Acadian Flycatcher

Great Backyard Bird Count Program at Congaree

Saturday, February 13 from 8:30 to 12:00

Come be part of the effort! The Friends of Congaree Swamp, Congaree National Park, and the NPS Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center are partnering to host a free Great Backyard Bird Count program on Saturday, February 13 from 8:30 to 12:00. This program is aimed at engaging visitors—including first time beginners—in observing and identifying winter birds at the park. Visitors can learn with advanced birders as “citizen scientists” by helping to systematically count different kinds birds on park trails. Newly-trained citizen scientists are then invited to make their own checklists at home.

This program is part of the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (http://gbbc.birdcount.org), which is a larger effort to identify and count all types of birds across the continent from February 12-15. By collecting checklists from all over the country and comparing the results from previous years, scientists can try to answer questions about the influence of climate change on winter bird populations and if there are any changes in bird populations that may invite additional scientific research. The 2015 count involved 147,265 checklists from citizen scientists all over the world; these included over 18 million birds of over 5,000 species.

Beginners are welcome and encouraged. No prior experience is required to participate in these free programs, which are open to visitors ages 5 and up. Children under 14 should be accompanied by an adult. Advance registration is requested. Please register in advance by calling the Harry Hampton Visitor Center at 803.776.4396, ext. 0, or just stop by the front desk. Participants should plan to meet at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center around 8:15 am. Participants may return to the visitor center early if needed, but once the groups leave the visitor center it may not be possible for late-comers to join. Participants should wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes, wear weather-appropriate clothing, and be prepared for front-country hiking on the boardwalk, park roads, and established trails. A water bottle and snack are also recommended. Visitors and volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars. The park has a limited number of binoculars that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis during the program.

For information about Congaree National Park visit www.nps.gov/cong.

Acadian Flycatcher

Congaree Swamp Christmas Bird Count

Sunday, December 20, 2015, 7:00 AM

Harry Hampton Visitor Center parking lot

Christmas Bird Counts, conducted each year since 1900, are the oldest citizen science project in the country. A Christmas Bird Count (or CBC) is an all-day effort to find and identify as many wild birds as possible within a 15-mile diameter circle. This effort, which now includes over 2,300 circles and 70,000 participants annually, is sponsored by the National Audubon Society; results may be reviewed at birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count. We have a CBC for Congaree Swamp (founded by Robin Carter) that includes almost all the national park and adjacent areas, from Gadsden in Richland County to Fort Motte and St. Matthews in Calhoun County.

Congaree Swamp CBC often has among the highest counts in the country of Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Barred Owl, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, blackbird species, and others. Last year, participants who were out before dawn witnessed a spectacular display from the Geminid meteor shower—you never know what you will see out there.

Join us to help out. If you are a novice, an expert birder will lead you around the boardwalk and Bluff Trail in the morning, both of which are excellent sites for some of the park’s most interesting wintering species and permanent residents, including Winter Wren, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Creeper, Red-headed Woodpecker, Rusty Blackbird and Fox Sparrow. You may stay as long as you like–many participants stay for a few hours, but some will bird all day as part of one of our parties. Meet at the visitor center parking lot at 7:00 AM on Sunday, December 15, 2013 for this free event. If interested, please contact John Grego at 803-331-3366 (C), email friendsofcongareeswamp@gmail.com

Marbled Salamander

Adopt-a-Trail Workday (Marbled Salamander)

Saturday, December 12, 2015 (updated)

9:00 AM – around 1:30 PM

We will be clearing our adopted trails (Boardwalk Loop, Weston Lake Loop Trail, Oakridge Trail and Sims Trail) before Thanksgiving holiday, one of the busiest weekends of the year at the park. A lot of local residents bring their families to visit the Park on the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and we will want the trails to be ready for them. There will be plenty of flotsam on the trails from the recent floods, so the focus will be more on dragging material off the trail rather than pruning back vegetation.

We will meet at the Visitor Center at 9 AM and will finish in the early afternoon. Work gloves, light hiking boots, plenty of water, and a snack are recommended. If you have loppers, long-handled shears or bow saws, bring them along. Friends members and Park staff will provide gear if you do not have any. Please contact John Grego (friendsofcongareeswamp@gmail.com; 803-331-3366) if interested.

Congaree National Park owl

Annual Meeting and Oyster Roast

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friends of Congaree Swamp will hold its annual oyster roast and business meeting Sunday, Oct. 25, at Belle Grove off Bluff Road near Columbia. Registration will begin at 2 p.m., followed by informal nature and cultural history tours on the 800-acre property.
Following the 5 p.m. business meeting, supper will feature roasted oysters along with the usual feast of chili, barbecued chicken, vegetarian selections, and desserts prepared by Friends board members. Beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages will be available.

