Birds and Birding

Dewees Island of International Significance to Shorebirds

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International Recognition

Here on Dewees Island, we are working to preserve and maintain habitat for nesting, feeding, and resting shorebirds, and our efforts have gained us inclusion in the Cape Romain region site of hemispheric significance with WHSRN.  (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network). It is a site of international significance because the entire region hosts more than 10% of the flyway population of American Oystercatchers and Short-billed Dowitchers. This week is the official start of the celebration.

The current Cape Romain Region has been extended to include all coastal lands from Dewees Inlet north though Yawkey Island Reserve into the Winyah Bay. The new site name for this expanded region (including Dewees Island and Big Hill Island) is the Cape Romain – Santee Delta Region. This region includes a total area of 119,440 acres. A map of the region is below.

This region is comprised of ownership of Federal – Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, State – Santee Coastal Reserve Wildlife Management Area, Santee- Delta Wildlife Management Area, Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Heritage Preserve, North Santee Bar, Capers Island Heritage Preserve and Private – Dewees Island and Big Hill Island.

Cape Romain shorebirds resting along a dock on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

In late February, South Carolina Audubon sponsored a trip to Panama, where we had a chance to see another WHSRN site with tens of thousands of wintering birds.  Many of our birds winter in the tropics and nest in the Arctic, using Dewees as a valuable stopover along the way.

Celebrations this Week

There are a number of celebrations this week, in conjunction with DNR, and Cape Romain, and WHSRN.  On Wednesday night, we’ll be hosting that celebration here on Dewees Island.

Please join us on Wednesday at 4:30 for a social, with a presentation from 5-6 on the History of the Coast Presentation and WHSRN Dedication, with more social activities to follow.  RSVP here.

How Dewees Island supports Shorebirds

It’s part of our community culture of respecting the environment and creating habitat for birds AND people.  We provide habitat and protection for resting, feeding, and nesting birds. For more information on identification of our birds, click here.

  • Restoring water control structures in Lake Timicau. The new management plan will manipulate water levels for the benefit of spring and fall migrating shorebirds. The Lake Timicau Restoration Project is a joint effort of the Dewees Island Conservancy, the Dewees POA, Ducks Unlimited, and USFW. (NAWCA~ North American Wetlands Conservation Act.)
  • Closing beach areas near nesting sites of Wilson’s plovers and least terns to prevent intrusion by people.
  • Placing shorebird nesting education signs on beach access paths.
  • Participating in Audubon’s Shorebird Steward program to educate island residents and visitors regarding nesting sites, dog management and bird loafing areas
  • Maintaining limits on public safety use of beach vehicles on front beach during shorebird and seabird nesting periods.

Big Hill Island

Big Hill Island is a 175 acre island of Spartina alterniflora and shell rake edge bordering the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It supports nesting American oystercatchers and fall, winter, and spring roosting shorebird flocks often numbering in the 100s. Management is primarily to close the shell rake area to human disturbance during the nesting season.

Here is the whole announcement from SCDNR.


Summer Internships on Dewees

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Apply now for summer internships on Dewees!

Our community is immeasurably enriched by the energy and scholarship of young interns who spend the summer on Dewees in several programs.  Here is a full description of some of our intern programs.

Our interns live on the island in a two-bedroom apartment, and depending on their job, might assist with arriving rental clients, walk for the turtle team, spend several nights a week up in the Cape Romain National Wildlife turtle program, or even (new this year) assist with Coyote Research.


Dewees Island summer interns often go from here to jobs in the hospitality field, or to DNR, the SC Aquarium, and even farther afield.  It’s our goal to provide them with a great base of skills from which to apply for the job of their dreams.


Here is more information and how to apply for the coyote internship.

The Dewees Island community wishes to better understand how many coyotes are on island, how they utilize the island, are they impacting the mammal population, how are they integrating into the existing ecosystem and how residents can coexist. A Coyote Intern position funded by the Dewees Island Conservancy will assist in answering these questions. The Coyote intern will be responsible for conservation and educational activities on Dewees Island relating to coyotes & associated habitat as well as interactions with other mammal species. The Intern’s responsibilities will include coyote research (monitoring trail cameras, scat surveys, potential impacts on other wildlife, etc.), shorebird and wading bird surveys, wildlife spotlight surveys, sea turtle nest monitoring, caring for animals in the nature center, creating educational displays, leading interpretative education programs relating to wildlife, and other resource management projects as needed. Ferry access from the Isle of Palms, dormitory housing and golf cart transportation will be provided while on Dewees Island by Dewees Island POA. Send letter of interest and resume to by January 26.

