Important Bird Areas

Silver Bluff Audubon Center and Sanctuary

South Carolina

Silver Bluff Plantation Sanctuary is a 3,154-acre property owned by the National Audubon Society. It is located in Aiken County, South Carolina approximately 14 miles southeast of Augusta, Georgia, within South Carolina's federally designated Heritage Corridor. The property lies in the upper coastal plain just a few miles east of the fall line, and the Savannah River flows along 2.7 miles of the sanctuary's southern boundary. A diversity of habitats is represented at Silver Bluff, ranging from red river hardwood bottomlands to deep sand uplands. The habitats include approximately 2,450 acres of upland pine and mixed pine-hardwood, 470 acres of hardwood bottomland, 125 acres of open fields, and 68 acres of ponds and lakes. Thirty acres of subdivided fishponds with draw-down capability are managed as foraging habitat for Wood Storks and other wading birds. Silver Bluff is a working demonstration of the premise that forests can be managed simultaneously for substantial revenue, aesthetics, and diverse and abundant wildlife populations. Adjacent to the Savannah River, the site of George Galphins 18th century trading post and 140 surrounding acres have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The website is: http://sc.audubon.org/Centers_SB.html.

Ornithological Summary

Since 1986, Silver Bluff annually has hosted the largest inland concentration of foraging Endangered Wood Storks in South Carolina. A resident pair of Bald Eagles has nested since 1994, adjacent to the "stork" foraging ponds, and catches fish regularly at the ponds. Little Blue Herons, state species of concern, also frequent the ponds when they are drawn down. Red-headed Woodpeckers (WatchListed), Loggerhead Shrikes (WatchListed), and Cooper's Hawks (a nesting pair was noted in 1997) are all fairly common at Silver Bluff.

Silver Bluff annually hosts breeding populations of WatchListed: Swainson's Warblers, Prairie Warblers, and Prothonotary Warblers. WatchListed Bachman's Sparrows and Brown-headed Nuthatches are present year-round.

Management efforts are geared in part towards re-establishing the longleaf pine - wiregrass ecosystem that Bachman's Sparrows frequent. The longleaf pine stands are maintained on an uneven-aged basis with the aid of fire.

As many as 250 Wood Storks have been observed at Silver Bluff at one time which could easily be 5% of the state population.

Sanctuary personnel have conducted annual breeding bird censuses since 1993, with results published in the Journal of Field Ornithology. The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory has conducted field research on the Wood Stork and associated species since 1986.

Conservation Issues

Natural pests include the reduction of trees by beavers, lightning strikes and pine bark beetles. Water pollution includes emissions from commercial hog farms upstream from the property. This degrades the water used to supply the foraging ponds on site. There is growing local hunting pressure on the edges of the property. There is also an ongoing silviculture operation on site, which presents a bias toward certain avian species that require undisturbed forest habitat.

Ownership

Silver Bluff Sanctuary is wholly owned by the National Audubon Society.

Habitat

The majority of Silver Bluff Plantation was under agricultural production at one time, but only wildlife food plots are currently planted. Pines, both loblolly and longleaf, dominate the property now and provide income on an annual basis. Both even age and uneven age mangement are practiced as is prescribed burning. Silver Bluff has approximately 470 acres of bottomland hardwood along Hollow Creek and two smaller drainage systems. There are also a few small Carolina bays on the property and a high bluff along the Savannah River.

Land Use

Land use at Silver Bluff is primarily given to silviculture, which provides a steady income stream. Concurrently the property is used for conservation and environmental education. This includes extensive use by school groups and occasional ecotourism.