Recreation - By Interest - Wildlife Archive 2009

 2009 Wildlife Archives: Incredible Findings and Photos...

Please read over our past months of great sightings. We welcome your questions about our beautiful island. We would also love to hear from you! Get outside and share your photos and stories with us at Nature_program@kiawahresort.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

December 30, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Tour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Partly cloudy, very windy, low to upper 40s
Locations: Bridge at Killdeer Pond, Marshview Tower in the Preserve, Osprey Point, Willet Pond, Ocean Course Beach

Notes:
All the wind kept the birds hunkered down and our numbers fairly low today, but we finally had some great success at the beach, with gannets diving very close by in the surf and a piping plover hanging out close to the path.  Unfortunately, we also saw an otherwise well-meaning family let their golden retreiver chase the piping plover (an endangered species) and other nearby shorebirds (click here to learn more about pet etiquette on Kiawah).  The redheads are still here and it looked like at least one of the juvenile ibis is switching over from the juvenile brown plumage to the adult white plumage.

Species List:
Redhead, Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Nothern Gannet, Double-Crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey,  Red-tailed Hawk, Common Moorhen, Piping Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Willet, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Caspian Tern, Foster's Tern, Red-bellied Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird
December 29, 2009 ~ Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis)
ruddy-ducksThe ducks are continuing to arrive at Kiawah.  Pete Nelson, Sanctuary Master Landscaper, spotted this small flock of ruddy ducks on Willet Pond.


December 25, 2009 ~ Sallow Moth (Feralia sp.)
sallow-mothThis festively-colored Sallow Moth (Feralia sp.) took a note from Santa's book and arrived on a Naturalist's front door just in time for the holidays.  Sallow moths belong to the Owlet moth family, the largest family in the order of butterflies and moths.  The Latin name for the Owlet moths - Noctuidae - gives you a clue to their strictly nocturnal nature.  They also tend to have sturdy builds and a "fluffy" look.   When you're lucky enough to find a nocturnal moth resting during during the day, they often remain motionless even when disturbed by a curious naturalist's fingers.  (But be gentle on their scaly wings!)  Once the sun goes down, the moth will return to life and fly off in search of food and mates.  Most Sallow Moths have a widespread host plant - pine trees - and different species are found across the United States.  To find one, your best bet is not to rely upon Santa delivering one to your house, but to check out a porch light at night.
December 22, 2009 ~ Feather Report
am-kestrelTour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Clear and sunny, upper 40s - mid 50s, slight wind

Locations: Osprey Point, Ibis Pond, Willet Pond, Ocean Course clubhouse area and beach

Notes:  Great birding today.  A big flock of 15+ hooded mergansers greated us at the small Osprey Point pond, along with an assortment of herons, egrets, cormorants, and anhingas.  We then circled around to see the unusually large amounts of pelicans, cormorants, and ring-billed gulls that had congegrated in the large pond between Osprey Point and Bufflehead Drive.  While we were there, a male American kestrel delighted us by perching in a nearby pine tree.  He left and returned with a grasshopper, which he then ate quickly but not so neatly, flicking pieces of exoskeleton in the air as he went.  He sat with us for a while before a bluejay chased him off.  The 30 redheads were still at Ibis Pond today and the usual crowd of grebes, herons, yellowlegs, etc were at Willet Pond.  Quite a few savannah sparrows mixed in with all the song sparrows.  The high tide limited our shorebird numbers but we did get to compare the differences between dunlin and sanderling on the wing.

Species List: Redhead, Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-Crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Caspian Tern, Foster's Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird

Photo by Island Guest Carla Maddox
December 19, 2009 ~ Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii)
spadefoot-toadIt may never rain cats and dogs on Kiawah, but sometimes it does seem to rain frogs and toads.  A sudden large amount of rain creates temporary wetlands in low-lying areas and ditches.  These fish-free bodies of water are perfect spots for a female frog or toad to lay her eggs - as long as they don't evaporate before the tadpoles are ready to leave.  One toad species that specializes in this lifestyle is the Eastern spadefoot toad.  This reclusive species spends most of its time burrowed in sandy soil, but heavy rains bring out the spadefoots for one wild night of mating.  There seem to be several triggers required - a rapid drop in barometric pressure, more than 2 inches of rain, and nighttime darkness.  The female will lay up to 2,500 eggs, which are fertilized by the male as they appear.  The eggs hatch in merely 1-7 days and the tadpoles can transform into adults in as little as 2-3 weeks. 
 
Due to their burrowing and nocturnal nature, spadefoot toads can be difficult to find on Kiawah.  The best time to see them is after heavy rain - our wet El Nino winter will create some good spadefoot nights.  It is easy to tell apart the spadefoot from our more common Southern toad: the Eastern spadefoot is our only amphibian with vertical pupils, like those of a cat or alligator.  It also tends to have more green, smooth skin than a Southern toad, which has a rough skin that comes in shades of brown.  Finally, the Eastern spadefoot is named for the large dark spur on its well-webbed hind feet; they are excellent strong diggers, and will try to burrow into your hand if you hold it.  Make sure to wash your hands after handling one, as spadefoots produce a substance through their skin glands that may cause allergic reactions in both humans and other animals.
December 17, 2009 ~ Redhead  (Aythya americana)
red-headMore than 30 Redhead ducks were spotted in Ibis Pond on December 17th.  The male of this dapper-looking duck has a gray body, black breast, rusty red head, and powder-blue bill tipped in black.  About a dozen American Coots were also present, as well as several Ruddy Ducks spotted later in Willet Pond.  Redheads are only spotted a few times a year on Kiawah and it was a treat to see them in such large numbers.  Redheads are famous for high rates of nest parasitism - better known as the ugly duckling routine.  A female Redhead will often lay an egg or two in the nest of nearby ducks like Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, and other Redheads.  The female foster parent will raise the redhead duckling as her own.  They are broad opportunists when it comes to nest choice.  Redhead eggs have even been found in the nests of non-ducks like American Bitterns and Northern Harriers - a strategy that presumably does not pay off, as both adult and baby Redheads would make an excellent snack for a Northern Harrier.  Formerly in decline due to nesting habitat loss, the overall Redhead population is now stable and recovering well. 

Photo by Jamie Rood 
December 1, 2009 ~ Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
Duck! Incoming winter waterfowl....

The first Buffleheads of the season were spotted at Ibis Pond.
December 1, 2009 ~ Feather Report
mergansersTour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Clear, windy, mid-50s

Locations:
Bridge at Killdeer Pond, loop around the Ocean Course driving rangeNotes: We spent a lot of time looking at shorebirds today.  Though my chapped lips are currently protesting the windy conditions, we got some excellent comparative looks at dunlin, western sandpiper, least sandpiper, sanderling, and several plovers.  There was a huge flock of 200+ dunlin on the beach.
 
Species List: Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail (heard only), Common Moorhen (hear only), Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren (heard only), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch

Photo of male Hooded Mergansers by Jamie Rood
November 29, 2009 ~ Hawk
hawk-rescueInjured Hawk rescued by Resort Naturalists.
November 27, 2009 ~ Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Field note by Resort Naturalist Sarah Ernst…

Saw my first Juncos of the season this morning at Mingo Point.  Winter is here!
November 26, 2009 ~ Feather Report
king-fisher-birdTour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Sunny, calm, upper 50s-mid 60s

Locations:
Trail around Killdeer Pond, Osprey Point, Willet Pond

Notes: No turkeys on our Thanksgiving Back Island Birding today, though we did see a few turkey vultures.  Gorgeous sunny day today after many long gray days.  Many animals were out sunning themselves, from birds to alligators to butterflies - this is what being in a naturalist in the Lowcountry is all about!  Birds of the day were a flock of Eastern meadowlarks and a clapper rail sunning itself in the marsh, both at Willet Pond.  The birds that took the cake for sheer beauty today were the meadowlarks, a pair of male hooded mergansers on the pond at Osprey Point, a Caspian tern fishing Willet Pond, and a cooperative male kingfisher in full light at Willet Pond.

Species List: Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Greater Yellowlegs, Western Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch

Photo of female Belted Kingfisher by Jamie Rood
November 24, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Tour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Overcast, mid 50s, very calm
Locations: Trail around Killdeer Pond, Osprey Point, Willet Pond, Ocean Course beach

Notes: Low on songbirds but high on pond, marsh, and beach birds today.  Highlights today included a gorgeous male Hooded Merganser back for the winter, a Harrier dive-bombing a flock of white ibis (apparently for fun because it was a very half-hearted attempt), a great look at a Wilson's Snipe, and Belted Kingfishers galore.  The snipe was particularly exciting because, although fairly common in wetland areas, it has excellent camouflage and can be tricky to find.  This one was showing off its gorgeous stripes and ridiculously long bill on an open mudflat.
 
Species List: Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Northern Harrier (female), Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Wilson's Snipe, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird.
November 23, 2009 ~ Red Knot
Red knots have returned to Kiawah Island.  Say the words "Red Knot", and a medium-sized, non-descript shorebird is not the first image that springs to mind.  No one knows for sure where this bird got its odd name, but the red knot is found across the globe.  Our birds breed in the Canandian Arctic.  Their winter range extends from the Southeast to the far southern tip of Argentina. 
 
The Atlantic coast's red knot numbers have plummeted in the last 20 years as a direct result of horseshoe crab overharvesting.  Horseshoe crabs come up each spring to Delaware Bay beaches to lay their eggs; red knots time their migration to coincide with this ritual so that they can feed upon the rich, fatty horseshoe crab eggs.  Because the horseshoe crab population has been drastically reduced due to being commercially harvested as bait and fertilizer, many red knots starve to death before they can reach the Arctic Circle.  Other species that depend on the horseshoe crabs and have dropped in numbers are the ruddy turnstone, sanderling, semipalmated sandpiper, dunlin, and short-billed dowitcher. 
 
The red knot is not federally endangered or threatened, and without rapid action to protect both the red knots and the horseshoe crabs they depend on, we may lose this bird entirely.  New Jersey has taken several steps to address red knot decline but the unlimited horseshoe crab harvest still occurs annually in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Virginia.
November 22, 2009 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
gator-handWhile known for their large jaw and powerful bite, Kiawah’s alligators also come equipped with long, sharp claws. These intimidating appendages are used primarily for nest and burrow digging, as well as grip during land travel. So long are these claws that it seems they should be painted with fingernail polish. It is also of note that alligators have very little webbing between toes. Unlike turtles, which swim using their arms, alligators employ their muscular tail for propulsion. This eliminates the need for webbing and large, paddle-like feet. Alligators are born with five toes on each front foot and four on the back, however will often lose toes in adolescence during run-ins with predators. The resident mother of Night Heron Park is pictured, showing right forelimb of the large female and begging the question, “What color would an alligator paint its nails?”

Photo by Jamie Rood
November 20, 2009 ~ American Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
From our Town Biologist in the field….....I saw an American Pipit today on the beach down at Captain Sam’s.  I first called it a Sprague’s Pipit based on the amount of white and streaking on the body and wings but the bird was bobbing its tail – a behavior only known to American Pipits.  An interesting sighting nonetheless as these birds are probably fairly rare on the coast.

 

November 16, 2009 ~ Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)
zebra-longwing3While very common in Florida, where they are the state butterfly, Zebra Longwings (or Zebra Heliconians) are a rarity here in South Carolina.  Last year was the exception, with an unusually high amount of zebras.  This year they have been spotted again, but in much smaller numbers.  They are a butterfly that prefers maritime forests and thickets, so when they do make it up north, Kiawah provides perfect habitat and is an excellent place to look for this exotic-looking species of butterfly.  The best time of year to spot them is mid-July to the end of October.  They share a host plant - passionflower - with our familiar Gulf Fritillary, so if you live in the subtropical Southeast, it's also worth checking passionflower leaves for their caterpillars.  The Zebra Longwing caterpillar is white with black spots and spikes; the Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is red-orange with black spikes.  The spikes of both species look dangerous to ward off potential predators, but they are actually soft to the touch and are not harmful to those of us who are tempted to examine these fascinating insects more closely! 

Photo by Rachel Crosby, Heron Park Nature Center Staff.
November 13, 2009 ~ Portuguese Man o' War (Physalia physalis)
man-of-warAlthough it may certainly look like one, this interesting looking creature is not a “true’ jellyfish.  The Portugese Man of War is comprised of four different organisms that work together in a colony; the pneumatophore allows it to float; dactylozooids are the tentacles; gastrozooids are for feeding on small shrimp and fish;  gonozooids make reproduction possible.  The purple-blue float, which resembles an old warship at full sail, can reach lengths of up to 10 inches.  The tentacles below the float can extend up to 150 feet.  However, the average length is typically 20 to 30 feet.  The tentacles contain thousands of venomous stinging cells that can remain very potent long after an individual has washed up along the shore dead.  In other words, Do Not Touch.  The Portugese Man of War can inflict painful stings. It is not a particularly common visitor to the South Carolina coast.  Therefore, it was very exciting to find this beautiful specimen washed ashore after a strong storm had passed through earlier that morning.  A rare find indeed.

Photo by Jamie Rood.
November 11, 2009 ~ Hammerhead Worm (Bipalium kewense)
We’ve got worms. In our gardens, that is. Mostly earthworms, but if you’re in the right spot at the right time, you might catch a glimpse of a type of terrestrial flat worm called a land planarian (Bipalium kewense Moseley).Commonly referred to as hammerhead worms because of their flattened, crescent-shaped head, these gray to brown, often striped worms can grow up to 50 centimeters. Believed to be native to Indo-China, this species has been introduced to Central and South America, Australia, Europe, and to the United States where it has been commonly found in greenhouses since the early 1900’s. Locating Bipalium kewense can be difficult as they are most active at night, feeding on earthworms and slugs, but one was recently discovered by guests gliding across a bike path close to Night Heron Park. So, if you want to go out searching try looking in any dark, cool, moist areas under logs and rocks, and on concrete or soil surfaces following heavy rain.
November 10, 2009 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
alligator-babiesAmerican alligator hatchlings, like those seen here alongside their larger, yearling sibling by the Night Heron Park Center, are preparing for their first winter here on Kiawah Island. At about eleven weeks old, and measuring roughly eight to nine inches long, these hatchlings will form a type of socially cohesive group called a pod (which may even include individuals from other nests and older siblings) and remain close to the mother for up to a two years . Being very vulnerable to predation by large snakes, egrets and herons, raccoons, and especially adult male alligators, the pod affords protection in numbers, and these young alligators will not hesitate to summon their adult, guardian female with a distress call if they feel threatened.  Although not all seen here, the mother is taking care of 8 newborns, one of which is not her own.  It was unclear if the mother would accept, her newly adopted hatchling, but we are excited to say all eight are still there, and she has taken it in as one of her own.

Let’s remember to continue being respectful of the mother alligators and their young on the island by not harassing or feeding them as they prepare to overwinter together.

Photo by Jamie Rood
November 9, 2009 ~ Tersa Sphinx Moth (Xylophanes tersa)
tersa-mothA Sphinx on John’s Island

As strong and fast fliers with rapid wing beats, hovering in front of a flower while sipping nectar through their extended proboscis, it’s no wonder these medium to large moths are often confused with hummingbirds. In fact the Tersa Sphinx Moth belongs to a family of moths called Sphingidae, whose members are commonly referred to as “hummingbird”, “hawk”, or “sphinx” moths.

Adult Tersa Sphinx Moths fly as a single brood in the northern United States from May-October and as several broods in Florida and Louisiana from February to November. However, the habitat range of this moth is massive, stretching from Massachusetts to southern Florida and west to Nebraska and New Mexico in the United States, and down through Mexico and Central America to Argentina.

