2015 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.

August 23, 2015 ~ Sunset over the Kiawah River

sunsetTonight’s Kiawah Sunset Cruise… Breathtaking!

August 21, 2015 ~ Eastern Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis carolinensis)

Eastern Brown PelicanOur Naturalists have been watching a pelican perch on this sign in the mudflats for several years now. It is usually drying its wings or simply resting. We often wonder if it is the same bird or not. Either way, it was “posing” courageously when we slowly passed her by as the sun began to set. Photo by Captain Brad Schmoll.

August 8, 2015 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

Roseate SpoonbillIn mudflats on tonight’s Sunset Cruise.

August 8, 2015 ~ White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed DeerPhoto was taken by Maura George, recreation intern, at 6:30am this morning while hosting a 5k Fun Run in front of the Sanctuary.

August 7, 2015 ~ Rainbow at Mingo Point


August 4, 2015 ~ Coyote (Canis latrans)

Coyote swimming
Photo by Captain John Ward

Coyote swimming from Kiawah to Johns Island, amazing!!!

July 8, 2015 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

On our Back island Birding tour from the observation tower in the Preserve, Roseate Spoonbills were spotted in Blue Heron Pond.

July 8, 2015 ~ Manatee (Trichechus)

Minutes ago we received a text from John Ward, one of our Fishing Captains. He just saw a group of 7 manatees entering the Kiawah River from the Stono River….amazing!

July 8, 2015 ~ White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

deerToday outside our East Beach Conference Center, a staff member from Resort security had to stop his vehicle to let these to two little guys cross the road. “They were running fast so I stopped to see why they were running. Then I saw it was for lunch!!!!”

July 7, 2015 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

There are 202 nests on Kiawah’s beach!

July 6, 2015 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

In the salt marsh adjacent to the Kiawah Island Parkway, just before the entrance to Cassique, a single spoonbill has been making a fairly regular appearance.

July 2, 2015 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

bobcatOur staff received a call from a guest fishing on the Kiawah River. They reported of a collared bobcat on a dock near Rhett’s Bluff that appeared to be exhausted or sickly. When our naturalists arrived at the dock, they found this juvenile bobcat, with no collar, that appeared healthy. Turns out the guest saw the adult bobcat, possibly the parent of the juvenile that our staff saw.

June 1, 2015 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

As of this morning, Kiawah has 48 Loggerhead Sea Turtle nests. Compared to June 1st, 2014 when we had only 18 nests. Looks like we may have a great year!

May 29, 2015 ~ Blacktip Shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)

black tip sharkOur Shark Fishing Charter has always been catch and release, but we are so proud of our Captains who always take the extra steps to make certain the sharks are safely returned to the water. Last week, Captain John Ward’s group caught a 6 foot, 150+lb Blacktip Shark. Upon release, the shark swam straight for a sand bar. When some wave action could not coerce the shark back in the water, Captain John jumped in the river and safely maneuvered the shark into deeper water. We love our captains!

May 24, 2015 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

loggerheadThis morning, Captain Brad Schmoll spotted this Loggerhead Sea Turtle near Captain Sam’s Inlet during a Dolphin Encounters trip.

May 21, 2015 ~ Crow (Corvus ssp)

crowA special thank you to our Naturalists Nick Boehm and Kristen Lococo as well as the KIGR facilities maintenance staff who went to great heights to return a hatchling crow back to its nest.

May 21, 2015 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

sea turtle bodyOn our Dolphin Encounters tour, Captain Matt Arnold found this immature Loggerhead Sea Turtle in the salt marsh. It was slightly decomposed but had no obvious signs of trauma. Upon notifying the proper authorities, Captain Matt brought it back to Mingo Point for SCDNR measurements and sampling.

May 20, 2015 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

roseate spoonbillToday KIGR Recreation employee Nick Reynolds spotted 4 Roseate Spoonbills in the mud flats between Kiawah and Johns Island. A rare and wonderful sighting for Kiawah!

Interested in joining our Naturalists on a Back Island Birding tour to learn more about Kiawah’s birds? Call the Nature Center for more information and reservations at 843.768.6001.

May 19, 2015 ~ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Town Biologists Jim Jordan and Aaron Given found their first bobcat kitten of the season in a den near Duneside West. He is the offspring of Bobcat 450…. He is roughly 10 days old and hasn’t opened his eyes yet. To learn more about Kiawah’s 2015 Bobcat research http://wildlifeatkiawah.com

May 15, 2015 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

The first Loggerhead Sea Turtle nest of the season has been spotted on Kiawah as of this morning!

May 13, 2015 ~ Parchment Tube Worm (Chaetopterus variopedatus)

parchment wormTour: Night Beach Walk
Naturalist: Juliana Smith

Tonight on a Night Beach Walk, Naturalist Juliana Smith discovered an organism she’d never seen lying on the beach before: a parchment worm tube! This bioluminescent worm spends its entire adult life in a homemade, tube-like sheath located below the sand. When disturbed by a predator, the worm emits a glowing, blue mucus cloud into the water and retreats to the opposite end of its tube. If it’s lucky, the predator will be distracted by the glowing blob as it floats away from the worm’s tube and the worm will live to see another day! The picture is shown with a 12” ruler for perspective.

Interested in joining our Naturalists on a Night Beach Walk or other guided tour? Call the Nature Center for more information and reservations.

May 13, 2015 ~ American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

Female American Redstart spotted today at Night Heron Park by Naturalist Juliana Smith.

May 11, 2015 ~ White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

white-tailed deerSpotted on the Cougar Point Golf Course by Kiawah Employee Denis Byler, a unique color variation can clearly be seen in this fawn.

May 11, 2015 ~ Broadhead skink (Plestiodon laticeps)

Broadheaded Skink on logThis picture of a Broadhead Skink was taken by naturalist Jake Zadik while walking around Night Heron Park. These lizards are the largest in the Southeast and, like many other lizards, will break off their tails to distract a predator in order to escape. Some other lizard species you may find on the island are the Green Anole, Five-lined Skink, and Eastern Glass Lizard.

April 30, 2015 ~ Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
First sighting of the season!

Tour: Adult Twilight Paddle
Naturalist: Kristen Lococo

Today, we saw a Loggerhead Sea Turtle swimming in the Kiawah River while on the Adult Twilight Paddle! First I’ve seen in the river this year.

Nesting season is upon us, so don’t forget to keep your lights out and never disturb a turtle while it nests! Here are a few simple ways to protect our Sea Turtles:

  • Lights Out on the Beach May 1st – Oct 31st; lights can disorient nesting females and hatchlings.
  • At the end of your beach day, knock down your sandcastles and fill in those holes! Hatchlings (baby sea turtles) can easily become trapped in holes.
  • Keep trash out of our marine environment. Loggerheads often mistake balloons and plastic bags for jellyfish; eaten by sea turtles they can cause injury or death.
  • Allow our turtles to nest and hatch naturally. Sea turtle’s are a federally protected species and can only be handled by certified persons.
  • If you find a turtle in distress, please contact the Nature Center immediately, 843.768.6001

Interested in joining our Naturalists for a paddling tour? Call the Nature Center at 843.768.6001 for availability and reservations.

April 17, 2015 ~ Feather Report: Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus)
First of the season!

Photo by Joe Voicheck
Tour: Back Island Birding
Naturalist: Juliana Smith

Northern Parula, Tufted Titmouse, Osprey, Double-crested Cormorant, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Carolina Wren, Yellow-throated Warbler, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, American Crow, Fish Crow, Wild Turkey, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Bluebird, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow, Great Egret, Blue Jay, Laughing Gull, Cattle Egret, Great-crested Flycatcher, Gray Catbird, Bald Eagle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Snowy Egret, Willet, Black Skimmer, Marsh Wren, Pine Warbler, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, House Finch, Whimbrel, Brown Pelican, Royal Tern, Carolina Chickadee, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Boat-tailed Grackle, Great Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Purple Gallinule, Blue-winged Teal, Clapper Rail, Red-winged Blackbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-necked Stilt, Forester’s Tern, Red-shouldered Hawk, Green Heron, Glossy Ibis, Eastern Towee, Belted Kingfisher, European Starling, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Cedar Waxwings.

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

April 16, 2015 ~ Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros)

Swamp DarnerThis swamp Darner was found this morning perched on the side of a car. This is one of North America’s largest dragon flies and can be identified by the large blue eyes and the greenish thoracic stripes. Although still alive, this individual was lethargic most likely due to the low temperatures this morning. Many dragon fly species, such as the swamp Darner, lay their eggs in the mud or moist vegetation which can be affected by herbicides and pesticides sprayed on the ground. They eat a variety of insects, so they are great to have around to fight off the mosquitoes and no-see-ums!

March 25, 2015 ~ Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis)

man o war
Photo by Nick Reynolds

March 24, 2015 ~ Feather Report

Species list from Back Island Birding tour with Naturalist Juliana Smith:

Night Heron Park: Northern Parula, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Tufted Titmouse, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown-headed Cowbird, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Carolina Chickadee, Pied-billed Grebe, Osprey, White-throated Sparrow, Bald Eagles, Laughing Gull, Eastern Bluebird, American Goldfinch, House Finch, American Crow, Brown Pelican, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Tomato Fields: Wood Stork, Killdeer, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, Eastern Meadowlark, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, American Kestrel, Red-winged Blackbird, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk,Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Great Egret, Turkey, Canadian Geese, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, White-eyed Vireo.

Mingo Point: Boat-tailed Grackle, Carolina Wren Tri-colored Heron, Pine Warbler.

Turtle Beach Lane Pond: American Coot, Common Gallinule, Great Blue Heron.

Sanctuary Parking Lot: Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Towhee.

Roy Barth Tennis Center Parking Lot: Cedar Waxwings, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Bass Pond: Little Blue Heron, Barn Swallow.

March 19, 2015 ~ Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Photo by Michael Haley
This photo of a male Eastern Bluebird was taken by island guest Michael Haley at Rhett’s Bluff. There are numerous bluebird boxes on Kiawah that are monitored by volunteers during the summertime for activity. Eggs and hatchlings are recorded in part of Town Biologist Aaron Given’s bluebird research.

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001

March 10, 2015 ~ Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Photo by Pam Cohen
Spring has sprung and the ospreys are busy!

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001

February 21, 2015 ~ White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

buckIsland guest Keith Lowrie took this photo of a buck on one of Kiawah beach boardwalks. Mr Lowrie asked our Naturalists, why would a buck have antlers this time of year?
The answer is…it’s all about testosterone levels. After the breeding season, testosterone levels begin to drop causing antlers start to shed. Antlers are shed from early December through March. On Kiawah, female fawns that come into estrous their first year often do so in late winter. Consequently, our bucks can still be breeding during February.

The drop can also depend on the amount of stress on the buck after the rut, heredity and nutrition. Deer that are in the best physical condition will lose their antlers later in the winter.

February 18, 2015 ~ Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

dolphin skullThis morning on Kiawah, 7 year old Evan and Mikah Skye from Ann Arbor MI found this perfect skull from a Bottlenose Dolphin. Very Cool!

February 12, 2015 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

rosette spoonbillTown Biologist, Jim Jordan, spotted a Roseate Spoonbill today in Blue Heron Pond. This is a rare sighting for Kiawah.

February 13, 2015 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Birding for Beginners
Naturalist: Juliana Smith

Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed grebe, American Coot, Common Gallinule, American Crow, Fish Crow, Black Vulture, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-throated Warbler, Black & White Warbler, Bald Eagle, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, House Finch, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Laughing Gull, Turkey Vulture

Join our Naturalists on a birding tour to learn about Kiawah’s native birds. Call the Nature Center for more information and reservations: 843.768.6001

February 12, 2015 ~ Red Knot (Calidris canutus)

Red knotOn a recent Back Island Birding tour, naturalists Brogin Van Skoik and Jake Zadik spotted a Red Knot on the shore near the Ocean Course that was banded. After reporting this sighting to bandedbirds.org, we found out that this Red Knot likes to visit Kiawah every winter and visits Avalon, New Jersey in the spring and fall as it migrates toward the North Pole. These birds make one of the longest migrations, over 9,000 miles, from the Artic to South America. This bird was first banded May 17, 2010 along the Delaware Bayshore in New Jersey.

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001

January 21, 2015 ~ Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)

Naturalists helped Aaron Given, Kiawah Island Town Biologist, with his Winter Marsh Sparrow Banding. Three species of coastal marsh sparrows winter in Kiawah’s saltmarshes: Seaside Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Saltmarsh Sparrow. This group is considered of high conservation due to their loss of habitat from development and sea-level rise. Birds are captured in mist nets and are identified, banded, and measured. Naturalists captured 49 birds, some new and others recaptures!

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001

January 14, 2015 ~ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

sapsuckerA female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ran into the window of the classroom at the Nature Center, causing her to be disoriented. We took advantage of this close-up opportunity with the bird before we placed her in a secluded spot to recover. As the name indicates, these birds eat mostly sap from trees and the insects that collect in the sap. They are wintertime visitors on Kiawah and can be seen throughout the maritime forest, drilling perfect lines of holes around a tree.

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001

January 5, 2015 ~ 115th Audubon Christmas Bird Count

bird bandingFrom December 14th through January 5th, tens of thousands of people participate in one of the largest and longest running Citizen Science surveys in the world. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count was started over a century ago in 1900 when ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed a bird census. Before his proposal, there was a common holiday tradition called the “Side Hunt” where hunters would go out to the field, choose a side, and whoever came back with the highest amount of birds, won. Many observers and scientists were beginning to worry about the decline in bird populations due to hunting and the use of their feathers in hat fashion. So instead of hunting the birds during the holidays, they would count them. The first bird count had a total of 27 participants in 25 different locations around the United States. Around 90 species were counted. Today, there are over 60,000 participants and over 2,300 locations conducted across North America, South America, and other countries. The data collected from these counts is critical in providing long term health and statuses of hundreds of species of birds.

The Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count is hosted by the Town of Kiawah Island and organized by Town Biologist, Aaron Given. The count encompasses 17 territories that include Seabrook Island, Kiawah Island, Wadmalaw Island, John’s Island, and Deveaux Bank. Forty-five participants enjoyed pleasant weather as they counted over 40,000 birds and 159 different species. Some species highlights: Northern Bobwhite, Snow Goose, Glossy Ibis, American Woodcock, and Roseate Spoonbills.

Most of the naturalists were observing from the motorboat on the Kiawah River, while others observed different parts of the island. Two of our naturalists, Juliana Smith and Matt Arnold, woke up in the wee hours of the morning to go owling for the count and heard an Eastern Screech Owl.

Join a naturalist for a birding tour to learn more about the different bird species and various habitats on Kiawah.

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