The real reason we headed out early yesterday morning was not for the sunrise of my last post, but to see the Tundra Swans take off. We did not get to see where they spent the night or lift off but did catch them in air well after the sun was up.
Around three hundred Tundra Swans are known to winter within South Carolina’s Bear Island Wildlife Management Area, likely descendants of a group that first came here in the 1970s with a flock of Canada Geese.
The Swans flew over us in small groups, mostly headed down the coast. During the day they spread out through the ACE Basin (Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto River Basin), 350,000 acres of mostly marshes and wetlands, to feed. They return to Bear Island WMA each night.
The Tundra Swans will leave SC by early March headed toward their breeding grounds in the Arctic.
The Common Gallinules have reproduced much later in the summer than the other water birds in this area. Through the end of August we spotted a few families around the rice ponds and marsh areas.
Awkward, like most young, these chicks are covered with fuzz which picked up the duck weed, making them look even sillier. Members of the Rallidae family, they do swim even though their feet are not webbed and I usually see them just floating or wading.
One of the adults came closer when the chicks ventured into the deeper water to supervise.
At least one juvenile Alligator was nearby and while I don’t think they can catch or eat even the small Gallinule chicks, I’m sure mom wasn’t far away.
A few Wood Ducks have been around the ponds at Magnolia Gardens over the last month. With the males’ color scheme they are easy to pick out in a crowd of ducks. That and they are usually retreating faster than the rest, having been aware of a human before you spot them.
This day they were gathered at the far end of the big pond. I waited at an opening in the brush for them to edge their way closer.
Back and forth, I finally got a couple of shots without too much glare on the water.
A few days ago I posted photographs of an Anhinga flexing his neck in an unnatural looking way. This week I saw another Anhinga flipping a fish like a Benihana chef–he didn’t have the height but he had some other moves.
I don’t know how he stabbed the fish, especially in that murky water covered with duck weed. But once he had the fish speared it was a mere minute before he swallowed the fish … whole!
His end game is to get the fish facing head first down his throat so that any spines on the fish won’t get lodged on the way down. Flip, turn, turn, turn.
He was an expert and at no time lost his hold on the fish. At the same time the Anhinga has to swim to keep afloat.
There would be no getting away for this fish, stabbed completely through.
I didn’t get any clear shots of the fish going down and it was over in an amazingly short amount of time. The Anhinga then swam to nearby platform, lifted out of the water and fanned his wings to dry.
Click on any photo for larger view.
Magnolia Plantation Rice Field Pond, Charleston, SC.