Kiawah Nature Notes


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Newsletter from the Nature Program

of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort

October 2011

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In This Issue
Nature Center News
Feature Article: Dolphins!
All About Opossum's
October Fishing Report
Nature Store Feature

 News from

the Nature Center



Registration is still open  for the 2011 Kiawah Island Marathon!  To register, or for more information, click here for the half and full marathon coming up on December 10th!
Register for the 34th annual Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon and Half Marathon and we will donate $10 of your registration fee to the Kiawah Conservancy's Dr. James L. Chitwood   Science Fellowship Program.  Go to Marathon to register. Donation code: Nature2011   (case sensitive) . 


 The Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon or Half Marathon will be held on December 10, 2011.  


Thanks to Philippe Cousteau for assisting the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital in the release of 2 sea turtles from the beach in front of the Sanctuary.  You can check out video of the joyous reunion of turtle and ocean here!


Thanksgiving is just around the corner!  Join us at Night Heron Park before or after your holiday feast for our annual Fall Festival!  Taking place from 5:30-8pm, the festival is complimentary and will include a special Native American presentation featuring Jim Sawgrass and his son Cody "Wildcat", a nationally recognized dancer from 5:30-6:30pm.

Make sure to check our Wildlife Sightings page for information on what we are seeing on Kiawah!  This is a great way to learn about Kiawah's unique and exciting wildlife.



Have a birthday coming up?  The Nature Program is excited to offer Reptile themed birthday parties!  Parties showcase live animals in an entertaining show. Parties can be held on or off the island and each can be custom designed based on your child's interests!  For more information, please call the Nature Center at (843)768-6001.

bday parties
 Our fishing captains are catching tons of fish this fall season!  Join us on an inshore fishing motorboat trip to catch fish like sheepshead, sea trout, flounder, and the always favorite redfish!!  Call the Nature Center for more information and reservations.  Also make sure to check out our October fishing report below!
We have another kitten up for adoption at the Nature Center!  Pumpkin is a 6month old female kitten who is looking for a loving home this fall season.
  She is very friendly and loves exploring around the Nature Center.  Come by and say hi to this adorable little furball!


Do you have questions or comments on Nature Notes and the Kiawah Nature Program?  Send us an


Strand Feeding in the Kiawah River 


As I was walking down the dock before my morning fishing charter, I heard a loud exhale and saw a dolphin breech just off the stern of my boat.  I soon realized that I share the best office in the world. The Kiawah River is always a special place with an abundance of life, but the fall season is something magical.  The temperatures are starting to cool off and our summer crowds are starting to fade.  The cooling air and water temperatures ignite the fall bait run in the river.  Large schools of mullet fish (familyMugilidae) start to move in unison throughout the creeks and river. Most of our saltwater fishes and dolphin start to gorge themselves to build up a much needed fat supply for the winter when the bait thins out.  This is a great time to fish for redfish, trout, or flounder, and for watching our dolphins perform their specialized local fishing techniques. 


The Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) needs to consume around 10-15 pounds of food per day, which includes mostly small fish and crustaceans. As the mullet congregate in large numbers in a condensed area at low tide, our dolphins put on an amazing show while strand feeding.  Strand feeding is a learned technique that Southern South Carolina and Northern Georgia dolphins have learned and taught to each generation for the last 50 years.  Now is the time to come out and enjoy the river and the dolphins showing off during their daily routines. The amount of strand feeding will slow down as the majority of the mullet head south for warmer waters, but they can still be seen on occasion.  During the winter, our pod of resident dolphins in the river will target the schooling redfish and sea trout, just like our local inshore fishermen. Read More...











 strand feeding


 Dolphin Strand Feeding



 **Our Dolphin Encounters tour is a great way to learn more and observe dolphins in their natural habitat!  These motorboat tours are very popular and are a great way to see and enjoy Kiawah's marsh.







Oh, Possum: Critter Spotlight 


Stop by the Nature Center these days and you will find a flurry of animal activity. Between snakes slithering, alligators hissing and baby quail hatching, there is always something new and exciting to view inside of Heron Park's facility dedicated to the natural world. One of the newest and most loveable critters to find its way inside our walls is a baby opossum named Hope. Hope was found on Johns Island by one of the Nature Center staff members, completely alone and abandoned. Hope's story is a familiar one for many infant opossums in the wild.


Hope is a Virginia Opossum, one of the most common mammals found throughout most of the United States. This highly adaptable species remains relatively successful despite the massive destruction of habitat due to human influences. Opossums are an extremely unique species of marsupial, in fact they are the only marsupial known to live in North America. Typically marsupials like koalas and kangaroos are famous for residing "down under", but no one told the opossum, whose species was first discovered off the shores of Virginia upon European settlement. What makes marsupials distinguishable is the presence of a pouch used in rearing their young. When opossums procreate, they give birth to around 13 kidney bean-sized babies who immediately crawl into the tiny pouch near the mother's stomach. They will remain in the pouch until they are strong enough to latch onto the mother's back for travel and safety while developing. Unfortunately for Hope, she suffers from a deformity on her hind legs and was not strong enough to latch onto her mother. This is most likely the reason she was abandoned. 


 Hope the Opossum!



Virginia Opossums are known for a few adaptations that help them survive as well as a few limitations that often make them victims of tragedy. Opossums have a keen sense of smell to accompany their fierce appetite. The semi-arborial opossum is an omnivore much like humans, often climbing trees to snack on berries, plants, rodents, nuts and worms. They are capable of eating almost anything, including carrion that has already been killed by something else. While their sense of smell is excellent at finding these pungent delights, they rely very little on their poor eyesight. Because of this, the nocturnal opossum is often drawn to roadsides attracted by road kill and, in turn, do not see cars coming before they are struck themselves. For this reason, driving more cautiously during the evening hours and keeping a sharp eye out for opossums on dark roads, may prove beneficial to this amazing creature.


 The opossum is rarely a victim of common mammalian diseases like rabies because they maintain a very low body temperature making it almost impossible for them to become rabid. However, an unsteady or unhealthy diet does cause metabolic bone disease in opossums quite frequently.


While Hope was lucky enough to be found and cared for, most opossums in her position would not last very long in the wild. In fact, opossums in general have an extremely short life-span. Most wild individuals will only reach 2 years old, while captive opossums like Hope might make it to 5 years. Since we found her at such a young age and in relatively good health, she has a chance to be with us for a long time. Stop by the nature center to say hello to Hope and perhaps you will gain a newfound appreciation for these fantastic marsupials.


 ~ Andrew Heyward, Naturalist



October Fishing Repor



                As we head into Fall, we are approaching some of the best fishing of the year. As the water continues to cool, zooplankton and phytoplankton blooms progressively dwindle and subsequently water clarity increases. Most importantly, the fish surrounding Kiawah are preparing for winter and as bait begins to bunch in the colder waters, larger fish are taking on more and more fat reserves.


Inshore fishing during the fall revolves around Red Drum (Red fish, Spot-Tail Bass), Southern Flounder, Spotted Sea Trout and Sheepshead (Capt. Waller's specialty). Keep in mind that Sheepshead are members of the "Snapper-Grouper Class" until June of 2012 and therefore when targeting Sheepshead, the use of circle hooks are mandated by the law.


During calmer days in the fall, reef fishing is an excellent alternative to inshore fishing. There are 3 artificial, man-made reefs located 3, 5 and 7 miles directly off the beaches of Kiawah. Weakfish are beginning to show up in large numbers at the reef and provide an excellent fight for avid fishermen. The Black Sea Bass season has just closed but will resume again June 1st, but keep in mind that all Black Sea Bass are catch and release. Also at the reef, 20-50lbs. breeder reds (Breeding Red Drum) are beginning to congregate this time of year.


Seasonal Fishing Tip:Locate schooling trout on points and creek mouths around oyster shells.  A great locating technique, use a popping cork / float with 18-24" leader with DOA Shrimp or live bait.  Key thing is to look for clean, moving water.


~Captain John Ward



 John Ward

Captain John and a guest posing with a beautiful redfish!













 Nature Store Feature



Everyone loves to see dolphins on Kiawah and the Nature Shop is the perfect place to pick up a little something to remind you of these magnificent creatures, or even to learn more about them. "National Geographic: Face to Face with Dolphins" is a great book for all ages with bright photographs and easy-to-read print. "The Dolphins of Hilton Head" and "Dolphins of Georgia and Florida" are both excellent resources for insight into the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin that inhabit the waterways around Kiawah. For children interested in dolphins, we offer Patagonia "Live Simply" t-shirts for youth and toddlers featuring an adorable screen print of a dolphin. Dolphin crossing signs and our 30" stuffed dolphin make wonderful gifts and room decorations!

megan dolphin 

-Megan Patrylick, Retail Coordinator

dolp Strand Feeding Con't...



   The Kiawah River dolphin pod seems to be holding steady at an estimated 28 members.  They have had two births each year for the last 6 years since I started a log to keep track of the pod.  The majority of the dolphins can be easily identified by their dorsal fins, just like humans and their finger prints.  I started a fin ID log book about 6 years ago to keep track and monitor the dolphin numbers. They all seem to have attitudes and characteristics as unique as their fin designs.  Remember to share the river and give the dolphins their space.  It is a good practice to pick up at least one item of trash on each outing to keep the Kiawah River a beautiful place.  




Tight Lines,

Captain John Ward-Fishing Guide 


 more dolphins


  Sustainability Kudos


A big thank you goes out to Parks McInnis for assisting with the hauling of food waste from the Sanctuary to Bees Ferry Landfill to be composted.  We have hit the 30 ton mark, 62840 pounds to be exact! The Post and Courier wrote an article about the Charleston County's composting program, in addition to an earlier article on plastic in the compost. This is an exciting time for waste reduction programs at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, and for Charleston County alike, as food waste is a large percentage of the hospitality and tourism industry.  Go to page 18 of the Charleston County waste audit to see specific percentages of per capita waste.   Visit the E.P.A.'s site for general information on composting.

Does your school or business need high quality outdoor recycling bins?  Whether walking your dog, hitting our new 9-hole disc golf course, or visiting the Nature Center, you'll notice Fibrex recycling and trash receptacles throughout Night Heron Park.  Come see them yourself or click here for images.


-Scott Fister, Sustainability Coordinator

Visit the Nature Center!


The Kiawah Island Nature Program offers a variety of tours, excursions, and classes available on a daily basis.  While on Kiawah Island, make sure you check out what's new at the Heron Park Nature Center.  Everyone is welcome! Fall hours are 8:30 am - 5:00 pm. 


Kiawah Island Nature Program

4000 Sea Forest Drive

Kiawah Island, SC 29455


Alligator Logo


For more information or to Book a Kiawah Island Golf Package, please call 1-800-576-1570.



All photos (c) 2011 Jamie Rood, except for:

Phillipe Cousteau (Laura Willhoft)

Praying Mantis (Laura Willhoft)

Dolphins (Capt. John Ward)

Dolphin merchandise (Megan Patrylick)

Hope the Opossum (Drew Heyward)

Redfish (Capt. John Ward) Birthday parties (Mike Frees)

Pumpkin the cat (Laura Willhoft)