Photo by Naturalist Tim Pifer.
November 8, 2009 ~ Sea Ducks
sea-duckThe first scoters of the year have been spotted by town biologists Aaron Given and Jim Jordan.  A group of sturdy-looking sea ducks, scoters and scaup congegrate in the coastal waters just off Kiawah's beaches.  Their extra-thick layer of down keeps them warm in the cold ocean water as they dive down in search of crustaceans and mollusks to eat.  We have three species of scoters - Black, Surf, and White-winged - and two scaup, Greater and Lesser.  All five can be difficult to identify from their peers, though a good spotting scope helps pick out plumage details.  Every now and again, a scoter or scaup will visit the calmer waters of Willet, Ibis, or Bass Pond - an excellent opportunity to examine these special birds in closer range.  While the number of scoter and scaup that appear off our coast seems endless, they face some potential threats: habitat disturbance and loss during breeding and nesting, overhunting, chemical pollution, and oil spills that kill off large numbers of birds at one time.
 

Click here for more information.
November 4, 2009 ~ Bird Banding Report
warblerAs fall migration swings into full gear, Kiawah's Town Biologists, Jim Jordan and Aaron Given have been setting up mist nets on the currently undeveloped eastern and western tips of Kiawah, Cougar Island and Captain Sam’s Spit.  These thick bushy habitats provide great refuge for migrating birds in a part of South Carolina that is becoming increasingly urbanized.  494 new birds were caught and banded over the month of October.  It has been a great fall for Gray Catbirds (162) and Common Yellowthroats (141), both with more than double the numbers of any other species caught.  It was particularly exciting to see so many Common Yellowthroats, as they are a secretive bird and tricky to find in the wild.  The other top birds were Northern Cardinal (52), Yellow-rumped Warbler (48), and Red-eyed Vireo (45).
 
This fall's banding produced a nice variety of rare or uncommon birds.  The bird to brag about was a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  This olive-green bird breeds in the boreal forests of Canada and winters in Central America; while migrating from one to the other, they are usually spotted only in the far Appalachian tip of South Carolina.  Occasional birds - those that are only spotted a few times in fall - included Yellow-throated Vireo, Swainson's Thrush, Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Orange Crowned Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole.  Uncommon but more regular birds included Common Ground Dove, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Indigo Bunting.
 
While discovering rarities and getting solid numbers of this fall's bird visitors is important, long-term bird banding programs are essential for conservation because we can track bird populations over time.  Comparing populations over time give scientists a good picture of increasing, decreasing, or stable bird populations.  As the habitats change - whether by natural forces like a hurricane or human forces like development - we will be able to see the impact of that change on our songbird population.
 
Click here to view photos and our Town Biologists' complete report.
November 3, 2009 ~ Monarch Chrysalis (Danaus plexippus)
monarch-chrysalistOur newly created Marathon Butterfly Garden is proving to be a special space as we have discovered our very first Monarch caterpillar chrysalis.
November 1, 2009 ~ Kiawah 2009 Nest Box Report
The 2009 bluebird house team has released its final count for the season.  Unfortunately, it was not a strong year for nesting.  There was a significant decrease in both Eastern bluebirds and Carolina chickadee nests compared to 2008; the final bluebird egg count was 620 and the chickadee egg count was 262.  From those eggs, approximately 85-90% made it to fledgling stage.  While a low year is always a bit discouraging, the flight of more than 500 new bluebirds from Kiawah's man-made nest boxes is an accomplishment to be celebrated!  While some of our bluebirds use natural nest cavities in trees made by woodpeckers or falling branches, the majority rely upon the bluebird boxes we provide each year along golf courses, residential yards, and other open areas.

A special thank you to all Kiawah’s Nest Box volunteers!
October 30, 2009 ~ Bottlenose Dolphin
dolphin-bottlenose3Photo taken by Captain John Ward on his Dolphin Encounters.
October 29, 2009 ~ Mantid Egg Case
mantid-eggcaseThis mantid egg case, or ootheca, was found in the Sanctuary Terrace garden.  The ootheca of a mantis is a clump of eggs surrounded by a foamy mass of proteins, which later harden once exposed to the air.  The young mantids (nymphs) will emerge this spring with a ravenous appetite for small insects like aphids; however, if no small insects are available in the area, they will be happy to eat their siblings!
 
Keeping an ootheca over winter and watching it hatch is a fun project.  As the small size of nymphs makes them difficult to feed, its best to release them in your garden and keep an eye out for your growing brood in the summer.
 
October 28, 2009 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
roseate-spoonbillNotes from our Town Biologist…

Spoonbills are becoming increasingly more “common” along the coast of South Carolina.  There have been many sightings this year from the ACE Basin to Huntington Beach State Park.  In fact, Dewees Island hosted up to 14 birds at one time for much of the summer (I believe their first bird showed up in April!).  It’s no surprise that Kiawah has had a few sightings here or there over the years but I wonder why we haven’t had more of them.    We must be missing the something important in their habitat preference (e.g. water depth, food source, etc.) because it seems the few spoonbills that have stopped at Kiawah don’t stay very long.

To report spoonbill sightings on Kiawah please contact the Nature Center at Nature_Program@kiawahresort.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 843.768.6001.
October 28, 2009 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
four-alligatorsThe baby alligators previously reported on Wildlife As We See It are seven weeks old today!. 

They are still choosing to hang out near the bridge that leads to Night Heron Park and feeding as much as they can on insects, worms, minnows, and other small critters before it gets too cold.  This is at least the third clutch of the mother alligator in this part of the pond, and she appears to be doing a better job than last year: at least seven babies have been seen together along the side of the pond, along with the sole surviving yearling from last year's clutch.  She may take a break from breeding next fall, as laying all those eggs and guarding all those active young is a lot of work for our only reptile with a maternal streak!
October 26, 2009 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
spoonbillThis Roseate Spoonbill was spotted at Willet Pond by several island Naturalists.  An unusual visitor to Kiawah's pond edges, the Roseate Spoonbill is one of our most strange and beautiful birds.  It was slaughtered by the thousands in the late 1800s for its gorgeous pink plumes used in fancy hats and fans; at one point, there were just dozens of these birds left in the wild.  It has since made a good comeback in Florida and Texas; individuals visit South Carolina year-round but don't breed here.  The white, well-feathered head and pale pink feathers mark this bird as a juvenile; as an adult, its head will become bald and the plumage color will deepen to a blazing hot pink.
October 25, 2009 ~ Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus)
fish-teethCaught on Captain John’s Inshore Fishing Charter…

Sheepshead teeth bear an eerie resemblance to human teeth - and apparently sheep teeth, because a fish named "humanshead" would be too weird even for science.  Their several rows of teeth are shaped that way to crush the hard shells of their favorite foods, mollusks and crustaceans.  They are usually found around piers and other man-made structures and are best caught using fiddler crabs as bait.  While difficult to clean, they are very tasty.
October 24, 2009 ~ Sanderling  (Calidris alba)
beak-insandSanderlings are the most commonly seen sandpipers of Kiawah because they can be found along all 10 miles of its beach, not just the peaceful eastern and western tips.  They are beloved for their cute, chunky appearance and action-packed foraging style, running along Kiawah's surf looking for bits of food washed up by the waves.  They are present on Kiawah nearly year-round but do not breed here.  In May they depart for the Arctic Circle and return in August.  If that sounds like a long trip for such a little bird to make, some sanderlings winter on the southern tip of South America and must make the trip to and from the high Arctic every year! 

To make a sanderling's winter visit to Kiawah as peaceful as your own, please allow them to forage and rest without being disturbed by bikes or dogs.

Photo by Jamie Rood
October 23, 2009 ~ Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
caterpillar2After much planning and perspiration, our green-fingered Recreation staff created an employee vegetable garden this summer in hopes of growing fresh and pesticide-free veggies to serve at staff lunches. Yesterday, however, our staff discovered that something besides employees was feasting on our organically-grown greens.  Closer inspection revealed a coterie of caterpillars grazing on the fruits of our labor. Being mindful of our new butterfly garden several hundred yards away, our naturalists identified the velvety, green caterpillars as larvae of the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae), a rather small, mostly white, Old World butterfly.

Caterpillars of the Cabbage White, or Imported Cabbageworm Butterfly, as it is commonly known, feed mostly on the leaves of cruciferous vegetables, a group of edible plants in the family Brassicaceae which include cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprout, kale, horseradish, and mustard seeds. Although they prefer leafy foliage, Cabbage White larvae will also burrow into the heads of broccoli and cabbage; so keep an eye out for these critters next time you cook and serve heads of broccoli.

Recognizing that our garden lacked members of the caterpillars preferred food group, we contacted Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s landscaping department, and Pete Nelson from Sanctuary Landscaping was quick to offer some decorative cabbages and our Heron Park Landscaping team took over the planting.  Members of the recreation staff carefully plucked over 100 hungry caterpillars off our vegetables and transplanted them to the new decorative cabbages where they will continue to gorge before overwintering in the pupa, or chrysalis, stage.

With our garden yielding a bounty of scrumptious greens, including collards, herbs, and even an eggplant, we keep a close eye on the Cabbage White caterpillars and await the wonderful white end-product of their metamorphosis in the spring time. 
October 20, 2009 ~Feather Report
kingsisherTour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: A little cool in the morning and very nice in the afternoon.
Locations: Part 1 - Trail around Killdeer Pond, Osprey Point bridge, Willet Pond Part 2 - The Preserve tower and its trails, Willet Pond, Ocean Course beach

Notes: The list is huge because we offered two bird tours today, with a focus on songbirds in the morning and shorebirds in the afternoon.  I saw many firsts of the season today for our bird trips: yellow-bellied sapsucker, ruby-crowned kinglet, savannah sparrow, and song sparrow.  Probably our last chimney swifts of the season too, I was surprised to find three over Killdeer Pond.  We spotted our female wild turkey from a few weeks ago again, this time near Willet Pond!  Other higlights include a close fly-by by a bald eagle, a pair of piping plovers very close to us, a huge flock of skimmers, a wood stork resting on its 'heels', and kingfishers galore.

Species List: Wild Turkey, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Piping Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderling, unidentified sandpiper species (western?), Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird.
October 18, 2009 ~ Coyote (Canis latrans)
A coyote has been recently seen by a Kiawah Is. Golf Resort employee near the entrance to Cassique golf course.  Unlike red wolves, which have been completely extirpated from the wild, coyotes thrive alongside human development, even in urban areas like Chicago and Washington DC.  Since the 1800s coyotes have steadily been expanding their population eastwards.  Admire him or despise him, the coyote has settled in to the East Coast and is here to stay.

If coyotes make it to Kiawah, their arrival will have several impacts on our local wildlife.  While most of their diet consists of small mammals, they are opportunistic predators and will prey upon reptiles, birds, and deer.  As we no longer have red wolves, another predator to help control raccoon and deer populations would be beneficial.  On the other hand, coyotes on Kiawah would have a negative impact upon our bobcat population, as they compete with bobcats for food and will prey upon the smaller females and juveniles.  Their territorial nature also makes them a threat to fox populations, though the gray fox has the ability to climb trees to escape.  And while coyotes are shy around people, they have been known to take cats and small dogs from yards if the pets are left unsupervised.
October 12, 2009 ~ Daring Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax)
 jumping-spider Found at the Sanctuary’s Terrace Garden feeding on a monarch butterfly, the daring jumping spider lives up to its fantastic name.  Rather than building a web, it uses its excellent vision to find insects and other small animals.  It stalks and leaps upon its prey in a hunting style similar to that of a cat.  The daring jumping spider is both easy to find and common across most of the United States (including Hawaii), so if you live near a field or garden in North America there's a good chance you have a jumping spider as a neighbor.  You can recognize this species by its iridescent blue-green fangs.  It is a non-poisonous spider and poses no threat to humans.

Photo by Jamie Rood
October 10, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Tour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Warm and steamy, some wind
Locations: Trail around Killdeer Pond; Osprey Point clubhouse; Willet Pond/Ocean Course area

Notes:
My first northern flicker of the season today, welcome back to these handsome birds!  We also saw some baltimore orioles, which are occasional fall migrants that pass through Kiawah on their way to the new world tropics. 

Species List: pied-billed grebe, double-crested cormorant, anhinga, brown pelican, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, little blue heron, tricolored heron, black-crowned night heron, white ibis, wood stork, turkey vulture, osprey, clapper rail, black-bellied plover, sanderling, laughing gull, forster's tern, royal tern, red-bellied woodpecker, northern flicker, pileated woodpecker, blue jay, fish crow, american crow, carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, carolina wren, blue-gray gnatcatcher, eastern bluebird, gray catbird, northern mockingbird, brown thrasher, european starling, palm warbler, northern cardinal, baltimore oriole. 
October 9, 2009 ~ Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin  (Tursiops truncatus)
dolphin-playingDolphin strand feeding continues to be strong.  This photo was taken at Captain Sam’s Inlet at the western tip of Kiawah Island by island guest, Kevin Freeman from Marietta, GA.
October 9, 2009 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
bobcat-boardwalkBobcat photo taken by Kevin Freeman from Marietta, GA. Bobcat was located next to the shower, on the walkway just outside the Duneside villas.
Kevin Freeman writes, “These are a few of the reasons my parents and I keep coming back to Kiawah, we love the nature and the beauty on and around the island. Being a regular vacationer there for 20+ years”.
October 8, 2009 ~ Shellback Crab (Hypoconcha sp.)
shell-crab Even after 20 years of paddling the Kiawah River, our Naturalists continue to find new and exciting creatures.  The Shellback Crab is an unusual crab that was recently found as we explored a sand bar on our Pluff Mud Paddle.  The shellback crab is described as one of the “most interesting decapods Crustacean”. These crabs have 4th and 5th walking legs that are modified to secure a bivalve shell on their back for protection.  Native to most of the Western Atlantic, they have probably just been overlooked as just another arc or cockle shell, perfect camouflage!

As you explore our island, if you are fortunate to find a shellback crab, please do not remove it from its protective shell, enjoy the wonders of nature and gently return it to the water.
October 7, 2009 ~ Owls
screach-owlKiawah’s great horned owls are courting now, so it's a great time of year to listen to them duet - we heard some duetting on our night beach walk last week.  The male is smaller in size but his voice is deeper, so if you hear a pair of them, listen for a higher pitched call (female) and lower pitched call (male).  The call of the great horned owls is the only one you'll ever hear from Hollywood: "Hoo hoo hoooo!  Hooo!  Hooo!"
 
Barred owls, which are present on Kiawah but in very small numbers compared to the great horned, are setting up territories now though not courting to the extent that the great horned are.  They make a barking sound that sounds very dog like and a call that sounds like "Whoooo cooks for yooouuu?  Whoo cooks for youuu-allll?".  They're present in larger numbers on Johns Island but don't do as well in heavily developed areas unless there's a natural wetland nearby.
 
Our last breeding owl is the eastern screech owl.  Most people who see one think they are a baby great horned owl but they are just small adult owls - remember baby owls are fluffy and look nothing like adults.  Screech owls are also calling now, but usually once it is completely dark, because they are preyed upon by great horned owls, which are more active at dusk.  I do hear them at dawn though.  Screech owls sound like a cross between a ghost and a horse, a descending eerie call or a steady stacatto.
 
Roosting screech owl photo by Jamie Rood
October 6, 2009 ~ Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma)
flounderReport from Captain Mike

There are plenty of mullet and shrimp in the river now and there seems to be more menhaden now than in past weeks. Fishing has been good with Redfish, Sheepshead, Trout, Flounder and Bonnetheads being caught. The dolphins have been strand feeding almost every day this week. The pod is mostly females with young.
October 5, 2009 ~ Sea Beans
Mysterious smooth objects called Sea Beans will occasionally wash upon Kiawah in fall, especially after storms.  They look like they belong in a curio cabinet from Victorian times.  Sea Beans are actually tropical tree seeds from all over the world, from Asia to Africa to the Caribbean.  Most trees on Kiawah use animals or the wind to carry their seeds, but trees on isolated islands and coastlines that use this strategy will usually end up with their seeds on the bottom of the ocean.  But some trees use the ocean as a helper rather than an obstacle in spreading their seeds.  Some trees have seeds with hard outer coating that can withstand months, or even years, of floating in the ocean.  Sometimes the sea beans will land on tropical islands and shorelines where they can grow into new trees; sometimes they will end up Kiawah's wide sands, where they puzzle and delight beachcombers.
October 3, 2009 ~ Harvest Moon
Check it out ~ this weekend is The Harvest Moon!
 