Here is more information and how to apply for a hospitality internship.

Looking for two smart, energetic, entrepreneurial interns to join our vacation rental business on gorgeous Dewees Island during the summer months. We are a small local business and manage 10 short-term vacation rental homes and 4 suites. Our interns live on the island and are our eyes and ears on the ground. It is important to have excellent communication and problem solving skills. As a rental business, we never know what the day has in store, so we must be flexible and ready for anything that comes our way! Our interns must have a strong work ethic and excel at working independently. They must have a willingness to assist in all situations. Interns must be comfortable being surrounded by nature. Dewees is a wonderful mixture of forest, marsh, and beach. Bugs, snakes, alligators and mosquitoes are all a part of life on Dewees. We are on an island after all!  Send resume and letter of interest to

Here is more information and how to apply for a sea turtle conservation internship.

Dewees Island is a privately developed ferry access barrier island south of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and north of Charleston, SC. The Dewees community has a strong environmental focus, with approximately 64 homes, native landscaping, sand roads, and golf cart transportation. There are no commercial interests such as stores or restaurants on this isolated barrier island. Dewees Island is home to an abundance of wildlife including white tailed deer, American alligators, wading birds and shorebirds. Cape Island, SC is an undeveloped remote barrier island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge which
averages well over 1,000 loggerhead sea turtle nests each season. Sea turtle activity accounts for almost 1/3 of all nests in South Carolina. The lack of access to the remote island makes it challenging for federal biologists and volunteers to do beach patrols, nest relocation, nursery maintenance, predator removal, nest inventories, and nesting turtle research. Early morning small boat access is required during the summer nesting season.

A Naturalist / Sea Turtle Technician Internship funded by the Dewees Island Conservancy helps meet the needs of both islands. Two-three days per week on Dewees Island is required to assist in leading interpretative education programs, shorebird and wading bird surveys, trail camera surveys, wildlife surveys, sea turtle beach patrol, animal husbandry, creating educational publications and other projects as needed. Ferry access from the Isle of Palms, dormitory housing and golf cart transportation will be provided while on Dewees Island by
Dewees Island POA.
The Intern will also spend 2-3 days per week helping the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge conduct sea turtle beach patrols, nest relocation, and nest inventories; dormitory housing is provided on the mainland (Awendaw, SC). Boat access to the Islands with Refuge Biologist and seasonal staff is provided. Transportation is not provided between the Isle of Palms and Awendaw.
The intern shall report directly to both the Dewees Island Conservancy Program Director on Dewees Island and the US Fish & Wildlife Chief Biologist on the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge The full-time seasonal position runs May 7 – August 17, 2018.
The Naturalist/Sea Turtle Intern will receive housing and a stipend of $1650 for the 15-week internship.

• Minimum three years undergraduate work in resource management, marine biology, wildlife ecology or
related science.
• Minimum 9 months of experience leading interpretative or environmental educational programs.
• Outgoing, self-motivated and independent personality; strong communication and leadership skills
• Prior sea turtle nesting management experience preferred (additional training provided).
• Basic knowledge of shorebird and wading bird identification strongly desired.
• Basic knowledge of South Carolina flora and fauna; knowledge of barrier island ecology strongly
• Ability to work a non-standard work day, including weekends, holidays and night shifts.
• Ability to endure extreme summer and outdoor conditions (heat, bugs, salt, sand, etc.).
• Ability to carry heavy equipment (up to 50 lbs.)

• Ability to operate an ATV vehicle (training provided).
• Ability to work and live independently in an extremely remote island lifestyle.
• Boating experience preferred.
• Ability to provide own transportation between remote work sites.
• Lead interpretative educational programs to guests and residents on Dewees Island.
• Conduct early morning or late evening beach patrols on assigned day to identify sea turtle nests and/or
stranded sea turtles.
• Conduct early morning or late evening wildlife surveys.
• Provide care and maintenance of animals and displays in the Dewees Island Nature Center.
• Create educational publications and displays relating to conservation and post information in the Nature
Center and on the Dewees Island Conservancy web site and Facebook page.
• Promote and practice stewardship of the all barrier island facilities, properties, and research equipment.
• Assist in facilitation of research projects by visiting scientists as directed by the Refuge Biologist or the
Dewees Island Conservancy Program Director.
• Understand and agree to dormitory and shared housing regulations. Housing at both locations is a
shared co-ed living space and personal effects are NOT provided (linens, toiletries, etc.).
• Ability to provide your own transportation between Awendaw, SC and the Dewees Island Ferry Landing
on Isle of Palms (approximately 20 miles). Remote locations; public transportation is not available.
Email cover letter, resume, and names/phone numbers of three references to:
Dewees Island Conservancy at
Please list Naturalist/Sea Turtle Internship in the subject line.
Deadline to apply: Friday, January 26, 2018



Mississippi Kites putting on a show

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mississippi kite eating a bug

If you’re at the pool, big bend dock, or Old House Lane this week, be sure to look up.  There has been a group of Mississippi Kites overhead, putting on a show, pretty much on a daily basis.  This raptor soars like a falcon on the thermals, and today I saw a total of 13 of them at the same time.  At first glance, they appear to be floating gently along the thermals, almost suspended in the air.

But then one of them will take a sudden movement and whoosh in another direction. Using their square off tail to dip, twist, plummet, and lift, these incredible aerialists are catching dragonflies and cicadas in mid air with their talons, and then eating them as they fly.

mississippi kite

When you look at them with your eyes, it looks like they are just hanging out.  But zoom in with binoculars or a camera, and you can get a clear sense of them as effective predators. Yesterday, I took my camera over to big bend to lie on the dock and watch. They took my breath away with their dizzying dips and turns!

mississippi kites

They snatch cicadas and dragonflies.  The cicadas protest loudly when grabbed, and if you look closely you can see the birds eviscerating them while flying.

mississippi kite

mississippi kite eating a bug

mississippi kites


Mississippi Kite 5-6-17 Sewee
Mississippi Kite, photo Pam Ford

Mississippi Kites, Ictinia mississippiensis, are a species of least concern in our area.  In fact, check out this article from Living Bird Magazine about how their range is actually expanding. That said, I have never seen them here as often as I have in the last week. They may be staging for migration: In some states like Texas, they apparently gather in large groups before migrating south.  Each time I have been watching them, there have been blue jays in the trees below, making a screeching sound.  They shouldn’t really object to their presence; apparently blue jays and northern mockingbirds often nest near Mississippi kite colonies. It’s been the blue jays that had me looking up, though, so they are worth listening to.  And the cicada… when the kite first grabs the cicada, it makes a loud buzz, which was another thing that made me look up.  Usually cicada calls come from the trees rather than overhead.

It’s worth heading out with binoculars!  And while you’re looking up, keep an eye out for swallowtail kites, which feed the same way and were seen here this week last year.

Dewees Island Conservancy

Lake Timicau Restoration Project Begins

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aerial of Lake Timicau Project 2017

It was exciting to see a large earth mover at 6 pipes last week; even more exciting when we heard Pete Y describe it coming out of the water at 6 pipes. The Lake Timicau Restoration Project has begun!

And no time like the present: six pipes has seen some “adjustment” since hurricane Matthew, and the erosion has been compounded by high tides.

This photo was taken in January 2016:

And this in June of 2016:

By this month, a good bit of the road has eroded around the pipes:

So it was great to see this big piece of equipment come ashore at six pipes this week. For a day or two it was visible at six pipes, and then it moved along Lake Timicau towards the end along Lake Timicau Lane.

Apparently it’s amphibious: Pete reports it coming right out of the water (and the tracks prove that.)

Part of the Lake Timicau Restoration Project is a canal that links the areas that get good water flow at one pipe and six pipes with the far end of the wetland behind lots 65 and 80.  It’s pretty amazing how natural this machine can make the canal look.  This video shows the canal starting at one pipe:

Watch videos in HD for better results.

