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.


Fly Fishing Event a Great Success

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The Dewees Island Conservancy‘s fly fishing clinic was a great success, despite the crisp hint of fall. The Dewees Island Conservancy and Charleston Waterkeeper teamed up on Friday, November 18th, to host a fly-fishing clinic for island residents and guests.  The event was very well attended; golf carts lined the shell paths of Dewees as residents came to learn more about fly-fishing in salt water.  

The original scheduled speaker was Baker Bishop, a professional fly fisherman out of Sullivans Island who divides his time between the waters in the Charleston area and Islamorada, Florida.   He is currently serving on the board of Charleston Waterkeeper.  Baker comes from a family of fly fishermen, including his mom, who taught him at an early age to tie flies, cast and clean fish!

It was our good fortune to have her along and able to lead the workshop when Baker had an unexpected delay in getting to us!  Sandie Bishop, Baker Bishop’s mom, who has been his mentor and inspiration in fly fishing all his life, recently won the fly division of the Red Bone Tournament held in Islamorada Florida! She fished with Captain Tim Klein and caught a Bonefish on day one and a Redfish on day two, to complete the Redbone slam, and take top honors!

Sandie began by thanking the ladies for bringing their husbands to “tag along with our clinic today,” providing a few chuckles.  Soon the crowd was casting flies out over the clear water, undeterred by the cold and wind.  One onlooker described the graceful casting of lines as a “sort of ballet.”

The event was followed by a complimentary lunch featuring the remarks of Charleston Waterkeeper Cyrus Buffum, who discussed the challenges of specific point source and non-point source pollution management issues along our waterways.  He describes the Charleston community as fortunate because we understand the value of our local rivers and creeks for quality of life issues.  Cyrus and his team aim to celebrate, educate and protect the public’s right to clean water.

To date, there are 113 active permits allowing the legal discharge of pollutants into the Charleston Harbor watershed alone. Charleston Waterkeeper is currently undergoing the task of reviewing all permits designated within its local jurisdiction, while working to highlight the vital component of public participation in the fight to protect the public’s right to clean water. As an advocate for environmental law, Waterkeeper aims to ensure industrial polluters are compliant with mandatory regulations and that necessary enforcement is administered. The organization will examine the past five years of discharge monitoring reports to determine which polluters within the local watershed have been and are in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and also to evaluate how well state and federal agencies are able to enforce current laws.   (

click any photo to go to gallery, or watch the quick slideshow/movie set to music here.


Dewees Island helps release Pelican to wild flock

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Yesterday, we released a rehabilitated pelican to a wild flock.  When I got Lori’s call that he was headed over to the island, I was hoping we would be able to release him on the beach at Osprey walk, coinciding with the scheduled happy hour. So we headed to the ferry dock to meet Cindy Steffen, a volunteer for the SC Center for Birds of Prey.  While they usually deal with raptors, they have some new folks who are also experienced in sea birds.  This juvenile brown pelican was brought in after being found swimming alone.  He was fluffy and down covered, but somewhat malnourished.  Three weeks later, he has his feathers and self-sufficiency and needs to be with a flock.  The necessity of a flock trumped the fun of releasing him on the beach with a supportive group to cheer him on.

Cindy had talked to Captain Paul Zobel about trying to get him close to the shell middens at the end of the cut, where there is usually a flock of pelicans hanging around.  Since we had a hard time envisioning the ferry getting close enough, (and we couldn’t pass up the chance to be part of it), we jumped on our motorboat with Cindy and the pelican, and headed out to the channel.  A large group of brown pelicans seemed to be settling in for the night.  We coasted up to the edge of the bank, and Cindy released him gently over the side of the motorboat, close to the flock but not so close that we would startle them.  He swam to shore and then sat on the bank, waiting alone, apart from the group.  We took Cindy back to the marina.

On our way back, we coasted toward the bank as quietly as we could to see how he was faring.  We were glad to see that he had joined the flock.  He looks like he’s still assimilating, but I think he’ll be fine.


Dewees Island Green Building Tour focuses on Sustainability

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On Sunday, there will be a tour of the island focusing on green homes, and features such as clay plaster, solar power, solar hot water, geothermal, bamboo flooring, solartube lighting, and more.  Here is some background on the island’s green building practices which help Dewees Islanders enjoy the the rewards of treading gently in an unspoiled place.

Here’s a brief overview of our green building practices:  for all of the ARB guidelines, consult the Dewees Island POA website .

In 1975, the owners of Dewees Island placed the entire island into a conservation easement with the state through the Department of Natural Resources.  It limits development to the approved Master Plan (150 single family homesites) and requires the preservation and maintenance of the rest of the island in its natural state.

Our philosophy of development focuses on preserving the native environment and natural character of the island.  We believe people can have a positive impact on the environment and ecosystems.  Homes should minimize their impact on neighbors and the environment.

Dewees owners work with an architect and the Dewees Island Architectural Resource Board to insure that each project is environmentally sustainable. Responsibility for pollution begins with each of us, and we encourage choices which preserve the natural character of the environment.

Humans build habitat similar to the way other species of wildlife nest within their selected habitats:

  • Homes should nestle within the tree canopy and natural environment.
  • Homes should be oriented to take advantage of passive solar warmth and cooling breezes.
  • The maximum roof height, excepting chimneys, is 52 feet above sea level.
  • For each homesite, a maximum of 7500 square feet can be permanently disturbed.
  • Homes can be a maximum of 5000 square feet.  We encourage homeowners to build smaller homes by providing extra guest rooms at Huyler House.

Building materials are environmentally friendly, sustainable, and natural whenever possible, requiring fewer resources:

  • Roofing materials are high quality, standing-seam metal, copper, slate or approved tile. (no asphalt or fiberglass shingles)
  • Siding materials include wood, cement board or other environmentally compatible materials.  High-quality, weather resistant woods such as cypress, cedar or treated pine are preferred.  Endangered species should definitely be avoided.  Tropical woods should be certified as plantation grown.
  • Natural ventilation is the norm.  Mechanical systems should provide maximum efficiency with the lowest energy use/ expense.
  • Ceiling fans should ventilate major living spaces, and utmost care should be taken to properly seal the house against infiltration of unconditioned air.
  • Paints and finishes are non-toxic, with low or no Volatile Organic Compounds.
  • Non-toxic products are used to improve air quality and aid with recycling.
  • Appliances are Energy Star rated to reduce energy and water consumption.  In-sink garbage disposals and trash compactors are not permitted.
  • All lighting is as energy efficient as possible.  Low-voltage lighting is recommended for porches, decks and stairs.

Attention is paid to the longevity and safety of home structures:

  • For all window and glass door openings, a hurricane protection system is required.
  • Monitored smoke detectors are required.
  • All homes have residential grade fire sprinkler systems which are monitored and maintained.
  • Heat detectors are installed on the ground levels of each home.
  • Beachfront homes are set far back from the ocean, reducing damage from erosion cycles.

We believe in working with and preserving the natural environment:

  • We use electric and biodiesel powered vehicles and equipment on shell roads, reducing run-off from paved surfaces.
  • Irrigation may only be a drip method system utilizing rainwater collected in cisterns. No individual wells are permitted.
  • Fertilizers and pesticides are limited to organic types and practices.
  • Composting is recommended.
  • All vegetation introduced to the island must be native to the Coastal Plain of South Carolina.
  • Only porous materials like natural sand, pine needle mulch or crushed oyster are used for walkways. Boardwalks may be utilized for crossing uneven, sandy or wetland terrains.
  • Site lighting is kept to a minimum, used solely to provide night visibility for pedestrians.