2013 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.com.

December 29, 2013 ~ Lightning Whelk (Busycon contrarium)

Lightning WhelkTour: Dolphin Encounters
Naturalist: Bradley Schmoll
Photo By: Mariana Ordas

We had an opportunity to see a very large Lightning whelk during a Dolphin Encounters trip today. It measured approximately 12 inches in length and was alive. Their left-handed whorl sets them apart from the other whelk species such as the Knobbed whelk. These animals are carnivorous and will consume bivalves such as oysters and clams. The snail will use its shell as a crowbar to pry open the bivalve, or grind the shell with its own shell until it creates a hole large enough to stick its radula, or toothed tongue, inside. Notice the pile of sand being plowed and piled in the direction of movement. These snails are a part of the Gastropoda class, meaning “stomach footed”.

Interested in a going on a Dolphin Encounter Tour? Call the Nature Center at 843.768.6001 for availability and reservations.

December 28, 2013 ~ Feather Report

green heronTour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Matt Arnold
Photo By: Patti Ralabate

During today’s Back Island Birding trip, Patti Ralabate and I made a quick stop at Ibis pond to check out a distant raft of ducks which turned out to be a flock of Redheads and as we scanned the raft for any other species, we spotted a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) feeding along the edge of the pond. While Green Herons are quite common on Kiawah during the warmer months, they typically overwinter in Florida and the Caribbean. However, some few individuals will brave the cooler temperatures here in South Carolina near the coast and take advantage of the decrease in turbidity along the water’s edge.

Interested in a birding tour? Call the Nature Center at 843.768.6001 for availability and reservations.

December 5, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Matt Arnold
Photo By: Roseanne Jordan

Kiawah Island guest Roseanne Jordan sent this picture of a Blue Headed Vireo seen on a Back Island Birding tour today.

Interested in a birding tour? Call the Nature Center at 843.768.6001 for availability and reservations.

December 5, 2013 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Photo By: Roseanne Jordan

Kiawah Island guest Roseanne Jordan sent this picture of a juvenile American alligator seen on the path of the Swamp Garden at Turtle Point today.

Interested in learning more about the American alligators on Kiawah? Join us for a Alligator Adventure or Gator Walk Tour. Call the Nature Center at 843.768.6001 for availability and reservations.

November 20, 2013 ~ Paint Splash Tunicate

Naturalist: Laura Willhoft

We were excited to take out a group of juniors and seniors from Ashley Hall and teach them a little about the Kiawah River and the salt marsh. After a very windy kayak trip, we had the girls sample underneath the dock for small fish, crabs, bryozoans, barnacles and everything in between. As we were finishing up, I spotted a rope dangling in the water and I was very surprised by what I found when I pulled it up! Covering the rope was a thick layer of sea squirt tunicates, small barnacles, moss bryozoans and covering all of that was a thick layer of paint splash tunicate. This is an animal related to animals like sea pork, sea liver, sea squirts and sea grapes. Named for looking exactly like spilled paint, this paint splash tunicate was white and very smooth and glossy upon touch. This is the first time I have come across this tunicate and was excited to see that we have it growing right on our dock! To learn more about paint splash tunicate, check out the book Seashore Animals of the Southeast by Edward Ruppert or ask one of our naturalists!

Interested in taking a kayak trip of your own? Check out a full list of paddling tours and call the Nature Center at 843.768.6001 for any questions and reservations.

October 30 ~ Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Naturalist: Matthew Arnold
Tour: Dolphin Encounters

During a Dolphin Encounter, we came across our first Ruddy Duck of the season in the river near “the mudflats.” The Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), a short distance migrant, breeds in the wetlands through the western portion of North America and will over-winter here in the marshes around Kiawah. A distinctive bird, the Ruddy Duck, has a spiky tail that the males will utilize in a dramatic mating display.

October 29 ~ Common Loon (Gavia immer)

Naturalist: Matthew Arnold
Tour: Marsh Kayaking

On a Marsh Kayaking trip, near Beachwalker County Park and Captain Sam’s Spit (Cape Charles), I spotted my first Common Loon (Gavia immer) of the season, diving and feeding along the bottom. An exciting bird for me, secretly my favorite bird since I was a kid, the Common Loon has arguably one of the most distinctive calls in the avian world. Built for diving, the Common Loon has the ability to reach depths of up to 200 feet beneath the surface and has eyes that are capable of focusing both underwater and in the air.

October 24 ~ Feather Report

Naturalist: Matthew Arnold
Tour: Back Island Birding

Green-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, , Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Clapper Rail, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Nashville Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle

October 22 ~ Feather Report

Naturalist: Juliana Smith
Tour: Back Island Birding

At Mingo Point: Belted Kingfisher, Brown Pelican, Willet, Tree Swallow, Double-crested Cormorant, Clapper Rail, Laughing Gull, Fish Crow, American Crow, Eastern Towhee, Carolina Wren, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Indigo Bunting, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Great Egret, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal

In the Preserve: Eastern Phoebe, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Osprey, Gray Catbird

At Osprey Point: Snowy Egret, Boat-tailed Grackle, European Starling, White Ibis, Blue Jay, Caspian Tern, Eastern Bluebird

October 17 ~ Feather Report

Naturalist: Matthew Arnold
Tour: Back Island Birding

Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Clapper Rail, Willet, Laughing Gull, Forster’s Tern, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Pine Warbler, American Redstart, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Finch

October 15, 2013 ~ Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata)

As Town Biologist Aaron Given puts it, ‘the first of a wave of buttery goodness’ has arrived on Kiawah. Today, Town biologists banded the first two Yellow-rumped Warblers of the season. The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the most common warblers in North America, and in the winter they are one of the most abundant birds on Kiawah. In fact, the sheer number of Yellow-rumped Warblers on Kiawah over the winter season is one of the things that make this bird so impressive.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are aptly named and easily identified by the little yellow patch of color on the rump and on the sides of this mostly brown bird. Their short, thin bills and relatively short wings make them efficient at catching insects, their primary food. Once known as Myrtle Warblers because of their diet preferences, you can typically find many feeding together in our native wax myrtle trees. In fact, they are the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtles. Its ability to use these fruits allows it to winter farther north than other warblers.