2015 annual meeting flyer

Congaree National Park owl

Exploring New Territory

Saturday, 26 September 2015, 9:30am-12:30pm

Friends will be travelling to the US 601 causeway to visit the park’s newest acquisition, a 263-acre tract within the 2003 boundary expansion. The tract has an established access road and several jeep trails leading to food plots, so it should be easy area to explore. We will have the opportunity to follow Bates Old River channel and visit the bank of the Congaree River. There may be other highlights to discover along the way—that’s the part of the reason for the trip. The hike should be no more than three miles, and a side trip to the park’s newly-opened Bates Ferry Trail to see the General Greene cypress is a definite option. We will meet at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and carpool sixteen miles to the wide pull-out along the US 601 causeway at Sampson Island. Bring a lunch if you like, to enjoy along with the fine weather that always accompanies FCS field trips. Contact John Cely to register. Preference will be given to members of Friends of Congaree Swamp. jecely@sc.rr.com 803-782-7450

Congaree National Park owl

Adopt-a-Trail Workday (Paw Paw)

Saturday, August 22, 2015, 9:00 AM – around 1:30 PM

We will be clearing our adopted trails (Boardwalk Loop, Weston Lake Loop Trail, Oakridge Trail and Sims Trail) prior to Labor Day weekend.  Though the weather will be warm, trail-clearing duties in August usually focus on lighter activities, including cutting back switchcane.  There are always some ripe paw paw to sample as a trail snack too.

We will meet at the Visitor Center at 9 AM and will finish in the early afternoon.  Insect repellent, work gloves, light hiking boots, plenty of water, and a snack are recommended.  If you have loppers, long-handled shears (good for switch cane) or bow saws, bring them along.  Friends members and Park staff will provide gear if you do not have any.  Please contact John Grego (jrgrego@sc.rr.com; 803-331-3366) if interested.

Adopt-a-Trail Workday

Adopt-a-Trail Workday (Indian Pink)

Saturday, May 16, 2015
9:00 AM – around 1:30 PM

We will be clearing our adopted trails for Memorial Day weekend, the busiest weekend of the year at the Park. We will be concentrating on pruning back spring growth for the mid-canopy species (holly, ironwood, pawpaw, etc.)

We will meet at the Visitor Center at 9 AM and will finish in the early afternoon. Work gloves, light hiking boots, water, and a snack are recommended. If you have loppers, long-handled shears, or portable saws, bring them along. Friends members and Park staff will provide gear if you do not have any. Please contact John Grego (jrgrego@sc.rr.com, 803-331-3366) if interested.

Congaree National Park owl

Robin Carter Dawn Chorus Walk at Congaree National Park

Sunday, May 3, 2015, 5:30 AM
Visitors’ Center, Congaree National Park

Leader: Donna Slyce

Robin Carter, who passed away in 2008, did more than anyone to promote birding at Congaree National Park. He established most of the annual birding events at the park, maintained a 20-year database of Congaree bird reports, and turned enthusiastically to sound recording at the park late in his birding career. To celebrate and continue Robin’s legacy, Friends will hold its Robin Carter Dawn Chorus Walk on Sunday, May 3, 2015. The Dawn Chorus Walk at Congaree National Park was started by Robin in 2005, and we now celebrate the event with the rest of the world on International Dawn Chorus Day. This year, we will be joined by some special guests–Robin’s sisters Janice Evans and Patty Sentor, who will travel from out-of-state to attend in honor of Robin. Curtis Derrick will present his poem “Song”, inspired by Robin’s sound recordings at the park.

We will meet at the Visitor Center at 5:30 AM. This will provide an opportunity to listen to the pre-dawn sounds of owls, nightjars, and migrating thrushes before the main event, which begins a half hour before sunrise. We can reasonably expect to hear as many as forty species of birds calling. Bird song experts will be on hand to help you identify what you hear, or you can just listen and take in the experience.

The Dawn Chorus hike will be followed by a free breakfast at 7:30 AM organized and prepared by Friends members. The breakfast menu changes slightly from year to year, but will include shrimp and creamy grits, bacon/date and cherry/orange scones, cheddar drop biscuits, a breakfast strata, fresh fruit, juice and lots of coffee.

Contact John Grego, jrgrego@sc.rr.com, 803-331-3366

Adopt-a-Trail Workday

Adopt-a-Trail Workday (Yellow-throated Warbler)

Saturday, March 14, 2015
9:00 AM – around 1:30 PM

We will be clearing our adopted trails (Boardwalk, Sims Trail, Weston Lake Loop Trail, Oakridge Trail) and other trails of fallen limbs, switch cane, flotsam, and intruding branches. Our winter work-day theme is Yellow-throated Warbler, and we will be listening for these early migrants on the trail.

We will meet at the Visitor Center at 9 AM and will finish in the early afternoon. Work gloves, light hiking boots, water, and a snack are recommended. If you have loppers, long-handled shears (good for switch cane) or bow saws, bring them along. Friends members and Park staff will provide gear if you do not have any. Please contact John Grego (jrgrego@sc.rr.com; 803-331-3366) if interested.

Red Bluff Road Ramble

Congaree National Park

Saturday, January 17, 2014
9 AM—2 PM

Red Bluff Road runs along the northern edge of the park between South Cedar Creek Road and Griffin Creek Road. The road is regularly intersected by jeep trails that lead to attractive beech bluffs along Cedar Creek through pine forests that the park actively manages with controlled burns. Rather than travel along the road itself, which is not in the Park, we will hike along a firebreak cut by Park staff and explore Cedar Creek along the designated jeep roads. Depending on time, we may hike to the farthest jeep trail and visit Elder Lake. There are several homesites along the way to investigate, including at least one we have not visited before on a field trip.

This hike will be mostly along jeep roads and fire breaks; there may be some wet spots to negotiate. Participants should be in moderate physical shape. Bring water and a snack and a couple extra layers-weather is unpredictable in mid-January. Light hiking shoes or boots are appropriate. We will meet in the South Cedar Creek Road canoe/kayak landing parking lot and then carpool to the western end of Red Bluff Road.

Contact John Grego to register: (803) 331-3366 or jrgrego@sc.rr.com