Donnelley's lodge. Don't know if these two flew all the way south from Alaska, but Northern Shovelers spend most of the year in the Upper Midwest of America, in Canada, and as far away as Alaska. 
This Great Egret didn't seem to mind the Shovelers coming into its feeding "turf." 
Lots of medium-sized shorebirds were around or in the case of the above photo, in front of a colorful Northern Shoveler male and his not-far-behind female friend. 
These shorebirds' yellow legs have me thinking they are the breed known as...Yellowlegs, which come in two varieties, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. After consulting with my friends at, I learned that both Yellowleg types are in this shot. For example, that's a Greater Yellowlegs, the bird in the bottom right corner, as are the two looking to our right in the middle. The two that are kind of beneath the Greaters, looking to our left, are Lesser Yellowlegs. I also have in this frame a Dowitcher, the slightly smaller bird located in the top left corner, second bird down. Thanks for the help community forum! 
Double-crested Cormorants- you can't leave one of these ACE Basin sanctuaries without some Cormorant sightings. They are not just another face in the crowd! 
(Above) The Double-crested Cormorant in its signature wing-drying pose. I liked the sea oats or grass behind the big bird. I took this on Mary's Island, a remote part of Donnelley worth exploring. I went to Mary's Island to see an Osprey nest some friends and I saw last year that was quite busy. Sadly, I found that  the large tree the Osprey nest was atop has collapsed into the water, possibly during February's ice storms. 
Yesterday, as I approached the site, I saw an Osprey on a nearby tree. Before I could point my camera, the Osprey flew away, a fish in its clutches. I'll have to return in the spring or summer to see if the nest is rebuilt in that area. 
I enjoy trying to photograph the small birds too. They are, of course, extra challenging, as far as getting quality images. I am still looking for my first Hairy Woodpecker and thought, maybe, I had one here. But, alas, I'm pretty sure this is a Downy Woodpecker, like the ones that frequent my backyard suet. Hairy has a longer bill than Downy. Nothing long about the bill here, compared to the Hairy Woodpecker photos I've been examining.  
I had some help on's community forum in identifying the bird above as an Eastern Phoebe, a proud member of the Eastern Flycatcher family. 
I spotted this small bird from a distance and was grateful when I stopped the car, got out and approached, that it didn't fly away. It was calling and I thought it might let me get some photographs. I've lightened the above shot some. When I took it, the bird was shaded and I couldn't make out distinguishing features. 
You may have guessed by now that it's an Eastern Bluebird.
When it eventually flew to this nearby powerline, I realized it was a Bluebird, a female, which doesn't have the bold blue head of the male. 
While I was photographing the Bluebird atop those gnarly branches (two photos up), I also spotted two more birds in the same tree, lower down. I'm thinking this (above) is a Yellow-rumped Warbler. I did not see it from behind so can't confirm the distinctive yellow on its "rump." But the the size and yellow markings on its breast, near the wings, looks familiar. 
Then, again in the same tree, there was more movement and my lens landed on this distinctive little bird. I only was able to get two shots before it departed, but fortunately my first was a winner. I'm thinking this is a Sparrow, maybe the Savannah Sparrow. I do have some confirmation on that, yes, this is a Savannah Sparrow. Makes sense with Savannah, Ga. just down the coast a bit. 
Praise the Lord for this beautiful Sunday in March 2014. I am thankful for the day and the enriching outing it provided. 
The entrance to the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area is just off Highway 17 in what's officially called Green Pond, S.C. But when you're deep into Donnelley's vast wilderness, you can truly feel hundreds of miles from civilization. 
The silence here is blissful. The scenery can be exhilarating, and the surprises memorable. 

Post a Comment