Wandering a flooded forest

The year 2020 ended up being the wettest year on record since 1944 in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, but the rains didn’t end in December. In fact, the area recorded its second wettest February on record in 2021 and it was noticeable in the amount of flooding we saw.

Whereas Jordan Lake at full pool (normal level of the reservoir) is 216 feet above sea level, the level rose to 230.3 feet on 23 February 2021 – the day that I unknowingly chose to go for a walk in the forest bordering the lake.

 

I didn’t notice the flooding immediately as I first walked through a meadow area to get to my usual walking site. What immediately drew my attention was the amount of canine scat on and alongside paths.

With a lack of human visitors, the foxes, coyotes and other animals obviously felt more comfortable wandering everywhere throughout the reserve.

Lots of flies were buzzing around the remaining dried flower stalks and I spied an early leafhopper – the first time I had seen a lateral-lined sharpshooter (Cuerna costalis).

Setting off into an area where I often saw woodpeckers, I discovered my usual walking trails had disappeared under an expanded lake.

 

A sweet Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) hopped into view, apparently wondering why a human being was again being seen in these parts.

 

 

I discovered it was a good idea, too, to watch where I was walking because the remaining forest floor was alive with thin-legged wolf spiders (Pardosa) crawling over the fallen leaves.

 

I wonder if there were so many in this area as they had all fled the rising waters to congregate in the same area. (Certainly a way to meet other spiders!)

Wandering further, I saw that I couldn’t get anywhere close the shoreline that used to be a favorite birding area.

 

The osprey nest, not yet occupied, is normally on a land-bound snag but now it was in the water.

There were still some birds around, but not as many as I was used to seeing. Off in the far distance, a ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) was fishing.

Never had I seen this lake’s water so high – many of the areas where I usually walk were completely submerged.

I walked along the new lake edges and noted lots of tufted titmice (Baeolophus bicolor) exploring the waterlogged fallen logs.

 

 

The Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) were also flying down from tree trunks and branches to see what was near the water.

On the branches above, a a yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronata) stopped by and a pine warbler (Setophaga pinus) showed off his beautiful yellow plumage.

   

To my delight, a pair of brown creepers (Certhia americana) were ascending the water-bound trees searching for meals.

     

I find these birds beautiful and admire how well they blend in with their hunting grounds.

For me, the brown creepers have some of the best camouflage abilities around.

Overhead a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) flew by surveying the expanded water boundaries and I detected a Chinese mantis egg case swaying atop a shrub.

Because my walking area had been greatly reduced, I decided to leave after gazing into one more area where I usually wandered. To my surprise, I saw a wood duck (Aix sponsa, right) and a pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) swimming over what is usually a leaf- and vegetative-laden forest floor. Perhaps they enjoyed visiting a new, albeit temporary, swimming area.

I do think that some wildlife may have suffered. This polyphemous moth cocoon (Antheraea polyphemus), which I had photographed in another part of the forest bordering the lake, was eventually submerged for some days under about four feet of water. When the area again reappeared, I found the cocoon and it was still intact but only about half its original size, so I think the moth was doomed. Now that the lake levels have fallen further, it will be interesting to see how the forest is recovering after having been submerged.

 

7 thoughts on “Wandering a flooded forest

  1. “With a lack of human visitors, the foxes, coyotes and other animals obviously felt more comfortable wandering everywhere throughout the reserve”
    This is the bright side of the global pandemic, humans stay home, and wild animals visit the places they couldn’t go because of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice blog Maria! I too have been to
    Both Transis
    Camp
    As
    Well as the Educational state forest this wet winter. It’s peaceful
    And always interesting. I did
    See
    Two Osprey
    On their nest
    Plus
    Another with all three eventually flying around down at one end of the lake! I think you have a Red-tailed Hawk in your pics by the way. Hope to see you around the trails soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG, Nan – thanks for catching the error! I had the correct scientific ID but wrote red-shouldered as I was tired and also thinking of a photo session I had with one of those birds yesterday when I wrote the blog. I’ve corrected that and appreciate your pointing out it was a red-tailed at the Forest. So cool that you got to see the osprey couple on their nest. I want to return sometime soon to see if the ospreys at the nest I watch have also returned. 🙂

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  3. So true, Cindy! Like the dolphins who were swimming in the canals of Venice. But in this case, it was more the flooding because this forest has been open to walkers and hikers throughout most of the pandemic. It’s fairly large and has many trails (unless they’re flooded!) and despite a fair number of visitors, I’ve often walked there without seeing anyone or only a couple people in the distance.

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  4. Nice photos! The forest looks so pretty filled with water! I wonder that if as flooding recedes, more birds are attracted to the formerly wet areas in search of insects or arachnids, like the wolf spiders. I noticed this at the Rainbow Soccer Complex when previously flooded areas were starting to recede and were filled with robins, cardinals, some flickers, and blackbirds all seemingly hunting for and finding food.

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