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!”
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the first few weeks of 2017, we have had six properties go under contract, so we’ll probably have to update this soon!
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and report what you saw or heard, and where on the island. The more information you can add, the better.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Racing the waning daylight, we were thrilled to arrive along the waterway, checking out some boarded homes and damaged docks.
and very relieved to see how well the island fared during the storm.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re pretty excited about some changes coming for the North end of Dewees Island: The Lake Timicau Restoration project. After several years of studying the hydrology of Lake Timicau, searching for better ways to provide habitat for migrating at risk birds and provide water flow through the Impoundment, we are seeing our efforts come together! This project has been on my radar since becoming chair of the EC (ERB, EPB) in 2005, so it’s been a long term goal for the island. Since I get a bunch of questions about this, I thought I’d try to explain what will be happening over the next year. Disclaimer: I am not a hydrogeologist or an engineer.
The pipes are aging and don’t keep enough water in the Lake for long enough periods of time.
Erosion is increasing.
Ages ago, the pipes were placed in Velvet Creek and the bridge was created over the creek, making the north part of the island accessible. These pipes have a few current limitations, and we’ve known there would be a need to fix the situation for at least 12 years, when the Wetlands Committee was formed to examine the problem and propose a solution. For years, the Water subcommittee spent a lot of time and energy and resources looking at this situation from a variety of angles. The pipes will eventually fail due to age, and the way they were situated allows less water to get in and stay in Lake Timicau over time.
It’s possible that they are too high to move water throughout the entire area, or that the hydrologic period compounds the situation: We get longer low tides than high tides and the 6-pipes structure compounds this. Anecdotally, the depth of the Lake doesn’t seem to be as deep. It is also possible that there has been some silting in of the areas around the edges. There is currently some increased vegetation along the edges of the lake, and parts of the Lake that are dry for very long periods of time. In addition, the water that flows through those pipes is heavily compressed (think of putting your thumb on the hose) which increases the speed at which the water flows. This acceleration adds to erosion around where the pipes are. If we could better manage the flow of water coming in a 6-pipes, perhaps there will be less velocity, less turbidity, and less silting.
Shorebirds are declining worldwide, and many are on target to become extinct in our lifetime. Lack of habitat, of suitable foraging and resting sites, and of food to fuel up for long migrations all contribute to rapid declines in shorebird populations. If we could manage the water levels in the Lake Timicau area, we could create optimal habitat for food resources, shelter, and resting habitat for many of these imperiled species. Some of these include: Red Knots, Wood Storks, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Sanderlings, Semi-palmated Plovers, etc.
The goals of the Lake Timicau restoration project are to:
create better habitat for imperiled shorebirds,
replace the compromised pipes,
allow for better water flow and management between Lake Timicau and the Impoundment.
Other possible outcomes include a wider variety of opportunities for fishing, enhanced passive recreational activities, like kayaking and bird-watching. and more open views for lots that front Lake Timicau along Lake Timicau Lane and Pelican Flight drive.
Replace the Pipes with a more comprehensive, stable, and sophisticated water control structure. The engineers have come up with a plan to replace the pipes with two water control structures similar to what used to manage the water in the impoundment, but they will be made of concrete and aluminum. They will allow us to control (manage) the levels of water in Lake Timicau in order to be able to provide better habitat for shorebirds and migrating birds; as well as fish and crustaceans. This should make the area more stable in terms of erosion as well.
Put in a water control structure at the area now known as One Pipe, so that more water can flow through to the northwest section of Lake Timicau and we can control the in-flow and out-flow of water through that part of the Lake.
Create a way for water to flow between Lake Timicau and the impoundment. This will involve extending the canal behind several lots on the north/west side of Pelican Flight lane. A small water control device will be installed under Lake Timicau Lane connecting the newly extended canal with the impoundment. Water flow can be regulated between the impoundment and Lake Timicau as needed.
This means that the community decides how much water to keep in the wetland and for how long (based on management goals and objectives and grant requirements): it will no longer be strictly tidal. In my understanding, this won’t change the water depth significantly along the edges (a couple of inches), but there will still be deeper pockets for fishing. Since the intention is to provide better habitat, there will be an emphasis on understanding and attracting invertebrates that migrating birds feed upon. An additional result will probably be that some of the surrounding vegetation will have their roots immersed for longer periods of time and may die back, and may provide additional views. Like the impoundment, there will be times when we keep the water higher for fishing and recreation, and times when we drop the water levels so birds have resting and feeding places.
DU’s regional engineer, Malcolm Baldwin, has mapped, surveyed Lake Timicau and designed the canal route. The water control devices have been successfully used in other Ducks Unlimited projects, most recently on Capers Island.
The entire project has already been budgeted for. The majority of the cost is being paid by our partner organizations: Ducks Unlimited, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The total cost of the project is expected to be $510,000. The Dewees Island POA has already collected reserves of $107,000 as part of our planning and budgeting process, which represents the total contribution of the POA. The Dewees Conservancy, a non-profit 501c-3 corporation based on the island and dedicated to habitat preservation, will also contribute $107,000. The grant that provided most of the money is a USFW North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant.
We always look forward to the week surrounding July 4, and this year was no exception. It’s traditionally the busiest week on the island, and there is a lot going on! At the bottom you’ll find links to more photos and a site where you can print them.
We started with Bubber’s annual Beach Run!
and Jan’s fabulous brunch party:
The next day was the July 4 parade and ice cream social: