Hello, and welcome to South Carolina Natural Resources, a blog created and maintained by the staff of the S.C. Department of Natural Resource’s Office of Media and Outreach.

Over the coming months, we hope to bring to our readers a lively daily discussion on topics related to natural resources conservation, hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism, SCDNR projects and initiatives, and other news and information that will be of value to our state’s sporting and conservation communities. It’s just one more way the SCDNR is working to fulfill its mission as the primary steward of and advocate for our state’s amazing natural resources.

Whether you are lucky enough to be a Sandlapper by birth, or are one of the many thousands of folks who have “voted with their feet” to make South Carolina their adopted home, you know without a doubt that this is one special place. With the responsibility for managing more than 1 million acres of wild public lands (and counting), the SCDNR has a huge responsibility to the present and future citizens of this state. And we know that it is the sportsmen and women, the hunters and anglers, and the other individuals who love spending time in the outdoors, who make wildlife and natural resources in this state and in the United States work. Without the funding provided through hunting and fishing licenses and permits and the excise taxes paid on outdoor sporting goods equipment, firearms and ammunition, as well as the working partnerships with landowners and sportsman’s groups, our amazing conservation efforts would be a fraction of what they are today. So for that we say, “thanks,” and please come back and visit often to find out what your state Department of Natural Resources and the larger outdoor community in South Carolina are up to.  We value your input, so if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered here, please contact site administrator David Lucas at lucasd@dnr.sc.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.

A New Era for RCWs at Aiken's Hitchcock Woods

A New Era for RCWs at Aiken's Hitchcock Woods

It was a little bit startling, the excited whoop that wildlife biologist Mark Pavlosky Jr. let out from the rear seat of the pickup truck as we crawled slowly along a two rut trail normally reserved for horses, hikers and runners at Aiken’s Hitchcock Woods.

Wildlife biologist Mark Pavlosky (left), Hitchcock Woods Superintendent Bennett Tucker and Hitchcock Woods Foundation board member Randy Wolcott mark a tree where a red-cockaded woodpecker recently translocated to the property has begun excavating a cavity. 

Wildlife biologist Mark Pavlosky (left), Hitchcock Woods Superintendent Bennett Tucker and Hitchcock Woods Foundation board member Randy Wolcott mark a tree where a red-cockaded woodpecker recently translocated to the property has begun excavating a cavity. 

With a keen and practiced eye, Pavlosky had spotted—at a distance of at least 100 yards across a beautiful patch of widely spaced longleaf pine, mind you— a bright circle of raw wood about the size of a silver dollar high up in a mature tree, placed as neatly as if someone had clambered up a ladder with a brace and bit and bored it there (that’s what folks in the old days used to drill holes with, kids—no batteries needed).  But this wasn’t the work of a rogue woodworker with a fetish for antique tools (though wouldn’t that have been the start of an interesting blog?). No, what had Pavlosky and the other folks in the vehicle so excited was that this small hole is EXACTLY the type of hole that indicates a red-cockaded woodpecker is starting to excavate itself a new home.

For Pavlosky and my other companions, this was incredible news. Confirmation that RCWs released on the property late last year are branching out in search of new nesting locations in addition to the ones carefully prepared for them by researchers working on the project.

With one of the property's iconic "Aiken Jumps" (a style of obstacle that the horses leap over during a foxhunt) in the foreground, it's easy to see the results that now several decades of intensive understory reduction have brought to the Hitchcock Woods.

With one of the property's iconic "Aiken Jumps" (a style of obstacle that the horses leap over during a foxhunt) in the foreground, it's easy to see the results that now several decades of intensive understory reduction have brought to the Hitchcock Woods.

The reason that I was riding along through the Woods with Pavlosky, Woods Superintendent Bennett Tucker and Hitchcock Woods Foundation board member Randy Wolcott on a somewhat drizzly June morning in the first place, is that I was, as is so often the case when I happen upon something really cool, on an assignment for South Carolina Wildlife magazine. Back last November, I visited the Hitchcock Woods for the first time ever, mainly to meet up with SCW editor Joey Frazier and take some pictures of the annual Thanksgiving Day morning “Blessing of the Hounds” sponsored by the venerable Aiken Hounds hunt club (of course) and held at the Wood’s Memorial Gate. It’s a neat event and an Aiken tradition, and if you’ve never been, I recommend it highly.

As we were leaving the event to head over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house to erase all the gains from a morning of burning calories through brisk walking and petting strange horses and dogs, Randy Wolcott introduced himself and started talking with us about the tremendous effort the Hitchcock Woods has undertaken over the last few decades to restore a large portion of the property's uplands to the way they were prior to European settlement. An effort that culminated with the release of four pairs of RCWs “translocated” from the Francis Marion Forest.  As it happened, I had recently met Mark Pavlosky at a translocation release at the SCDNR’s Donnelly WMA.  So we got to talking about all this, and the upshot is we’ll be sharing an article outlining all of the amazing work going on at the Hitchcock Woods with the readers of SCW in the November-December 17 issue.  In the meantime, here’s what a newly started RCW nesting cavity looks like.

This is the beginning of what could eventually be one of the first natural RCW nesting cavities in the Hitchcock Woods since the 1960s. Read more about it in the November December 2017 issue of South Carolina Wildlife magazine.

This is the beginning of what could eventually be one of the first natural RCW nesting cavities in the Hitchcock Woods since the 1960s. Read more about it in the November December 2017 issue of South Carolina Wildlife magazine.

Next Steps for New SCDNR Officers: Into the Field

Next Steps for New SCDNR Officers: Into the Field