 
Often, the Harvest Moon seems to be bigger or brighter or more colorful than other moons. These effects have to do with the seasonal tilt of the earth. The warm color of the moon shortly after it rises is caused by light from the moon passing through a greater amount of atmospheric particles than when the moon is overhead. The atmosphere scatters the bluish component of moonlight (which is really reflected white light from the sun), but allows the reddish component of the light to travel a straighter path to one's eyes. Hence all celestial bodies look reddish when they are low in the sky.

The apparent larger size is because the brain perceives a low-hanging moon to be larger than one that's high in the sky. This is known as a Moon Illusion and it can be seen with any full moon. It can also be seen with constellations; in other words, a constellation viewed low in the sky will appear bigger than when it is high in the sky.
October 1, 2009 ~ Butterfly Migration
butterfly-migrationWe all learned in elementary school that birds fly south in the winter and return north in the summer.  Butterfly migration, just to make it more interesting for naturalists, is a little more complicated.  Some butterflies also fly south for the winter, like Monarchs flying to their winter resting grounds in Mexico and gulf fritillaries flying southeast to overwinter in Florida.  But gulf fritillaries, cloudless sulphurs, and most of our local skippers also migrate north, as far as New York State!  As some gulf fritillaries along Kiawah's dunes are migrating south, some are also emigrating north at the same time.  A gulf fritillary's eggs or caterpillars may survive a northern winter in a state of dormancy - if the temperatures are mild that year.  In a normal or cold winter, they will not survive.  It's a gamble that, while it may not pay off for most of the northern travelers, helps to expand the population as habitats change.  These mass migrations northward are called irruptions - last year, we had an irruption of white peacocks and zebra longwings from Florida here on Kiawah.  This year, there are few or none.
 
For more information about the complicated world of butterfly migration, check out this introduction. The Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon recently created a new wildlife garden in recognition for our 2009 marathon winners.  Our hope is that this garden will inspire and educate others to create a wildlife habitat in their own community.  To learn more, click here.

Photo of White peacock by Jamie Rood.  Photo for reference, species not currently present on kiawah.
September 29, 2009 ~ Flutter Report
checkered-skipper Dr. Dennis Forsythe and our Naturalist Sarah Ernst went butterflying this afternoon to add some new species to our butterfly list, look for rarities, and look for good butterfly habitat to check out as we do our nature tours.  We saw a nice variety of butterflies - nothing rare, but some species we had not recorded yet simply because there have not been many records kept so far.
 
Our survey included the following, a star denotes a new species for our list!
 
2 Black Swallowtail, 25 Palamedes Swallowtail, 1 Cabbage White, 40 Cloudless Sulphur, 5 Little Yellow, 5 Sleepy Orange, 3 Gray Hairstreak, 100 Gulf Fritillaries, 10 Common Buckeyes, 10 Phaon Crescents, 2 Little Wood Satyrs*, 1 Monarch, 20 Long-tailed Skippers, 3 Horace's Duskywings, 2 Zarucco Duskywings*, 1 White-checkered Skipper, 15 Tropical Checkered Skippers, 50 Fiery Skippers, 10 Whirlabouts, 3 Clouded Skippers*, 1 Dun Skipper*, 1 Eufala Skipper, 2 Twin-spotted Skippers*, 10 Salt Marsh Skippers, 10 Ocola Skippers. 
September 29, 2009 ~ Feather Report
white-ibisWeather: Wonderful - sunny in the low 70s, some gentle wind, its great birding weather!
Locations: Path around Killdeer Pond; Ibis Pond; Willet Pond; Ocean Course beach and grounds Notes: At Killdeer Pond, highlights included a flock of brown-headed nuthatches at eye level - usually they are at the tops of pine trees so it was neat to get a different view, plus a nice mixed flock of warblers including a redstart.  Both Ibis and Willet Pond had very low water levels today so there were many herons and egrets in both.  I saw my first grebes of the fall plus some ducks that I am pretty sure were blue-winged teal (but not 100% as they were all female and/or eclipse plumage and very far off, even with our nice new spotting scope!)  At the Ocean Course we saw a few piping plovers resting nearby in the sand, giving us great looks.  A steady stream of gulf fritillary butterflies were migrating north as a steady stream of brown-colored swallows were migrating south. Species List: Probable Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Piping Plover, Killdeer, Sanderling, other unidentified shorebirds that we didn't have time to go look at, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, other unidentified terns that we didn't have time to look at, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Unidentified migrating swallow species, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle.
September 25, 2009 ~ West Indian Manatee  (Trichechus manatus)
Today, a federally endangered manatee was spotted in the Kiawah River near Captain Sam's Spit by Naturalists Bradley Schmoll, Tim Pifer, and Sarah Ernst; 10 corporate guests on a Kiawah Island Sampler tour; and several other individuals out on motorboats.  Manatees usually live far south in Florida, but we hear a few reports every summer of manatees in the Charleston area.  For a small number of manatees, a northward migration in summer to Georgia and South Carolina is apparently natural, but scientists are also interested in the effect of warm water released by power plants and other industrial activities.  Our average winter water temperature is far too cold for manatees.
 
These gentle creatures, distant relatives of elephants, are completely herbivorous.  It is the manatee that gave rise to the legend of mermaids, thanks to the vivid imaginations of lonely sailors on the ocean for months.  Manatees are on the federal endangered species list for several reasons: pollution, habitat destruction and alteration, and motor boat strikes are the top three.  Their slow reproductive rate combined with a high death rate from watercraft strikes makes it difficult for the manatee population to remain stable, let alone grow.  The current Florida population is estimated at 1000-3000, so it was an honor and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see one here at Kiawah!
September 23, 2009 ~ Mantid
mantidThe mantid (aka praying mantis) is one of the few insect species that can rotate its head to look at a moving object while keeping the rest of its body still.  In fact, it takes this ability to extremes, able to rotate it 180 degrees!  It will often weave their head from side to side to gain better depth perception.  The spot in the eyes of the mantis is just an optical illusion, not a pupil - like most arthropods, the mantis has compound eyes. The mantis is the only type of animal on the planet with just one ear.  It is located on the underside of the thorax (the middle body segment).
 
While females are famous for preying upon their mates, this behavior is a byproduct of captivity.  It has been observed in the wild, but much more rarely than we are led to believe.  Females are usually larger in size, with larger abdomens, and don't fly as frequently as the males do.  The mantis is an ambush predator that catches its prey by pinnning it with the spikes on its forelimbs.  This movement is so fast that it can only be seen by slow-motion cameras!
 
We have three main species of large mantids and a few smaller ones as well: one native (Carolina, Stagmomantis carolina) and two introduced as pest control experiments in the late 1800s (European, Mantis religiosa; Chinese, Tenodera aridifolia).  European mantids have a black spot behind its front limb, while Carolina mantids are usually small and brown.  Chinese mantids can grow to 5" long and come in both green and brown.  You can currently visit our resident female Chinese mantid in the nature center; unfortunately, the maximum lifespan for a mantid is spring-fall, but we have hopes that our mantid may lay an ootheca!  (Mantid egg sac).
September 22, 2009 ~ Gulf Fritillary - (Agraulis vanillae) 
golf-friilariesThese gulf fritillaries were found courting along the roadside.  The male whirled rapidly around the female, then eventually settled down along her side.  Butterflies from the same species recognize one another by visual clues (size, color, markings) as well as pheromones picked up with their antennae.  Once this female gulf fritillary is ready to lay her eggs, she will seek out a passionflower plant, the host for her hungry caterpillar young.  She has scent receptors on her feet, making sure the leaf she lands on is from the proper host plant.  If you live in the southeast, inclue a few passion flowers (genus Passiflora) in your garden to provide for the next generation of gulf fritillaries.  (Passionflowers are also gorgeous!)  Because gulf fritillary caterpillars are toxic when eaten, their bolder behavior and bright color makes them easy to find.  Look for little red-orange caterpillars with black spikes. 
 
September 21, 2009 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
american-alligator2If you are visiting Kiawah over the next few weeks, make sure you make a visit to Night Heron Park one of your top priorities. At the bridge leading to the park, our mother alligator and her young are currently hanging out right below the bridge, just a few feet from curious onlookers. Because alligator mothers are highly protective of their young, this is a rare opportunity to get a close - but safe! - look at the fascinating bond between the baby alligators and their mother. Alligators are the only reptile on Kiawah that provides maternal care - all of our snakes, lizards, and turtles are on their own once they hatch. 
 
The hatchlings weigh in at a few ounces while their mother is probably around 200-250 pounds. At least six of the baby alligators have been seen at one time, but their number is difficult to count due to the dense vegetation around the pond. Our naturalists observed one baby attempting to eat a full-grown Carolina mantis that it had caught, so you may also be able to observe feeding behavior. Alligator hatchlings eat just about anything they can catch that is small enough to fit down its throat - invertebrates and small vertebrates such as insects and minnows. Despite their mother's fierce attention, baby alligators face a high predation rate within the first few weeks of life. Predators include birds, raccoons, large fish, and other alligators. Today our hatchlings are 11 days old.

Photo of hatching on mother gator by Jamie Rood.
September 18, 2009 ~ Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
bald-eaglesMale and female bald eagle at Kiawah's Captain Sam's Inlet.

Photo by Liz King.
September 17, 2009 ~  White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Why did these deer pay a visit to the surf during this September sunset? This photograph has baffled our naturalists. Perhaps, like alligators, they use the saltwater to kill parasites. Or perhaps the does are teaching their fawns about the ocean! Our best guess is that these deer are drinking small amounts of ocean water for the same reason that athletes drink gatorade: to get some essential salts in their body. It does seem, however, that this deer family is enjoying its visit to a Kiawah beach just as much as the human variety does.

Photograph by unkown Kiawah guest.
September 16, 2009 ~  Fishing Report
sheepsheadFishing report from Captain Mike Waller:  Shrimp are plentiful in the river at low tide and there are tons of mullet as well. The trout fishing has been good lately and will only get better as the water cools. Sheepshead can be caught around many of the the docks at Rhetts Bluff.  And there are still plenty of bonnethead sharks to be caught until mid October. We have also been seeing the eagles a lot lately, sometimes circling over Mingo Point and sometimes around the River Course or in the oyster flats. 
September 15, 2009 ~  Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Weather:
Upper 70s/lower 80s, sunny, no wind
Locations: Paths around the Preserve tower, Osprey Point clubhouse, Ocean Course clubhouse, Willet Pond (both sides)

Notes:
Bird of the day was the female turkey that has been hanging out near the Ocean Course!  We saw it strolling into the road that leads to Cougar Island.  We also saw a common ground dove in the same area.

Species List:
Wild Turkey, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Osprey, Common Moorhen (heard only), Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Common Ground Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch (heard only), Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Pine Warbler, possible other yellowy warbler species that I couldn't see well enough to identify, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird.
September 14, 2009 ~  Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
viceroyWe have both viceroys and monarchs on the island at this time of year.  Monarchs are much larger than viceroys, but sometimes size can be deceiving, so here's the sure-fire way I learned to tell the two apart: look for the black bar on the hind wings in a viceroy.  It's present from above and below.
 
Thanks to my guidebook, I also learned that the old story of viceroys mimicking the monarch is false; both monarchs and viceroys are poisonous, though for different reasons.  Monarchs get their poison from milkweed and viceroys from trees in the willow family.  Rather than the viceroys benefiting from mimicking the monarch, it looks like both benefit from mimicking each other.
September 13, 2009 ~  Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus)
redfishFishing report from Naturalist Tim Pifer: Our new kayak/canoeing fishing tour has been very successful!  A 34" redfish like the one pictured is a very challenging fish to catch from a kayak.  We have been catching at least a dozen redfish each trip along with a couple of bonnetheads and a few bonus spotted seatrout.  The amount of redfish and trout biting will increase until November.  September and October are the best fishing months of the year.  These are also the best months to be out on the water as both the air and water temperature begin to slowly drop.
 
We have also been seeing great dolphin and osprey action.  Last week, most of our kayak trips saw strand feeding and we even saw a dolphin jump completely out of the water.  Naturalist Scott Fister saw an eagle steal a mullet from an osprey, and Captain Mike has regularly been seeing mature eagles out at Sandy Point.
September 11, 2009 ~  American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
newborn-gator24 hours old! 
Our alligator nests are hatching, stay tuned for details.
September 10, 2009 ~  Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
dolphin-bottlenosePod update: Captain John Ward has been keeping a close eye on our resident dolphin pod over the summer.  The two babies in the pod are now 4 months old, and are not only nursing but learning to feed as well. Not strand feeding yet but clearly watching the adults. 

The annual mullet run should happen in mid September to early October and we will see tons of strand feeding as well as sharks and tarpon feeding on the mullet.  It won't be long till early winter when the adult males are asked to subdivide from the pod to give moms and juveniles a chance to bond and allow fishing lessons to go on a full time schedule.
September 9, 2009 ~  Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)
carolina-saddlebagMale Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) photographed by Sarah Ernst taking a rare break along a pond edge. Most dragonflies will alternate between flying and perching on lookout.  But saddlebags dragonflies are strong, active fliers and spend most of their time in the air patrolling their territory for food, rivals, and mates.  It was a lucky shot because when they do perch, it's not often at eye level!  They also seem particularly suspicious of humans and don't usually tolerate a close approach.  These large dragonflies prey on mosquitoes, flies, termites, and just about any other insect it encounters on the wing.  In turn, saddlebags are fed upon by Missisissipi kites and gull-billed terns.
September 7, 2009 ~  Black Racer (Coluber constrictor)
black-racerThis black racer, a quick-moving but non-venomous species of snake, was found entangled in deer netting while Naturalist Sarah Latshaw was researching painted bunting habitat. It was freed and its injuries examined; they were not life-threatening, so Sarah released it. Sadly, many snakes die each year from such encounters. The holes in deer netting can be large enough to admit the head of a snake but not its wider body. The netting can fatally wound or strangle snakes who get intertwined too tightly. To prevent this from happening on your property, choose a wire fence or deer netting with a larger mesh. You can also reduce the chances of entanglement by making sure the deer netting is neatly strung up, avoiding loose clumps of netting on the ground. Or avoid the problem of unattractive nylon fences altogether by using hardy landscaping plants that deer find distasteful.  A list of plants rated on resistance to deer damage can be found here: njaes.rutgers.edu/deerresistance/

Photo by Sarah Latshaw, Naturalist and Research Biologist for the Kiawah Conservancy
September 6, 2009 ~  Zebra Longwing  (Heliconius charithonia)
zebra-longwing2Field note from Naturalist Sarah Ernst

I saw my first zebra longwing of the summer in the sanctuary gardens today. This species was relatively common last year but I heard they're fairly erratic in population here because they are northern wanderers from Florida.  Could be we just get a few this year or maybe we'll have another bumper crop - keep your eyes out for them!  Their long wings are completely unique and distinctive to our area.
September 5, 2009 ~  Feather Report
black-night-heronWeather: Beautiful 70s, partly cloudy, no wind
Locations: The path around Killdeer Pond; Willet Pond; the loop around the Ocean Course driving range
Guide: Sarah Ernst

Notes: Bird of the day was a kestrel flying right over the Ocean Course clubhouse.  We also found a dead Northern Waterthrush that had hit a window.  This is a spring/fall migrant that I have yet to see on Kiawah and wish it could have been under happier circumstances.  Lots of birds in and around Killdeer Pond but because there was no wind, the mosquitoes were out and we didn't linger.

