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!