Spend a little time with our Naturalists on a Back Island Birding Tour or the new Birding for Beginners to see Kiawah’s ‘Butter Butts’ in action.

October 10 ~ Feather Report

Naturalist: Matthew Arnold
Tour: Back Island Birding

Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Clapper Rail, Black-bellied Plover, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Swainson’s Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Finch

October 7, 2013 ~ Southeastern Bush Katydid (Scudderia cuneata)

Naturalist: Brogin Van Skoik

On a recent trip to the Town Center Market, I came across a bright green insect that appeared to be clinging to the side of the building. I noticed it right away because the insect was so brightly colored against the white background that you couldn’t miss it, and I’m glad I didn’t. It turned out to be a type of Katydid called a Southeastern Bush Katydid. These cool little insects are related to grasshoppers and crickets but lack certain characteristics that only their cousins the grasshoppers and crickets have. These insects are known for their amazing camouflage. Their adaptation is to blend right in with the green foliage and sometimes even mimic the leaves’ color, shape, and design, making them virtually invisible.

October 3, 2013 ~ Flutter Report

butterflyTour: Butterfly Walk
Naturalist: Marcie Palm

Today’s Butterfly Walk was a very successful adventure. We found at least 10 different species of butterflies, 2 large grasshoppers, many spinybacked orbweaver spiders and a mystery insect. The butterfly garden outside of the Sanctuary was filled with butterflies of yellow, orange, blue, brown and black. The budding Naturalists in our group (Joshua, Matthew and Gates) found so many butterflies to catch that we could barely keep them in the specimen jars to examine.

We found the following butterflies today:
Cassius Blue, Gulf Fritillary, Palamedes Swallowtail, Cloudless Sulphur, Orange Barred Sulphur, Barred Sulphur, Zebra Longwing, Reversed Roadside Skipper, Swarthy Skipper.

Nice work young Naturalists! Sign up for a Butterfly Walk today to see the Monarchs which are on their way.

October 1, 2013 ~ Feather Report

red cardinalTour: Back Island Birding

Blue-winged Teal, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Wood Stork, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Virginia Rail, Killdeer, Willet, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat (female), Scarlet Tanager (female), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Finch

September 27, 2013 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

bobcatThis afternoon one of our staff reported a female bobcat and her kitten in Night Heron Park near the Windswept Villas. Thanks to the work done by Town Biologists, we were able to identify the mother as Bobcat 700. We also know by that her female kitten was born Easter week in the dunes of Kiawah Island. Now at almost 6 month old, the kitten is healthy, thriving and a frequent visitor to Night Heron Park. Check out where Bobcat 700 has been exploring on Kiawah!

September 26, 2013 ~ Fish Report

Natural fish kills occur on Kiawah occasionally throughout the year, typically due to depleted oxygen levels in a pond. This week a fish kill occurred at Pintail Pond near Osprey Point Golf Course.The deoxygenation resulted from the higher than normal tides (7.0′ for 4-5 consecutive days). Salt water is heavier than fresh water so as it came over Kiawah’s weir structure into our ponds it pushed up all the low oxygen water from the pond’s bottom.In this fish kill, KICA lakes department collected 9,500+ lbs of fish, with the vast majority being Atlantic menhaden and blueback herring, but also including Spottail Bass, flounder species, Striped Mullet, ladyfish, Spotted Sea Trout, spot, croaker, 1 Black Drum and 1 pompano.

September 19, 2013 ~ Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes)

swallowtailThe Palamedes Swallowtail is a common butterfly that you might see fluttering around the flowers this time of year at Kiawah. It is found in the coastal plains of the southeastern states from Virginia to Louisiana. It is a large, dark swallowtail butterfly marked with yellow spots and bands. It is particularly common in and near swampy woods. Eggs and larvae of this butterfly rely on a host plant that we have in abundance here on Kiawah, the Redbay. So, admire these beauties at our Butterfly Garden near the Nature Center or sign up for one of our Butterfly Tours and get more acquainted with this amazing insect and it’s friends.

September 18, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Town Biologists banded their 1000th bird of the fall season this morning! The lucky bird was a Black-throated Blue Warbler. For comparison, they banded their 1000th bird last season on September 17th, only one day earlier than this year.

September 18, 2013 ~ Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

This evening out at the Ocean Course, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper made a stop over here on Kiawah Island. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a “Near Threatened” species according to the IUCN and makes an amazing migration from it’s arctic breeding grounds to over-winter in the southern portions of South America. While typically this sandpiper migrates through the central portion of North America, each year some of these birds are spotted here along the coasts as they rest and re-fuel for their ardous journey.

Matthew Arnold, Naturalist

September 17, 2013 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

There are 400 sea turtle nests on Kiawah Island for the 2013 nesting season. Nest #400 was a “wild nest” (one that was not initially located by nesting patrol, but found later by the hatching patrol). There are still a few nests remaining that have not hatched, so the possibility of more wild nests does exist.

September 11, 2013 ~ Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

On July 21st our Naturalist Mike Frees took in 4 baby possums. The possums were found in Edisto after their mother was hit by a car. After months of care Mike decided the young possums were ready to go back into the wild and released them yesterday. Check out the before picture and see the video of their rediscovery of life outside the walls of our Nature Center in the post to follow.

September 10, 2013 ~ Writing Spider (Argiope aurantia)

writing spiderThe spider species is commonly known as the black and yellow garden spider, writing spider, or corn spider. One famous Argiope most are familiar with is Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

Currently you will find these spiders on Kiawah. Like almost all other spiders, Argiope are harmless to humans. Like most garden spiders they eat insects and are capable of consuming prey up to twice their size.

September 9, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Town Biologists banded a Bell’s Vireo today! This is the 3rd Bell’s Vireo captured on Kiawah Island. The first one was banded on 9/17/2011 and was the first Bell’s Vireo ever banded in South Carolina. The 2nd one was caught on 9/6/2012. When they captured the first Bell’s Vireo in 2011, they figured it was probably a vagrant that had wandered off course. After banding one each of the last 3 fall seasons, it suggests that these birds may be more common along the east coast during migration than the range maps depict. Bell’s Vireos are typically found west of the Mississippi River.

August 25, 2013 ~ Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus)

New species on Kiawah: Eastern Whip-poor will. Banded by Kiawah Town Biologists. Learn more.

August 16, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Brogin Van Skoik

Highlight: Upland Sandpiper. Pretty good start to Fall migration!

Species: Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Painted Bunting (Juvenile), Prairie Warbler, Royal Tern, Laughing Gull, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler, Red winged Blackbird, Carolina Wren, Indigo Bunting, Northern Mocking Bird, Eastern Bluebird, Black-and-white Warbler, Upland Sandpiper, Killdeer, Great Egret, American Crow, Tricolored Heron, Osprey, Black Skimmer, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron.

August 15, 2013 ~ White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

deerA six-point buck spotted in the dunes this evening.

August 14, 2013 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Looks like our sea turtles have finished nesting on Kiawah. 2013 season total: 376 nests! Best year ever!

August 9, 2013 ~ Anhina (Anhinga anhinga)

AnhingaExcited to announce the first documented Anhinga nest on Kiawah Island. Thanks to the Kiawah Island Community Association Lakes Department.

August 9, 2013 ~ Black Tern (Chlidonia niger)

Captain Matt Arnold just called in…..great sighting of Black Terns on the Kiawah side of Captain Sam’s Inlet.

August 6, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Brogin Van Skoik

Species: Laughing Gull, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Semipalmeted Plover, Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Painted Bunting (Female), House Finch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Prairie Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Great Crested Flycatcher, Tricolored Heron, Mississippi Kite, Osprey, Anhinga, Common Moorhen, Black- necked Stilt, Willet, Red-winged Blackbird, Royal Tern.

August 2, 2013 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Town Biologists and KICA Lakes Department staff completed their annual alligator population survey this week. Surveys were conducted July 31 and August 1. They saw 120 alligators the first night and 147 the second night. These numbers were averaged and then converted into a population estimate for our survey route using a formula based on pond water temperature. The estimate for 2013 is 409 alligators. Alligator numbers have remained fairly stable over the last 6-8 years. To find out more about alligators and to see all of our historic survey data, visit the Alligator Page.

August 1, 2013 ~ Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

OspreyWe received a call at the Nature Center regarding an injured Osprey today. One of our naturalists, Brogin, responded to the call and under the advisement of the Birds of Prey in Awendaw, he carefully captured the Osprey and had it transported to the Birds of Prey. We are hopeful that the Osprey can be rehabilitated.

July 30, 2013 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

roseate spoonbillWe received a call from one of our naturalist, Brad Schmoll, who reported seeing Roseate Spoonbills on his way onto Kiawah. We jumped at the chance to go see this rare bird sighting just off island. When we arrived at the creek we found 1 adult and 2 immature Roseate Spoonbills and 6 Wood Storks. The adult Spoonbill has an un-feathered greenish (or yellow) head and the immature Spoonbill has a feathered white head.

July 28, 2013 ~ Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

hummingbirdIsland Guests Jena from Decatur, GA and Ken from Wayne, PA visited the nature center to tell us about a hummingbird nest in their backyard. Our staff photographer Jamie C. Rood grabbed her camera and captured these photos.

Jamie wrote, “Wow, what an exciting moment seeing a Hummingbird nest for the very first time! Even more incredible was seeing the Hummingbird on the nest and then documenting the 2 eggs in the nest! I still have goose bumps!”

July 25, 2013 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead nest numbers have now reached 342 for the year. This is the highest number of nests recorded on Kiawah, surpassing the previous record of 296 in 1999. View the 2013 Nest Location Map to find out where all of these nests are located and details on each nest.

July 24, 2013 ~ Manatee

After 7 years working the Kiawah River as a kayaking guide and captain, Naturalist Nick Boehm has had his first manatee sighting. It was spotted around 5:30 pm July 23rd in front of the dock at Inlet cove. Although they can be seen as far north as Massachusetts, seeing them in the Kiawah River is always a rare occurrence, and special treat for our naturalists and captains.

July 23, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Highlights: 3 Reddish Egrets and the changing Little Blue Heron!

Willet Pond: Osprey, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Gull-billed Tern, Juvenille & Adult Laughing Gulls, Boat-tailed Grackles, Common Gallinules, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown Thrasher, Least Tern, Least Bittern (two of them!), Swamp Sparrow, Barn Swallows, Northern Cardinal, Brown Pelican, Tufted Titmice, Mourning Dove, Anhinga, Juvenille Double-crested Cormorant, Woodstork, Northern Mockingbird, Clapper Rails (Heard Only), Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron (changing plumage), Black-necked Stilts.

Beach at Ocean Course: Sanderlings, Spotted Sandpipers, Reddish Egrets (3 of them!), Double-crested Cormorant, Royal Tern, American Oystercatchers.

Mingo Point: Brown-headed Nuthatches (Heard Only), House Finches (Heard Only), American Crows (Heard Only), Carolina Chickadees, Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures.

Night Heron Park
: Juvenile and Adult Eastern Bluebirds

July 21, 2013 ~ Virginia Oppossum (Didelphis virginiana)

opossumsNaturalist Mike Frees took in 4 baby possums. The possums were found in Edisto after their mother was hit by a car.

July 18, 2013 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

bobcatTown Biologists have found their 3rd bobcat den of the year. Kire (Bobcat 900) had 1 female kitten in a den on Cougar Island. The kitten was approximately 2 weeks old and weighed 1 pound. To learn more about the Town’s wildlife research, check out WildlifeAtKiawah.com

July 9, 2013 ~ Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus)

Town Biologists saw 5 Piping Plovers and 2 Black Scoters today on the eastern end of the beach. These are the first Piping Plovers seen since May. Piping Plovers typically travel north to breed and begin arriving back on our beaches in early July each year. Black Scoters are a migratory waterfowl species that are normally seen in our area from October-April. They have seen this pair of Black Scoters several times over the summer in this same area, so it is clear that they did not migrate north to breed, likely due to injury or poor body condition.

July 2, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Naturalist Matt Arnold called in from his Back Island Birding trip… incredible sightings of both Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks.

June 28, 2013 ~ Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

Town Biologists picked up a dead armadillo this morning on the exterior Parkway near Freshfields Village. This is the closest we have seen an armadillo to the island to date. Keep your eyes open for these new arrivals and let us know if you see one on the island.

June 20, 2013~ Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

“A small group of dolphins and a Loggerhead Sea Turtle made a guest appearance today during one of our Trip & Dip kayak tours. All age groups were especially enthralled when the turtle’s orange head appeared just above the surface of the water right between two dolphins to take a breath! Incredible! ”

Juliana Smith, Naturalist

June 20, 2013 ~ Sea Turtle Release

turtle releaseWhether you have seen several sea turtle releases or haven’t seen one at all, when you do, you realize how amazing life can be…and who’s there to help you along the way. These turtles fell into the right hands at the right time, and, with everything else going on in the world, to have organizations out there that put these turtles’ health first on the list is truly amazing. Yesterday was complete just after North, the Loggerhead, broke the first few waves. After he made it, he popped his head and left flipper up, almost as a thank you for all the hard work these organizations have done for him and his “friends.” These 8 turtles are back with their own, living life to the fullest.

June 21, 2013 ~ Feather Report

green heronTour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Juliana Smith

Night Heron Park: Eastern Bluebird (immature and adult), Yellow-throated Warbler Turkey Vulture, Downy Woodpecker

Willet Pond: Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Laughing Gulls, Wood Storks, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Osprey, Boat-tailed Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Mockingbird, Black-necked Stilts, Oystercatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Orchard Oriole, Northern Cardinal, Royal Tern, Clapper Rail, Brown Pelican, Osprey Point, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee (immature and adult), European Starling (with babies in old woodpecker hole in a dead cabbage palmetto!), Barn Swallows, Green Herons, Mourning Dove, Brown Thrasher, Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Marsh Island Park: Blue Jay, Painted Bunting, Brown-headed Nuthatch (heard only, not seen), Great Crested Flycatcher

It was a pretty incredible day out there today!

June 18, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Juliana Smith

Willet Pond: Great Egret, Red-winged Blackbird, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Laughing Gull, Brown Pelicans, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Black Skimmer, Glossy Ibis, Tricolored Heron, Black-necked Stilts, Northern Mockingbird (immature and adult), Mourning Dove, Ocean Front, Caspian Tern, Snowy Egret Forster’s Tern, Great Blue Heron, (A ghost crab!), Osprey

Osprey Point: Orchard Oriole, Barn Swallow, Green Heron, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Chickadees House Finch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, European Starling, Double-crested Cormorant

June 11, 2013 ~ Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

New dolphin baby in the marsh! Captain Brad Schmoll saw the new mother and calf twice yesterday. The first sighting was during the 10:30 am Dolphin Encounters and the second on his evening tour. Captain Brad reported, “the baby is very small and very dark in color”. “It stayed very close to mama, of course”.

Coming soon ~ Photo by Linda Anderson, Kiawah Guest

June 9, 2013 ~ Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

With the arrival of summer, we naturalists here on Kiawah are seeing lots of new, cute, baby faces around the island, including the beaked faces of these two young Green Herons. Sighted at Osprey Point, these two herons have fledged from their parents’ nest and are starting to become more independent, venturing from home and scoping out the world around them.

June 9, 2013 ~ Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

With the arrival of summer, we naturalists here on Kiawah are seeing lots of new, cute, baby faces around the island, including the beaked faces of these two young Green Herons. Sighted at Osprey Point, these two herons have fledged from their parents’ nest and are starting to become more independent, venturing from home and scoping out the world around them.

May 30, 2013 ~ Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia)

leopard moth“Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar” And, if that caterpillar does survive ….we all may be amazed by nature’s beauty. This beautiful Leopard Moth was found today at Kamp Kiawah.

May 28th, 2013 ~ Cicada (Tibicen canicularis)

cicadaIf you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere. ~Vincent Van Gogh

Cicada emerging photo by Juliana Smith, Resort Naturalist.

May 25, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Juliana Smith

Willet Pond: Least Bittern, Gull-billed Tern, Red-wing Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, Snowy Egret, Common Gallinule parents and chicks, Double Crested Cormorants
Mocking Birds, Mourning Doves.

Ocean Course Beach Access: Tons of: Least Terns, Royal Terns, Caspian Terns, Sanderlings, Pelicans, Osprey. And a few Oyster Catchers, Semipalmated Plovers, Great Egrets.

Ocean Park Development: Blue Grosbeak, Northern Cardinals, Brown Thrasher, Northern Parula, Eastern Bluebird, Nesting Osprey

Marsh Island Park: Brown Headed Nuthatch, Great Crested Flycatcher, Carolina Chickadees, Blue Jays, Painted Buntings, Red-tailed Hawk, Tri-colored Heron, Laughing Gulls, Fish Crows, Green Heron

May 24, 2013 ~ Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)

eastern screech owlWhile on her Nature Photography Tour, Jamie Rood, was thrilled when she captured this photo of an owlet (baby owl) peeking out.

May 22, 2013 ~ Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

This adult female washed ashore on the western end of Kiawah. SC Department of Natural Resources, assisted by Kiawah Beach Patrol and our Resort Naturalists, turned over this huge turtle so SCDNR Biologists could perform a necropsy. Immediately the tag on the hind end gave a clue as to this animal’s extensive journey. The tag indicated that in the past, scientists had tagged her laying eggs in Trinidad. The necropsy indicated that she was a strong, healthy female who was actively eating a diet of our local Cannonball Jellyfish. Biologists were also able to determine that although she was not carrying eggs at the time of death, she was believed to be reproductively active this season (sea turtles do not nest every year). Unfortunately, the cause of death of this individual could not be determined.

May 22, 2013 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

For the second time in a month, we observed Alligator’s mating RIGHT behind the Nature Center.

May 12, 2013 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

A special gift for Mother’s Day…Kiawah’s first Loggerhead Sea Turtle nest of the 2013 season was found this morning.

May 10, 2013 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Captain Mike Waller just came in from fishing the offshore reefs. He reported 2 huge Loggerheads and one Leatherback swimming very close to his boat.

