Sunday, September 09, 2012

Atlantic Flyway

Here we are vacationing at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As usual, my wonderful travel agent, Dick, booked us into a time share condo, and although we are in the heart of the gift shop area, we will have no problem finding the natural parts of South Carolina. We have noticed differences in the birds found on this beach, compared to Gulf Shores, south Georgia and Florida. For example, we have seen NO Pelicans at all! They have never been bothered by large numbers of people elsewhere. We will continue the search for them or an explanation for their absence.

We have found Ospreys soaring over the hotels however. In fact, this afternoon we saw SIX Ospreys in the sky at once! One of the field guides on local nature said there aren't a lot of Ospreys here. Why are we seeing so many of them then? Aha! We must be on the Atlantic Flyway and these birds are on their way to Florida or South America for the winter!

How about this spider? Click on the photos for enlargements. I just Googled "large South Carolina spider" and found a picture like this where the spider is identified as a "banana-golden-silk spider." Females are 3 inches, while the male is a mere 1/2 inch long. Female banana spiders (N. clavipes) have legs that are banded brown and orange with two feathery tufts or gaiters on the mid-segments of each pair legs except the third pair. The strong web of banana spiders is complex. It is a fine-meshed orb suspended in a maze of non-sticky “barrier webs.” They make big webs, about 3 feet wide, spun in a place best suited to take advantage of the flight paths of other insects. Some scientists suggest that the silk’s color serves a dual purpose: sunlit webs ensnare bees that are attracted to the bright yellow strands and in shady spots, the yellow blends in with background foliage, acting as camouflage. This one was just off the sidewalk leading into the Myrtle Beach State Park Visitor Center where it could be easily photographed.


Birds sometimes have strange names or names that are aptly descriptive. Insects have the same problem. I Googled "red and black wasp" and found that there is, in fact, an insect called the black and red wasp, as well as another called the black and white wasp. Since each article also carried a Latin name, I assume these are for real. This one mint bush attracted a great variety of wasps and bees.

While we've seen absolutely NO PELICANS so far, we have been surrounded by these beach pigeons. In fact, the restaurant at the pier tonight put a sign on the deck tables asking diners not to feed the birds. What? Sure enough, these evil eyed birds strolled around under our feet looking for handouts, or anything that dropped to the floor. There has to be a good reason for these birds to live on the beach in such numbers.

The Sanderlings are running races along the water's edge, as they always do, which is very reassuring.

Today's Ruddy Turnstone, however, was not looking in the wrack left by the high tide as usual. We found him on the fishing pier at the state park. I tell you, something is going on with the birds around here!

The butterflies are here in fantastic abundance though!  The Gulf Fritillary, one of my favorites, doesn't care that this is South Carolina. They were all over the state park. This Cloudless Sulphurs were all over too, in its one flight in late summer/early fall. They chased each other, fluttering around parks, gardens, and the edges of roads or beaches, even by the pool here at the condo. The male is a particularly dizzying flyer. As he searches for females, his yellow wings seemingly capturing the sunshine. More to come later...

No comments: