Easter Sunrise at the Beach

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Every Easter, members of the community gather to watch the sun rise over the ocean and celebrate with the break of day. The simple service is led by a community volunteer, and if we’re lucky, accompanied by music. This morning’s beautiful service was led by the Mosers, with Ginny preparing the bulletin and leading the service, and Artus accompanying on the banjo. Old friends and new gathered to greet the dawn.


Octopus at the Dock

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One of the best things about being on Dewees is that you never really know what nature surprises are in store for you on any given day. This week, Larry W and his friend. caught an octopus on a hook and line while fishing at the ferry dock.  He reeled in this beauty, who had emerged from a “den” in an old coffee mug, grabbed the bait, and jumped back into the coffee cup for shelter.  The bait, the line, the cup, and the octopus all ended up on the dock.

The octopus was at first an angry red, and the group on the dock put the poor cephalopod in a bucket, with his coffee cup and called Lori, the environmentalist. (Coffee cup at bottom of photo)

She found an aerator and gave him a bit of quiet.

This video has clips from the process:

And this close up shows just how sensitive to light they are: you can see the color changes flash across the octopus as the sunlight in the room changes and he moves in relation to the carpet.

Lori took it to the aquarium to hang out with our former (think 12 years back) Shannon Teders Howard, a senior biologist on the staff at the South Carolina Aquarium, greeted them and helped the Octopus get settled in his (or her) new home. When I checked with Shannon yesterday (and asked for more info about the species), she said,

Dewees AKA Joe is doing fabulous and is keeping his/her coffee cup close.

Their lifespan can range from 15-24 months. Females lay eggs at the end of their lifespan and are good mothers, keeping their eggs clean and protected. After a month or more, the eggs hatch and the mother will pass away naturally. They are very intelligent and are great hunters. Blue crabs and other crustaceans are their favorite food source. Based on his/her size I believe Dewees is about 4-5 months old.

Shannon also sent these photos of him over at the Aquarium in his tank, still in his mug.

I also looked in some of my favorite field guides and found out a little bit more about these cool creatures.

In Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: the Oceans’ Oddest creatures and Why They Matter, Ellen Prager explains that cephalopod Must be wary of predators: unlike other maritime creatures they don’t have protective shell. Almost all marine carnivores will eat them, so they’ve developed an array of defenses.  They have the biggest brains of any invertebrates. Adept at camouflage, they can change both the color and texture of their skin. They can even make their underside lighter and the topside darker so that they are harder to see from below or above. Prager also delves into their reproductive habits: If you want to know more about the romance of Octopuses and their personal lives, you can read the book. (link below)

I think our species was a common octopus, Octopus vulgaris. The skin is normally a reddish brown but can change easily.

They tend to be solitary and keep a sort of den.  In Life Along the Inner Coast, Robert and Alice Jane Lippson describe their hiding places, and the shells and debris that can accumulate outside them as they consume their prey in the den.  They also provide the interesting commercial fact that over 100,000 tons are harvested annually.  For people to eat.

Like other molluscs(moon snails, etc.) they have a sharp tongue called a radula that bores into their prey and can inject a toxin which relaxes the muscles of a clam or other bivalve: the octopus can then pry it open. Or it can use the parrot-like beak to overcome prey like crabs or lobster.

Click here for a great National Geographic Video about these incredible creatures.

Geo-cache Course sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited a huge success!

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Over the holidays, Kristen, our birding intern, set up a geocache course on the island, sponsored by Mount Pleasant’s Wild Birds Unlimited. It was a pretty flexible experience, because participants could complete the course at their own pace. Need a sandwich or a raincoat? It’s easy to get a quick break while you’re out hunting treasure. Participants started at the landings building, where they picked up the first clue.

The clues gave both a coordinate for a gps, and a google map id point, so you could use your phone to follow the trail around the island.  In addition, they required some knowledge of the island and provided some education about birds and birding.  One clue was even on the new trail through the Cypress swamp.

When we were in there looking for the clue, a flock of mallards flew off.  I seldom get mallards on the bird count, so that was exciting! That clue had a bird call system where you could listen to the bird calls, and when we played a few calls, a chickadee answered.

Another clue staged a bird nest out in the conservation areas on the north end of the island:

Each station had activities designed to get the participants more familiar with birds:

And it was easy (and challenging) for groups of kids to do together without adult help.

Mark Pagano, a newly retired full time owner, said, “We enjoyed it, completing it over a couple of days.  Nice to complete a couple of clues at the end of the day.  We were almost stumped on the Woodpecker clue as well as #7 which we must have walked past a dozen times.”  I had the same experience, sneaking in a clue when I had a few minutes to spare.

Clues led us all around the island, with the final stop at the top floor of the Landings Building.  Hidden in one of the seat benches was a prize packet, including coupons to the Wild Birds Unlimited store, some birdseed, and a hand held hummingbird feeder.  Danielle, at Wild Birds Unlimited, set up 30 prize packets, the last four of which were claimed by us and Lori and Kristen. That means 28 residents and guests completed the course!  We’re so appreciative of Kristen’s efforts.

Resident Caitlyn McDaniel says, “The hunt was just the right amount of difficulty for a fun winter afternoon with friends.  People who partook in the caching event went all over the island exploring the true beauty of Dewees. Thank you Kristen Oliver, for setting this up, it was truly fantastic!”

Welcome New Owners of 2016

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Last year saw a great bunch of new owners on the island, and they all seem to be enjoying their time here! Here’s a brief introduction to the new owners of 2016.

Kay/Dellas 2DI

Scott Kay and Kate Dellas purchased lot 2DI, on the inlet, from a bank. They are currently renovating a house on the Isle of Palms. (and traveling to exciting places!)
Dewees Island New Owners 2016

McDaniel 126

Keith and Lori McDaniel purchased the house at 126 from Ken Tarleton and Betsey Cotter. The McDaniels live on Dewees Island full time with their daughters Emma and Caitlyn. Caitlyn is at Wando High School and Emma is at Oceanside Collegiate Academy. They were here for the Matthew evacuation, and helped with clean-up.  Both Keith and Lori are in technology: Keith is in data analytics and Lori is a clinical systems consultant.

Dewees Island New Owners 2016

Dewees New Owners 2016
Emma hanging out in a hammock with her friend Charlotte

Phillips 128 

Ross and Diana Phillips, from Seneca SC, purchased the Naramore’s share at 234 Old House Lane (128) and with their daughter Dana have been enjoying their weeks on the island. Diana is a vet and Ross is a structural engineer who has worked for the forest service in the past.

Henshaw 76

Jim and Melissa Henshaw bought lot 76 from the Dewhirsts. Jim is an Architect with Herlong and Associates on Sullivans Island and will be designing their new house. Melissa is at MUSC. Their son Sam is in sixth grade at Moultrie Middle School.

Dewees new owners 2016
Jim assisting with Bird Banding

Norris 38

Peter and Susan Norris purchased a partnership at 395 Pelican Flight.  They first discovered Dewees on a cycling trip up the east coast. They reside in Houston, Texas. They will be joining a mainland cycling club, because “we love the pace which allows you to savor the countryside and take in wherever you happen to be. No one is intimidated by a cyclist as they are usually feeling sorry for you and your mode of transportation”. They really enjoy savoring a beer on the front porch and getting to know the people.

Dewees New Owners 2016

Barker 78

Welcome to Brett and Jodi Barker, and their kids Chapel (12), Eli (10), Conor and Jude(8) bought lot 78 from the Bakers.  Brett is an Attorney and works as the Dean of Students at the Charleston School of Law. He and Jodi live in Mount Pleasant.  They are enjoying the island and using their free nights.  They had a great time completing the geocache course over the holidays.

Charity 49

Pam Charity and her family bought lot 49 from Adrian Ruebens. Their children have participated in island activities, like the geocache and sweets for the staff.

Isabella and Emma McDaniel helped with cookies for the staff at the holidays.

In the first few weeks of 2017, we have had six properties go under contract, so we’ll probably have to update this soon!

New Winter Internship: Learning about birds with Kristen

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Winter Internship

Kristen Oliver is currently completing a winter internship with us in birding.  Through a partnership with SC Audubon, the Dewees POA, and the Dewees Island Conservancy, Kristen lives in our intern housing and spent her fall working at the Sullivan’s Island Banding station.

Kristen has done two different banding demonstrations on the island, and has given both birding 101 classes and presentations about bird banding and owls.  One Friday night in November, she gave us a synopsis of the bird banding program on Sullivan’s Island.


Bird Banding on Sullivans and on Dewees

On Sullivan’s, in the conservation area near Fort Moultrie, there is a series of mist nets set up to catch migratory birds safely for observation, documentation, and release. This fall, Kristen took the earliest ferry to Sullivan’s to participate in the daily activities. Jenny McCarthy Tyrell is the master bander at that station, and any bird banding on Dewees is under her master permit.

Holding a bird in your hand is an incredible experience: it’s pretty much just wings and a heartbeat.  And once you’ve done it, you won’t look at birds the same way again!

The purpose of banding on the island is to gather information about neotropical migrants: the birds who land here as a stop from northern breeding grounds on their way to the tropics.  The birds hit the mist net’s fine mesh, and fall into a pocket, where the staff checks every 20 minutes or so and retrieves them, putting them into a cotton bag to keep them calm.


Then they process them one at a time as quickly as possible. Banding is like giving a bird a social security number: each band is supplied from the USGS office with a unique number, so we can learn a lot about the birds we capture, and even more if they are captured again.  We stand to learn about their lifespan, dispersal and migration, population estimates, and other information about their survival.

They captured 48 species this fall; 38 neotropical species, 3 winter residents, and another 7 year-round species.  They even caught some big unexpected birds in the nets: a barred owl. a green heron, and an adult male northern Harrier.  Over 3 seasons, the station has banded over 2000 birds.  This fall’s banding more than doubled last fall’s totals, because of more nets, more staff, and more time.

Meanwhile, Kristen has been providing Dewees residents with some great programming.  Birding 101 has helped 15 people over 3 sessions, and her bird surveys on the island have recorded 136 species!

She has also done two banding demonstrations for residents:


You can find more photos of that event here.

Owl Program and Monitoring: You can Help

In December, Kristen did a presentation on owls on Dewees: here is a copy of her presentation that you can navigate on your own.

She shared information about screech owls, barn owls, and great horned owls, all of which have been recorded on the island in the last year.


She is heading up a citizen science project on the island to track where we see and hear owls.  If you see or hear an owl and can identify it, please send an email to wild.dewees@gmail.com and report what you saw or heard, and where on the island.  The more information you can add, the better.

Geocache Course

Kristen has also set up a holiday challenge for us, sponsored by the Wild Bird Center, with a birding geocache course around the island.  Start at the Landings building near the back stairs, bring a phone, and follow along. There are prizes for everyone who completes it.

For more on our island internships, click here.



Celebrating the Quick Return to Normal

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We wanted to take a few minutes to celebrate the fast return to normal island life after hurricane Matthew.  The storm passed through on Saturday, the island re-opened to those with their own boats Sunday evening, and both ferries were back in service by Wednesday.  Although this wasn’t a category 4 hurricane when it hit, we prepared for a direct hit from a Category 4 hurricane, and undoing all that preparation takes time.  The ferries were removed from service and taken to the boatyard in North Charleston where they would be more secure.  The buildings were secured with boards and shutters, even on top floor levels.  The vehicles were all removed from the dock area. The utility prepared for outages. (And they were incredibly prepared for repairs: it was AMAZING how fast they got Lake Timicau lane back open.)

hurricane Matthew
Landings building shutters

The staff came over to the island on Sunday to assess damages and make a plan for getting things back to normal.  They found roads that had been overwashed, trees down on several roads, a washout deeper than the pickup truck on Lake Timicau lane, and debris around.  Screens were blown out at Huyler House, but otherwise the buildings seemed in good shape.

hurricane matthew on Dewees island
wrack on the main dock

Myrtle dock and Timicau dock, as well as the floater at Lone Cedar, were all unusable. The main dock, fresh from last year’s repairs, was in excellent shape. (My post from Sunday evening shares our vast relief that the storm hadn’t hit at high tide, and our continued appreciation for the good engineering design of the roads and homesites of the island.) And on Monday morning, when we headed over to the island, the staff was already hard at work.  The Parker was back in service, and returning residents were on the first run.