Loggerhead nesting season will be here soon!!!!

May 9, 2013 ~ Feather Report

cowbirdTour: Back Island Birding
Weather: Sunny with a few clouds.
Temp: 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Species List: Tufted Titmouse, Blue-gray gnatcatcher, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Carolina Chickadee, Brown-headed Cowbird, Blue Jay, Royal Tern, Forster’s Tern, Carolina Wren, Painted Bunting, Boat-tailed Grackle, Laughing Gull, Fish Crow, American Crow, Common Nighthawk, Mississippi Kite, Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Tricolored Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Clapper Rail, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Parula, Anhinga, Barn Swallow, Osprey, Brown Thrasher.

Highlights: Our first stop of the day was Mingo Point. As we walked around we listened to several Passerines waking up for the day. Mostly Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wrens, and Carolina Chickadees. As we got closer to where the feeder was we happen to stumble upon “Nonpareil” himself, The Painted Bunting. After Mingo Point we headed to a more open habitat at the Preserve. This yielded the most birds of the day. We observed Tricolored Heron’s feeding simultaneous with large Red Drum. We observed a kettle of Common Nighthawks calling and catching insects on the wing while a group of Black-necked Stilts glided in to take part in the abundance of food. As we got back to the Nature Center, we observed a remarkable bird behavior called Brood Parasitism. This behavior is when a bird lays an egg in another bird’s nest and the other species of bird will raise it not knowing that it’s not their offspring. So Through the live oaks we saw a Northern Parula Feeding a Brown-headed Cowbird chick. The chick was twice the size of the Northern Parula and was very content being feed every Two Minutes. What a site to see!

May 8, 2013 ~ Lightening Whelk (Busycon contrarium)

The Knobbed Whelk is the most common whelk on Kiawah. However, three other species are found in South Carolina waters: channeled whelk, lightning whelk and pear whelk. This amazingly large lightning whelk was found today by Captain Mike Frees on his Dolphin Encounters tour.

Lightening Whelks can be easily identified by their left-handed (sinistral) whorl opposed to the right-handed (dextral) whorl of the knobbed whelk and most other univalves. The lightning whelk is a marine gastropod mollusc (snail). Named for the well-defined brown zigzag pattern on the juveniles which are reminiscent of lightning bolts.

After a few quick photos, this beautiful creature was set back into the Kiawah River for more lucky explorers to enjoy.

May 8, 2013 ~ Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus)

Today the Sanctuary Hotel had some special guests…..this beautiful pair of Black Racers (non-venomous) were found mating in the Yaupon Holly just outside the west wing.

May 8, 2013 ~ Common Loon (Gavia immer)

Thanks to the staff at the Kiawah Island Community Association Lakes Department for alerting us to this Common Loon (in breeding plumage) who has been hanging out at Bass Pond.

May 8, 2013 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Town Biologists located Bobcat 450’s den on Captain Sam’s Spit. She had one male kitten 3 to 4 weeks old. To learn more about Kiawah’s Bobcat research visit wildlifeatkiawah.com

May 6, 2013 ~ Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus)

Our snake rescue of the day is brought to you by the KIGR Tennis Department.

Of course, they were just named No. 1 Tennis Resort in the WORLD by Tennis Resort Online; but we are naming them Number 1 for being kind to all things Kiawah.

This beautiful Black Racer was just hanging out at the Roy Barth Tennis Center this morning.

One of Kiawah’s most common snakes, racers are primarily terrestrial. Although they can climb well, they are occasionally observed sleeping in vegetation (or maybe a net) at night.

The staff at our tennis facility simply lowered the net, and the snake climbed out and went back into the forest! We love a happy ending.

May 4, 2013 ~ Yellow Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata)

Today the Nature Center received a phone call regarding a snake inside our laundry facility. Naturalist Mike Free responded….. this beautiful Yellow Rat Snake is now back in nature!

Thank you to everyone in our Laundry Department!!!

May 3, 2013 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Behind the Nature Center at Night Heron Park! It’s Alligator mating season!

May 2, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Matt Arnold

Species: Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Bald Eagle (Juvenile), Sora, Black-necked Stilt, Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Least Tern, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow (hundreds!), Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Orchard Oriole

May 1, 2013 ~ Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata)

Banded Water Snake on the road in front of windswept villas

April 30, 2013 ~ Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

eastern box turtleToday, on the 10th fairway of the Turtle Point Golf Course Kiawah resident Linda Mchugh came across this. Learn more about Kiawah’s Eastern Box Turtle.

April 26, 2013 ~ Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus)

Our recreation staff has participated in Beach Sweeps and Roadside Clean Ups for decades. We do so to protect Kiawah’s natural beauty and our island’s wildlife. But not until yesterday when participating in “The Great American Clean –up” have we had such an immediate impact.
Scattered among the occasional bottle and can, Recreation staff member Tom Burgess, came upon a discarded cast net. Moments later, Naturalist Juliana Smith realized a Black Racer was completely entangled in the monofilament lines. Pulling out their pocket knives, Julia and Brogin Van Skoik, cautiously cut each line, many of which were digging deep into the snake’s body.

Although non-venomous, Black Racers have a reputation of being aggressive, often biting repeatedly. But not this one, never striking, almost as if he knew we were trying to save him. Once freed, our friend was released back into the wild.

Special thanks the Town of Kiawah Island for organizing Kiawah’s annual Great American Clean-up. As a direct result of their efforts, one more wild creature lives on Kiawah to be enjoyed by all who understand and appreciate that every living creature is a vital member of our ecosystem

April 25, 2013 ~ Spotted Sandpipper (Actitis macularius)

spotted sandpipper
Photo by Pam Cohen
Spotted Sandpiper in breeding plumage “spotted” at the Enclave at Turtle Beach.

April 24, 2013 ~ Squid

As a naturalist, I enjoy spending time in the great outdoors on Kiawah and yesterday my coworkers and I had the pleasure of sharing our love of nature with a school group from Atlanta. The day’s itinerary included reptile shows with the Nature Center’s own lizards, snakes, turtles and gators, as well as some time on the beach combing and seining for critters. We found and learned about lots of amazing creatures including a fantastically iridescent croaker fish, a translucent juvenile eel, various isopods, speckled crabs, a female blue crab carrying an egg sack, dozens of silverside fish, and even a tiny squid! What a day!

