Birds and Birding

How to use ebird to learn what birds you might see on Dewees

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ebird Dewees Island yellow warbler
Yellow Warbler

It’s migration season, and there are wonderful birds passing through.  If you’ve ever wondered what you might expect to see, you can use ebird as a great resource.  In fact, you can even use it to find out when the birds you MOST want to see will be on the island.

Northern Gannet in Charleston Harbor

Here’s how to use ebird to find out about a particular species:

Ebird is an incredible database out of Cornell University.  Anyone can use it without being a member, although there are some benefits that make membership worth it.  Suppose you were fascinated by Northern Gannets, who migrate through the area in winter and spring, and you wanted to time a visit to see them.  You could use ebird to help you plan when to come to the island.  Here’s how:

Start by going to  Click on explore data.

how to use ebird

Then, select species maps:How to use ebird

Then enter the species name that you’re interested in:

How to use ebird enter species name

Use the zoom tool to focus on where you’re traveling:

ebird 4

Keep zooming until you can see buttons where people have entered data.

ebird 5

Click the buttons for detailed lists:

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While you are exploring ebird, you can find some other amazing resources, from interactive maps to migration “forecasts” to rare species.  If you decide you’d like to enter data on ebird, every piece of information helps us track and understand birds– from migration patterns, to climate effects, to species in peril.  Reach out if you need some help!  You can also click here for an weekly record of specific sightings on the island:



Summer Activities: Use our texting system for program alerts

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Creatures of the Dock, photo Laura HeinzOur summer schedule is well under way, with lots of great activities planned. Want to get a text to remind you of what’s going on? Or receive an alert when a turtle nest is discovered? We’re using send-hub again to send you program alerts of fun stuff going on. To enroll, text this number: 843-588-5508 with the word deweesfun (no caps, no spaces) and you’re automatically enrolled.  When you go home and don’t want to hear from us, simply text unsub deweesfun to the same number, 843-588-5508.

Would you rather subscribe to the calendar (or do both?)  Check out the last post, How to subscribe to the Dewees Calendar, or simply follow the calendar by clicking the activities tab you see at the top of this screen.

Island Living

Tropical Storm Ana keeps hanging around…

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IMG_9355There is a storm (Tropical Storm Ana) sitting off the Carolina coast right now, and it’s actually creating some gorgeous weather conditions.  It’s also causing the ferry to sit out an occasional run, which provides island residents with either an extra hour to watch the beautiful weather from the island, or a chance to hang out at Morgan Creek Grill and grab a snack and beverage with your friends.  “Tropical Bands of Moisture” have been wandering across the island (although there has been no precipitation today) with some pretty intense downpours, and the pattern is set to continue through tomorrow evening. So, since we know here that we have friends from across the country that have been watching the national weather and wondering, we’re sending some photos to update you on the weather conditions today.

from Storm Team 2

Dewees Island, with Charleston County, is now under a Tropical Storm Watch, while areas to our north, starting at the South Santee river, are under a tropical storm warning.

Truly, it’s gusty on the beach. Forecasters have been saying all along that the biggest threat from this storm to the Charleston Metro area will be mostly in the form of rip currents and beach erosion. This post from 2010 has a lot of information on rip currents. As for beach erosion, we are really thankful that Dewees Island has the setbacks it does: they are often 3x what they are on neighboring islands. So while Isle of Palms is bracing with sandbags:

IOP beach in the Post and Courier this morning: photo by Anne Chandler

(click here for the whole story), the Dewees beach (which has actually grown significantly since Irene blew by in 2010) looks like this:IMG_9332
And elsewhere on the island, the combination of moisture rich tropical clouds and intermittent sunshine has provided us with some lovely views:
The impoundment
Sand blowing on the front beach
Huyler House pond
view from the bird blind

Dewees History

Holiday Celebrations past and present

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In the tradition of online media’s “Throwback Thursday,” wherein people post photos of past events and wardrobes, I thought I would share this photo from (probably) 1926, when the Huyler Family lived on the island, and went out with Jane the mule to chop the Christmas tree.

