Swamp Things BioBlitz's Journal

Journal archives for March 2023

March 01, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #2

Spotlight Species #2:
American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

What to Look For:
The American alligator can grow to be 15 feet long. They can be olive, brown, gray, or black with cream-colored bellies. Younger alligators have a striped pattern. They can be distinguished from the American Crocodile by having a broad snout with overlapping jaws.

Where to Find It:
The American alligator can be found in freshwater. You can find them in local marshes and cypress swamps. They are less tolerant of saltwater but more tolerant of cooler temperatures than their cousins, the American crocodile. You’ll find them basking in the sun on the riverbanks or even on logs above the river.

Pro tip: One of the best places to spot the American alligator in the Waccamaw River watershed is the canal along Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina where they like to breed.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
Alligators are no longer listed as an endangered species, but have been listed in the past. Due to overhunting and habitat loss, populations were severely depleted and their survival as a species was threatened. Today, alligators are on the rebound.

As an apex predator, their existence can indicate a healthy ecosystem since it means there is enough food for them to survive. While some might fear alligators on the river, we are always happy to see them since we know that means our swamps are healthy!

The American alligator is one of our favorite swamp things!

Posted on March 01, 2023 07:54 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 05, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #3

Spotlight Species #3:
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)

What to Look For:
Great blue herons are tall birds with long necks. They are typically grayish-blue in color overall. They have a long orange-yellow bill and a black crown. Individual great blue herons have unique colorations. You might even recognize your local great blue from its distinct markings.

Where to Find It:
Great blue herons are found on shorelines, riverbanks, and the edges of swamps, marshes, estuaries, and ponds. In the air, they have slow wing beats with a large wingspan.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
Great blue herons rely on our waterways for food. They fish in the shallows of rivers and swamps using their beak to spear or grab their prey. These birds are at home in our swamps throughout the Waccamaw River watershed.

Great blue herons are one of the greatest swamp things around.

Posted on March 05, 2023 02:23 AM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 06, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #4

Spotlight Species #4:
North American river otter (Lontra canaensis)

What to Look For:
The North American river otter is a brown, long, muscled mammal. They can grow up to 42 inches long and weigh 33 pounds. About one-third of the animal’s total length is its tail! River otters also have long whiskers to detect prey in dark waters - like the blackwater swamps of the Waccamaw.

Where to Find It:
Although commonly called a “river otter,” the North American river otter is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, both freshwater and coastal marine, including lakes, rivers, wetlands, marshes, and SWAMPS! While they can tolerate a great range of temperature and elevation, they are sensitive to pollution.

River otters can be hard to spot in the wild, but sometimes you may get lucky and spot them in the Waccamaw River watershed.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
River otters are an important indicator species - meaning they indicate whether an ecosystem is healthy. The presence of river otters in Waccamaw swamps proves how healthy our swamps are. And while they can be ferocious carnivores, they are otterly adorable creatures of the swamp.

Posted on March 06, 2023 10:26 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 08, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #5

Spotlight Species #5:
Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

What to Look For:
This time of year, trumpet vine will not be as showy. The vine produces a long woody vine with arching vines up to 6 feet long with leaves that are heavily serrated along the edge. But during the summer months, it produces bright orange to reddish orange flowers that are trumpet-shaped. The flowers have no floral scent. After blooming, a long seed pod appears.

Where to Find It:
Trumpet vine can be found in woodlands and riverbanks throughout the Waccamaw River watershed. Trumpet vine typically grows on trees or other structures, but it is not a parasitic vine.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
Trumpet vine grows vigorously and when planted in gardens, it can quickly take over. Often referred to as invasive, trumpet vine can not actually be considered invasive in South Carolina because it is native. In its natural habitat, it can be aggressive but not invasive.

During the summer months, the plant adds a pop of color to our swamps.

Posted on March 08, 2023 10:45 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 13, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #6

Spotlight Species #6:
Pink sundew (Drosera capillaris)

What to Look For:
Pink sundews are small insectivorous wildflower. They get their scientific name from their dewy-like secretions on their pink petals. The genus Drosea comes from the Greek drosos, meaning “dew” or “dewdrops.” These small plants grow close to the ground with round, spoon-shaped leaf blades sporting tiny tentacles. The leaves typically generally lie flat on the ground.