grateful residents returning from Hurricane Matthew
grateful residents returning from Hurricane Matthew

The crew and volunteers cleared the ferry dock of the washed up debris that was on the seats and surface of the dock landing.  The shuttles were back at the dock almost immediately.  The staff was out with the pick-up and the chipper getting fallen trees off the roads.  Barges were scheduled with 18 truckloads of road repair material, which arrived over three days.

hurricane matthew

Residents organized a few work parties to clear the parking lot of fallen debris, and Joey Riser, a deckhand, brought his truck to get the debris out to the road for pickup by the town.  He also stayed very late after his shift using a leaf blower to get the parking lot incredibly clear. We put together this quick video showing all the teamwork, and we know we only saw a tiny percentage of what was accomplished:

Over at Dewees Rentals (and elsewhere on the island) they were busy getting shutters off houses and making sure everything was up and running for a full house on the weekend, because there was a wedding scheduled for Saturday.  Golf carts had to be retrieved from safe spots, shutters had to come down, screens had to be secured and hopefully repaired, etc.  Given that my house STILL isn’t put completely back together (more than two weeks later) I can’t imagine the stress of getting this done.  The whole staff was also busy getting things ready: repairing screens, getting Huyler House prepared, etc. Everything came off without a hitch, which is pretty unbelievable considering that the ferries weren’t back to regular use (all of them) until Wednesday. Even the weather was perfect.

So, by the end of last week, when the dust had settled and everyone had gotten some sleep, we needed to celebrate.  An impromptu thank-you lunch was thrown together (on behalf of all owners) for the staff, and a few homeowners helped put it together and served.  Here are some photos from that event. (photos courtesy A. Anderson.)


It was a delightful day!  Balloons “shouting”  Thank You waited at the front door where 16 of our staff were guests by Dewees owners.  The dining room was set with tablecloths and decked with flowers.  Aproned owners served a fitting Low Country BBQ with all the trimmings.  Desserts were key lime pie and a trio of home baked goodies by Jan McAlhany–always a very special treat!
A jolly atmosphere filled the conversation around the table.  As the last bits of cookies were enjoyed, Anne Anderson expressed appreciation for all owners of the commitment to Dewees shown by all members of the staff over the past 2 weeks and acknowledged their hard work and long hours spent in readying the island after the storm.  Cecily Hines and Tom Pettus thanked them for the extra burden they shouldered in preparing for the wedding on top of the cleanup required by Matthew.  Each person introduced themselves and told a little bit about their position.  Kim expressed his appreciation, commenting that this team can always be counted on to go above and beyond whenever duty calls.
We all felt the warmth and mutual respect that is such a part of Dewees.

Hurricane Matthew appreciation party

And if you wish you could have been there, or you want to show appreciation for the staff, don’t hesitate to send in your gifts for the staff holiday fund.  This is how we show our beloved staff, each year, how much we appreciate them. Renters and guests are also welcome to contribute: send your donations to the Dewees Island POA, Staff Holiday Fund, 273 Old House Lane, Dewees Island, SC 29451.


Counting Blessings and Coming Home

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We have had a chance to get back to the island for a quick look, and we are so grateful for the fact that Hurricane Matthew came in at low tide. Damage on Dewees appears to be slight compared to some of our neighbors to both the north and the south.  For a hurricane that made its eventual US landfall just north of us (South of McClellanville,) Dewees seems to have escaped much of the damage we see on the news from not so far away.

We have so much to be thankful for:

  • For the clear decision-making of Governor Haley who announced on Tuesday that evacuations would begin, school would be canceled, and I26 lanes would be managed so that all would exit the city, making travel easier.
  • For a solid Dewees Hurricane Mitigation plan that was in place and activated almost immediately after her announcement, which involved gradually decreasing ferry service and moving the ferries to safe ground and securing buildings and infrastructure on the island.
  • For the well executed engineering design of the homesites and public spaces on the island, which has demonstrated twice this year that our pervious surfaces and drainage channels move water away from homes, homesites, and roads.
  • For the dedication of staff who care for our island, its residents and owners, and everyday assets: ferries, buildings, boats, vehicles, etc. which make our living on this lovely barrier island more manageable.
  • For the way we, as neighbors, take care of each other.  From sharing places to stay, providing meals and comfort, to touching base with one another, to moving golf carts and checking on things, to sending funny texts and messages as we tried not to worry watching a scary storm move our way. We are family.