Bringing Home the Christmas Tree circa 1927

Getting to the island with a tree still takes some logistical maneuvering, but Santa manages to find us anyway. These photos show the O’Leary family getting their tree to the island this week:


Jack Huyler left us his memoirs of living on the island. He remembers a Christmas Eve as a young boy, worried that Santa wouldn’t find them on Christmas (something my own children can probably relate to!) It’s easy to see Declan’s excitement in the above photo and imagine a youngster his age, frantic with worry when his family ran aground on Christmas! He writes,

At high tide the trip from Charleston to Dewees with building materials, furniture, and/or food took approximately an hour and a half; three when the tide was low. Twice that long for a round trip if we did not run aground. On Christmas Eve we ran aground!

The most exciting voyage of the season was the trip to Charleston in the V-V to fetch Dad that Christmas Eve.

I was in a dither. What if we were not back by the time Santa Claus came? … Off we went in plenty of time for Gwyn, Charles, Coulter, and Mum to do last minute Christmas shopping in the city, as well as for Mum essential grocery shopping. As you can imagine, we did not voyage to the city frequently, because of the 3-4 hours required just going and coming.

All of us were at the railroad station in plenty of time to see Dad step down from a Pullman Car. While all the hugging and kissing were going on, I danced up and down, “Dad! Dad! Let’s go! We’ve got to get to the boat so we can be home in time for Santa Claus, Dad!”

What was the matter with Coulter, Charles, and Gwyn: they didn’t seem worried at all. What’s the matter with them? “Dad! Dad! Let’s go!”

Dark was descending rapidly as the V-V left Adger’s wharf, crossed Charleston Harbor, and headed into the channel. I was beside myself! Santa might be coming right then, and we weren’t home. Things got a bit better when someone assured me that [the staff] would see to it that Santa left our presents… But we really ought to be there.

Mr. Moore at the helm puffed imperturbably on his pipe as he steered from one channel light to the next. Then it happened! The V-V ran aground. The grownups said that one of the channel lights had burned out. There we were; and we had struck ground on an ebb tide! It would be 12 hours before the V-V would float free on her own. If I was worried before, I was anguished now. Over the side into the cold water went Coulter and Charles and Dad. As Mr. Moore reversed the engines, the man and two boys pushed as hard as they could. Dad was a powerful bull of a man. Every minute there was less water as the tide carried it to the sea. The V-V was grounded at the prow; so Mum and Gwyn moved all the cargo and themselves aft.

By some miracle and every ounce of their strength Dad and those teenage boys managed to move that boat an inch or two; then six; then she floated free and the three men climbered aboard, [sic] wrapped themselves in the Army blankets which Mum always kept at hand for emergencies; and hovered over the stinking engine for warmth.

The spark of hope was re-ignited in me. Maybe– just maybe– we would reach home before Santa Claus did… We reached home shortly after midnight to a roaring fire, a hot dinner, and some tears of relief.

Jack Huyler’s entire Dewees memoir can be read here. Jack died in early 2014– you can read more about him here. We have a lot of these cards printed as holiday cards– let us know if you’d like some.


Dewees Books

Dewees Island Book Club Update: What’s on your nightstand?

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The last Dewees Island book club meeting was simply a “share the great titles you are reading” meeting.  We had a quick commiseration about finding time to read, and one member confessed that besides the last book club book, she was busy reading the Dewees Island Covenants and bylaws. You can comment in with your own recommendations, and I’ll get the links up on the page. Here’s a quick glance at the books that were recommended (click any photos or title to see more on Amazon):

Our next book club choice is Untamed, and we will meet at 5:30 pm on Thursday November 20th at Huyler House. BYOB and nibbles.

A History of Modern Britain: 1714 to the Present
Q & A: A Novel
Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, 5th Edition [2010]
Rent Collector
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival
Porcher’s Creek: Lives Between the Tides
Life After Life: A Novel
All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel
The Caiad
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novel
The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel
Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet
Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic
Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island

Island Living

Dewees Naturalist Jonathan Lutz featured in Audubon Magazine

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Audubon Feature with border(1) (1)

Former Dewees Naturalist Jonathan Lutz turned up in the pages of Audubon Magazine this month.  The story focused on the changes Jonathan has made in Michigan, using his great marketing skills and and social media savvy to improve attendance at the Tawas Point Birding Festival.  Many island teens and families remember Jonathan fondly from his time here– summers of Dewees Camp created memories and left our island kids with a greater appreciation of the natural world around them.  We remember when he brought Gatsby home to the island as a puppy.  At least one of these kids has returned to the island to serve as a nature coach themselves.  Frank (summer intern of 2014) helped a new generation of kids learn about nature as an intern on Dewees.