Where to Find It:
Pink sundews grow in clusters in wet pinelands, savannas, and bogs, creating a dewy red carpet. They can be found growing alongside other carnivorous plants like pitcher plants, bladderworts, butterworts, and even Venus flytraps. The plant typically blooms in the spring and will start showing up soon. They can be found in pristine Carolina bay ecosystems like Green Swamp and Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
Pink sundews are an ultimate swamp thing. They require the acidic soils of boggy lands to grow. And what is cooler than a carnivorous plant?

Posted on March 13, 2023 11:37 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 15, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #7

Spotlight Species #7:
Eastern river cooter (Pseudemys concinna concinna)

What to Look For:
The eastern river cooter is often confused for the yellow-bellied slider. These two species look very similar. They are both black and yellow, but there are some good ways to tell them apart.
While both have yellow bellies, the yellow-bellied slider is ALL yellow while the eastern river cooter’s belly will have black pigments. The eastern river cooter has a longer lower shaped shell while the yellow-bellied slider has a more dome-shaped shell. Also, the eastern river cooter has a straight smooth shell edge whereas the yellow-bellied slider has a more sawtoothed shell edge. They also have different yellow markings on their faces. The eastern river cooter has defined yellow stripes on the face while the yellow-bellied slider has a big yellow blotch behind the eye.

Where to Find It:
The eastern river cooter prefers flowing water, such as rivers, but will also hang out in freshwater swamps. They are basking turtles that like to hang out on logs and riverbanks to catch some sun.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
The turtles can be found throughout the Waccamaw River watershed. You have to spot them while they are basking, because once they submerge, you may not see them for awhile! The eastern river cooter can breathe underwater for extended periods of time through a sac called the cloaca bursae.

These swamp things are a mysterious species worth shell-ebrating.

Posted on March 15, 2023 11:43 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 18, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #8

Spotlight Species #8:
Swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus)

What to Look For:
Swallow-tailed kites are easy to identify when they are in flight. They have a white belly, neck, and head with wings and tail tipped with black. Their long forked tail gives them their name and makes them stand out when flying.

Where to Find It:
Swallow-tailed kites visit the Waccamaw River watershed during the spring and summer months. You’ll find them soaring about the wooded wetlands along the river where they like to nest.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
The Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge is home to the highest density of nesting swallow-tailed kites in South Carolina! As one of the largest areas of pristine swamp in the watershed, these birds are a special species to us. Swamp things can fly!

Posted on March 18, 2023 06:57 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 20, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #9

Spotlight Species #9:
American mink (Neogale vison)

What to Look For:
Considered by some to be the cutest member of the weasel family, the American Mink is relatively easy to identify. It has the typical weasel physique being long and slender. They have a thick glossy coat colored brown to black with a white patch under its chink and throat. The American Mink has a bounding gait when on land and is absolutely adorable to watch in the wild.

Where to Find It:
The species is associated with water and is found near streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, marshes, and coastlines. They are skilled swimmers and can swim to depths of 100 feet! They can swim for long periods of time. They are carnivores that feed on rodents, fish, crustaceans, frogs, and birds and will be found wherever food is plentiful. American minks prefer areas with vegetative cover so they can hide.

Locally, American mink are often spotted at Huntington Beach State Park.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
The American mink is one of only two living mink species. These unique and adorable swamp things are a special species in our watershed and throughout the Americas. The American mink is a species of least concern - meaning it is not an endangered or threatened species. Still, protecting one of the only existing mink species is important and maintaining healthy habitats - like our swamps - is integral to protecting them.

Posted on March 20, 2023 06:04 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 22, 2023

Swamp Things BioBlitz Spotlight Species #10

Spotlight Species #10:
Southern swamp aster (Eurybia paludosa)

What to Look For:
These are easy to identify not only because of their beautiful color. These flowers add a pop of color to any swamp as the center is made of small yellow flowers with bright purple petals. They tend to bloom later in the season with August-November being their time to shine and are known to attract butterflies. So they might be harder to spot currently.

The southern swamp aster can be confused with its twin flower, the southern prairie aster, which is found in the midwest.

Where to Find It:
The southern swamp aster is found throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. The plant prefers wet soils and is found at the edges of swamps and pools and moist savannas and low-lying pinelands. It can also be found with less frequency in drier habitats including small sand dunes along the coastal plain. It’s a low-lying species that is only found at low elevations.

Why It Is a Spotlight Species:
We think a plant with the word “swamp” in its name is definitely worthy of being a Swamp Things Spotlight Species. These plants rely on the swamps to survive and flourish. This is the ultimate swamp thing!

Posted on March 22, 2023 09:03 PM by schidtshow schidtshow | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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