Species List: Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron (juv), Wood Stork, Osprey, American Kestrel, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, American Oystercatcher, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Northern Waterthrush (deceased - yellow plumage variation), Northern Cardinal.

Photo of juv. black-crowned night heron by Jamie Rood
September 4, 2009 ~  White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata)
white-lined-sphinxNature photographer, Jamie Rood, captured this White-lined Sphinx visiting a Seashore mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica) flower.  These odd moths resemble hummingbirds more than they do other moths, and just like a hummingbird, they can hover in place to feed upon flowers.  While usually seen flying dusk through dawn, white-lined sphinxes and other hummingbird-shaped moths can be occasionally seen during day as well.  It's a cosmopolitan species, able to feed on a wide variety of plant species as a caterpillar and occurring from Canada through Central America as well as Africa, Europe, and Asia.  While their large size and quick movements may make it a bit scary to entomophobes (those with a fear of insects), no moth is capable of harming a person and we enjoy welcoming this gorgeous flier to our garden flowers every summer.

Photo by Jamie Rood
September 3, 2009 ~  Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
bottlenose-dolphinKiawah Island is one of only a few places in the world where Bottlenose dolphins are known to strand feed. During the fall, we are lucky enough to see even more of these amazing mammals as the Northern Atlantic pods migrate south to warmer waters. It's a vacation highlight waiting to happen, so get on the water and join us on one of our kayaking excursions or motorboat tours to get a closer look at this awesome dolphin behavior.
September 2, 2009 ~  Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
moorhen2Is the Common Moorhen missing from your life list? With KICA’s 2008 improvements to the pond at the Enclave at Turtle Point, this area has become a hot spot for these duck-like birds. The best vantage point is the bridge - from here, both adults and chicks are easy to spot feeding in open water margins.

Photo by Jamie Rood.
August 30, 2009 ~  Flutter Report
crescent-butterflyReport from our Birds and Butterfly Walk with Naturalist Sarah Ernst

The most common butterflies we encountered over the last few days are cloudless sulphurs, palamedes swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, fiery skippers, and horace's duskywings. Occasional guest appearances by phaon crescents, whirlabouts, and black swallowtails. 

Phaon crescent photo by Naturalist Sarah Ernst.
August 29, 2009 ~  Giant Tun Shell  (Tonna galea)
tunTun shells are a very rare find on Kiawah. Though their shape and ribbing makes them surprisingly strong, they are thin and lightweight shells. These carnivorous gastropods are actually too big for their shell so the animal spills out when it is alive and can't withdraw all the way into the shell when threatened. Tuns feed on echinoderms (sea cucumbers are a favorite) and bivalves. This tun shell was found during our Sandy Point Getaway trip.  Isolated sandy beached like Sandy Point are only accessible by boat, so they are Kiawah's best spot to hunt for rare shells and other fascinating finds from the ocean.
August 28, 2009 ~  Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
monarch-butterflyThe monarchs have returned after a summer absence.  Pete Nelson, Master Landscaper at the Sanctuary, sighted several this morning in the Terrace Garden. Soon we should have reports of monarch caterpillars on our scarlet milweed and butterfly weed (check out September, What's in Bloom).  Stay tuned for updates!

Photo by Jamie Rood
August 27, 2009 ~  Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana)
stingrayStingrays are plentiful in the waters visited by Captain John Ward’s Inshore Fishing Charter. These flat fish are closely related to sharks but have several neat adaptations to life on the murky ocean or estuary bottom. While most fish pull in water through their mouth and past the gills to breath, the stingray's mouth is located on the underside and usually is facing water too muddy or sandy. The hole behind the eyes, called a spiracle, pulls in clean water from above and passes it through the gills on the underside.
 
To find its prey - clams, crabs, and other invertebrates are a favorite, and all usually buried deep in the mud or sand - a stingray is able to detect electric fields produced by the movement of the animal.  Once the prey is caught a stingray crushes it using teeth shaped more like bony plates than the pointy, ripping teeth of its shark relatives.

Photo by Captain John Ward
August 26, 2009 ~  White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
white-tailed-deerKiawah's latest batch of whitetail deer seem just as curious about humans as we are about them.  As these rapidly growing fawns get a little more confident on their spindly legs, encounters with island visitors increase.  Their presence of spots on the coat combined with their size ages these fawns at 2-3 months old; our fawns lose their spots at 3-4 months old when they shed their summer coat for a warmer winter coat.  As deer give birth throughout the spring, we can expect to see both spotted and spotless fawns in August.

Photo by Jamie Rood

August 25, 2009 ~  Feather Report
flying-sanderlingBack Island Birding
Weather:
Low 80s, partly cloudy, not much wind except on the beach

Notes: The Ocean Course was the happening spot today; highlights included a pair of loggerhead shrikes and a nice variety of shorebirds in all sorts of plumage variations - summer, winter, immature, and molts in between - so it was a good opportunity to study them.  We saw Aaron Given, our Town Biologist, doing a piping plover survey; he helped to confirm my ID of Western Sandpiper on a mysterious small peep.  Lots of osprey all over the place.  At Killdeer Pond we saw an immature Great Blue Heron standing in the middle of the path, looking very much like a gawky, unkempt teenager.
 
Species: Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Killdeer, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Royal Tern, other terns that were too far away for me to ID, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, possible other swallows too far up for me to ID, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal.

Photo of Willet by Jamie Rood
August 18, 2009 ~  Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Weather:
Mid to upper 80s, little to no wind

Notes: Bird of the day was a beautiful prothonotary warbler!  This is a stunning bird that all bird lovers should try see at least once if they regularly visit the southeast in spring-summer.  It nests in swamps like the Audubon Society's Frances Beidler Forest, but is occasionally seen on Kiawah before and during migration.  It was difficult to see but I finally saw enough of its field marks to make a more-or-less positive identification.  Let's just say I'm 95% sure.

Species: Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Clapper Rail, Black-bellied Plover (still in breeding plumage), Killdeer, Willet, Sanderling, some other unidentified shorebird species far off in the distance, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmosue, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole.
August 24, 2009 ~  Loggerhead Sea Turtle
man-baby-turtlesLinda Wilson with Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol closely guards hatchling sea turtles as they make their journey to the sea. This summer approximately 11,242 loggerhead sea turtle eggs were laid on our island.
August 20, 2009 ~  Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
copperheadThis well-camoflaged snake was spotted by Kiawah Island guests Lilli (age 9) and her dad. It is a copperhead, a venomous snake with fortunately shy personality. This species is not interested in biting humans unless it feels like you're about to step on it or pick it up.  It's important to never approach a snake you don't recognize, but remember that snakes are much too small to view you as potential prey and will not attack you unprovoked.
 
This snake, while small in size, is an adult. Baby copperheads have bright yellow tails that fade as they age, and the plain tail of the photographed copperhead tells us that it has passed 3 years of age. An average copperhead only makes it to two and a half feet in length - definitely on the smaller side for snakes. Baby copperheads are actually more dangerous than adult copperheads because they will always use venom when they bite - they can't control it. The older, larger copperheads can control how much venom they use and sometimes will not use any at all.  (I would not go out and test this theory, though!). 

To learn more about Kiawah's snakes visit the Nature Center at Night Heron Park.
August 19, 2009 ~  American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
alligator-nestingFrom the time female alligators constructed their nests in early summer until they hatch in late summer, females constantly watch and defend their nests.  For this reason it is important not to veer off leisure trails while exploring and enjoying our island. 

This photo, by Naturalist Sarah Latshaw, shows a female alligator intently keeping her eyes on her incubating eggs.
August 18, 2009 ~  Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Weather:
Mid to upper 80s, little to no wind

Notes: Bird of the day was a beautiful prothonotary warbler!  This is a stunning bird that all bird lovers should try see at least once if they regularly visit the southeast in spring-summer.  It nests in swamps like the Audubon Society's Frances Beidler Forest, but is occasionally seen on Kiawah before and during migration.  It was difficult to see but I finally saw enough of its field marks to make a more-or-less positive identification.  Let's just say I'm 95% sure.

Species: Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Clapper Rail, Black-bellied Plover (still in breeding plumage), Killdeer, Willet, Sanderling, some other unidentified shorebird species far off in the distance, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmosue, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole.
August 18, 2009 ~  Fiery Skipper  (Hylephila phyleus)
fiery-skipperNotes and photo from Naturalist Sarah Ernst
 
Female Fiery Skipper - normally those translucent patches on her wings aren't there but she is a worn individual, probably reaching a good ripe old age of a month or so.
August 17, 2009 ~  Luna Moth (Actias luna)
luna-mothPhoto By Resort Naturalist Sarah Ernst
August 16, 2009 ~  Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans)
green-lynx-spiderNotes from Naturalist Sarah Ernst...

This green lynx spider was caught in the Sanctuary gardens by a young guest on a Birds and Butterflies Tour. One of our largest spiders, green lynx spiders spend most of their time hanging out among flowers and shrubs, waiting for their prey to seek out the nectar. Insects are large as butterflies and bumble bees are on the menu for this agile, powerful spider. We were able to see her jump from leaf to leaf once we returned her to the garden. Green lynx spiders have large appetites for pesky insects and are a great natural pest control in gardens free of insecticides. While like all spiders they do have fangs, they are shy spiders and rarely bite people. In fact, ours allowed me to pick her up and put her on my finger without attempting to bite me..
August 15, 2009 ~  Feather Report
banding-warblerTo catch small songbirds, scientists set up lightweight nets, often along naturally-formed vegetated corridors. As the birds fly through the nets and get entangled, they are carefully removed. A small metal or plastic band with a unique code is attached to the bird’s leg and it is released back to the wild. When these birds are spotted or recaught, either here on Kiawah or elsewhere in the world, the data gives us information about migration patterns, habitat use, and population trends. This banding session conducted by Town Biologists, Jim Jordan and Aaron Given on Captain Sam's Spit - the quiet thickets are a great refuge for migrating songbirds. The total birds from this count were 3 Carolina Chickadees, 4 Carolina Wrens, 9 Prairie Warblers, 12 Northern Cardinals, and 1 second year male Painted Bunting. Download Report (.pdf)
August 15, 2009 ~  Pairie Warbler (Dendroica discolor)
prairie-warblerThis prairie warbler was caught by Town Biologists Jim Jordan and Aaron Given on the first bird banding session of the Town's latest Bird Monitoring Survey.  Prairie warblers are seen on Kiawah in fall and spring and do nest in wilder habitats of the greater Charleston area, but apparently do not nest on the island.  The fact that many of these birds had high levels of fat suggests that they were on their way south.  It will be interesting to see if our banded prairie warblers return next fall!
August 12, 2009 ~  Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus)
horseshoe-crabHorseshoe crabs delight curious beach visitors with their odd appearance and large size. This prehistoric animal, the closest living relative of the extinct trilobite, is considered a living fossil as it has not changed in appearance for hundreds of millions of years. This live horseshoe crab was found by Naturalist Ally Valladares while working Kiawah’s Turtle Patrol. 

It's a fascinating creature to study: it has several different types of eyes located on both the top and bottom half of the body; it has bright blue copper-based blood used in medical research; and the annual deposits of horseshoe crab eggs in beach sand plays an essential role in shorebird migration. This one is a female; males have large boxing-glove-shaped claspers on the front pair of claws to hold onto the female during mating.  Sometimes on the Pluff Mud Paddle kayak trip, our naturalists have seen a chain of one large female and 2 or 3 smaller males scooting along the river bottom!
 
In some areas of the country, the population of horseshoe crabs is declining severely due to overharvesting for bait and fertilizer.  The subsequent decline of eggs laid plays a role in the decline of shorebirds like the Red Knot, which depends on eggs during migration, and sea turtles like the Loggerhead, which depends on horseshoe crabs as part of its' diet. Luckily, awareness of this issue has been growing and in some states, local steps are being taken to limit the harvest of horseshoe crabs.

Photo by Joe Pezzullo
August 11, 2009 ~  Feather Report
pelicanBack Island Birding
Weather: 90s, not too steamy but very hot.

Notes: Low on songbirds but high on shorebirds today - just too hot to go anywhere but windy places. Lots of tricolored herons and snowy egrets in Killdeer Pond. We then went to Willet Pond and walked all the way around the lagoon at the eastern end of the driving range, then back along the beach to the Ocean Course clubhouse. The highlights for me were seeing my first piping plover of the season and some black-bellied plovers in full breeding plumage. We also saw some least terns with the black bills of non-breeding plumage, and it took me a few minutes to figure out what they were since I'm so used to those bright yellow bills of summer breeding plumage! In non-avian fauna, we saw a fawn in the dunes and a poor southeastern crowned snake squished in the road. These secretive, tiny snakes don't get much longer than 5-9 inches.

Species: Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Crow sp., Barn Swallow, Carolina Wren, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Boat-tailed Grackle

Photo by Betsy Giduz
August 9, 2009 ~  American Alligator  (Alligator mississippiensis)
alligator-nestEach year in an effort to provide additional information on the health of Kiawah’s alligator population (see August 4th), KICA Lakes Department members Norm Shea, Carrie Manson, Michael Parrish and Roy Robertson attempt to locate as many alligator nests as possible on the Island.  Every spring, some of our female alligators clear an 8 to 10 foot circular area along a pond edge.  Once summer begins they construct a pile of vegetation, twigs and leaves - usually at night.  The completed nest is approximately 6 to 8 feet wide and 28 inches high - which to a casual observe may appear to be nothing more than a pile of landscaping debris.  In the center of the nest, she deposits approximately 40 to 45 eggs, a process which takes about 30 minutes. 

For the 2009 nesting season, the KICA Lakes Department has located 9 nests.  The earliest alligator nests will likely begin to hatch by the end of the month, so check back in for alligator hatching updates.
Photo by Sarah Latshaw, Resort Naturalist and Research Biologist for the Kiawah Conservancy

 

August 8, 2009 ~  Golden Silk Spiders (Nephila clavipes)
goldensilk-spiderOur golden silk spiders are everywhere! Typical of August on our island, you cannot travel far without seeing their massive golden silk webs spread over roadways and bike path. As is typical with most spiders, there is no real danger from an encounter with a golden silk spider. They will bite only if aggressively held or pinched, causing localized pain and redness which quickly goes away. These creatures are a very important part of part of Kiawah’s natural environment, so instead of being horror-struck take a moment to marvel at their amazing work of art.


Look for more details in our August edition of Nature Notes. To subscribe to the Kiawah Island Nature Program’s Nature Notes, simply email us at Nature_Program@kiawahresort.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Photo by Jamie Rood
August 6, 2009 ~  Feather Report
Back Island Birding

Locations
: Ibis Pond, Willet Pond, the beach in front of the Ocean Course, Killdeer Pond, and the bird feeding stations at the Sanctuary gardens

Notes: Ibis Pond had lots of wading birds including several Wood Storks. The back side Willet Pond yielded a very cooperative Least Bittern. We ended the trip by watching a beautiful male painted bunting (see May 5th for photo) eating millet from one of the Sanctuary’s feeder.   
 
43 Species: Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Forster’s Tern, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Common Ground Dove, Common Nighthawk, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole. 
August 6, 2009 ~  Mississippi Kite  (Ictinia mississippiensis)
miss-kiteSpend a little time gazing up into the sky anywhere between Night Heron Park and Turtle Point Clubhouse and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a magnificent raptor flying high above the tree line. The Mississippi Kite, considered an uncommon species for Kiawah, is a mid-size bird of prey with long, narrow, pointed wings.  However, recently is as been a common resident especially along the Kiawah Island Parkway.