Jonathan also has fond memories of his time on Dewees.  He says,

“Living on Dewees Island is a naturalist’s dream. Falling asleep to the sound of Whip-poor-wills, going for morning runs past roosting flocks of Wood Storks, and watching North Harriers soaring out my office window–my time on Dewees immersed me in the world of birds. Birding with the late Ed Conradi and hosting the Charleston Natural History Society (the local chapter of Audubon South Carolina) introduced me to bird appreciators of all varieties, including dedicated checklist-keepers. I have distinct memories of seeing my “lifer” Wilson’s Warbler, counting Ruddy Turnstones on the North End with Gatsby by my side, and admiring hundreds of Northern Gannets pushed close to shore by heavy fog. All of these experiences have inspired and helped me be successful in my current role as Michigan Audubon’s Executive Director. Dewees Island and its residents are mentioned often and with fondness in my interactions with colleagues and Audubon members throughout the Great Lakes State.”


As a fellow birder who also learned a lot from the early bird counts on the island, I hope Jonathan will come back for a birding visit soon!


In the meanwhile, click here for the full article at Audubon, or look at page 12 of this issue (Nov/Dec 2014 of Audubon Magazine.)

Island Living

Cool new way to Transport Flowers to the Island

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photo (75)

photo (74)Props to Captain Rick, who came up with a solution to the challenges of flower transport. When you bring a bouquet of flowers or potted orchid over to the island, it can be a challenge to move them without the wind tearing them apart. So Rick bought a tall trash can and labeled it for flower storage. We found it worked really well to get the flowers from the car to the house without the wind from the ferry or golf cart wreaking havoc. Pick it up on the dock side, borrow it, and return to the ferry.

Island Living

Dewees Island Book Club

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The Dewees Island Book Club is another example of what makes the community of Dewees unique and special.  It’s run by volunteers and meets at Huyler House, usually on a Thursday night.  Everyone is welcome: sometimes there are two or three generations in the room, and the group includes both men and women. Books are chosen in advance and proposed at the meetings, where one member volunteers to host and lead the discussion.  I have found the meetings fascinating, because I learn such interesting things about my neighbors and friends that don’t come up in casual conversation.  All ages and genders are welcome, and that certainly adds a richness to the discussion that you don’t find in some other book clubs.  The host arrives early and gets out wine glasses, and everyone brings their own beverages and a heavy appetizer to share.  The discussion leader prepares a few quick words of introduction to the book, or questions we want to pursue. Currently, the communications and scheduling are managed by Bubber McAlhany, and everyone on the island is welcome to participate. I asked Bubber about who was in charge of the book club, whether we stop during the summer months, and what he likes best about it, and here’s his answer:

It is under the auspices of our social committee and I took on the job of promoting it via announcements and trying to “cajole” folks into participating. We did stop last summer on the advice of participants but we do not have to as long as someone has a book suggestion and agrees to present it on a Thursday evening. What I like best is what I continually say, ” It encourages me to read books I may never have considered reading without our book club.”

Island resident Anne Saueracker agrees:

The Dewees Book Club provides very unique experiences.  The group shares values that bring them to Dewees Island, but no matter what book is discussed, it is apparent that the group also has a vast and distinct store of experiences, travels and ideas.  There is an endless curiosity that is evident in the non-judgmental sharing and discussion of these thoughts and stories, and at the end of the evening, we come away learning more about our neighbors, but more importantly we find new insights into ourselves.

The club indeed encourages me to read books I otherwise would never select on my own, and the discussion is always really educational!

The next meeting of the book club is May 22nd at 6:30 pm. The book is Children of the Wind, by Ed Sundt. Discussion led by Bob Drew.
If you really want to explore the subject, you can read any of the following (click link to the book at Amazon):

Thursday night (March 20) we met with author (and island owner) Jeffery Deal. The book is The Mark: A Novel of Dinka in the Time of War, and it’s a great read! Novelist Brett Lott describes it as “a harrowing and beautiful story of a young man in the Sudan, a Dinka tribesman set in the midst of unimaginable turmoil; it is genuinely frightening and genuinely revelatory.” Jeff’s experiences in South Sudan as an anthropologist and a physician have enabled him to write a book that transports you to Africa… don’t miss this! We will be meeting at Huyler House at 6:30.