This is the outside of One Pipe:

This shows the track from one pipe toward the other end of Lake Timicau:

And at the other end, from the intersection of Pelican Flight and Lake Timicau, it looks like this:

Meanwhile, back at six pipes, not much has happened.  These photos show what it looks like right now:

And this video explores further.  Exciting things are coming: you can see a large piece of equipment on the beach toward Capers Inlet.


The Lake Timicau Restoration Project represents years of work and partnership with The Dewees Island Conservancy, the Wetlands Committee of the POA, USFW, The North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grant Program, and Ducks Unlimited. Donations are still welcome: click here to donate.

Birds and Birding

The Lake Timicau Restoration Project

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Lake Timicau Restoration Project

Lake Timicau Restoration Project

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.

Lake Timicau from the air: taken from above Capers Island. The six pipes are in the center.


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.

Red knots


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.

Map of areas that might see longer tidal inundation, and where the deeper channels for fish habitat will be found. Art by Anne Anderson.

The Plan:

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.

Model by Jim Anderson of the new water structure with the current roadbed at the top.

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.

current situation at “one-pipe.” There will be a water control structure like a rice trunk.

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 Costs:

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.

Dewees Island Conservancy

Swallow-tail Kite

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swallow-tailed kite
swallow-tailed kite
Swallow-tailed kite courtesy of Pam Ford

I saw a swallow-tailed kite on Dewees! This is a new bird (for me) on the island, and I might have frightened the real estate clients who were in my cart, because I shrieked, pulled off the road, and jumped out of the cart while jumping up and down.  Swallow-tailed Kites have been recorded on Dewees in the past, including during a bird count, but I haven’t seen one.  I think they have been here on and off for a few weeks: I got a call about a huge tern with a forked tail from renters John and Michelle in early July, as well as a text from my neighbor Jim Mack asking what the very large white bird with a forked tail was that soared past quickly over the impoundment. Since I didn’t get a good photo, I asked some of my favorite local nature photographers Pam Ford, Keith McCullough, and Nolan Schillerstrom for illustrations.

A Swallow-tailed kite is a big bird, with a wingspan of 51 inches, and a big forked tail. They are mostly white on the underside with striking black edges against that white plumage. The one I saw was flying fairly low over Pelican Flight Drive. They pluck insects and lizards from the treetops, and might even make off with a whole nest of blue-gray gnatcatchers, a tiny bird that does nest regularly on Dewees. They usually eat their prey while flying. The one I saw was sort of swooping for insects. Swallow-tailed kites are about the same size of a red-tailed hawk, but weigh about half as much. They are getting ready to begin some pretty significant migrations to Central and South America, and this website has a lot of information about them and is collecting citizen science data on sightings.

Audubon, in Birds of America described the swallow-tailed hawk,

Gliding along in easy flappings, it rises in wide circles to an immense height, inclining in various ways its deeply forked tail, to assist the direction of its course, dives with the rapidity of lightning, and, suddenly checking itself, reascends, soars away, and is soon out of sight… Their principal food, however, is large grasshoppers, grass-caterpillars, small snakes, lizards, and frogs. They sweep close over the fields, sometimes seeming to alight for a moment to secure a snake, and holding it fast by the neck, carry it off, and devour it in the air.

Dewees Island does not provide appropriate nesting habitat for them, but they do nest north of here in the old growth freshwater forests of the Waccamaw Wildlife Refuge, and they can be seen in nearby Francis Marion National Forest. I’ve also seen them at Caw Caw county park. They may pass Dewees on their migration route to central or south America. This video from South Carolina Audubon has some great footage and information about these gorgeous kites. (watch in hd if you can.)

Here is a link to an ebird map of sightings.

South Carolina Audubon’s Sea and Shorebird warden, Nolan Schillerstrom, ventured to Allendale where kites were converging to migrate south.  He took this photo and the one on the top:

Kites with moon, courtesy Nolan Schillerstrom
Kites with moon, courtesy Nolan Schillerstrom

 Keith McCullough says he’s seen them over Caw Caw county park, with some even carrying nesting material:
Swallow-tailed Kite

This blog post, by Cathy Miller, describes a field trip to Allendale SC in early August of 2013, also when kites were staging for migration to South and Central America.