April 18, 2013 ~Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentine)

Naturalists were then called by the staff at Tomasso to check out what they had explained to be the Common Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentine. Naturalists thought this was most likely a Yellow-Bellied Slider as it has been many years since a Snapping Turtle has been spotted on Kiawah. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was in fact a Snapping Turtle and by the behavior, most likely a mama turtle trying to find a place to lay her eggs. In spring, female Snapping Turtles leave the safety of their ponds and go ashore to lay eggs. They often walk surprising distances, searching for whatever special characteristics they desire in a place to lay their clutch. Once found, they’ll dig a hole, lay their eggs, cover the eggs back up with soil and go on their merry way. It sounds like from what the staff at Tomasso told us, that this turtle may have found the special conditions she desired outside one of our restaurants. Kiawah is a special place to visitors and wildlife alike!

April 17, 2013 ~Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Today was a day filled with joys and sorrows for the Nature Program. An injured Merlin, was found near Rhett’s Bluff and brought in by a concerned resident. The bird had a badly damaged wing and was taken to the Center for Birds of Prey for care, but unfortunately the bird did not make it.

Merlins are a small falcon found usually to inhabit open country ranging from marshlands to deserts but during winter most migrate to subtropical regions just south of their breeding range.

April 14, 2013 ~ Bonnethead Shark (Sphyrna tiburo)

bonnethead sharkToday, during Jr. Naturalist Marsh Ecology, one of our budding Naturalists Chase discovered this cartilaginous fish on the beach at Captain Sam’s Spit. This shark had been drying in the sun for quite some time but still had the distinct shape of a Bonnethead Shark. Like any good Naturalist, Chase wanted to bring home his specimen to examine but it also had quite a distinct smell and he had to settle for a photo. Bonnethead Sharks are part of the hammerhead shark family and are actually the smallest species of that group only growing up to 5ft. in length. Being very common in the Kiawah River Salt Marsh you can likely see them on any of our water tours so sign up today!

April 5, 2013 Wild Turkey

Photograph by Jamie Rood Staff Photographer

April 6, 2013 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

If you are looking to see Kiawah’s most well known animal the alligator, any naturalist will tell you to go to Osprey Point. There have been as many as 25 gators counted in this famous pond adjacent to the clubhouse. There is one main reason why the Kiawah alligators love this point; although I personally think the alluring smell of smoked southern barbecue cooking at Cherrywood BBQ has something to do with it. The main difference between the alligator and crocodile is the water they live in. Alligators can live in fresh/brackish water (fresh and salt) while crocodiles live in salt water. All of the ponds on Kiawah are brackish water because of their close proximity to the salt marsh. This pond at Osprey Point has “fresher” water than the other ponds on Kiawah and the alligators have discovered this. Many alligators congregate here daily, and although mostly solitary beings, they will tolerate each other as neighbors for this fresh water benefit.

Mel Musso, Naturalist

April 4, 2013 ~ Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris)

If you have spent any time on the beach lately you may have noticed this clear and rust colored rubbery ball. Our Junior Naturalists spotted one on Captain Sam’s Spit yesterday during Marsh Ecology and were amazed to learn that it was a species of jelly called the Cannonball Jelly or Stomolophus meleagris. It is one of the most common jellies in South Carolina and fortunately one of the least venomous. You can actually pick them up by their heads and not feel any sting. They do not have tentacles but they do have a chunky feeding apparatus which can cause your skin to be a little irritated so make sure to pick them up by the head when examining.

Marcie Palm, Naturalist

April 3, 2013 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

In February of this year, we shared a story of a special encounter our recreation staff had with a female bobcat at Night Heron Park. Now, we have learned that our Bobcat (Bobcat 700), has given birth. Her den, near the dunes in front of Windswept Villas, on one of Kiawah’s busiest weeks of the year (Easter Week), is a wonderful testament to the cohabitation possible when suitable habitat is maintained.

April 3, 2013 ~ American Kestrel (Falco sparveruis)

On our birding trip this morning, a kestrel was spotted perched up on an out stretched tree branch overlooking a field. This bird is the smallest hawk we have in North America. Topping out at only 3.9oz, this falcon can be seen hovering effortlessly in the air on just the slightest gust of wind. Being able to see in ultraviolet allows this bird to track its prey by following faint urine trails produced by its prey, ultimately leading the kestrel to the rodents burrow ending in a home invasion!

Brogin Van Skoik, Naturalist

March 30, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Guide: Matt Arnold

Species: Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey Bald Eagle (Adult/Juvenile), Virginia Rail (Thanks Will), Piping Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt! (first Naturalist sighting of the season), Whimbrel, Dunlin, Laughing Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Forster’s Tern, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike, American Crow, Fish Crow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow!, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting (first of the year for Matt), Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch.

Although Matt Arnold reported no Easter Bunny sightings in the field; he was thrilled that one of his guests (from Cornell Ornithology Lab) picked up two lifers on the trip.

March 27, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Guide: William Oakley
Weather: sunny; temperatures in the low 40’s to low 50’s; moderate winds
Locations: The Enclave at Turtle Beach, beach by boardwalk 28, Bass Pond, The Preserve

Species: Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Northern Gannet, Piping Plover, Willet, Sanderling, Ring-billed Gull, Forster’s Tern, Cooper’s Hawk, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Virginia Rail, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Hooded Merganser, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Red-winged Blackbird, European Starling, Boat-tailed Grackle, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Common Yellowthroat, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing

March 26, 2013 ~ Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

At about 1pm this afternoon we responded to a call from a guest about an adult and juvenile Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin stranded in a tide pool on the beach. Once we arrived along with the Town’s beach patrol and Wildlife Biologist, Jim Jordan, it was discovered that they were about 60 yards away from the ocean stuck in about 10 inches of water and unable to swim. Luckily they were able to breathe and had water flowing over them which are both very important in keeping them alive and less stressed while in that situation. Although it is difficult to not want to try and move them to a safer place, it can cause more damage to the dolphin or to those that are trying to move them. So the best thing to do was wait until the tide came in, and hope the water did not get too low. At about 3:45 pm we got word from Jim Jordan that the water had risen up and they were both safely swimming in the ocean again!

