A Naturalist’s Reflection on her first 2 weeks on the Job
I started my training as a Naturalist for the Kiawah Island Golf Resort by shadowing the senior guides and exploring the island on my own. In those first two week, I had already acquired a plethora of Kiawah wildlife experiences. My first encounter with Kiawah nature occurred on my first day on the job, and involved a Great Horned owlet that struggled to take flight. Our team worked together to return a displaced owlet back in a tree close to his parents, and it was exciting to watch my colleagues work to aid Mother Nature. We also discovered a sibling owlet on the same property that was further along in development. Though the young owlet we worked with did not survive, we have held out hope for the surviving sibling. This was my first EVER encounter with a Great Horned Owl, and though it was bittersweet, it was also something I will never forget. Later that week, I also encountered a female bobcat meandering alongside a pond. She was small, sleek, and cautious, but before she was spooked away, I was able to capture a short video clip of our encounter. I never expected to see a bobcat so soon into my time on Kiawah, and was wowed by the experience.
As Naturalists with the Resort, we often get to interact with school groups from all over the Southeast. During the second week of training, we welcomed one such group and shared with them the wonders of the wildlife on the island. They enjoyed a reptile class, and then were taken to the beach for beach combing and ocean seining. As one of the Naturalists ocean seining with the students, we caught some amazing, intricate, beautiful little critters! My personal favorites were the 2-inch long spotted squid and the translucent, juvenile eel. We also had the delight of observing iridescent croaker fish, isopods, silverside fish, and flounder. It was fantastic seeing these creatures up close and even more rewarding to share the experience with the kids. I confess to this being my first time ocean seining and learning just as much as they did.
I have also had the opportunity to personally rescue wildlife while on the job. When helping to collect litter along a salt marsh during the Great American Cleanup, we discovered a discarded cast net. Within the net was a severely entangled Black Racer (snake). The situation was bad enough that the snake was losing scales and had some of the net embedded in its skin. Pulling out our pocket knives, a colleague and I quickly cut the net away from the snake until we had freed it and were able to release it back into the wild. This was a fulfilling experience, but also a frustrating one. We should have never had to free that snake, but I am so glad we were able to do so.
Amazingly, two weeks on the job and I have already seven “life birds,” or birds I have seen and identified for the first time. The most exciting sightings were the Chuck-Wills-Widow, an elusive relative of the whippoorwill, and a male Wood duck, a once plentiful and now rare bird in the area. My other life birds included: Orchard Orioles, Eastern Kingbirds, Glossy Ibis, Great Crested Flycatchers, and of course, the Great Horned Owls.
Wildlife is everywhere you turn on Kiawah, Bald Eagles and Osprey flourish here and I will never tire of seeing them. Butterflies, song birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, shore birds, crabs, bobcats and dolphins surround us in this beautiful landscape. I have learned so much in such a short time and have to constantly remind myself I’m ACTUALLY at work. With so many superb experiences already under my belt, I cannot wait to see what happens next! What a brilliant job opportunity!