Photo by island guest B. Sherrod from Maryville,TN
August 5, 2009 ~  Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
piping-ploverPiping plovers have returned to Kiawah Island from their northern breeding grounds along the coast of North Carolina to Newfoundland .  Town biologists, Jim Jordon and Aaron Givens, reported five piping plovers at Capt. Sam’s Inlet at the western tip of Kiawah. These small, stocky shorebirds will stay on our island through April at which time they will migrate back to their breeding grounds.

Photo by island resident and Kiawah Conservancy Trustee, Pam Cohen.
August 4, 2009 ~  American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
american-alligatorOne of the most frequent questions that our naturalists get on an Alligator Adventure is "How many alligators are on Kiawah, and how do you count them?"  After all, the alligator are Nature's specialists when it comes to lurking.

To find the answer to this question, biologists from the KICA Lakes Department and the Town conduct annual alligator population surveys.  The survey's route covers 34 miles as spotters shine spotlights on ponds and pond edges, looking for the reflections of alligator eyes.  For two consecutive nights, spotters count and estimate the size of every alligator they observe.  Biologists can estimate our island’s population based upon a scientific formula that takes into account the temperature of the water.  But more importantly, charting the results of the annual spotlight surveys allows us to observe any significant changes (i.e. increases or decreases) in our alligator population.

Kiawah has 183 brackish and freshwater ponds interspersed throughout the island. 
Photo by Betsy Giduz
August 4, 2009 ~  Feather Report
bird-congregationBack Island Birding
 
Notes: We birded Willet Pond, the eastern end of the beach, and Killdeer Pond.  Willet Pond was full of wading birds (>100 Wood Storks).  Not certain if there was a fish kill or just good timing but I have never seen so many birds at Willet.  We had 51 species of birds - not bad considering we only birded the “woods” for about 10 minutes the rest of the time was at Willet and the beach. 
 
Species List:  Double-crested cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Mississippi Kite, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Forster’s Tern, Royal Tern, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle.

Photo by Jamie Rood
August 3, 2009 ~  Weather Spot
To say it rained cats and dogs today on Kiawah would be an understatement.  Although a very short-lived storm cell past over the island, we experience some amazing numbers.  Between 2:48 pm and 4:34 pm, The Kiawah Island Community Association recorded 2.66 inches of rainfall at Kestrel Court.  With a peaks rainfall rate at 2:58 pm of 4.92 in/hr.  Our frogs will be hopping tonight!
For up to the minute reports on Kiawah's weather, check out KICA's weather station at www.kica.us/weatherstation/Current_Vantage_Pro_PlusKICA.htm
August 2, 2009 ~  Black Terns (Chlidonias niger)
black-ternBlack terns are now migrating through our area, with the first sightings coming in from Pete Nelson, Horticulturist at the Sanctuary. These acrobatic flyers breed in freshwater marshes across most of Canada and the northern United States. This time of year they migrate in flocks of a few to more than 100 birds. Their destination is the coast of northern South America. A stop on Kiawah is merely a place of rest and refueling before continuing their migration south.

Photo by Sarah Latshaw, Resort Naturalist and Research Biologist for the Kiawah Conservancy.
August 1, 2009 ~ Bonnethead Shark  (Sphyrna tiburo)
shark-bonnetheadOn Pluff Mud Paddle, Naturalists Sarah Ernst and Brad Schmoll had a local visitor welcome the group to the sandbar. Caught in a tide pool was this 4 ft. Bonnethead shark. It was the perfect opportunity for guests to learn that while this shark is common in our salt marshes throughout the summer, it is not a threat to humans.

Photo taken by the Heckel Family from Plano, Texas.
August 1, 2009 ~  Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Kiawah Loggerhead Sea Turtle numbers as of August 1, 2009

Nests: 122
False Crawls: 98
Relocated Nests: 61 (50%)
Estimated Eggs to Date: 7275
Hatched Eggs: 1035
Emerged Hatchlings: 863
Mean Incubation Duration: 58.4 days
Mean Clutch Size: 113.1 eggs
August 1, 2009 ~ Bald Eagle  (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
bald-eagleSigns of changing seasons have been apparent all week as our Naturalists have reported the return of belted kingfishers (see July 21st), black-bellied plovers, gulf fritillaries (see July 22nd) and more.  Reports are now coming in on the first signs of fall raptor migration. Today, Naturalist and Captain, Jake Feary, observed 4 bald eagles (2 juveniles and 2 adults) riding the air currents south through the Captain Sam's area on the western tip of Kiawah.

Photo by Pam Cohen, Kiawah resident and Kiawah Conservancy Trustee.
July 31, 2009 ~ Writing Spider (Argiope aurantia)
writing-spiderThe Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia), also known as the Writing Spider, was seen today on Jamie’s Nature Photography tour.  The larger females (as shown in the photo) have distinctive yellow and black markings on their abdomen. Spinning their webs 2 – 8 feet high in tall vegetation close to an open field or pond, a dense zigzag of silk is clearly noticeable to the passerby.  Why such decoration in the web?  We don’t know for sure, but we do know that all spiders active during the day create these designs. It could be to attract prey, or maybe even warn birds of the presence of an otherwise hard to see web. Like other spiders in the Argiope family, they are harmless to humans. A bite from this spider is compared to a mild bee sting. 
July 31, 2009 ~  Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
wild-turkeyWell after being on Kiawah Island for the past 20 years and encountering numerous animals I've had a FIRST.  Driving to my office, the ocean course maintenance facility, I encountered a hen Turkey.  She's been hanging around the area now for the past several weeks.  My guess is that she has made her way from John's Island to her current location, the reason for my conclusion is that I've seen about 7-8 hens at the property around Fresh Fields over the summer.  Well hope she hangs in there, it would be great if a Tom Turkey would show up as they are exciting to see and hear in the spring during courtship.

Jeff Stone
Ocean Course Superintendent
July 30, 2009 ~ Shutterbug
great-egret2Shot of the Day ~ Fishing Egret taken by Jamie Rood on our Nature Photography tour.
July 29, 2009 ~  Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Bald eagles have returned to the Lowcountry after their summer vacation.  One has been spotted by Captain Mike Waller on a fishing trip across from Kiawah's River Course and another was spotted by Naturalists Jake Feary and Nick Boehm on an eco trip to Botany Island.  The eagles will begin courtship in fall and we have high hopes that our adult pair will return and continue to nest in the secluded marsh islands near Captain Sam's Spit.
July 28, 2009 ~  Feather Report 
moorhenBack Island Birding
Weather:
High 80s/low 90s, almost no wind, partly cloudy, humid

Notes:
Massive amounts of birds today, both individuals and species.  We saw somewhere between 200 and 400 birds in Killdeer Pond.  The snowy egrets, great egrets, tricolored herons, and laughing gulls were too numerous to count but I did count 47 wood storks, one of the highest concentrations of wood storks I've ever been so close to.  Other birds of note were my first red knots and whimbrel of the season.  Got a better look at some common ground doves than I've had all summer, and a juv. black-crowned night heron was standing out in the open along a path along Killdeer Pond.  Very cool!
 
Species: Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Red Knot, Peep sp., Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Common Ground Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbird, Crow sp., Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Marsh Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle.

Photo by Tom Giduz
July 26, 2009 ~  Loggerhead Sea Turtle  (Caretta caretta)
turtle-release Sea Turtles Returned to the Sea

From the South Carolina Aquarium...We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to release 3 rehabilitated sea turtles! A crowd of 800 to 1000 people gathered on Kiawah Island Sunday to witness these majestic animals crawl into the warm, salty waters that is their home.
 
The Loggerhead named “Kiawah” pictured here was found washed up on Kiawah earlier this year. The juvenile debilitated loggerhead was admitted into the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital, hypoglycemic, moderately emaciated, dehydrated and covered in small barnacles, algae and skeleton shrimp indicated it had been lethargic for a long time. Fluid therapy, antibiotics, and dextrose were immediately administered. Supportive therapy continued and Kiawah began showing signs of improvement. By May 2009 the turtle was eating well and very active. Having added necessary weight and the bloodwork analyzed, Kiawah was one of three turtles released back into the ocean.
July 25, 2009 ~  Eastern Pygmy Blue  (Brephidium pseudofea)
pygmy-blue Photo from our Birds and Butterflies Tour.
 
An eastern pygmy-blue, our smallest butterfly!  Wingspan is a mere 1.5 cm from tip to tip.  Look how teeny she is!  It is more brown than blue, but it does have a bit of powdery blue color on the face.  This is a coastal species only and the first time we've found it on a Birds and Butterflies trip, so it was an exciting catch - caught by our youngest guest!  Larval host plants are saltworts and glassworts. 


July 24, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Weather:
Low 80's

Notes:
Great mix of birds today.  The lesser yellowlegs is back and so is the black-bellied plover!

Species:
Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Peep Species (looked like semipalmated or western sandpiper), Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Common Ground Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle
 
July 22, 2009 ~ Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
gulf-fritillaryPeter Nelson, Sanctuary Master Horticulturist, spotted the first Gulf fritillary of the season in the Sanctuary gardens. 

The Gulf fritillary is a medium-sized, orange butterfly with black markings. Its hindwings below are covered with silvery patches that easily distinguish it from monarchs. The Gulf fritillary is one of several migratory species in the Southeast. As fall approaches, adults begin a southward migration and are one of Kiawah’s most abundant fall butterflies.
July 21, 2009 ~ Feather Report
belted-kingfisherBack Island Birding
Weather: High 70s to low 80s, humid, magnificant cumulus clouds

Notes:
Even though it feels like summer will never end in South Carolina, the fall/winter birds have begun to return.  I saw my first belted kingfisher of the season at Killdeer Pond, and my first sanderlings at the Ocean Course beach.  There were other shorebirds too, but were too far off for me to identify.

Species List:
Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Willet, Sanderling, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Marsh Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Parula, Northern Cardinal, Painted Burning, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch.
July 18, 2009 ~ Osprey  (Pandion haliaetus)
rescued-ospreyThis injured osprey was reported to the Nature Center by several island residents.  It was discovered sitting by the side of the road near the Osprey Point Golf Course.  A team of Naturalists and volunteers were involved with the transport of the bird to the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, where many of our local injured raptors are cared for and released back into the wild.  Unfortunately the osprey died the next morning from unknown causes.  While apparently uninjured it was emaciated and full of mites, which suggests a persistent disease, toxin, or other ailment that had been present in the osprey for a while before it was brought to the Center. 

The Center for Birds of Prey has helped heal many Kiawah raptors in the past and it is a great place to visit.  It is open Thursday-Saturday and offers guided walking tours and flight demonstrations.  For more information, directions, and admission costs visit their website at http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/.
July 18, 2009 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle  (Caretta caretta)
loggerhead-turtleHatching season has begun!  Kiawah’s first loggerhead sea turtle nest hatched this morning.

Photo by Jamie Rood
July 17, 2009 ~  Herpetology Log
frog-in-handNotes from our Jr. Naturalist Herpetology Class

"Trevor" the toad caught by Matthew on a Jr. Naturalist Herpetology tour.  We practiced safe snake handling skills then went to the Swamp Garden.  No snakes to be found today, but we did find a southern toad and a large american alligator, who startled everyone with a large thrash and splash - perhaps going after a passing fish or turtle.
July 17, 2009 ~Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin  (Tursiops truncatus) 
atlantic-nose-dolphinPhoto from Dolphin Encounters with Captain John Ward.
July 17, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Mid 80s, humid, sunny mostly

Notes: Higher diversity than usual in Marsh Island Park, with lots of warblers, a summer tanager, and a towhee.  I couldn't see the warblers very well but followed one around long enough to confirm it as an immature parula.  At Willet Pond we saw a half-grown fawn (still had baby spots) swimming across the water.  Also, I think this may be the first time that boat-tailed grackle has not been on the list!

Species List: Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Wood Stork, Osprey, Black-necked Stilt, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Least Tern, Mourning Dove, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, European Starling, Northern Parula, possibly other warbler sp. like a yellow-throated, Eastern Towhee, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Painted Burning, Red-winged Blackbird.
July 15, 2009 ~ Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens)
bumblebeeOn a Birds and Butterflies trip, these bumblebees were discovered mating on the pathway.  While the act of mating itself only takes a few minutes, the male will remain with the queen to prevent the other male from mating her.  Two males are visible in this photo - the queen is noticeably larger - but several others had been attracted to the area by the queen's pheremones.  Once fertilized, the queen will go on to begin a new colony.  When a large bumble bee unexpectedly buzzes by your head it can unnerve even the most dedicated of insect lovers, but fortunately this busy creature is not aggressive and will only sting when her life is threated.  Bumble bees play a vital role in pollination of both native plants and agricultural crops; some plants can only be pollinated by bumble bees.
 
Bee populations in general have declined recently, both honey and bumble.  Many factors may be influencing this decline, from pesticides to habitat loss to climate change.  In the case of bumble bees, commercial production of bumble bees for use as pollinators in greenhouses may have a negative impact on native bees.  Luckily for bees, because they are such important pollinators of agricultural crops there is a significant amount of interest in discovering the causes of bee decline and solutions to prevent further losses.  To find out more about pollinator conservation, visit the Xerces Society's resource page:  www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/

July 15, 2009 ~ Needham's Skimmer, female  (Libellula needhami)
hand-dragonflyDragon Catching 101 from Birds and Butterflies guide Sarah

1. Sneak up behind the dragonfly. 
2. To catch the dragonfly with your net by air, once the insect is in the net, flip the net so that a pocket is created.  This prevents the dragonfly from getting out while your net is still in the air.
3. To catch a dragonfly on the ground or a plant, flip the net over a perched dragonfly and tug on the top to encourage the insect to fly or crawl to the top of the net.
4. Mostly, steps 2 and 3 will be unsuccessful as dragonflies are uncannily fast and agile.  Try again, and again, and again!

Dragonflies and damselflies are delicate creatures and should be handled gently.  Always grasp the dragonfly at the base of the wings, not by the body or tips of the wings.  It's best to watch someone catch and handle dragons first before trying yourself.  While dragonflies will attempt to bite when handled, they are usually too small to do more than deliver a light pinch.  Dragonflies WILL NOT BITE OR STING people when flying free; they can't sting, and would much rather chomp down on mosquitos than humans!
July 13, 2009 ~Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin  (Tursiops truncatus) 
Most of our regular dolphins seem to be staying in the Bass Creek area of the island lately. On one of our Dolphin Encounters tours this week, we witnessed a strand feeding of sorts. A mother dolphin was working one of the river banks while her calf swam around us on the boat. The mother eventually charged the bank and we plainly saw a small Sheepshead fish laying on the bank. The mother dolphin then came on the bank and ate the sheepshead. I have never seen that one before; I thought a sheepshead would have had too many spines to be an easy meal!
July 11, 2009 ~ Yellow-bellied Slider   (Trachemys scripta scripta)
yellow-bellied-sliderWhen you watch a turtle lay eggs, it's easy to believe that this is a ritual that has been going on among turtles and tortoises for the last 215 million years, long before the evolution of lizards and snakes. This female yellow-bellied slider was photographed on a nature photography tour by guide Jamie Rood.  She can be seen here covering up her eggs with sand.  Unlike mammals and birds, turtles are born knowing how to survive and don't need parental care.  The predation rate is high, so each female slider will lay several nests a year.  Each nest contains a few to a few dozen eggs, depending on the age, size, and health of the female.  The quarter-sized baby turtles that hatch 2-3 months later will usually remain in the nest through the winter and emerge in spring.  While baby sliders are very cute, we encourage visitors to use caution when making the decision to keep a turtle as a pet: they have long lifespans (to 45 years) and require extensive care and expensive equipment to keep them healthy and happy.
July 9, 2009 ~ Spotted Sea Trout  (Cynoscion nebulosus)
spotted-sea-troutNotes from Captain Mike's Inshore Fishing Charter...