Kites roosting, photo Cathy Miller

I think that’s a trip we’ll have to make next year!  In the meanwhile, there are some interesting kites to follow through migration on this website.

Dewees Island Conservancy

Manatees pay July 4 visit to Dewees

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As storm clouds threatened to provide island residents with some natural fireworks last night, a manatee named Goose calmly meandered the creek outside the rice trunk with some friends. Goose, who was rescued from the Cooper River in December, malnourished and struggling to survive in cold water, spent the winter rehabilitating at Sea World in Orlando. He was released at Merritt Island in Florida on March 10.  By May, he had been reported in Lowcountry waters. Island residents spotted him in the marsh on the other side of the crab dock.

“Goose” with transmitter (photo by Emily Fairchild) If you see this manatee with this transmitter, it is not entangled.

Manatees aren’t all that uncommon in South Carolina waters; SCDNR reports some individuals regularly spend the summer in the waters around Charleston. While we were watching from the road, I called the manatee hotline (one incredulous onlooker was surprised that there is a hotline for manatees!) and found out that DNR is monitoring one manatee in South Carolina this summer, and what might look like an entangled crab pot is actually a geotransmitter to provide scientists with information about manatee migration.  I came home and googled to find the info about Goose.  Since DNR also collects data on sightings, I entered our sightings in their database.  The creek outside the rice trunk is officially named Old House Creek, at least according to the lat/long sites I was using to determine coordinates.  It didn’t take long for Dr. Al Segars, a DNR veterinarian, to get back to me with verification.  Goose and his friends continued to forage in the creek:

It was a typical Dewees evening: neighbors gathered to watch the manatees, and stayed despite a short rainstorm.  There were audible gasps when two surfaced face to face.

Manatee greeting photo by Emily Fairchild
manatee, photo Emily Fairchild

When there’s a fascinating wildlife activity, our Dewees Island roads often look like Yellowstone with cars stopping to watch bears along the highway, and last night was no exception. We watched as Goose and his friends explored the very shallow marsh on a king tide, and then made their way back to the main channel and slipped out to sea.

Manatees have shown up on Dewees in past summers: we reported them in the waves (also during July 4 celebrations) in 2010, and in 2011 Captain Rick got photos of manatees in the water at the marina.  And after posting our sightings on this blog and on facebook, we heard from others who had spotted Goose this weekend.  At James Island on July 3, as well as at the City marina.  This means that Goose came from Charleston Harbor to Dewees on one of the busiest boating days of the year!  Perhaps the marker makes Goose easier to see and avoid.

It’s a good reminder to keep alert when you’re driving a boat!  Manatees surface for air like dolphins do, but also leave a sort of footprint: a series of round rings on the surface of the water that signify a manatee right below the surface.

If you spot Goose or any other manatee, you can enter the details on this form.  If you see Goose, don’t touch him or the buoy: it may disconnect the transmitter and ruin all the research associated with it.  In addition, if you are on a dock and you’re running fresh water that attracts a manatee, turn the water off.  Inviting managees to come closer to people and boats puts them at risk!

SCDNR makes the following suggestions for protecting manatees, which are listed as endangered:


  • Look around for manatees before cranking your boat’s motor.

  • Use caution when navigating in shallow water and along the edge of a marsh. Manatees cannot dive away from boats in these areas.

  • Please heed “slow speed,” “no wake” and manatee warning signs, especially around docks.

  • Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare, making it easier to spot manatees below the surface.

  • Watch for large swirls in the water called footprints that may be caused by manatees diving away from the boat.

  • Dock owners should never feed manatees or give them fresh water. This could teach the animals to approach docks, putting them at greater risk of a boat strike, and it is illegal.

  • Never pursue, harass or play with manatees. It is bad for the manatees and is illegal.




