Coastal Master Naturalists...


By Ray Ward.

The road is still dirt. I’ll use that as my excuse for not recognizing the

turn and zooming on past. After I’d passed Eddingsville Road and Main’s

Station, I knew I had missed the turn to Botany Bay. I am seventy years old

and the kind little lady at Main’s felt comfortable calling me “Sonny”.

“Sonny, you jus ben gon a lill to fah. Tun rite rund un go bke to da Allen

AME cut. Das du plas.”


Her soft West African Gullah dialect was enough to make the whole trip

worthwhile. Think Sooliman Roghe and Sierra Leone.

Forty or so years ago some fishing buddies and I had been down Botany

Bay Road several times. We were going to Cap. Ron’s to put the boat in, a

22 foot Aqua Sport, head down the creek to Frampton Inlet and out to

Deveaux Bank to fish. The road was washboard rough but beautiful and

cool with its canopy of live oaks. It’s all still there- ruts, trees, beauty.

Cap. Ron’s is to the right at the end of Botany Bay Road. In our fishing

days we could only turn right. The left side of the road, heading toward the

creek and ocean, seemed mysterious and entry was forbidden. Today the

mystery is gone and entry is open. The washboard ruts are still there for

good reason.

On April 6, 2013, I turned left off of Botany Bay Road and for my first

time entered the nearly 5,000 acres Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife

Management Area. Just at the entrance is a small but adequate information

kiosk where a map, complete with background information is available.

Some of our Coastal Master Naturalist Assoc. folks had already checked in

and others were on the way. Bill Johnson, our guide for the day, was waiting

for us at a parking area % of a mile away. A new smoother road led through

more pine and oak forest, then open fields to the parking area on the edge of

a marsh.

Bill Johnson is a DNR employee who one day is running a tractor to cut

brush, the next day he may be giving kayak lessons and perhaps the next

day he is leading a tour of the marsh, estuaries, and front dune of Botany

Bay Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area. A Ph.D level, Bill

conies across as a happy man who loves his work.

As a gathering of a dozen or more Master Naturalists with guests we

began our tour over a short path through a pine, oak ,myrtle, underbrush

forest and then onto a man made causeway across the marsh. Typical of

Master Naturalist walks, our progress was not fast. Bill and others led us

into a discussion of local history, history of the causeway, water flow in the

marsh, crabs, grasses, birds, critters, and other topics. As the morning

passed we made way for more and more day trippers. After all at the end of

this trail is a beach, a public beach.

Before the beach there is a narrow strip of maritime forest/dune area.

This maritime area is of special interest because it displays the natural

intrusion of saltwater. The sight of big, old live oaks and lots of palmettos

dead or dying is sad but it is natural. And here as much as can be, things are

left natural.

Once through the area of salt water intrusion, we were on the beach.

There were the day trippers, many of them, not natural but they have their

needs and rights. The beach itself is natural, has some bone yard

characteristics and many seashells especially whelk.

Bill dismissed us midday as a group and as smaller units we explored the

beach, its whelks and patches of mud/peat. Eventually we ambled back the

marsh path and several of us made out way to the volunteer’s house for a

quiet, pleasant place to have our packed lunches.

Bess Watson is the volunteer’s coordinator at Botany Bay. Bess gave us

permission to make use of what had once been a caretaker’s house for the

private owners. A gentle sea breeze and a shady spot in the yard made an

inviting place to relax and chat with fellow naturalists. Fossils, bones, skins,

colonial and Indian artifacts have been gathered in the volunteer cottage.

You can imagine the lively discussion these items generated at the ending of

our visit. Like children with new electronic devises, adults with old stuff.

Yes, the road into this fantastic gift, Wildlife Management Area and

Heritage Preserve is still dirt and washboard rough. There is a good reason

as I said before. There are 4687.5 acres and over two miles of beach that

attract lots of attention and lots of use. The whole thing is somewhat fragile

and must last from now on. Maybe a little roughness will discourage those

who do not care and remind the remainder of us to handle with care.

What a day. What a place.


On May 11th-12th, 2013 we will host a Bio-Blitz at McAlhany Nature Preserve (MNP). The Nature Preserve has a vast diversity of organisms and habitats on the 367 acre property. This is a very unique area with upland wetlands, non-alluvial swamp, bottomland hardwood, xeric pine forest, and mesic hardwood/pine forest. MNP has an upland portion and a lowland portion. The upland portion contains the first-order stream Cattle Creek, as well as a new wetland restoration project, and a more-established project restoring a long leaf pine/ wire grass savanna. The lowland area contains a 9-acre oxbow lake, numerous vernal pools and seasonally-flooded cypress swamp, and is bordered by 1.5 miles of Edisto River frontage. All of these characteristics provide for a great diversity within the habitats on MNP. The purpose of the Bio-Blitz is to involve specialists in all areas of biology to document the biodiversity and to provide a comprehensive flora and fauna species list.

The Bio-Blitz will begin at 9 am Saturday (May 11th) and continue through Sunday (May 12th) ending around 5pm. Participants are welcome to campout at MNP which has numerous tent sites available. We have a well-equipped cabin with a fully equipped kitchen, a full bath, lounge area, two bedrooms with bunk beds, and a screened in porch. If some would like to come Friday, I will be at MNP by 5pm Friday and will stay throughout the weekend. We will have a cook out Saturday for lunch serving hamburgers, veggie burgers, and hotdogs. Unfortunately, all other meals cannot be provided; therefore, individuals must bring food in accordance to their planned length of stay. We will have at least some coolers and a full-sized refrigerator available to store food but, of course, feel free to bring your own cooler if you’d like.

Saturday morning we plan to break out in groups scouting out areas in MNP. Because we want to create a list of flora and fauna on the property, we need participants to document their findings through pictures, notes, or possible GPS coordinates. If you have a hand-held GPS unit, please feel free to use the device to document sites of findings. Photographs taken by a digital camera can be uploaded into my computer to aid in the documentation. Everyone needs to return to the cabin around 12pm for the cookout. Once everyone is finished with lunch, we plan to send groups out again to survey the property finishing around 5 pm. When finished with surveying the property, please turn over the information to one of the MNP project leaders so we can compile all the data. We would like everyone to have a lot of fun, enjoy the wilderness, and help out with our project. Hopefully, this will be a great time for everyone getting out into the habitat and provide us with valuable information about the flora and fauna of MNP.

 More information can also be found on Charleston Audubon’s website, and lots of pictures can be found on their facebook page.
Our Audubon contact is Dr. Paul Nolan (Citadel faculty).

Volunteers needed: Keep Charleston Beautiful

Keep Charleston Beautiful

is in need of volunteers to dress as our pelican mascot, Clara. Keep Charleston Beautiful and Clara travel to local elementary schools, teaching groups of students about recycling and good waste responsibility. Volunteers dress as Clara and make short appearances periodically during the program. The programs last about 45 minutes and there are no lines to learn! Volunteers receive a gift card or volunteer t-shirt, and transportation to the schools can be arranged.


Since Earth Day is right around the corner, April is a busy month for programs.


We are looking for volunteers for the following dates:

April 11th 9:00  

April 12th 9:00

April 15th 2:00

April 16th 1:30

April 17th 12:45-2:45 (two programs)

April 19th 8:30

April 22nd 8:30-10:00 and 1:30-3:00 (two set of programs)

April 23rd 8:30-10:30 (two programs)

April 24th 9:00

April 25th 8:45

April 26th 9:00


If you are interested and available for any of these days, please contact Jamie, at



Jamie Gillette, Education Intern

City of Charleston, Keep Charleston Beautiful


823 Meeting Street

Charleston, SC 29403

Swallow Tailed Kite Survey Now Underway

Swallow-tailed Kite Survey

7th Annual Audubon SC Swallow-Tailed Kite Survey
April 6-14, 2013

The Swallow-tailed Kite is an endangered-species in South Carolina and considered a species of highest conservation concern throughout its breeding range in North America. It has been recently added to the Audubon/Birdlife International/Partners In Flight WatchList.