The Baehr family fished the morning's rising tide using live shrimp that were caught in the Kiawah River between trips on Tuesday. Chris Baehr got things started quickly by catching some  Spotted Sea Trout and a few baby sharks. Mike Baehr got a nice hit when his cork went down and turned out to have a nice Trout on it, which ended up being the biggest Trout we have caught this year.
July 9, 2009 ~ Bonnethead Shark  (Sphyrna tiburo)
bonnethead-sharkContinuation from above...…

Later in the trip, Chris hooked a nice Bonnethead on the float and finished the trip out by landing his biggest fish ever!


July 9, 2009 ~ Green Sea Turtle  (Chelonia mydas)
green-sea-turtleUpdate on “Mingo” the Green Sea Turtle rescued by our Resort Naturalists. The South Carolina Sea Turtle Hospital reports "Mingo" is doing very well.  After the barium study, hospital staff felt confident enough to tube feed a fish gruel with mineral oil. After 4 days of fish gruel, radiographs showed that the blockage is indeed working its way out of the GI tract. This is great news!!!

(See June 23rd, 17th, 16th, 15th and 11th for history on Mingo's resuce and recovery).

The Sea Turtle Hospital is open to the public.  Meet current patients like Mingo, speak with sea turtle experts, and get a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes at the sea turtle hospital.  For more information on hours and tours visit scaquarium.org.
July 8, 2009 ~ Shutterbug
great-egretPhoto of Great Egret taken by island guest Betsy Guidez while on our Nature Photography class with Jamie Rood.
July 7, 2009 ~ Feather Report
great-flycatcherBack Island Birding
Guide:
Sarah Ernst
Weather: High 80s, cloudy, nice amount of wind

Notes:
Lots of birds just out of sight today, but luckily the painted buntings were easy to find!  I heard a call note that I couldn't identify, but unfortunately couldn't track the bird down.  My guess based on general impression of shape and size was one of the three vireo species that nests on Kiawah.

Species List:
Anhinga, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-necked Stilt, American Oystercatcher, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmosue, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, House Finch. 
July 6, 2009 ~ American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica)
plover-twoTom Giduz, island guest writes...  As you can see, after a morning of grubbing in the mud for worms, he decided to spend his afternoon in a much more gentlemanly fashion, though he was in the company of ~100 starlings...must be some good worms on the driving range !!  Thanks for all that you guys do to keep the good birds coming year after year.
July 5, 2009 ~ Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
gull-billed-ternNot all birds have convenient identifying marks and color patterns.  This gull-billed tern resembles many other of the terns and gulls that visit Kiawah and can be hard to tell apart from the sandwich tern.  But the short, thick bill and generally robust appearance is a good field mark for this tern species.  Another clue is behavior: a summer resident here at Kiawah, gull-billed terns differ from most other terns because they do not dive into the water for fish.  Instead, they are often seen patrolling over the dunes, ponds, and marsh in search of insects to eat.  They have been spotted nesting along the eastern beach of Kiawah so that is a good place to find them.  Like most beach-nesting birds their eggs and young are well-camaflouged, so to avoid stepping on the chicks or upsetting the parents, make sure you don't get too close!

Nesting report and photo by island guest Tom Giduz
 
July 5, 2009 ~ American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica)
golden-ploverMore information coming soon. Photo by island Guest Tom Giduz
 
July 3, 2009 ~Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Guide:
Sarah Ernst
Weather: High 80s, partly cloudy, not much wind
Notes: Huge feeding frenzy at Ibis Pond with many great egrets, laughing gulls, alligators, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, snowy egrets, least terns, green herons, and a least bittern!  They appeared to be feasting on a large school of small fish.  Also, we got scolded by a pair of black-necked stilts at Willet Pond - because it was a pair and they were so fiercely defending that small area, I hope there might be a nest in there.  Because there are also plenty of alligators, I don't want to go in there looking for it!
 
Species List: Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Willet, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Purple Martin, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Marsh Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Northern Parula, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle
 
July 1, 2009 ~ Sharptail Mola  (Masturus lanceolatus)
ocean-sunfishWhile sunfish sailboats are occasionally spotted in Kiawah waters, it's much more rare to find the real thing.  This Mola (sunfish) was photographed by Town Code Enforcement Officer, Juan Martin, on the beach in front of the Sanctuary. 

Mola are pelagic fish that are rarely found close to shore.  The average size is 2000 pounds - about the same weight of a sedan - and they have been recorded at weights of more than 5000 pounds.  Much like the leatherback turtle, an insatiable appetite for vast amounts of jellyfish feeds that weight.  They are often observed basking on their side like a giant aquatic road kill.  This warms up their flat body more efficiently and may also attract birds to remove parasites from the skin.
 
Sadly this Mola had died before reaching our shores, but it's an exciting opportunity for guests and naturalists to see a creature that is normally only seen as a sailboat decal!

 

July 1, 2009 ~ Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar  (Papilio cresphontes)
swallotail-caterpillarYou can fill your garden with beautiful flowers to attract butterflies, but adding some native host plants will greatly enhance the diversity of butterflies that visit to lay their eggs and begin the next generation. 
Resort Horticulturists plant native plants across the Sanctuary grounds to provide habitat for butterflies.  This giant swallowtail caterpillar is on a toothache tree, a small native tree that would have probably been found on Kiawah before man's arrival.  Later this summer we expect to see a few giant swallowtails in the gardens thanks to the newly planted toothache tree. 

Caterpillar host plants vary depending on what state you live in.  To discover some local native host plants you can plant in your own garden, consult a butterfly field guide or a book on gardening with butterflies, preferably one that is specific to your region.
June 30, 2009 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting update
Nests: 76
Fales Crawls : 66
Relocated: 36 (47.3%)
Estimated Eggs to Date: 4300
Eggs Lost: 34 (0.7%)
Mean Clutch Size: 119.3 eggs
June 30, 2009 ~ 2009 Osprey Nesting Survey  (Pandion haliaetus)
osprey-landingKiawah Island Community Association has completed the 2009 osprey nesting survey.  As the end of June, Kiawah boasts ten osprey nests, some found in pine trees and some on man-made structures.  The chicks are in varying degrees of development: some are too small to be seen while others are already flapping their wings in preparation for flight.  Considering the osprey population sunk to dangerously low numbers in the mid-20th century, our large number of nesting ospreys is something to be proud of!  The female lays two to four eggs.  Both genders incubate the eggs for about five weeks and the young are able to fly in two to two and a half months after hatching.  Ospreys are usually tolerant of us humans admiring and photographing their nests, as long as we don't pose a danger to the chicks, so see if you can find all ten osprey nests while the ospreys are still nesting!

Download map of Kiawah's Osprey Nests (pdf.)
June 28, 2009 ~ Black-crowned Night Heron  (Nycticorax nycticorax)

black-crownedToday all of our nature center staff got a healthy dose of respect for the predatory nature of black-crowned night herons.  These stately birds are usually seen along pond edges, dozing until dusk.  Our nature photographer, Jamie Rood, was leading a Wildlife Photoraphy tour through her favorite wildlife spots when she heard a chilling screech and tremendous squawking from the rookery along Sea Marsh Drive.  She discovered a black-crowned night heron with a young green heron in its bill!  As the night heron attempted to manuver its gangly prey into an easy-to-swallow head-first position, several other green herons were moving around the larger bird and vocalizing loudly.  Eventually the night heron swallowed the green heron chick whole.
 
While primarily nocturnal predators of fish and aquatic invertebrates, night herons are opportunistic feeders and are known to be predators of small mammals, birds, and reptiles such as snakes or small alligators.  They are found on every continent except Australia and Antartica, making them one of the most widespread heron species, and populations are generally healthy.  Several unrelated species have red eyes here on Kiawah (common loons, red-eyed vireos, Cooper's hawks, and of course night herons); whether red pigments in the iris serve some purpose for these birds or are just present by chance is still unknown.
 

 

 

June 27, 2009 ~ Manatee (Trichechus manatus)
Guest reports manatee sighting in the Kiawah River at Inlet Cove.
June 26, 2009 ~ Feather Report
stilt-flyingBack Island Birding
Guide:
Sarah Ernst
Weather: 80s, very humid, we delayed 1/2 hour due to rain in the morning. Notes: We saw a large flock of common grackles, which are not as common on Kiawah as boat-tails.  Painted buntings showed off for us in distant trees but at the end of our visit to their habitat, we had a flirtatious pair very close.  We saw a immature Cooper's hawk acting rather immaturely - hopping from tree to tree and harassing the crows and jays with as much pleasure as the crows and jays get from harassing Cooper's hawks.

 

 

Species List: Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Wood Stork, Osprey, Cooper's Hawk, Wilson's Plover, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Caspian Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, House Finch
 

 

June 23, 2009 ~ Green Sea Turtle "Mingo"  (Chelonia mydas)

sea-xraySea Turtle Hospital staff preformed a 3-hour barium study on “Mingo” today, which revealed a partial obstruction in the digestive tract.  Although the cause of the obstruction is still unknown. 

On a positive note, staff are able to pass a nutrition slurries around the obstruction and feces are being passed.

 

(See June 17th, 16th, 15th ,11th for history)

 

 

 

June 23, 2009 ~ Feather Report
osprey-nestingBack Island Birding
Guide:
Sarah Ernst
Weather: 80s and very humid.

Notes: The highlight for me was seeing a blue-gray gnatcatcher from above while midway up our marsh tower.  Usually I catch a glimpse of these twitchy little birds as they flit above through dense foliage.  The new perspective reminded me how much I adore these bold little characters!  Another exciting sight was a huge mixed flock of wading birds at Willet Pond - I guessed over 100 snowy egrets, great egrets, little blue herons, tricolored herons, great blue herons, green herons, black-crowned night herons, wood storks, glossy ibis, and black-necked stilts.  It was the hopping spot this morning!

Species List: Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Green Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Clapper Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Wilson's Plover, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Caspian Tern, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Barn Swallows, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Northern Parula, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, House Finch
 
June 22, 2009 ~ Sea Pork  (Aplidium stellatum)
sea-porkLegends abound about the mysterious pink blobs that wash up on Kiawah's beaches, often after storms or the unusually high tides we've been experiencing lately.  This specimen was found by our Naturalist while Ocean Seining. Are they mutant brains being grown on a secret off-shore lab?  Are they the aftermath of a whale sneeze?  There are all sorts of odd explanations for these strange pink growths, but the truth is just as wierd as the tall tales. 

"Sea pork" is the name given to this creature - a primitive chordate, or animal with a spinal cord.  While it's difficult to believe based on physical appearance, sea pork is more closely related to fish than it is to the jellyfish, sponges, hydrozoans, and bryozoans that it resembles.  As a larva, a young sea pork resembles a tadpole.  It weakly swims around the ocean until it matures, undergoes metamorphasis, and settles down on the ocean floor along shallow coastal waters.  The mature sea pork is a colony of these animals (called zooids).  A rubbery "tunic" protects and secures the tiny bright red zooids.  The colony forms itself into a simple sponge-like water pump, removing nutrients and plankton from the water.  The sea pork that washes up on beach is usually dead, and the small zooids have fallen out of the rubbery pink tunic.  While inedible to us humans, sea pork is a favorite food for sharks, sting rays, and other bottom-feeding fish.  And though occasionally viewed as gross, these odd creatures are completely harmless to people, and may be beneficial when they provoke our wonder and curiousity.
June 20, 2009 ~ Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
wood-storkDespite its gentle expression in this photograph, the wood stork is famous for having one of the fastest reflexes in the animal kingdom.  It feeds by holding its formidable bill ajar in the water, perhaps stirring up fish and invertebrates with its pink feet.  When its bill makes contact with its prey, the bill snaps shut with incredible speed - 25 milliseconds.  By comparison, the average human reaction time is 150 to 300 milliseconds. 

Wood storks prey mostly on fish but will also take anything from small water beetles to young alligators and small mammals.  They can be seen feeding in the salt marsh and Kiawah's saltier ponds such as Willet and Ibis Ponds.  While fairly easy to spot on Kiawah due to their large size, the wood stork is an endangered species.  The primary reason for its decline is assumed to be severe habitat loss in Florida.

Photo by Garrett H.

 

 

June 19, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: 90s but luckily not too steamy!

Notes: Highlights include seeing a painted bunting pair MATING right in front of us on the road to the Ocean Course.  We also saw a red-shouldered hawk soaring high above us - not as common on Kiawah as their red-tailed cousins - got some great looks at the black-necked stilts, and spotted the glossy ibises again.  The juvenile little blue herons are switching over from their white plumage to blue, and the mottled effect is so pretty!

Species List: Brown Pelican, Green Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Clapper Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Wilson's Plover, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Barn Swallows, another unidentified swallow (either a female purple martin or a rough-winged swallow, probably), Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray gnatcatcher, Eastern bluebird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Yellowthroated Warbler, Northern Parula, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting.
June 18, 2009 ~ Reddish Egret , White morph  (Egretta rufescens)
reddish-egret2The peaceful, natural beaches on both the western and eastern ends of Kiawah Island provide a welcome refuge for reddish egrets in the rapidly developing Charleston metro area.  Our naturalists were very excited to hear about the discovery of a very special, rare white morph of the reddish egret.  There are fewer than 1000 white phase reddish egrets in the entire country. 

This bird was spotted and photographed on Captain Sam's Spit at the western end of the island. Like many heron and egret species, both color phases of reddish egrets were nearly driven to extinction in the 1800s because of demand for their gorgeous feather plumes.  They have since made a slow and steady comeback.  However, the 21st century has brought several new threats to the species.  Pesticide runoff and other pollutants harm both the birds and their food supply.  Additionally, an increase in recreational use of their habitat has disturbed nesting and feeding behaviors.  Perhaps the most daunting threat, though, is habitat loss due to land development.  The reddish egret's favorite property - marsh front and beachfront - is also in high demand by the people that love to watch the bird’s energetic antics.

This solid white reddish egret, photographed on Kiawah Island this week by John Moore, is even more rare than the normal dark-colored version seen earlier on the eastern half of Kiawah Island.  The white color stems from a recessive gene - two dark phase parents can produce a white phase chick, but two white phase parents can't produce a dark phase chick.  The white phase may be increasing in proportion to the dark phase - while approximately 4% of reddish egrets were white in the 1950s, 10-20% are white today.  According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, there are only 1500-2000 breeding pairs of reddish egrets in the United States.  These birds are threatened in Texas and are uncommon elsewhere. 
June 17, 2009 ~ Green Sea Turtle "Mingo" (Chelonia mydas)
sea-turtle Update from the Sea Turtle Hospital:  Good news, Mingo is now sitting comfortably on the bottom of his holding tank.  Thanks to the hospital staff for helping with an enema last night that may have done the trick.  There are no feces yet, and we are continuing the mineral oil treatment. 

(see June 11th, June 15th, June 16th for history)
June 17, 2009 ~ Black Swallowtail  (Papilio polyxenes)
black-swallowtailKiawah gardens support our island wildlife!  While many gardeners will include vegetation to attract adult butterflies, the Sanctuary gardens have been designed to support the entire butterfly lifecycle, from egg to larva to butterfly.  If you visit the gardens this month, you will see black swallowtail caterpillars (Papilio polyxenes) devouring our bronze fennel.  Look closely to find their well-camouflaged chrysalis handing from these plants (see photo) and perhaps even the adult butterfly emerging. 
 
The Kiawah Island Nature Program and the Sanctuary's landscaping department are currently creating a new webpage: What's In Bloom.  This site will focus on the Sanctuary Gardens and the plants that help support Kiawah native wildlife populations.  The site will be available later this summer. 
June 16, 2009 ~ Flutter Report
white-butterflyBirds and Butterfly Walk at the Sanctuary Gardens

Guide:Sarah Ernst

Today we saw and/or caught cabbage whites, sachems, palamedes swallowtail, American painted lady, and a cloudywing.  Dragonflies/damselflies included a female blue dasher, a Halloween pennant, Eastern amberwings, Eastern forktails, and a small unidentified forktail.
June 16, 2009 ~ Sea Hare (Aplysia morio)

sea-hareThis sea hare (Probably the sooty sea hare, Aplysia morio) was caught in a seine net during Ocean Seining by naturalist Maria Covell and a few families of enthusiastic young island visitors.  It curled up defensively when taken out of the water but was able to swim off with its usual grace once returned to the ocean.  Sea hares can also shoot out purple ink as a defense mechanism, but luckily for our guests we all managed to remain ink free during this encounter.  The sea hare is one of Kiawah’s most elegant swimmers; it glides through the sea with a gentle rippling motion that gives it the nickname “Spanish Dancer”.   Hard to believe that the sea hare is in fact a slug – a shell-less snail that grazes on algae close to the coast.  A pair of tentacles stick out like rabbit ears.  The sea hare has an unusually small number of neurons at 20,000 – in comparison, the human brain has nearly a trillion – so it is used as an animal model by scientists to understand more about how the human brain and its neurons work.

 

 

June 16, 2009 ~ Green Sea Turtle "Mingo"  (Chelonia mydas)
green-turtleRadiographs taken on “Mingo” revealed intestinal air to be the cause of the floating. Extremely dilated intestinal loops give the impression that impaction is the likely culprit.  The Sea Turtle Hospital staff will initially try non-surgical methods to help the animal pass the foreign body(ies) which are likely plastic and basic supportive care will continue.
(see June 11th and 15th for history)
June 16, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Guide:
Sarah Ernst
Weather: High 80s and damp from thunderstorms this morning before dawn

Notes: Highlights include seeing a painted bunting pair feeding a young cowbird, an osprey pair preening each other in a dead tree, a fawn traveling across the salt marsh, and yet another visit from our cooperative young least bittern.

Species List: Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, Green Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Least Bittern, Wood Stork, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Wilson's Plover, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker (heard only), Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren,  Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Brown-headed Cowbird, Painted Bunting, House Finch
 
June 15, 2009 ~ Green Sea Turtle "Mingo"  (Chelonia mydas)
green-seaturtle 

We received an update from the South Carolina Turtle Hospital on the Green Sea Turtle rescued by our Naturalists last week (see June 11th).  Named "Mingo" by the hospital staff they report that he is very skinny, has a moderate barnacle load and is severely dehydrated. He is receiving daily fluids, antibiotics and vitamin injections.

 


(see June 11th for history)

 

 

 

June 12, 2009 ~ Reddish Egret  (Egretta rufescens)
reddish-egretThis reddish egret was photographed by island visitors Mr. and Mrs. Moore on Kiawah’s eastern beach.  Wading birds like herons and egrets are known for their patient, stealthy hunting style.  The reddish egret is the cheerful exception: this mid-sized egret dances across shallow water in search of prey, often holding its wings outstretched to create a shadow in the water.  This frightens small fish and invertebrates, rapidly snatched up by the egret.  Most reddish egrets nest in tropical swamps along the gulf coast but a few birds will visit South Carolina after the breeding season. 
June 12, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: High 80s and steamy, light wind

Notes: Lots of dragonflies out today too!

Species List: Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, Least Bittern, Wood Stork, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Wilson's Plover, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Red-winged Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting
June 11, 2009 ~ Green Sea Turtle "Mingo" (Chelonia mydas)
rescue-turtleOn June 11, Resort Naturalists rescued a Green Sea Turtle in the marsh off of Mingo Point on Kiawah Island. Green Sea Turtles are listed as a federally threatened species. Nesting of Green Sea Turtles on our coast is very rare; however, young turtles such as this one can be found in our shallow creeks and salt marshes feeding on epiphytic green algae such as sea lettuce.

The green sea turtle rescued by our naturalists was transported by Department of Natural Resources to the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital where it is currently undergoing evaluation.

To keep up to date on our turtle rescue, check back to this page regularly for updates and progress reports.
June 11, 2009 ~ Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus)
fish-catch
June 5, 2009 ~ Black-necked Stilt   (Himantopus mexicanus)
black-necked-stilt At the Ocean Course, our Resort Naturalists observed a behavior termed “belly soaking” (see photo).  Stilts use "belly-soaking" to transport water in their ventral feathers. In hot climates adults use belly soaking to cool themselves, the eggs or chicks, and to increase nest humidity. Stilts may make over 100 trips for water a day. Black necked stilts are a rare summer visitor to Kiawah. This year, we are fortunate to have several pairs on our island. In fact, according to our Town Biologists, “the stilts are exhibiting behaviors which lead us to believe they may be nesting.” 
June 5, 2009 ~ Feather Report
Back Island Birding
Guide
: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Partly cloudy, 80 F but steamy, some wind and strong surf

Notes: Bird of the day is glossy ibis, the first time this species has showed up on our feather reports.  We also saw a trio of green heron nestlings and some great looks at a painted bunting in perfect sunlight.  Least bitterns are still appearing on a regular basis, much to my surpise and delight!  Maybe finding them gets easier with practice.  I continue to see and hear northern parulas and yellowthroated warblers, but not in any locations that we go for Back Island Birding.

Species List:
Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, Green Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Least Bittern, Wood Stork, Glossy Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Clapper Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting
 
June 2, 2009 ~ Feather Report
feather-reportBack Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Sunny, low to mid 80s, fairly calm

Notes:
One small heron gave us some identification trouble today, but we finally settled on a female least bittern rather than immature green heron because it had distinct even stripes on its chest - not streaks.  Lots of wood storks soaring around, painted buntings showing off their colors, and least terns feeding their young on the sand.

Species List: Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormornat, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Least Bittern, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Black-necked Stilt, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Least Tern, Caspian Tern, Black Skimmer, Ground Dove, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting

 

 

 

June 2, 2009 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle  (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead eggsLoggerhead Sea Turtle 2009 nesting season update

Nests: 20
False Crawls: 8
Relocated nests: 11 (55%)
Eggs Counted: 1520
Eggs Lost: 12 (0.7%)
Mean Clutch Size: 138.1 eggs

News from the region...Edisto Beach State Park had a leatherback nest last week. Folly Beach has had a record breaking clutch count of 215 eggs!

 

Photo of nest relocation by Jamie Rood

 

 

 

June 2, 2009 ~ American Oystercatcher  (Haematopus palliatus)
oyster-catchersmThis American oystercatcher's band number was captured by our nature photographer Jamie Rood.  After contacting the Department of Natural Resources, we discovered that this bird was orginally trapped and banded, along with 42 other oystercatchers, on Little St. Simons Island in Georgia.  His mate, not pictured, was unbanded. 

American oystercatcher populations are low and, while not endangered, are listed as species of special concern in several states.  Their chief threat is habitat loss due to development and recreational uses of beaches - keeping your dog leashed along the beach during shorebird breeding season is a great way to help keep oystercatchers thriving on Kiawah!
 
May 30, 2009 ~ Bonnethead Shark  (Sphyrna tiburo)
 kayak-fishingSurf and kayak fishing guides Tim Pifer and Max Henzler landed a lively bonnethead shark off Captain Sam's Inlet.  It was later released unharmed.  Bonnetheads are frequently caught in the marsh on our motorboat and kayak fishing trips, and are often spotted at low tide on our family kayaking trips.  They are a member of the hammerhead shark family but are much smaller (3-4 feet) and are not a danger to people, preferring to munch instead on tasty blue crabs and other bottom dwellers.

May 30, 2009 ~ Pileated Woodpecker  (Dryocopus pileatus)
piliated-woodpeckerOur naturalists first observed pileated woodpeckers frequenting Night Heron Park in late spring (see May 21st). Since that time, we have found a woodpecker nest in the top of a dead palmetto tree. The naturalists have been keeping watch over the nest and the gangly babies have recently been seen poking their heads out of the nest.  Despite their romantic reputations, most birds only temporarily pair up in spring; pileated woodpeckers are one of the few bird species that form long-term, monogamous relationships.  After the eggs hatch, the babies stay in the nest for a little under a month before learning how to fly.  Like many other forest birds, the parents will continue to feed the young while they slowly learn how to feed themselves.
May 29, 2009 ~ Feather Report

 
Back Island Birding
Guide:
Sarah Ernst
Weather: Sunny, low to mid 80s, fairly calm

Species List: Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Wood Stork, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer,  Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, Boat-tailed Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, House Finch
 
May 28, 2009 ~ Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtle  (Caretta caretta), (Chelonia mydas)

 
Captain John Ward and his fishing tour spotted a loggerhead sea turtle and a green sea turtle today.  While the loggerhead is the only species that regularly nests on Kiawah, other sea turtles can occasionally be spotted in the marine waters around the island including the green, hawksbill, Kemp's Ridley, and leatherback sea turtles.  All sea turtle species are endangered or threatened.  The elegant green turtle is primarily herbivorous, grazing on seaweed and sea grasses.  Its nearest nesting grounds are in the Caribbean.  Our local loggerheads prefer a diet of mollusks, crustaceans, and jellyfish.  Nine nests have already been found on Kiawah this year.
May 27, 2009 ~ Flutter Report

grey-butterflyButterflies and other species observed on today's Birds and Butterfly walk
Guide: Sarah Ernst

Butterflies: Pearl Crescent, Painted Lady, Monarch, Palamedes Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple, Cabbage White, Sachem, and an unidentified dusky skipper.

Dragonflies and Damselflies: Eastern Forktail, Carolina Saddlebags, Blue Dasher, Eastern Pondhawk, and several other unidentified species

Other Critters: Grasshoppers and Katydids, Seven-Spotted ladybugs, Lovebugs, some unidentified microleps (small moths), Orchard spiders, and some young Golden Silk Spiders

Photo of Cabbage White by Jamie Rood

 

 

May 25, 2009 ~ White-tailed Deer  (Odocoileus virginianus)
baby-deerMr. Mike Loux, Kiawah property owner, called the Nature Center to notify us that a doe had just given birth to twins. Although, this was a situation that does not need human intervention, we were excited by the opportunity to document the event. When our naturalist arrived, they found one of the twins well hidden in a shrub.  The doe had moved the other twin but was still close by. 

The fawn was approximately one hour old and about the size of a house cat. Fawns appear helpless and vulnerable; especially given the fact that the mother may leave them unattended for 18 to 20 hours per day.  However, there are several adaptations that allow for a strong success rate.  For example, the white spots act as camouflage stimulating sunspots that make their way through the trees.  They are also born without a scent thereby keeping predators from smelling them.

If you are fortunate to catch a glimpse of a new born fawn, take a brief moment to enjoy the magical experience, then quickly move on.  The mother is very attentive and will return periodically throughout the day.  However, not wanting to draw attention to her young she will not return if people are present.  Photo by Jamie rood
May 25, 2009 ~ White-tailed Deer  (Odocoileus virginianus)
mother-deerThe distended stomach of this Kiawah doe reveals that she has just given birth.  In fact, the Loux family was able to witness twins being born, see above.  Most developments along the east coast have too many deer, but the presence of natural predators on Kiawah (bobcats and alligator) have helped to maintain our deer population at a healthy level.
 
May 25, 2009 ~ Ebony Jewelwing  (Calopteryx maculata)
dragonflyThis visually stunning damselfly  is a Ebony Jewelwing.  Dragonflies and damselflies are both odonates, but are a bit different from one another.  As a group damselflies tend to be smaller and more delicate than dragonflies; they have more bulbous looking eyes that stick out from their face; and they hold their wings up and together rather than out and apart. Photo by Jamie Rood
May 23, 2009 ~ Feather Report

 
Back Island Birding

Notes:
Highlight was an adult bald eagle hunting among the black-necked stilts at Willet Pond.  I was surprised to see it there since I haven't seen any bald eagles in the last month.  We later saw it perched alone on the east end beach.

Guide:
Sarah Ernst

Weather:
Warm, partly cloudly, slight wind - beautiful!

Species List:
Brown Pelican, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Least Bittern, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Common Moorhen, Black-necked Stilt, Wilson's Plover, Sanderling, Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Nothern Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Cardinal, House Finch.
 
May 22, 2009 ~ Shorebird Nesting Survey
shore-bird-nestingSummer is here and the beaches of Kiawah Island abound with migratory birds. The 3 most common beach nesting birds on Kiawah Island are least terns, Wilson's plovers, and American oystercatchers.  Wilson's plovers may be found up and down the beach but least terns and oystercatchers nest exclusively on the eastern end of Kiawah Island adjacent to the Ocean Course Clubhouse. 

Today, Town and Resort biologists conducted a shore bird nesting survey at Kiawah’s eastern end.  They estimated a total of 88 nests, from species including Wilson’s Plover, American Oystercatchers and Least Terns.   This nesting area has been posted with signs prohibiting entry for any reason.  Please do not disturb the birds in this area.  Kiawah Island is one of only 3 places in the entire state where least terns can be found nesting along the beachfront.  If you visit the area, please observe the birds with binoculars from a distance. 

Learn how you can help protect Kiawah's Nesting Shore Birds -Click Here (download.pdf)
Photo of Least Tern (SC threatened species) by Jamie Rood
May 21, 2009 ~ Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin  (Tursiops truncatus)
dolphin-feedingThese bottlenose dolphins were photographed strand feeding by Captain John Ward on a Dolphin Encounters.  Strand feeding is a rare and exciting dolphin behavior, only found on a regular basis in the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry.  Dolphins herd their prey into a tight, panicked ball of fish and drive them onto a steep bank of mud or sand.  The fish have nowhere to go but dry land, and the dolphins follow by launching themselves out of the water.  As seen in this photo, all dolphins land on their right side.  Scientist think this is because strand feeding is a learned behavior, not an instinctive behavior.  Young dolphins watch their mothers and aunts strand feed before attempting it themselves. 
May 21, 2009 ~ Pileated Woodpecker  (Dryocopus pileatus)
pileated-woodpeckerWith its showy red crest and impressive size, the pileated woodpecker is one of Kiawah's most memorable birds.  They play an important role in the forest ecosystem: every year they excavate new nests in dead trees.  Old nests are then used by a wide variety of birds and mammals.  Allowing dead trees (called snags) to remain standing is a great way to provide habitat for woodpeckers and other birds.
Photo by Jamie Rood at Night Heron Park
May 21, 2009 ~ Feather Report

 
Back Island Birding
Notes
: Two highlights today: some great views of a singing male painted bunting, and a quick sighting of the elusive least bittern. Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Cloudy, low 70s, wind on the edges
Species List: Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Least Bittern, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Clapper Rail, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, Unidentified "Peep" (Semipalmated, Least, or Western Sandpiper), Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Least Tern, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle
May 16, 2009 ~ Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin  (Tursiops truncatus)
 dolphin-swimmingAs seen by Captain John Ward, on his Dolphin Encounters, this Kiawah resident adult female is named Scratch.  Scratch is checking out the tour as they watch her.  Dolphin can see in color having both rods and cones.  Research has also found that dolphins have a light filter in the brain that allows them to see clearly above the water. 
May 15, 2009 ~ Raccoon  (Procyon lotor)
baby-racoonsMany raccoon kits (babies) have been spotted on Kiawah lately.  Clever and mischievous, raccoons are fun to watch in the wild but are not necessarily welcome on front porches!  The kits pictured will be raised by a wildlife rehabilitator, but they were probably not orphans.  While it's tempting to think of any baby animal on its own as an orphan, raccoons are very good mothers and chances are that a baby will not be alone for long.  If you do find a baby raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, fawn or fledgling bird, it's best to move it to a nearby safe place for a few hours to give its mother a chance to return and take care of it.   The best parent for a wild animal is its natural parent. 
 
