Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Southeastern Wildlife Expostion February 15-17, 2013-Living The Wild Life In The Lowcountry

One of the most fascinating birds of prey, at least from my perspective, is the eagle. I got to observe this majestic bird up close while rafting on a river near the infamous Chilkoot Trail in Alaska. It was golden, the moment that is, not the eagle. The accipitridae was a bald eagle. Recently, I saw a post on Facebook from a neighbor stating they saw a bald eagle in a tree outside their house, which surprised me.

I really hadn't given it much thought, but bald eagles are right here in the Lowcountry. I have been to the South Carolina Aquarium, so I am sure I was exposed to this seemingly out of sight, out of mind fact, just hadn't previously given it much thought. After all, this resplendent raptor is not a frequent spectacle and I don't ever recall seeing one while cruising the intercoastal waters of Charleston's barrier islands.

During my research, I came to learn the southern bald eagle is smaller than its northern counterpart. But that seems to be true of other southern species. Southern deer are also smaller than the northern variety. I am sure there is a scientific explanation for this enigma. Maybe, it has something to do with the warmer climate here in the south. It is more difficult for larger bodies to cool themselves.

Once bald eagles stack out a territory, their dominance can last for decades. They live for 15 - 20 yrs and mate for life. Although, if one of the mates should die, the survivor will invite another mate into the nest. Since their main staples are fish and waterfowl, this keen-sighted opportunist likes to perch itself on the edge of a forest, overlooking a marsh or a field. Benjamin Franklin referred to the bald eagle as "a bird of bad moral character" who "does not get his living honestly." It often capitalizes off the hard work of the smaller osprey, stealing its catch.

This once endangered species has made a recovery. During nesting season, generally October to May, the bald eagle is very sensitive to human presence. Eagles and humans are attracted to the same real estate, water. Laws have been established that require buffer zones between nests and construction sights. During the nesting period, if a structure is under construction in the 330 ft to 660 ft buffer zone, work can only be done inside the buildings. Known sightings in the Lowcountry have been Dewees Island, Pickney Island, Bulls Island, Capers Island, and James Island, but a delightful surprise could occur anytime, anywhere in our coastal communities. If you are a tourist who loves birdwatching in the wild, Bulls Island should be on the top of your list.

Why this sudden preoccupation with the bald eagle? The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition takes place this week February 15th to the 17th. In its 31st year, the exposition has grown to be the largest event of its kind in the nation. 500 artists and exhibitors from around the globe will present their offerings to over 40,000 attendees. It hosts the world's foremost experts in wildlife and nature art, as well as conservation research and environmental education. Birds of Prey Flight Demonstration, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary Show, Julie Scardina, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Animal Ambassador, and Living with Wolves Presentation by Jim and Jamie Dutcher are some of the events I have my eagle eye on. For dog lovers, Two Tank DockDogs will be held at Brittlebank Park.

Marion Square will host the Center for Birds of Prey Demos, conservation exhibits, wildlife gifts and collectibles, Carolina Raptor Center, Edisto Island Serpentarium, power rock climbing, live music, and Taste of the Town. If you can get to Charleston Place on Friday at 10 am, there is the 99 Bottles of Art on the Wall Exhibit. 99 bottles of wine adorned with original paintings and sketches by SEWE artists will be on exhibition. Purchase a bottle of wine labeled with an original 4x5 painting and automatically enter for a chance to win a magnum bottle with original painting.

General Admission for all three days is $40 and $20 otherwise.

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