Although this is not a regular occurrence, if you ever come across dolphins in this type of situation the best thing to do is to keep your distance to minimize the animals stress and contact the proper authority in your area.

March 18, 2013 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Nature Center staff heard their first bellow of the season! The bellow originated from a large male alligator in the Parkside/Night Heron pond. We would love for you to share your spring alligator photos and stories at Facebook: Kiawah Nature Program.

March 15, 2013 ~ Coyote (Canis latrans)

Ms. Schell reported a coyote running across the Kiawah Island Parkway between East Beach Village and Night Heron Park. To report coyote sighting, please call the Nature Center or email our Town Biologists.

March 12, 2013 ~ Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

On today’s Dolphin Encounters motorboat tour, we came upon a wild and bizarre scene. Near Captain Sam’s Spit, we saw what looked to be a Brown Pelican flapping its wings and struggling in the water. When we got closer, we realized that it was a Double Crested Cormorant flapping in the water with a Bald Eagle behind it, slowly plucking its feathers out and eating it. This was a first for me, as I have only observed eagles eating fish.

Kristen Lococo, Naturalist

March 12, 2013 ~ River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

Naturalists, Mike Frees and Will Oakley spotted a River Otter in the pond outside the Nature Center in Night Heron Park, a rare treat!

March 9, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Will Oakley
Locations: Mingo Point, Enclave at Turtle Point, Beach at Boardwalk 19, Bass Pond, The Preserve (tower)

Species: Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Northern Gannet, Common Coon, White Ibis, Tricolored Heron, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Forster’s Tern, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Sanderling, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Lesser Scaup, American Coot, Common Gallinule, American Crow, Red-winged Blackbird, European Starling, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Belted Kingfisher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler (photo).

March 8, 2013 ~ River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

I was enjoying a spring day out on the Kiawah River Kayaking with my guests when I saw an animal I had never seen before from my kayak! The first thing I saw was a flash of brown before it disappeared. I went through a list of all the possibilities it could be, but I was coming up short. The animal then resurfaced, for longer this time, so all my guests could see– it was a River Otter! In my many years of leading kayaking tours, I had never once seen a river otter swimming so close! He appeared to be curious and looked all around at us before submerging again. The otter did this many times allowing us to enjoy his presence and catch many glimpses of his cute little face! River otter are present on Kiawah but in small numbers and usually build dens on the outer edges of hammock islands scattered throughout the marsh.

Laura Willhoft, Naturalist

March 8, 2013 ~ Sea Pork

Captain Mike Frees and his group find the huge chunk of Sea Pork at Captain Sam’s Inlet.

Contrary to what you might think when you find sea pork washed ashore, it’s not a brain or internal organ of a marine animal; it’s actually a tunicate. The cartilage-like exoskeleton (tunic) is composed primarily of cellulose, and houses a colony of individual animals called zooids. The zooid colony derives food from seawater pumped through its system by two external openings. When alive, reddish colored zooids are embedded in its pink (sometimes orange) tunic. After death, with zooids absent, the tunic bleaches to a grayish color, resembling salt pork or fatback, hence the common name.

Sea pork is a sub-tidal species preyed upon by bottom-dwelling fish, skates, and sharks. In the book Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson, it is noted that sea pork has a luminescent glow in the dark. Who knew those strange little pink and gray blobs that wash ashore could be so interesting? By Jennifer Barbour, former Kiawah Island Naturalist.
Photo by Karen Kaplan

March 7, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Locations: Mingo Point, Enclave at Turtle Point, Beach at Boardwalk 19, Bass Pond
Naturalist: Will Oakley

Species: Pied-billed Grebe, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Common Coon, Tricolored Heron, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Forster’s Tern, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Black-bellied Plover, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, American Coot, Common Gallinule, American Crow, Red-winged Blackbird, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, House Finch

March 7, 2013 ~ Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

The first female Painted Bunting of the season was spotted today at Mingo Point by Naturalist, Matt Arnold.

March 5, 2013 ~ Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)

First snake of 2013!!! Naturalist Mike Frees found this beautiful Eastern Kingsnake.

March 4, 2013 ~ Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)

Naturalist Mike Frees rescues a Southern Flying Squirrel…little did he know that this little one would consider them friends so quickly!

February 20, 2013 ~ Coyote (Canis latrans)

Today, near the Ocean Course Town Biologists caught their first coyote. This adult male coyote (31lbs, 11oz) was fitted with Collar 100 and released. They plan to trap and collar one more coyote this winter as part of a new study to determine home range size, travel patterns, and habitat use of coyotes on the island.

Learn more about Kiawah’s coyotes or to report a sighting.

February 10, 2013 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Our staff received a call to the Nature Center stating that a bobcat was stuck in a property owner’s garage. Two of our naturalists responded to the call and after looking around the garage (the whole underneath of the house) the c…at finally jumped down from a pillar right in front of them! It ran over to the side of the garage and climbed up on a pipe trying its best to hide. The naturalists assessed the cat and determined that it did not appear to have any injuries- it was just frightened! They left the garage doors open so that the bobcat could safely find its way out.

February 10, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Brogin Van Skoik

Species List: Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Eastern Meadowlark, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Moorhen, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, Northern Mocking bird, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpecker, Red- bellied Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbird, American Crow, Fish Crow, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Pied- billed Grebe, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Tricolored Heron, Great Egret, Brown Pelican, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, White- throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow.

February 5, 2013 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Today, Recreation staff members were alerted by a large group of crows creating a ruckus in the trees near the pond observation deck in Night Heron Park. We searched the nearby trees and shrub habitat, and determined the source of the crow noises- a small collared bobcat taking a snooze underneath a wax myrtle on the edge of the pond! We quietly watched her wake up from her slumber, stretch, yawn and slowly walk away. From her location and collar information, we determined her to be the 15lb Parkside 700 cat!

February 2, 2013 ~ Feather Report

Back Island Birding with Naturalist Matt Arnold

Species: Great Blue Heron, Northern Mockingbird, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, American Oystercatcher, American Crow, Fish Crow, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, House Finch, Blue Jay, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hermit Thrush, Osprey, Eastern Phoebe, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle (Adult & Juvenile), Loggerhead Shrike,Killdeer,Ring-billed Gull, White Ibis, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Black Scoter, Surf Scoter, Northern Gannet, Little Blue Heron, Eastern Brown Pelican, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

January 31, 2013 ~Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Each year the Kiawah Island Town Biologists partner with the Kiawah Conservancy to conduct research to determine the health of the Bobcat population on the Island. Bobcats are a native mammal species to Kiawah and are important predators on the fawn deer population; they naturally keep the deer population under control. Each winter, Biologists Jim Jordan and Aaron Given set up traps in different locations on the Island. The traps safely contain a rooster (not harmed in any way), which is used to lure the bobcat into the trap. Once in the trap, the biologists safely sedate the Bobcat and outfit it with a radio GPS collar that will track the Bobcat as it travels around the Island. These GPS points are valuable as they show us which type of habitat the Bobcats are utilizing and how they travel around the island. To date 6 different bobcats have been trapped, four of which were fitted with GPS collars. All 6 of the cats caught have been captured previously, including several originally tagged as kittens. Let’s meet the 2013 cats!

Bobcat 850- captured on January 29th on Captain Sam’s Spit at the western end of the island. This Bobcat is an adult male weighing 24lbs 4oz. He was previously captured in 2012 .

Bobcat 300- captured on January 29th near Willet Pond. She is an adult female who had been previously collared in 2012, at which time she was named “McKenzie.”

Bobcat 700-An adult female captured on January 30th at Parkside Villas near Night Heron Park.

Bobcat 450- An adult female captured at Captain Sam’s Spit. She is the offspring of Bobcat # 220 from 2010!

Additionally, on January 30th a 9 month-old Bobcat was captured in the Preserve. Finally on January 31, a juvenile male was captured on Flyway Drive. Both of these cats were too small to collared and were just released. This GPS project will be ongoing throughout the year. Visit the town’s website to follow our 2013 cats. In addition to the 6 Bobcat GPS collars, 2 coyote collars will be deployed this year. This is a new addition to the study for 2013. Although rare, coyotes have been spotted on Kiawah in recent years. Since Coyotes are not native to Kiawah and compete with bobcats and foxes for food, it is necessary to start to understand their impact on Kiawah’s ecosystem.

January 28, 2013 ~ American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

During the past few days we have been noticing tons of American Robins hanging out around the Nature Center at Night Heron Park! The American Robin is perhaps one of the most widely known bird species, even amongst non-birders. This large songbird is a grey/brown color with distinguished orange breast. Robins can be found throughout the entire North American continent, although here on Kiawah we see them most in the wintertime. They often congregate in large numbers during the winter to take advantage of the numerous trees with berries (such as Juniper berries) to consume when little food is available. Interesting fact: Since Robins spend lots of time foraging in peoples yards (for food like earthworms), they can be important indicators of chemical pollution by pesticides.

January 14, 2013 ~ Yellow-bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)

This photo captures the bold nature of this little yellow-bellied slider turtle—he’s lying dangerously close to his larger reptilian relative! Yellow- bellied slider turtles are very common in Kiawah’s ponds, and just like alligators they love to bask in the sun! Since the slider turtles depend on the sunlight just like the alligators, they are not too concerned about becoming a meal during the daytime. This time of year alligators are unlikely to eat much anyway due to the cold weather (alligators need to be a certain temperature to begin to digest food). For an up-close encounter with turtles and alligators, join us on an alligator adventure tour!

January 13, 2013 ~ Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

This butterfly was a surprise today due to the warm spring-like temperatures we have been experiencing. The red admiral is a medium size butterfly that is easy to identify by its red band that encompasses both fore and hind wings. It’s commonly spotted in spring, after the dangers of cold temperatures are past. This butterfly probably hatched from its chrysalis by using warm weather cues, mistaking the season for Spring. Keep your eyes out for these beautiful butterflies from March to the end of October!

January 12, 2013 ~ American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

A busy weekend for wildlife viewing was brought upon by record high temperatures we have been experiencing here on Kiawah! Today, our Nature Photographer Jamie Rood counted 29 (!) alligators basking in the January sunshine at Osprey Point Golf Course. Since they are cold-blooded, alligators are usually hard to find this time of year since cold temperatures encourage them into their winter brumation (reptile hibernation) to wait out the cold weather. Brumation however, is not a fixed period of inactivity. Warm temperatures allow the alligator to make a resurgence from the pond in hopes of jump starting their metabolism for feeding. While our warm temperatures will not last too long, they are a nice reminder that Spring is not too far off.

January 11, 2013 ~ Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Nature Photographer Jamie Rood captured this stunning picture of an adult bald eagle in takeoff position. It was spotted by Island guests in a large pine tree near Parkside villas. This Eagle was most likely hanging out in the pine tree waiting to hunt for fish in one of the nearby ponds. Bald Eagles are common here in the winter and will head north as warm spring temperatures approach. This picture is a beautiful reminder of just how powerful yet poised our national symbol really is.

January 4, 2013 ~ Feather Report : Christmas Bird Count

Kiawah Island Naturalists participated in Kiawah first Christmas Bird Count. The National Audubon Society has sponsored the event since 1900 when the first CBCs were held. Currently there are over 2,000 CBCs conducted across North and South America (and other countries) every year between December 14th and January 5th. Each count takes place around the same date each year and all birds seen or heard are counted within a designated 15-mile diameter circle. Results will be available soon.

January 3, 2013 ~ Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Hooded Merganser ducks are a common sight in our Kiawah ponds during the winter months. The male merganser is quite showy with a large black and white “hood”. The female is understated yet still elegant with her rusty colored head. These ducks migrate here for our winter, but come spring, they will head back up to the upper Midwest and Canada to their breeding grounds.

Fun fact: Hooded Merganser hatchlings only stay in the nest for 24 hours! After that, they make a dramatic leap down from the tree nest cavity (in some cases has been reported as high as 50ft) before they walk down to the water with the mother merganser!

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