Coastal Master Naturalists...

Charleston Audubon to host a Bio-Blitz ~ May 16-17, 2015

Join the Bio-Blitz Team at McAlhany Nature Preserve (MNP) for some amazing citizen science work! The Nature Preserve has a vast diversity of organisms and habitats on the 367 acre property. 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 16th) and continue through Sunday (May 17th) ending around 5pm. Participants are welcome to campout at MNP which has numerous tent sites available.

Please RSVP to Brian Reid at with the number of people who will be attending and to give them a feel for the type of biodiversity you feel comfortable inventorying (e.g. birds, terrestrial plants, aquatic plants, aquatic insects, butterflies, moths, reptiles, amphibians, etc).

For more info, visit the Facebook event page.


Bulls Bay Nature Festival ~ Saturday May 16th 2015

Get outside! Bulls Bay community agencies, organizations, businesses, and churches come together once again to bring you the 3rd annual Bulls Bay Nature Festival – From the Forest to the Sea. Festival events and activities will happen in the Francis Marion National Forest, on Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site,the Sewee Visitor Center and Bishop Jerden Conference Center.

The mission of the Bulls Bay Nature Festival – From the Forest to the Sea is to increase awareness, promote engagement and foster lasting connections with our unique natural places and wildlife in the Bulls Bay community.

Check out the Detailed Information for Activities to see what’s coming to you on May the 16th! Be sure to visit the Bulls Bay Nature Festival website to Register. Space is limited for many activities so don’t delay in your registration. Also visit our Festival Facebook page at!




CMNA Pot Luck this Saturday June 14th 1-3pm

Come mingle with fellow graduates of the Charleston Master Naturalist program and meet members of the Board of Directors for the Coastal Master Naturalist Association. Enjoy an afternoon surrounded by your nature tribe full of like-minded individuals! The event will go on rain or shine! Bring your favorite dish to share and be prepared for a stroll around the grounds at Caw Caw.

Bring a favorite food (could be a main course, salad, dessert or side item) to share at the pot luck. For the walk after please bring water, hat, sturdy walking shoes, insect repellant and binoculars.

Bring your Name Badges for recognition and to arrange for your Jewels for your volunteer hours. Also, bring a check for $20 for your 2014 membership (if you have not already joined or renewed.)

Photo by Robbie Silver Photography
Photo by Robbie Silver Photography

A message from CMNA’s Events and Friend Activities Committe Chair

One of the great benefits about belonging to the CMNA is your ability to participate in social, educational and informative events and field experiences offered by ours and other groups. Because you are invested in the local environment and share the perspective of other Master Naturalists, your ability to identify unique events and activities is both valued and needed.

In order to expand the number of opportunities for all members we have set up an Events and Field Activities Committee of which Bill Thielfoldt is the chair and is responsible for soliciting member participation.

Individual and willing CMNA members will be responsible for identifying and coordinating the event or activity.  This will involve initial and ongoing contact with the event or activity sponsor, arranging logistics (where and when to meet) and follow through to completion.  The committee is responsible for approving and compiling all field events and activities that are generated by the CMNA membership at large.

For an approved event or activity, the originating member will coordinate the event and will be responsible for interfacing with the event or activity contact (if there is one) through completion. The Event and Field Activities Committee will keep the originating member apprised of sign up activity and will send out reminders to the participating members. Contact Bill Thielfoldt for more information.

Mn Potluck 2014

UPSTATE Master Naturalist Trips (UMNA) that are open to the CMNA!

Monday, Oct. 28 – Fall Tour on Lake Jocassee

11am to 2pm – $20

Bring your lunch and come along to enjoy the beauty of fall on the lake.

Please contact Brooks or Kay to rsvp by email or by phone 864-280-5501


Monday, December 9th 9am  BRASSTOWN FALLS HIKE led by UMNA President Dan Whitten

Please email Seth Harrison, UMNA Vice President, with any questions!




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.