2016 Loggerhead Turtle Nesting Season off to a Roaring Start

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Current Nests

It’s loggerhead turtle nesting season, and here on Dewees we’re on target for a record-breaking turtle season, with our 17th nest discovered and marked this morning near Needlerush walk.  By comparison, last year Dewees had 5 nests for the whole season.  Since we started the turtle protection program in 1999, we’ve seen 217 nests, with an average of 11-12 per year.  The lowest year was 2001, with 1 nest, and the biggest years were 2006, with 21 nests, and 2013, with 20 nests.  Since we’re only halfway through turtle season, we will probably break the record and have the best year yet!

Assuming the state average of 52 days of incubation, we should begin to see hatching nests around the 8th of July.  (Don’t worry if they take a little longer, sometimes the first nests are laid during cooler temperatures and take more time.) This is a banner year for us, and we’re hearing that numbers are up across the state as well.  Last year the state had high numbers of nests, but Dewees had a relatively low number of nests.  There are lots of factors beyond sheer turtle numbers that determine whether we have a great turtle year or a more sparse one: turtles may have a few years between nesting cycles, sand bars and natural erosion/accretion cycles make a difference, etc.  Our hunch is that last year the sand bar (which brought us lots of great sand) provided a hazard to turtle navigation and they gave up when they hit the sand bars.  This year, we have plenty of high dunes for them to nest in, and a huge open beach with very soft sand.

We take one egg from each nest for DNA testing, which enables us to learn more about the mother (the eggshell is cleaned of yolk so it contains just maternal DNA.)  This project, through the University of Georgia, has taught us a lot about our turtles– many of the turtles who nest on Dewees also nest on Capers, Bull, IOP, Sullivans, Cape, and Lighthouse islands.  Far fewer nest to the south of us on the other side of the Charleston jetties.  Gary McGraw, the team leader, keeps a chart of where Dewees turtles nest based on the returned DNA data.


Loggerhead turtle nesting
Gary shares the DNA testing protocol with a young visitor

I’ll try to keep this page updated as we go through the summer with nests and predicted hatch dates.

Nest Inventories

72 hours after first evidence of hatching, we will conduct a nest inventory to see how successful the nesting was. All members of the Dewees community are welcome to join.  Inventories are usually conducted in the evenings around 7:30, and will be announced on the activity calendar and on the ferry. Sometimes, during an inventory, we get the thrill of seeing live hatchlings.

Dewees Island Loggerhead Hatchlings from Judy Drew Fairchild on Vimeo.

You can be a part of the loggerhead turtle nesting team.

Yesterday, we tried to post a spreadsheet with the nesting information so far.  Sorry, but something about that created a problem for the blog, so I have cut and pasted the relevant date.  Eventually we’ll get that up in a dynamic form, but for now, you’ll find a chart at the bottom with the nests and predicted hatch date.  If you want to check nests near the hatching time, please let Judy or Gary know, and be sure not to use white flashlights on the beach– they can disorient the hatchlings.  In addition, you can still sign up to walk in the mornings by clicking the sign-up form below.

Sign Up Now!

Nest # location date discoverer Predicted Hatch Date
1 far north, north of jeep trail 5-17-16 interns 7-8-16
2 north near sand fence 5-23-16 Lee M 7-14-16
3 near DeMayo walk 5-28-16 Claudia/Lesa 7-19-16
4 far north Capers Inlet 5-28-16 Jade Gentry 7-19-16
5 near Ancient Dunes 6-3-16 Judy 7-25-16
6 near MarshMallow 6-4-16 Lesa 7-26-16
7 north of Osprey 6-6-16 Jane 7-28-16
8 north of Osprey 6-16-16 Low 8-7-16
9 North Osprey near posts 6-18-16 Sarah 8-9-16
10 north of Osprey 6-20-16 Jane 8-11-16
11 South of Ancient Dunes 6-20-16 Carroll 8-11-16
12 Just South of Osprey 6-21-16 Maggie 8-12-16
13 just north Osprey 6-21-16 Allie 8-12-16
14 Just south of willow 6-22-16 Caitlyn 8-13-16
15 Far north Capers Inlet 6-22-16 Maggie 8-13-16
16 Just north of Needlerush 6-26-16 Lesa 8-17-16
17 South of Ancient Dunes 6-28-16 Linda  8-19-16