As children, our parents often told us, with good intentions, to stay indoors during rainy days. They said, “You will get sick” or “You will get mud in the house.” Talk to my mother or any of my friends, and you will find I am not much for heeding conventional wisdom. As a naturalist and wildlife guide, I feel the same about getting out and seeing nature. Warm, rainy days are some of the best times to experience the diversity of Kiawah. Yes, you will get wet, and yes, you will probably get muddy, but you will get to experience a wildlife song and dance show that few know.
Historically, abundant freshwater is a luxury to wildlife, especially on barrier islands such as Kiawah. One such group of creatures, anurans, are especially visible and more impressively audible during heavy rains. According to Keith Hanson, a College of Charleston graduate student studying the herpetofauna of Kiawah, of the roughly 4,800 species of frogs, toads and treefrogs in the world, Kiawah is home to six. With small exceptions within the ACE Basin (which experiences high amounts of freshwater flooding), this limited amount of species diversity is typical of barrier islands. This short list of gems consists of the eastern narrowmouth toad, eastern spadefoot toad, southern toad, squirrel treefrog, green treefrog and southern leopard frog.
Choice habitat is easily located on rainy days. Simply get in the car, turn the radio off, roll down the windows and start driving around. From the road it is easy to hear the sometimes-deafening vocalizations. With little effort, one can head to the center of the concert to find scores of frogs and toads mating. Many of these species rely on temporary vernal pools that form during heavy rains to mature and reproduce. As one can imagine, water quality and the existence of low depressions are vital to anuran survival. Keith and I both agree that Cougar Island and The Preserve are the best places to get a front row seat to this rarely observed event. Both areas contain good habitat that easily floods. If I may be so bold to suggest, come spring and summer, get some cheap muck boots and a poncho, and go play in the rain. A wildlife enthusiast will rarely be disappointed.