Carolina Bay Field Trip by Carl W. Cole

On a recent Saturday, August 31st, seven Coastal Master Naturalists, led by Elise Wallace, went on a field trip to a Carolina Bay in the Francis Marion National Forest.  Along for their first CMNA field trip were Spring 2013 MN graduates Larry and Chris Hayden.  Also present were Ed Farnworth, Judith Kramer, Ann Truesdale, and I.  It was the same Carolina Bay adjacent to a power line right of way that MN classes have visited with Dr. Porcher. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This field trip was expressly timed to catch wildflowers blooming.  Judith consolidated a plant list (see below) with more than two dozen species, most of them blooming wildflowers.

We met at the Sewee Center – with the added treat of saying hello to MN Michelle Wrenn – then headed down forest service roads following part of a “Wildflower Driving Tour” on a map Elise provided.   We disembarked several times enroute to the Carolina Bay and walked the roadside identifying plants and other species.  Elise got some of the “herding cats” experience that’s typical of anyone trying to lead a group of Master Naturalists very far through the woods.  Several times, she’d say something like “Let’s move on” and get a couple of people headed to their vehicles only to look back and see a quorum of the group reassembled off the roadside somewhere.


In the power line right of way, the pitcher plants were magnificent!  They were mostly Yellow Pitcher Plants Sarracenia flava with a few Hooded Pitcher plants Sarracenia minor.  (A little later, in the Carolina Bay, Ann also spotted a clump of Sweet Pitcher Plant Sarracenina rubra.)  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Larry, who retired from the Forest Service and still consults with the Francis Marion forest, expressed concern that the plants in the power company’s right of way may be at risk of herbicide treatment, rather than a prescribed burn (which Dr. Porcher told us the pitcher plants are evolved to survive). What a shame that would be!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Carolina Bay, which was dry the last time I saw it, was nicely wet with more than ankle deep water in the center.  The field trip was expressly to see wildflowers but, knowing that I’ve been stalking dragonflies with my camera lately, Elise would point out any that she saw that morning.  Earlier, they’d all been cruising and too far away to catch with my camera but the Carolina Bay was filled with Little Blue Dragonlets Erythrodiplax minuscule mating and perching on the two-foot-tall grasses in the middle of the bay long enough for me to get some photos. (That’s how I knew it was ankle deep.)

Then, on the walk back out of the bay, Elise spotted a damselfly and a small dragonfly, both perched on low vegetation along the path.  What we first thought was a dragonfly because of its partially extended wings actually turned out to be a damselfly, one of the aptly-named spreadwings Lestes sp.  Once I got the close-up photos out of the camera, the slender body and widely separate eyes were damselfly clues, but these ancient old eyes of mine didn’t even see those features in the field.  I thought it was an adult female Southern Spreadwing Lestes australis or a Carolina Spreadwing Lestes vidua but Giff Beaton identified it as a Swamp Spreadwing Lestes vigilax.  I thought the small dragonfly might be a female of one of the pennants Celithemis sp.  but Giff Beaton identified it as an adult female Blue Dasher Pachydiplax longipennis.

As we walked through the right of way earlier, Larry commented how tough it is for forest service personnel to do growing season prescribed burns in such weather.  By about 12:30 – without burning anything – some of us had enough of the heat and decided to call it a day.  On the way back, several of us stopped at the Sewee Center again to eat lunch and chat in the cool shade of the covered picnic tables, a nice ending to a great field trip.

Thanks to Elise for leading the trip and to Bill Thielfoldt for facilitating the signup!

Plant List

Blazing Star  Liatris spicata

Vetches – and assortment

Meadow Beauty –  Rhexia

Orange Milkwort – Polygala lutea

Toothache Grass – Clenium aromaticum

Slender Seedbox – Ludwigia virigata

Yellow Fringed Orchid – Habenaria (Platanthera) ciliaris

Bitter Mint – Hyptis alata

Barbara’s Buttons – Marshallia gramminifolia

Eryngo – Eryngium integrifolium

Yellow Trumpet Pitcher Plant – Saracenia flava

Hooded Pitcher Plant – Saracenia minor

Sweet Pitcher Plant – Saracenia rubra

Blue Flag Iris – Iris tridentata

Giant White Topped Sedge – Dichromenia latifolia

Pipewort – Eriocaulon decangulare

Pond Cypress – Taxodium ascendens

Heal-All – Prunella vulgaris

Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia Herta

Bitter weed – Helenium amarum

Swamp Sunflower – Heleanthus angustifolius

Spreading Sunflower – Heleanthus divaricatus

Mist Flower – Eupatorium coelestinum

(apparently now Conoclinium coelestinum as per the Missouri Botanical Gardens)

Boneset – Eupatorium perfoliatum

Ironweed – Veronia

Fleabane – Erigeron philadelphicus

Club Moss – Lycopodium

Additional Reading

More Carolina Bay Information

Francis Marion Carolina Bays

Francis Marion Wildflower Viewing

(Notice that the Conifer Road Loop page has photos by Ricky Wrenn, MN Michelle Wrenn’s husband.  How cool is that!)

“Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast” by Giff Beaton

Field Trip to Francis Beidler

Prothonotary Warblers, Barred Owls, Water Moccasins, and… feral hogs?  The first few are what comes to mind whenever I think about Francis Beidler Audubon Sanctuary.  The feral hogs were a surprise, but Mark explained how they reproduce quickly (2 can become 36 in a year) and people release them in order to be able to hunt them later.  They can wreak havoc on an ecosystem, so the folks that work there are keeping an eye on them and trying to trap them.

Four of us (and my daughter) arrived at the park around 10:00 on Wednesday for a fantastic walk through the woods with Mark Musselman.  Like every Master Naturalist program I have enjoyed, it took us a long while (four hours for 1.5 miles)to walk the boardwalk… we found something interesting to see at every turn.  There is an incredible respite in the sounds of the forest there… the only sounds are birds and the occasional rustle of a squirrel or skink.  Red eyed and white eyed vireos echoed back and forth, and Northern Parulas and Blue-Gray gnatcatchers sounded off as well, along with Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Three snakes were basking in the dappled sunlight at different locations: two eastern cottonmouths and a banded water snake:  Mark explained how the water snake was more of a climber and the moccasins would stay closer to the ground.  We watched an orchard orb weaver spin a web, and debated about the identity of a water thrush (Louisiana or Northern… please weigh in if you have an opinion after looking at the photos.)  At the lake, we spent some time looking at Great Blue Herons, Yellow Crowned Night Herons, and White Ibis, when the resident alligator wondered what we were up to and came over to investigate.  But the big star of this quiet forest of thousand year old cypress and tupelo is the Prothonotary Warbler.  With huge voices, they sing to make their presence known, and yet this bright yellow bird has an uncanny ability to blend into the trees.  We were fortunate enough to see at least three different birds (Mark knows which is in each territory, and can enter data on each bird because of the bands visible on their legs) bathing, preening, and chasing each other.

We also saw a Big Daddy Bowfin fish guarding a group of young, which roiled the surface of the water.

If you missed this trip, please join us for the next one!


Past Field Trips and Events

Past Field Trips and Events

  • April 17, 2012 – Francis Biedler – 4 Holes Swamp with Mark Musselman
  • November 5, 2011 – Cape Romain/ Sewee Center
  • October 13, 2011 – Congaree National Park
  • September 17, 2011 – Charlestowne Landing
  • October 31, 2010 – Donnelley Wildlife Management Area – bird walk with Hollace & Jim Bagwell
  • October 16, 2010 – Nature walk with Billy McCord at Ft. Johnson
  • September – Evening Lecture at CawCaw
  • August – SC Aquarium’s Monthly Sustainable Fish Dinner
  • July 8, 2010 – Sustainability Center
  • June 24, 2010 – Barrier Island Adventure – Kiawah Island
  • May 13-16, 2010 – 2nd Annual South Carolina Master Naturalist Conference
  • April 13, 2010 – Bonneau Ferry
  • March 18, 2010 – Hobcaw Barony
  • February 1-3, 2010 – Invasive Conference at Camp St. Christopher
  • November 7, 2009 – Botany Bay Plantation
  • October 7, 2009 – Hunting Island State Park
  • September 12, 2009 – Mepkin Abbey
  • May 9, 2009 – Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest
  • April 11, 2009 – Dungannon Heritage Preserve
  • Feb 22, 2009 – Middleton Plantation