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#07-40 February 12, 2007

Jocassee, Turtle Island named Audubon Important Bird Areas

Two tracts have recently been designated as Important Bird Areas by Audubon South Carolina. The Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges and Turtle Island Wildlife Management Area met several of the nominating criteria to be included on the list.

The Important Bird Areas Program in South Carolina, through the efforts of Audubon South Carolina, currently has 41 recognized Important Bird Areas, with all sites encompassing 1,157,365 acres. The sites span all of the major habitat types from the mountains and piedmont to the coastal plain and barrier islands from Table Rock State Park, Bomb Island in Lake Murray to Bird Key Stono. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages about 22 per cent of South Carolina’s Important Bird Areas.

Important Bird Areas are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. Important Bird Areas include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds. Important Bird Areas may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but usually they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. Important Bird Areas may include public or private lands, or both, and they may be protected or unprotected.

The Important Bird Areas criteria are divided into four categories based on vulnerability and/or responsibility:

The Jocassee Gorges tract, in the uppermost reaches of South Carolina, contains about 43,500 acres, including the 33,000-acre Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges, owned by DNR.Jumping Off Rock The remainder of the lands are owned by Duke Energy and are in conservation easements. Activities in Jocassee Gorges are governed by a management plan and regulations developed, in large part, in response to public input. Bald eagles can be observed over Lake Jocassee throughout the year, although to date none have been observed nesting in the region. Peregrine falcons have been re-established as a nesting species in South Carolina through a program conducted in the mountains in the late 1980s. Peregrines now successfully nest in the region each summer.

Turtle Island Wildlife Management Area, in Jasper County, has a long, rich history of bird use. Ivan R. Tomkins compiled a list of bird species using Turtle Island from 1925-1956 and recorded 103 species. Also included in this Important Bird Area is an island constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers as a seabird nesting site, which during the 2006 nesting season supported more than 5,000 nesting pairs on five acres. This island named in honor of Tomkins is now the largest royal tern nesting colony in South Carolina. The shores of Turtle Island provide undisturbed foraging and roosting habitat for shorebirds, while the shallow mud flats offshore provide quality-feeding opportunities for a variety of seabirds.

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