Coastal Master Naturalists...

Santee Birding and Nature Festival Registration is open

Registration is currently underway for the Santee Birding and Nature Festival.  Our own Coastal Master Naturalist Elizabeth Anderegg is helping organize this, and she’d love for all of us to be there and participate.  If you haven’t done this before, there are some incredible field trips offered.  There’s a photo contest (entries due April 7) and lots of exciting things planned. The purpose of the festival

“Is to increase awareness of our national and state heritage in natural areas and provide wildlife watching opportunities in midland South Carolina.  This festival is a partnership between local, state, and federal agencies and tourism groups.”

Dr. RIchard Porcher, author, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the Citadel, and CMNA guest speaker will be leading the keynote address on Friday night, April 25, 2014 at the Santee Cultural Arts Center in Santee, SC.

Dr. Porcher with the Coastal Master Naturalists


Volunteer Opportunity: Givhan’s Ferry State Park

Rick Robertson, the Park Manager at Givhan’s Ferry State Park, is looking for Master Naturalist Volunteers.  Contact Rick if you are interested.  He writes,

What we are looking for at Givhans Ferry is someone to do some nature programs here at the park during the spring months.  IT coud be nature walks, river ecology, or a specified program concerning flowers, birds, insects, etc. for maybe a couple hours a weekend.  I am open to ideas and suggestions.  I really want the public to get to know Givhans Ferry for what we truly have….and thats an abundance of nature.  I look forward to working with this program!!!

 Rick Robertson, Park Manager

Givhans Ferry State Park
746 Givhans Ferry Road
Ridgeville, SC  29472
IP Phone  6854

Volunteer Opportunity at Biedler Forest: November 13th Workday

Subject: Volunteer opportunity preparing site for prescribed burn:

We are preparing a longleaf pine site for burning and need to prune
around the fire line as well as pull some unwanted Crotolaria sp.
Here are the details for the Nov. 13th workday:

Email Mark if you have questions at


Looks like Rain! A Citizen Science Opportunity

Amanda Brennan will be conducting a two hour informational training on drought in coastal ecosystems.  You can become a member of this citizen science project by conducting on-the-ground data collection after the training.  Your training and commitment to taking precipitation measurements for a year can be used for volunteer hours. 

Training to take place on Wed., Nov. 13 at Caw Caw Interpretative Center from 6 – 8 p.m.

For more information , see the links below:

The Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments (CISA) team would like to invite members of the Coastal Master Naturalist program to participate in a citizen science project to measure precipitation and contribute to improved understanding of weather and climate events.

CISA is based at the University of South Carolina Department of Geography and currently working with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) to improve understanding of drought in coastal ecosystems. As part of this work, we are interested in on-the-ground data collection to better understand how precipitation, or a lack thereof, affects plants, animals and people in the coastal regions of the Carolinas.

Using tools developed by the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network, we are recruiting volunteers to take daily precipitation measurements and enter weekly status reports about the condition of ecosystems in their area.

If you would like to learn more about this project and how you can be involved, please join us on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at the Caw Caw Interpretive Center from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

You can find more information about CISA online at 11/13/2013 (Wed 6:00PM – 8:00PM)

Fort Johnson Marine Science Seminar

On Friday, November 1, at 4:00 pm at Fort Johnson, Felicia Sanders will give a talk on shorebird conservation.  I recently walked the Dewees Beach with Felicia, comparing Western Sandpipers with Sanderlings, and learned the really disturbing fact that some of these birds are on track to become extinct in our lifetimes:

Many shorebirds undertake fantastic migrations each year from nesting grounds in the Arctic to wintering sites as far south as the southern tip of South America. South Carolina is an important stop over and wintering site for thousands of these long distance fliers. Recent surveys suggest that many of once common species are declining at alarming rates. Local, regional and hemispheric level conservation efforts are necessary to link and protect key roosting and feeding sites. This presentation will highlight shorebird natural history and research as well as conservation efforts in South Carolina.

Felicia Sanders is a Duke University graduate with a BS in Biology and a Clemson University graduate with a MS in Biology. She has worked for 10 years on land birds for US Forest Service and a Research Station, mostly in Florida. Since 2001, Felicia is the Coastal Bird Project Coordinator for South Carolina Department of Natural Resources focusing on seabird and shorebird conservation.  Work on shorebirds has taken her to the Arctic the last 2 summers to the nesting grounds of species that spend the non-breeding season on South Carolina beaches.

Title:                 Migratory Shorebirds in South Carolina

Speaker:           Felicia Sanders, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Time:                Friday, November 1, 2013, 4 PM

Place:               Auditorium, MRRI/SCDNR at Fort Johnson

Garden Gathering November 16th

The Garden Gathering at Cypress Gardens
November 16, 2013
Join Clemson Extension and Cypress Gardens for the 2nd Annual Garden Gathering onSaturday, November 16th!  This one day garden-based workshop is for garden and nature enthusiasts alike!
Choose from great lectures and workshops including:

  • Gardening for Wildlife with Sara Green, SC Wildlife Federation, Director of Education who will teach participants how to earn the designation of a Certified Backyard Wildlife;
  • Explore the Cypress Gardens Butterfly House with Curator Amanda Szwarc- learn to identify 20 common SC Butterflies and “make and take” a caterpillar rearing cage;
  • Make a pollinator nest bundle, explore a “bee hotel” plus learn to garden to attract and conserve pollinators with Dr. Dwight Williams and Amy Dabbs;
  • Build a small-scale wildlife water feature using harvested rain water with Clemson Water Resources Agents, Kim Counts and Guinn Garrett!

