Borrego Springs, CA

Monday, October 22, 2012

Off to see the sandhills

Not cranes this time but Carolina sandhills at:


One of the reasons I chose Florence, SC, to stop at for three nights was to be able to visit this National Wildlife Refuge.  This refuge has been around since 1939, and supports the largest population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker on Fish and Wildlife Service lands.  I didn’t see any of these woodpeckers in my travels today, but I wasn’t there at the most opportune time of the day. 

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The characteristic habitat of the refuge is the longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem.  After spending a couple of days with my friend, Jack, last winter in Mississippi hunting down longleaf pine needles for his pine needle basket making hobby, my eye just naturally sought out the longest needles in the forest.  This young tree had needles that stretched from my fingertips to my elbow.

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After stopping at headquarters to get a stamp for my NWR Passport, Emma and I drove a short distance down the wildlife drive to take a short hike on one of the established trails on the refuge.  This one had signage telling you about the longleaf pine forest and its inhabitants.


Along the Wildlife Drive, numerous refuge ponds can be viewed.  It was a glorious wind free day for appreciating and reflecting.


The overall fall colors are not as vibrant as you might find in the Appalachian Mountains, but individual trees aren’t too shabby.  The brilliant blue skies made a wonderful backdrop.


As I approached this pond, I heard the familiar rattle of a belted kingfisher.  Aha!  That’s one of the birds that I’ve struggled to get a decent picture of.  Karen, of RV Travels With Karen and Al, and I have both had this bird on our wish list for a good live Smile shot.

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These are my latest attempts to beat Karen to the punch.  Too far away to be good, but I’m getting closer.  What do you think, Karen?


If nothing else, this refuge has very scenic ponds to enjoy.  A black powder hunt for deer was going on today while I was there, but I only saw a few hunters, and none of them seemed to have had any success.  I had packed a lunch, so Emma and I enjoyed the picnic area that was available overlooking a small lake. 

Being out on a refuge and enjoying nature tops my list of things I enjoy, so today was a two thumbs up day for me.  I also spoke to the refuge manager while I was at their headquarters to enquire about RV volunteer opportunities.  They do have one RV sight, but they’ve had the same volunteer for the last eight years.  That volunteer is taking this year off, but alas, I’m already committed to Okefenokee for the winter. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy


  1. Bill & I were volunteers at Carolina Sandhills for 3 months or so back in 2005. We did a lot of different things but high in my memories was sitting underneath those pines and trying to watch those cockaded woodpeckers fly into their nest at night... and record the colors of the bands on BOTH legs! Bill put artificial nesting boxes in trees... I did a fair amount of educational programs. Nice place... but watch out for those darned FIRE ANTS!

  2. Sounds like Odd Essay gave you a good warning about the fire ants..Make sure you have some Benedryl on hand...I think your photos of the Kingfisher are great!...What a majestic bird they are...Never seen a cockaded woodpecker...That the Heck does cockaded mean???or do I really want to know???;-)

    1. He has a little "cockade" feather in his head,only visible when in hand. Named for the little badge men used to wear on their hats. Sort of like Ruby Crowned Kinglets which you can only see in hand or when displaying for a female.

  3. I love this time of year in this area of the country! Enjoy!

  4. It looks like you are on a kind of bus driver's holiday!

  5. Oh my, that is the bluest water I have ever seen. So relaxing and beautiful.

  6. When you figure how to get a belted kingfisher to hold still for you, let me know. Every time I raise my camera, they take off. I can get little green kingfisher pictures easier.

  7. Love the reflections on the water. Great place.

  8. Beautiful pictures of the water. I sure admire your ability to find the birds and identify them.

  9. Lovely header photo. Matters of fact, lovely all photos.
    The leaves here are fading also. The rain didn't help.

  10. Beautiful photos of the lake and the reflections of the trees, very nice.

  11. Judy, the LongLeaf Pines are so interesting; now I will watch for them the next time I head east!

  12. When we were kayaking, belted kingfishers always protested loudly whenever we were near, and if you thought you might get off a (camera) shot, it would take off like a rocket flying further upstream and then repeat the process... over and over. Never did get a picture. I'd kinda like to see a red-cockaded woodpecker myself.

    Gorgeous lake pics.

  13. New reader here. I *love* Kingfishers! They're my favorite type of bird. I remember the first time I saw one -- a male Belted Kingfisher -- I cried, and I'm not ashamed to admit it! I'm so glad that you got a chance to view one.

    I love your blog, by the way, and I really enjoy all of the wonderful birding photos you take. :)