May 15, 2009 ~ Tufted Titmouse  (Baeolophus bicolor)
tufted-titmouseCounselors had an unexpected guest at Kamp Kiawah today: a fledgling tufted titmouse.  It crashed into a few walls - and counselors! - before being carefully scooped up.  After recovering for a few minutes, the titmouse was released on a safe tree, much to the relief of its anxious parents.  The yellow corners of the bill identify this as a young bird, still being fed regurgitated seeds and insects by its parents.  We look forward to watching this titmouse family visit our birdfeeder at the nature center.
 
Most baby birds found on Kiawah are not orphans but fledglings like this titmouse who are simply learning how to fly.  If you find a baby bird on the ground with open eyes and most of its feathers, it should be left where it is or moved to a safe spot in a nearby bush.  Its parents will be able to find it, take care of it, and teach it how to survive in the wild.  And the old wive's tail of birds abandoning their young after being touched by humans is false because most birds have a poor sense of smell.
May 15, 2009 ~ Diamondback Terripan  (Malaclemys terrapin)
 terrapinFriday morning, a large female diamondback terrapin was brought into the Nature Center.  At some point in the past, this turtle lost her two front legs.  Through research we know that terrapins can survive with missing limbs.  In fact, it is estimated that 10% of Kiawah's terrapin population has missing limbs; often caused by an attach by a crab or small shark.  This female, however, had reopened the wounds on her limbs most likely in an attempt to walk across pavement searching for a nesting site.  Thankfully, Dr. Mike Dorcas from Davidson College is on island conducting is on-going terrapin research.  She was taken immediately to his team where she was checked to see if she had eggs (she did not), marked, and re-released into Fiddler Creek on Saturday.  We praise the efforts of those individuals who sought to help this turtle!    
May 15, 2009 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle  (Caretta caretta)

 
Turtle season has started on Kiawah!  The first Loggerhead Sea Turtle nest of the season was laid this morning just west of the Beach Club.  
May 12, 2009 ~ Wilson's Plover  (Charadrius wilsonia)
wilson-ploverOur Town Biologists, Jim Jordan and Aaron Givens participated in a statewide Wilson’s plover survey.  At this time they surveyed the entire and recorded 51 adult Wilson’s Plovers: 24 males, 22 females and 5 unknown.  In fact, Kiawah’s eastern end reported the highest concentration of  nesting Wilson’s plovers in South Carolina.

Photo of Wilson's Plover (SC threatened species) by Jamie Rood
May 12, 2009 ~ Feather Report
  Back Island Birding
Notes: We saw a huge flock of semipalmated plovers feeding in Killdeer Pond, probably filling up for fuel for the long trip up north.  There were hundreds, including some flying within a few feet of us!  This is also the first time this season that Eastern kingbird has appeared on our bird list.
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Cool, cloudy, and sprinkles of rain.
Species List: Brown Pelican, Green Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Semipalmated Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting.
May 8, 2009 ~ Redfish  (Sciaenops ocellatus)
red-fishRedfish and trout action is heating up on the Kiawah River and surrounding waters with good numbers and size.  Captain John’s latest redfish weighed in at 13 pounds. As we finish up with the transition from spring into summer, we will be moving into a more stable fishing pattern.  This includes fishing more structures like docks and oyster beds.  Also, with the river water warming (77 degrees in the Kiawah River) the sharks have ventured back inland.  This week we’ve caught 6 bonnethead sharks, 5 Atlantic sharpnose sharks and 1 bull shark, with many more to come
May 5, 2009 ~ Feather Report
bunting-birdBack Island Birding
Notes: The spotted sandpiper and black-bellied plover are in glorious breeding plumage - too bad they'll migrate to the far north soon!  Also saw our first sandwich tern of the season.  Total species = 39
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Low 80s, quiet inland, windy on beach
Total Species: 39
Species List: Brown Pelican, Double Crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Green Heron, Osprey, Black-bellied Plover, American Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Sandwich Tern, Least Tern, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting (photo), Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, House Finch.    Photo by Jamie Rood.
May 4, 2009,  Atlantic Sturgeon  (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus)
 
surgeon-fishSeabrook residents encountered this amazing carcass on their beach. Measuring 4 to 5 feet in length, it was identified as a sturgeon, most likely an Atlantic sturgeon.  Sturgeon are a very primitive fish shaped like sharks with a deeply forked tail.  Structural support and protection are provided by thick, tough skin with three rows of bony plates or scutes.
May 1, 2009 ~ Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin  (Tursiops truncatus)
dolphin-headDolphin Encounters with Captain John Ward captured this photo of Chip, an adult female bottlenose dolphin who resides in the Kiawah River.  Named for the small chip out of the backside of her dorsal fin, Chip is one of the 26 individuals identified in her pod.  The small white scratches on her head are an obvious sign that mating season has begun.
 
April 26, 2009 ~ Nest Box Report
  The Sanctuary houses 10 nest boxes throughout its gardens.  As of April 25th Kiawah volunteers have reported the following:
 
Nest box #1: 5 tiny chickadee babies - newly hatched
Nest box #4 - 1 chickadee egg -- abandoned?
Nest box #5 - 5 bluebird eggs
Nest box #6 - 5 chickadee eggs
Nest box #9 - 6 chickadee babies - already have white stripe on neck.
 
April 26, 2009, 10:30 am ~ Cannonball Jellyfish  (Stomolophus meleagris)
cannon-ballCannonball Jellyfish have been sighted in the Kiawah River for the first time this year. Cannonballs are Kiawah’s most common jellyfish. During the summer and fall, large numbers appear near the coast. Easily identified by their round white bells with a marginal boarder of brown or purple pigment. They have no tentacles and rarely cause any irritation to beachgoers.

 April 25, 2009. 3 pm ~ Bonnethead Shark  (Sphyrna tiburo)
bonnetCaptain Mike’s Inshore Fishing Charter caught the season’s first Bonnethead Shark. Using blue crab meat as bait, Mr. Coy caught the first Bonnethead Shark of the season. It was a small one, only measuring about 30” and weighing in around 5 lbs. Then using live shrimp as bait, his son, Jason, landed the next shark, which was over 36” long and weighed around 10-12 lbs. In both cases, the sharks were boated, the hooks were removed and the sharks were released back into the marsh.
April 21, 2009 Spanish Mackerel  (Scomberomorus maculatus)
  On the Near Coastal & Reef Fishing Charter, Captain Mike’s group caught the ever plentiful Black Sea Bass, and the season’s first Spanish Mackerel and Bluefish. The action was non-stop all morning.
April 21, 2009, 10:30 am ~ Bonnethead Shark  (Sphyrna tiburo)
Bonnethead sharks were sighted fishing in the shallows along the edge of the Kiawah River. This is the first of the season as they prefer water above 70 degrees. Bonnetheads migrate to the equator in the colder winter months and toward higher latitudes during the spring. The smallest of the hammerheads, the Bonnethead rarely exceeds 4½ feet in length and are considered harmless. While conducting a Dolphin Encounters, Captain Mike spotted this indivual working the shallows near Oyster Creek on Kiawah’s western end.
April 21, 2009 ~ Feather Report
  Back Island Birding
Phenomenal birding today - perfect temperature, sunlight, and great looks at lots of different types of birds. We ended up seeing so many birds in the Preserve that we ran out of time and had to skip the beach, otherwise our total count would be longer. Still, it was definitely quality over quantity today, and we saw tons of quality! Most notable is a juvenile peregrine falcon hanging out on one of the bridges of the Preserve. It's my first sighting of one here at Kiawah. We also got great looks at the stilts, egrets, green heron, yellowlegs of both sizes, great crested flycatchers, tons of swallows, a pine warbler singing and hovering for insects like a hummingbird, and my first orchard orioles of the season, two males and a stunning female.

Guide:Sarah Ernst
Weather: Sunny and warm.
Total Species: 43
Species List
: Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon (juvenile), Clapper Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Marsh Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole, House Finch.
April 18, 2009 ~ Osprey  (Pandion haliaetus)
4.18-sightingAs of today....the last owlet at Willet pond is now gone and the Ospreys have moved in, they were spotted re-buildling the nest and courting.
April 17, 2009 ~ Black Swallowtail Caterpillar  (Papilio polyxenes)
caterpillar Black Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes, feeding on fennel plants in the Sanctuary Gardens.
April 14, 2009 ~ Nature Photography
bird-sightingGreat egret in the marsh captured by Jamie Rood on her Nature Photoghraphy class.
April 10, 2009 ~ National Birdwatch Open
eagle-treeCougar Point Golf Course participated in the National Birdwatch Open sponsored by Audubon International, the organization in which all five resort course are certified.  The birdwatch is a 24 hour birding event to see and hear different species of birds on golf courses.  The second week in April is picked for the southeast region to coincide with migration. 
 
Birders:Pete Nelson, Adam Nelson, Scott Nelson, and Paul Roberts
Total Species:  52
Species List:  Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tri-colored Heron, Green Heron, Red-breasted Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, American Crow, Fish Crow, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray, Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Song Sparrow, White-Throated Sparrow, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Orchard Oriole.

Photo by Kiawah resident Paul Roberts

 

 

 

April 10, 2009 ~ Bobcat  (Lynx rufus)
small-cat As the sky began to lighten on Kiawah Island early on April 10, a male bobcat climbed a tree near Cougar Point Golf Course and delighted island visitors by spending the whole day lounging on a tree limb. He serenely ignored both his human admirers as well as the occasional scolding chickadee and titmouse, some of which were bold enough to snatch tufts of bobcat hair and bring it back to line their nests! The GPS collar around his neck allowed Kiawah's town biologists to track the cat's movement: after spending 16 hours in the tree, the bobcat spent a day in the western end of Kiawah before swimming across the Kiawah River to visit Seabrook Island.

First caught and fitted with a collar in February on Kiawah's Sora Rail Road, this adult male spends a lot of time on Seabrook as well as the west end Kiawah, and he has even visited the nature center! Bobcats are usually shy and secretive animals, so cats like our easy-going male visitor have adapted surprisingly well to island development. The GPS collars help biologists to understand why they have been so successful. Web page header photo by Jamie Rood.
April 7, 2009 ~ Shutterbug
white-birdIt was cold and windy this morning for us but nature was feeling spring. Great Egret photographed by Jamie Rood during her Nature Photography class.
April 3, 2009 ~ Feather Report
fat-birdInteresting mix today, folks! We're getting some winter species still here, as well as some summer species. But some winter species have left and some summers aren't here yet. There were a lot of new species for my birding trip counts for this year: a few Wilson's Plovers, large amounts of newly arrived Least Terns, some newly arrived Barn Swallows, and some Red Knots migrating through... The Osprey Point owlets were nowhere in sight - maybe they have fledged already, or just hunkered down in the nest. The Willet owlets were both visible today. Green herons are nesting at Osprey Point. We also saw an alligator catch and eat a VERY large toad! Apparently that pond is fresh enough to host amphibians because the toads were going nuts and there were also leopard frogs chuckling in the background.

Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Partly cloudy, humid, low 70s, very windy on beach, very wet conditions from yesterday's storm
Total: 48

Species List:
Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Lesser Scaup (Probably, two females in flight and hard to confirm. They looked a little like blue-winged teal due to the white mark between the beak and eye, but were way too large.), Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Wilson's Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Willet, Red Knot, Sanderling, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Forster's Tern, Least Tern, Great Horned Owl, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Finch. Photography buy Jamie Rood
April 1, 2009 ~ Great Horned Owl  (Bubo virginianus)
owl-babyOwl and 2 Owlets at Willet Pond nest.  Photo by Kiawah resident and Kiawah Conservancy Trustee, Pam Cohen.
March 31, 2009 ~ Feather Report
junior-birdBack Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather:
Cloudy, 60s, some wind

SpeciesList:
Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolor Heron, Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Osprey, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Piping Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Royal Tern, Forster's Tern, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthach, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, European Starling, House Finch.
March 27, 2009 ~ Painted Bunting  (Passerina ciris)
First painted bunting of the season reported on Kiawah.
March 26, 2009 ~ Red-tailed Hawk  (Buteo jamaicensis)
red-tailedhawkGreat sighting at Night Heron Park.  Photo by Jamie Rood.
March 17, 2009 ~ Feather Report
   Back Island Birding Guide: Sarah E
Weather: 50s-60s, cloudy to partly cloudy, very calm
Total: 51
Species List:
Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Gannet, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Redtail Hawk, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, American Oystercatcher, Willet, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Great Horned Owl with chicks!, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Eastern Meadowlark.
March 15, 2009 ~ Great Horned Owls  (Bubo virginianus)
  As golfers practice their swing on the practice green at Osprey Point Golf Course, they seldom realize they are being watched by a pair of wary, half-lidded eyes.  A pair of great horned owls have taken over an old osprey nest for spring 2009.  Its fuzzy snow-white feathers keep the chick warm on windy nights; when it reaches adult plumage, the gray-brown feathers serve as remarkable camouflage.One of the largest birds of prey on Kiawah, the great horned owl is a remarkable creature.  These fierce predators feed on everything from tiny cotton mice to four-feet-tall great blue herons.  The tufts on its head are actually far from their ears; they may help to break up the bird's profile, making it less visible as it waits to ambush its prey.  The real ears, located deep underneath the feathers on the side of the head, are slightly lopsided.  This helps it pinpoint distant sounds with incredible accuracy.
February 24, 2009 ~ Feather Report
red-wingedblackbirdBack Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather:
Sunny, clear, some brisk winds, cold
Total:
44
Species List:
Scoter/Scaup sp.,Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead,Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Sanderling, Ring-billed Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Caspian Tern (I think, might have been royal), Forster's Tern, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird (photo), House Finch.
February 16, 2009 ~ Great Backyard Bird Count
  A group of Kiawah residents led by Nature Center birder, Sarah Ernst, were among those sending 59,000 lists to the Great Backyard Bird Count.  We visited a variety of locations beginning on February 16 at 8:00 a.m. at the Nature Center where we counted 10 species;  we continued at Turtle Pond where we spotted a seldom seen Black and White Warbler among the hundreds of Yellow-rumped Warblers.  We counted at least 15 species at Turtle Pond.   On the ocean at Turtle Beach we saw thousands of birds floating like rafts on the water.  Sarah identified one nearby  group as Lesser Scaup.  On the shore there were Dunlins skittering about with the more common Sanderlings.  At Ibis Pond we observed Pied-billed Grebes, Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead and Lesser Scaup among the Great-crested Cormorants and wading birds.  Sarah’s keen eye spotted a Red-tailed Hawk in the marsh across the road.  We stopped at Willet Pond where the most unusual sighting was a Great Horned Owl on the Osprey nest across the road from the pond.  She was almost invisible, with only her feathered horns fluttering in the breeze and her eyes peering out above the twigs.  At the Ocean Course we walked to the beach beyond the practice green.  Interesting sightings were Red-breasted Mergansers in the lagoon, two juvenile Bald Eagles soaring overhead, American Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlins and Short-billed Dowitchers.  Our total number of species was 58, a good morning’s work! 
January 30, 2009 ~ Feather Report
blue-birdBack Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Mild wind, 40s
Total: 42
Species List:  Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Ring-necked Duck, Scoter sp., Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Ring-billed Gull, Royal Tern, Forster's Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird (photo), Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch.
December 4, 2008 ~ Feather Report
  Back Island Birding
Guide: Sarah Ernst
Weather: Calm, clear, 40s-60s
Total Species: 46

Highlight of the Trip:
American Bittern.  A shy and uncommon resident of marshes, bitterns are notoriously difficult to find.  We saw an American bittern right next to a tricolored heron (great for size comparison, so we could easily rule out least bittern and a juvenile green heron) along a pond edge; it stayed in view for about eight seconds and dissapeared into the reeds.  It was a life bird for me!

Species List:
Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, American Bittern,  Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Hooded Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Clapper Rail, Common Moorhen, Black-bellied Plover, Piping Plover (2!), Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow.