2017 Wildlife Archives: Incredible Findings and Photos

Welcome to the Kiawah Island Nature Program’s wildlife sightings page. Here, you’ll find postings from our Naturalists and island biologists showing you what is currently in the field as well as an archive of observations from throughout the year. We hope this site will get you excited about the amazing and diverse wildlife found on Kiawah. Get outside and share your photos and stories with us at Kiawah_Recreation@KiawahResort.com.

November 28th, 2017~ Cool finds in Francis Beidler

copperhead snake
Photo by Jake Zadik
The naturalists took a field trip out to Francis Beidler, an Audubon protected forest. We encountered Barred Owls, many woodpecker species, cool bugs, and even snakes! Despite it being chilly, we were lucky enough to stumble upon this Eastern Cottonmouth taking advantage of a small amount of sun. Look how this snake is camouflaged even down to it’s eyes! The camouflage is a testament to this snake’s desire to not deal with potential threats, like us. Nonetheless we kept a respectful distance and had an enchanted time in the forest.

November 15rd, 2017~ Octopus in the Marsh

OctopusWhile kayaking with OWLS students this week, Naturalists Juliana and Meredith were thrilled to have a run in with a Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris). The students found this specimen and brought the naturalists to it. The common octopus is a cosmopolitan species of octopus and is commonly found off the coast of South Carolina. This specific one was discovered in the marsh off Captain Sam’s spit and delighted the OWLS students and naturalists by inking when they approached it. Fun fact! Octopodes technically have arms, not tentacles!

By Juliana Smith

October 3rd, 2017~ Rough Green Snake

green snake
Photo by Jake Zadik
Rough Green Snakes (Opheodrys aestivus) are a common snake on Kiawah Island, but are not frequently seen due to their small slender size and arboreal nature. They are referred to as rough because of their keeled dorsal scales on their body. The Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis), found more north, looks very similar by lacks these keels. As with most snakes, this snake is completely harmless to humans and is a delight to observer foraging in the trees and bushes looking for bugs and small tree frogs.

September 20th, 2017~ Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug
Photo by Jake Zadik
Assassin bugs are a common bug found in household gardens and flowerbeds. Gardeners will welcome the presence of these bugs because they are seen as a biocontrol agent and will help keep unwanted pests from harming their plants. This Assassin Bug (Zelus longipes) nabbed a fly in the Marathon Butterfly Garden in front of the nature center.

August 10th, 2017~ Caterpillars

Photo by Jake Zadik
Lepidoptera (Butterflies, Moths, and their counterpart Caterpillars) are quite abundant this time of year. Typically, Lepids have a specific larval host plant like the Passion Flower being consumed by this pictured species of Caterpillar. When ready this caterpillar will form a chrysalis and metamorphose into a very common orange butterfly, and a very important pollinator in the Southeastern United States: a Gulf Fritillary.

July 15th, 2017~ American Avocets

American Avocet
Photo by Jake Zadik
American Avocets spotted today during a Back Island Birding Tour. These peculiarly billed birds typically breed in salt-flats in the western United States and are not commonly seen in South Carolina during the summer. They do visit the state in larger numbers during winter and spring, but are rarely ever seen on Kiawah Island. Avocets use their long legs to wade through shallow waters, sweeping their up-curved bill from side to side with the tip of the bill just below the water.

July 8th, 2017~ Reddish Egret

Photo by Jake Zadik
Kudos to naturalists Juliana and Jake for spotting this reddish egret at the east end of the island. The reddish egret is known for its bizarre feeding behavior: running through the tidal pools in long strides, leaping across to stalk their prey, and raising its wings to help reduce the glare on the water. This comical dance is one of a kind and a true treasure to see! Join us on a Back Island Birding van tour to learn more!

July 1st, 2017~ Eastern Hercules Beetle

Eastern Hercules Beetle
Photo by Jake Zadik
One of our Recreation Specialists found this male Eastern Hercules Beetle in the back parking lot of the Nature Center. Another common name is the Rhinoceros Beetle due to the male’s two horn projections which he will use to most likely fight off other males. Larvae will snack on rotten trees for up to 2 years before becoming a rotten fruit-loving adult.

June 8th, 2017~ Oystercatcher Parent and Chick

Oystercatcher Parent and ChickOystercatchers most commonly nest on shell rings found through marshes of South Carolina. However a few oystercatcher pairs opt for nesting on the dunes. When the young oystercatchers are big enough to move around, the parents will generally take them to the edges of tidal pools, teaching them how to forage and survive on their own. This photo, taken by naturalist Jake Zadik, depicts this behavior. The photo was taken on the far east end of Kiawah, where the people are few, the tidal pools are rich, and the dunes are protected (for shorebird nesting!).

May 30, 2017~ Spadefoot Toad

Photo byJake Zadik
Spadefoot Toads (Scaphiopus holbrookii) are a very common amphibian on Kiawah Island. Have you ever seen one? They are incredibly tough to spot due to their fossorial nature (they like to be underground). Noted and subsequently named for the hard keratinous ‘spades’ on their feet, they can quickly scrape away ground and become invisible in seconds. The photographed Spadefoot was found trapped in a pool pump room by Naturalists Juliana and Kristen.

February 8, 2017~ Beach Critters

While on a beach walk yesterday, my group and I stumbled upon a really large club-finger sponge. The sponge itself was really cool – probably one of the biggest I’ve ever seen on Kiawah, and bright orange – but it was what we found on the sponge that was so exciting… hiding in the branches of the sponge was a new find for me: a spineback hairy crab! As the name suggests, these little crabs are sparsely covered with tiny little hairs on the carapace (back) and black-tipped chelipeds (claws), and a few spines on each side. They top out at about 1.5 inches wide, but our little girl was only about an inch wide. After having a quick photoshoot with our spiny friend, we placed her back on the club-finger sponge, and left them both to be taken back by the tide. Winter Wonders Walk!

Naturalist Ally

January 5, 2017~ Fly by at Mingo

Captain Brad snapped a photo of a hawk flying by the Mingo Point shack with his iPhone! Despite the not-so-red tail feathers on this bird, this is a young Red-tailed Hawk. Red-tailed hawks can look very different from one another based on age, location and time of year. However, the easiest way to identify a Red-tailed Hawk is from the “comma” marks on the wrists of the wings (circled in red).

There will be lots of hawks and other birds of prey flying around this winter. Stay curious and happy birding!