The evacuation order for coastal South Carolina expired today, and then we got notification that we could come to the island and check things out.  We arrived on IOP around 5:00 and were allowed through the checkpoint.

The parking lot has some standing water at the moment, and we weren’t exactly sure how high the water got.


img_1201 Racing the waning daylight, we were thrilled to arrive along the waterway, checking out some boarded homes and damaged docks.



img_1217and very relieved to see how well the island fared during the storm.

img_1240The main dock had obviously seen some water: some flotsam had accrued in the corners of the main dock.  The dock was intact, though, and looked strong and unchanged.


The causeway was almost empty, with the shuttles gone and only the pick-up waiting at the dock.  The shuttle stations appear to have done well, though the curbs in front of them have floated away.


Near the Landings building, we found a small issue with a gutter, but the hurricane shutters installed by the staff were still firmly in place:



Again, damages are minimal.

Along Old House Lane, it’s clear that the road was under water some of the time, and there are places where a small channel was carved as water made its way to the impoundment.


The road to Chapel pond shows some water intrusion.img_1295

Homes seem to have slight screen damage, and a tree is down here and there, but the overall feeling is that there is cleanup and road maintenance required, but structures appear largely fine.

At our home, several screens were flapping in the wind, we found a warped floor section that hints at water intrusion we haven’t found yet, and the bridge in the driveway has floated off its foundation. Our floorboards under the house are dry.

The beach at Ancient Dunes shows a very high tide and smoother dunes, but it’s vastly different from the scene that greeted us after the Irene storm surge.  The boneyard trees which serve as landmarks for that beach access path have lost limbs, but parts of them are still standing.




We were running out of daylight, so we headed back to the dock (and Mount Pleasant) and will go back in the morning. A pair of black skimmers sliced the water in the waning light, and we were treated to a sunset over the waterway. More tomorrow.




Hurricane Matthew: staying connected from afar

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Residents and owners of Dewees are scattered to the winds at the moment, and most are glued to their screens in some way to see what’s happening on the island. It’s not just the weather channel that gives us a chance to stay in touch. There was already a facebook owners group discussion to find out where everyone is.  If you are on facebook, and you are an owner, you can join that group to stay up to date.  And if you have friends in Mount Pleasant or the IOP online, you can follow online. Dewees owners can also join the IOP owner group on Facebook and they have updates from people who stayed on the island.

My first source for news and weather is WCBD news 2, and there are several ways to watch them on a phone or online if they are running a live feed.  Here’s a link on facebook, where you can often watch in real time. (I know Dewees owners are watching, because when we watch through facebook it tells us who else is online.  They also have a smartphone app.

Also, WCIV (abc) is here and often has a live feed.

SCDOT has an app for your phone, and you can watch the IOP traffic camera to see what’s happening on the connector.  (This is handy whenever you’re coming to Dewees.)

Our own Harriet McCloud works for Reuters, and she is downtown reporting.  Here’s a link to her story on evacuations.

What we know at the moment is that there is power on the island (from our friends who check their answering machines) and from what I can see, the eye-wall has moved north of the island as the tide comes in.  Hoping y’all are safe.  The end is in sight.screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-9-40-48-am

Second tropical storm in two weeks rolls on, leaving gorgeous views

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Julia and Hermine are (almost) distant memories at this point.  I love the clouds the morning after a storm!  Hermine brought a few gusts and some rain but didn’t interfere with labor day celebrations, and Julia rolled in yesterday with some big downpours and some heavy breezes, but the island is gorgeous this morning.  Tropical systems can make clouds in gorgeous colors, and there are many birds and butterflies zipping about this morning.  img_4785 img_4783 img_4781

If you don’t have tickets for Saturday’s cruise aboard the Osprey, click here to buy tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dewees-waterway-cruise-on-the-osprey-benefiting-the-conservancy-tickets-27417755244