 Click here to Register!  Registration includes a catered lunch, handouts, doorprizes and free entry to Cypress Gardens.  Registration is $60/individual (South Carolina Master Gardener and Master Naturalist Discount $55 ).  The Tri County Master Gardeners will have your favorite gardening books for sale and be sure to visit the Cypress Gardens gift shop in time for the holidays!

Hope to see you at the Garden Gathering!

Amy L. Dabbs, Clemson Extension Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator

Master Naturalist Board Meetings at the Statewide Level

SC Master Naturalist Associations Board of Directors Summit
November 19-20, 2013
Columbia, SC
Please remember that you are responsible for your own expenses for this meeting.
Nov. 19: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Nov. 20:   8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Agenda items:
MN Program update
Presentations by each Association (30 minutes each)
Advanced Trainings
Online Volunteer Hour Reporting System
Clemson Advocacy
Directors and Officers Insurance,  Liability Insurance
501(c )(3)
Who should attend:
Any association board member not employed by a Master Naturalist host site. See list below of those that have confirmed attendance. Please have any others that wish to attend to confirm with me via email.
Meeting location:
Clemson Livestock & Poultry Health Building
500 Clemson Road
Columbia, SC 29229
803-788-2260 (Carrie Farmer ­- front desk)
NOTE I-20 traffic shift:
Motorists traveling I-20 eastbound will encounter a major traffic shift from Interstate 77 to Spears Creek Road. Motorists exiting at Clemson Road should choose the right lane past the Alpine Road overpass interchange. The traffic split will begin at mile marker 77 and end at mile marker 83. Motorists are advised to use caution when traveling through the work zone. Tune to 530 AM for information as your near the construction.
Headquarters hotel:
Holiday Inn Express
I-20 & Clemson Road
1011 Clemson Frontage Road
Columbia,  SC  29229
There is a block of 8 rooms with king beds and 5 rooms with two queen beds.
$89.00 + tax (12% $10.68) = $99.68 total per night. Ask for Master Naturalist block.

Attendees to date:

Dan Whitten
Sherrie Whitten
Brooks Wade
Judy Buck (Wed. only)
Jack Greenshields
Holly Hook
Bill Thielfoldt
Judith Kramer
Janae Davis
Mary Huhns
Dee Dee Williams
Lane Crosby
Peg Howell
John Thomas
Joseph Cannon
Bob Leclerc

Jim Shaw

Looking forward to visiting with you,
Dr. James H. Blake
Interim State Coordinator

SC Master Naturalist Program
State Coordinator
SC Master Gardener Program
County Coordinator
Pickens County Extension Office
Adjunct Associate Professor
School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences

222 West Main Street   |   PO Box 995   |   Pickens, SC 29671O: 864-878-1394 ext 115   |   M:  864-506-6351

Ray Ward Describes the Dewees Field Trip

As Nan Salas said when she sent this to me, Ray’s observations and impressions really call to mind that sense of wonder the MN program cultivates in us.  He sent the article below after our last field trip for a shorebird count Dewees Island.

What Master Naturalists really do is go to an exotic island, hop into electric transport carts and go zipping around to practice counting birds. That is what we do if lucky enough to get hooked up with Judy Fairchild and Lori Wilson for a day on Dewees Island.
The sun has not cracked the sky at 6:45 am. Yet, there we were, the whole expected group, ready and waiting for the 7 am ferry run. Yes, there are no roads to Dewees Island. If you haven’t been to Dewees, find a way.

Once on the island, close your eyes or better yet open up your mind and imagine. With the sound of Howler monkeys in the background you could be in Central or South America. The chatter of baboons could put you in many parts of Africa. The constant calling of Rails is for real. Still it is easy to think of being in the midst of a Edgar rice Burroughs novel with some very nice modem touches, like beautiful homes and an active, caring infrastructure.
The electric transportation was a welcomed touch, Then Judy opened up her home to our troop. The touch of fresh coffee was above and beyond. Judy’s home, within easy ear shot of the constant roar of the ocean, overlooks a brackish lake which is complete with gators and birds and birds. Perhaps one of the highlights of the day was our best look ever at a Least Bittern. Here at Judy’s we learned more of our outings purpose.

least bittern, Dewees Island photo Judy Drew Fairchild

Lori Sheridan Wilson is employed by Dewees caring infrastructure as the Environmental Program Director ARB Coordinator. Lori told us about the process of officially getting into ISS. The International Shorebird Survey is another program through Ebird/Comell. Before a sight can be a partof the survey, there are criteria to meet. Practice counts are to be done. Thus, a group of us Master Naturalist counting shore birds, practicing, learning. Lori had specific sites mapped for us to visit. We were fortunate enough to have experienced observers with us who could write the book. So, we boarded our transports and away we go to count shore birds. Typical of Master Naturalist outings, the caravan didn’t get far before a look, see stop. That’s what Master Naturalist do. Once at the beach, David was quick to spot clouds of Semipalmated Plovers.

shorebirds, photo by Linda Shaw

Back aboard our crafts, Lori guided us through dense Maritime forest toward the inlet between Dewees and Capers Islands. Several stops along the way produced an assortment of birds, butterflies and plants.
The cart trail to Capers Inlet is as much a tidal creek as a trail and is lined with thousands of China Back Fiddlers who make a mad dash to get out of our track. Amazingly few become lunch for some other creature. Trails end at the Inlet yields more birds to add to the ISS count. Most of the birds, groups of gulls and several Royal Terns were on the Capers shore. Some of our group had brought spotting scopes to share.
The trails end was near time end for several of us. We headed back to Judy’s for a necessary breakand lunch. The Dewees Islander was prepared for our 12:30 boarding and the trip back to the dock onthe Isle of Palms. Our Master Naturalist group had spent another period of time learning, reaching out toward Dewees’ ISS goal, becoming better prepared to make an impact. Just for the fun of it, we also learned to clap for Rails, hum Periwinkles, and watch egrets in flight attract food by trailing their feet in the pond water.
We didn’t see Tarzan, but what a day!

Joint Opportunity with Winyah Bay Master Naturalists: Secret Lives of Shellfish October 16, 6:30 pm

We are very fortunate to have the inimitable Mike Walker, Interpretive Ranger, Huntington Beach State Park, as a speaker on Wednesday, October 16th, at 6:30 pm, at Kimbel Lodge.

His talk will be on “The Secret Lives of Shellfish.”

Mike grew up in Beaufort and St. Helena Island, and spent countless summers with his father traveling through state and national parks across the country in a makeshift camper, a school bus they bought at an auction.  It was those road trips that would later inspire the direction of his career.
He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science, and went on to work a number of interesting jobs.  From sea turtle nest protection on Pritchard’s Island and a year at the Aquarium Reptile Complex at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia to jobs at both Myrtle Beach and Hunting Island State Parks, Mike gathered a wealth of experience working with animals and natural environments.  While at Hunting Island, he even got a little acting experience playing the role of Ranger Mike on the Nickelodeon TV series called “Gullah Gullah Island.”

Now at Huntington Beach, Mike manages the Education Center staff and a number of volunteers from the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park.  He and his group conduct a variety of Coastal Exploration and standards-based Discovery Carolina programs on topics like birding, crabbing, kayaking, snakes, seashells, marine invertebrates, sea turtles, and salt marsh ecosystems.  In addition, Mike is also responsible for resource management projects such as monitoring the park for invasive species, assisting with oyster and wetland restoration, protecting loggerhead sea turtles, and shielding shorebird nests with a solar powered electric fence.

While working with people and animals in an outdoor setting, Mike occasionally runs into some pretty unusual situations.  Once he rushed to help a woman who thought she was trying to help an injured dolphin, only to discover her wading through the water with both arms around a very ill shark that was as big as she was.

“The diversity of habitats and wildlife in a fairly compact area make Huntington Beach State Park something truly extraordinary,” says Mike. “As I have heard some of our visitors say, you expect the unexpected here!”

Mike sees his job as a way to help people forge connections with natural resources.  Mike’s continuous pursuit of preserving and promoting South Carolina’s natural resources has led to the most satisfying career he could ask for. Would he recommend his path to someone else?  “Absolutely,” he said, “It’s the best job in the world.”

Dewees Island Shorebird Count and Tour

IMG_2783It’s a field trip AND a volunteer activity!  On Thursday, October 17th, we’ll meet at 6:45 at the Dewees Island Ferry to ride over to Dewees for the island’s International Shorebird Study count/training program.  We will be an official site next year, but we are learning to identify, count, and enter information about shorebirds this year.  Along the way, the docks and oyster middens provide some great sightings of Oystercatchers, gulls, terns, and the occasional Whimbrel.

Meet at the Dewees Marina on 41st Street on the Isle of Palms.  (Here’s a transportation video that shows how to take the ferry.)  Bring lunch and snacks– there are no stores of any kind on the island (but Judy will make some coffee in a thermos.)  We’ll tour the island with Ecologist Lori Sheridan WIlson, get a sense of sustainable building practices, and check out nesting Bald Eagles, migrating warblers, native wildflowers, and butterflies.  Space is limited to 16 participants.  Click here  to sign up.

Is that hour too early for you?  There are four hospitality suites on the island and we can give you discounted rates to stay there if you are participating in an island project.  Call us at 843-882-5052 and leave a message that you are with Coastal Master Naturalists.  If Saturdays are easier for you, the Midlands Master Naturalists are coming on a scouting tour on the 12th of October, and we have about 4 slots available to come then: email Judy for more info.