The survey will be conducted by canoes, kayaks and motor boats along sections of the Savannah, Edisto, Santee (including Wambaw Creek) and Black (including Black Mingo Creek), the Little Pee Dee, Great Pee Dee, and Waccamaw Rivers. If you would like to volunteer on one of these days, please contact:

Audubon SC
336 Sanctuary Road
Harleyville, SC 29448
(843) 462-2150

It would be most helpful if you have a friend who could go with you and shuttle boats to starting and ending points. Start watching for the magnificent kites in late March and watch for them through the summer and report any sightings to the STKI Hotline toll free 1-888-296-4732 or the website. Your participation will help the SC Working Group for Swallow-tailed Kites monitor the species’ distribution, identify important nesting and foraging areas, and promote conservation of this important bird and its habitat.

Carolina Yards Environmentally Friendly Gardening Class

Carolina Yards Online Guide to Environmentally Friendly Gardening

Tuesday, April 09, 2013 – Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Online Classroom
Phone: 843-722-5940 Email Us

Registration for this course is closed. Please contact Kim Counts if you want to be notified of future offerings.

SCORE restores Oyster Reef: this Article features a board member volunteering

Check out this article from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium about restoration of Oyster Reefs. It describes some volunteering opportunities.

Bill Thielfoldt, a retired sales and marketing executive, found a new way of understanding the natural world when he volunteered for the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program managed by SCDNR.

It was in the early 2000s that scientists, government agencies, and nonprofit groups began building volunteer efforts to restore reefs in U.S. estuaries and build grassroots networks for coastal stewardship.

Established in 2000, SCORE was initially supported in part by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium as one of the first statewide oyster-recycling programs outside of the Chesapeake Bay region.

About 17,000 SCORE volunteers have donated more than 43,000 volunteer hours to build over two acres of oyster-reef habitat at more than 50 sites along the South Carolina coastline.

Volunteers fill polypropylene mesh bags with shell and plant them fire-brigade style along shorelines to provide a clean hard substrate for oyster larvae to settle on.

Bags of oyster shell are used to elevate the substrate’s profile off intertidal muddy bottoms; loose shells are more likely to sink in the mud. SCORE volunteers also test water quality, oyster survival and growth, and other parameters near restored reefs.

Three years ago, Thielfoldt joined a SCORE restoration effort near his home on Daniel Island. “We could see the difference in a very short period of time as the Spartina grew up behind the new reef, stabilizing the shoreline. We’ve gone back every year and added shell to the original reef, and the oysters have grown up into towers. This experience has made me very interested in the environment of the coast. It’s piqued my interest in all of the things that go on in this magnificent estuary.”

Some SCORE volunteers have become ambassadors of reef restoration, distributing literature, assisting with school field trips, collaborating with restaurants and caterers to find ways to increase shell recycling, and aiding SCDNR staff with the management of recycled shell.

Click this link to read the whole article.

Field Trip to Botany Bay Scheduled April 6, 2013

Nan Salas has arranged for us to have a tour of Botany Bay: Saturday April 6th 10am CMNA field trip to Botany Bay WMA, Edisto Island.
Led by Master Naturalist and DNR Botany Bay employee Bill Johnston. RSVP to Nancy Salas.
We will meet at 10 am in the beach parking lot for walk and talk about marsh and beach ecology. There are lots of volunteer opportunities here; come learn about what’s available. The walk to Botany Bay beach is 1/2 mile long and we’ll be walking the causeway through wetlands and 2 hammock islands, so LOTS to see. Low tide that day- 11:45am, so great timing if it doesn’t take us 4 hours to get to the beach!
Nancy will be at the kiosk from 9-950am that morning to assist signing folks in as they arrive; Bill will be in the beach parking lot by 9:30am. for directions to Botany Bay.