Other recent books (click on any to read about them or order from Amazon):

Island Living

Property Owners Annual Meeting: Great times in bad weather

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dewees island poa property owners association In the coldest POA weekend we can remember, hardy souls braved the elements to turn out for a great meeting on the island.  We treasured a chance to spend time with neighbors from near and far, and conduct the business of the island: electing directors, learning about the progress of island projects, balancing budgets, etc.

Festivities began Friday afternoon with a hike through the conservation area, led by island Ecologist Lori Sheridan Wilson.  We got to see firsthand how the area is recovering with natural wetlands as a result of our tallow eradication program.  A pair of great horned owls was flushed from the roost and startled a roadside participant.  We then continued Friday night with a cocktail party at the community facilities at Huyler House, with spectacular flowers arranged by island owner Kathy Warren.  The evening is one of the only events of the year that is completely catered: all owners could relax and enjoy the night without worrying about the responsibilities of being the “host.” Winners of the fishing Rodeo were announced, with Dave McIntyre’s team taking the grand prize once again.  New owner Geraldine DeRooy Key got a kick out those of us in mittens for the evening, but appreciated the warmth of the community:

“It might have been cold by SC standards but it was 20 degrees and snowing in Montana! We feel very privileged to be a part of this community of people and the island sanctuary. We have called our new home, ” Heaven’s Door” and look forward to meeting all of you more personally on the beach or over a shared meal. Thank you for your warm welcome.”

On Saturday morning we began early with a presentation from the Dewees Utility Corporation. DUC Chair Pat Wilson explained the new single stream recycling program that we are piloting with Charleston County. Paul Conover explained some of the whys and hows of our state-of-the-art water treatment, and reiterated that the new system has been highly efficient, with none of the challenges that have faced other nearby islands in the face of all this recent rain.  One of the main water wells now has new pump and fittings, which has increased our water supply by 40 percent.  Paul also pointed out that when you hear an alarm sounding outside your house, the pump is trying to get your attention, and you should stop using water and call the Dewees Utility asap.  Edmund Frampton graciously agreed to serve another term on the board of the Utility and was elected to the position.

dewees island poaAfter a coffee break, we moved to the manager’s report, where we learned about the impoundment restoration progress, the new ferry, and our multitasking staff.  POA board Chair Dave McIntyre and Treasurer Bill Easterlin presented the financials, and we proceded with elections.  Dwight Plemmons, Faith Schwaibold, and Larry McDevitt are now members of the board (Faith is returning for a second term) and we thank them for their willingness to serve.  (We also thank outgoing board members Dick Robinson and Alex Kliros for their service.)  In addition, the size of the board grew to nine members, with the community voting to add Anne Anderson and Bill Duncan (ARB and EPB chairs) as full voting members.  New owner John Gilles was impressed with the professionalism of the meeting:

It was the most professional one I have attended: so organized, and professionally run. I really appreciated getting the 2012 actuals vs budget, and the budget for 2013 ahead of time.

While the votes were tallied, Environmental Program Director Lori Sheridan Wilson gave an update on recycling, the impoundment project, our invasive species programs, and other environmental issues.  As the recipient of the birding big year award for the most recorded birds, I was blown away by the prize: a beautiful sculpture of a shorebird by Larry Warren.  Great catering by the Noisy Oyster restaurant led the lunchtime festivities: with oysters, burgers, and sides, we gathered with neighbors to celebrate the strength of our community with one another.oysterscleaning oysters

On Sunday, we were treated to a reading from Dershie McDevitt on her porch.  Even though almost 4 inches of rain fell over the two days, wreaking havoc with the roads, the islanders who showed up on Dershie’s porch enjoyed candlelight and rain on the roof, and her gentle cadences reading from the book as we looked out over the pond described in the novel.

Lila lived in that hammock those last weeks of her life, absorbed as always in the behavior of the wildlife teeming around the swamp pond thirty feet below: a thirteen foot male gator, his mates and offspring, egrets in full breeding fettle, newly arrived, raucous, squawking moorhens with their flashy red facial feathers.

All in all, POA weekend was a celebration of the people who make this community what it is: neighbors who work together for the common good, who support one another and enjoy each other’s company. Rain and cold weather couldn’t dampen the fun!