Sunday, July 12, 2020

Field Notes and Photos - July 2020

Southern pink-striped oak worm moth
My Field Notes and Photos observations used to publish in a newspaper, but a lack of demand for my nature photography led to diminished newsprint space. Now when I have a fresh batch of observations I share them via Lowcountry Outdoors.

My most recent moth encounter sent me to the Internet to search for a proper identification, and I learned this was my first ever viewing of a South pink-striped oak worm moth. It turns out they are fairly common over a wide range of the Untied States, and my sighting came in the early morning hours, likely after some nocturnal activity.

Brown Thrasher seeking water at a birdbath
A brown thrasher tends to stay on the ground, and does not readily come to bird feeders. However, when the weather is hot and dry, they will leave the ground cover for a splash and drink in a birdbath!

To view past Field Notes and Photos click on June 2020 March 2020 - June 2019 - July 2018 February 2018 -  December 2017 - September 2017 - January 2017December 2016 - June 2016 - February 2016December 2015 - October 2015 - September 2015 - August 2015 - July 2015 - June 2015 - February 2105 - October 2014  September 2014 - August 2014 - June 2014 - March 2012 - February 2012 - October 2011 - September 2011 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

National Deer Alliance merger with Quality Deer Management Association

The NDA was formed in 2014
The future of white-tailed deer stewardship is undergoing some changes in July 2020, thanks to the Covid-19 economy, and the strength in numbers that comes with a National Deer Alliance. On Tuesday July 7, right after the patriotic July 4th weekend that outdoorsmen cherish as a time for fishing, news that the Quality Deer Management Association would cease to exist in its current form began reverberating with hunters. Considering that the QDMA was founded in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, this news does hit close to home, especially for this humble blogger.

QDMA was founded in 1988 in Walterboro, South Carolina. It was only by chance that I was a landowner in western Colleton County and an avid deer hunter, when a small local group began holding dinner meetings to discuss the future of deer management. Some of those memories are fleeting, such as the now defunct steakhouse at Exit 53 on I-95 where we met, while some are still tangible like my trusty deer rifle that I purchased then. It was a least a few years that this group of charter members met before the actual organization of QDMA ever formed.

Back in the 1980's Joe Hamilton was working for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and his passion for deer management inspired him to found the QDMA. He went on to national acclaim, winning many awards including the 2011 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year. Hamilton struck me as a kind, wise and friendly fellow and I owe him my gratitude for his friendship and for his guidance as a wildlife biologist over the years. During a site visit with Hamilton at my hunting land, he identified Florida pusley as a weed that is preferred forage for white-tails, and he also shared other insightful knowledge such as how to skin a wild turkey for a trophy mount. I attended his wedding to wife Donna at a Lowcountry plantation and still admire their outdoors style.

Deer hunters need more of this spirit
After years of practicing quality deer management, I'll never forget that magical October afternoon in 2004 when a mature buck in full rut came into view from my deer stand. Using the rifle that Joe had recommended for me, my shot placement was accurate, and suddenly the practice of passing up smaller bucks came to fruition. I took my trophy buck to Joe to be scored for the S.C. record book and his one word of praise still rings true today - "Superb!"

The 2020 merger press release doesn't spell out all of the details, but it is clear that the CEO from the NDA is taking over the leadership, since the QDMA CEO position was vacant. The first time that I ever heard about NDA was when Hamilton brought word of it to the 2014 Walterboro QDMA branch meeting. Other conservation groups still exist concerning deer such as Whitetails Unlimited and The Mule Deer Foundation, and will exist independent of the NDA.

To view past blog entries about the QDMA click on 2013 ACE Basin QDMA Native Vegetation Workshop - 2013 Lowcountry QDMA Camera Survey2011 ACE Basin QDMA Coyote Seminar -   QDMA 25th Anniversary Membership Drive -

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Field Notes and Photos - June 2020

A blinded sphinx moth
My Field Notes and Photos observations used to publish in a newspaper, but a lack of demand for my nature photography led to diminished newsprint space. Now when I have a fresh batch of observations I share them via Lowcountry Outdoors.

My most recent moth encounter sent me to the Internet to search for a proper identification, and I learned that this was my first ever viewing of a Blinded Sphinx moth. It turns out that they are fairly common over a wide range of the United States, but they prefer the nocturnal hours that make them a bit more elusive. I spotted this one in the morning on a screen of a porch, and made a quick photo.

Another sighting that I have come to look forward to every year is bluebirds utilizing nest boxes in the early spring. Sometimes they come back in early summer and raise a second clutch of chicks, and this baby bluebird is from that June brood.

Baby bluebird in June

To view past Field Notes and Photos click on March 2020June 2019 - July 2018 February 2018 -  December 2017 - September 2017 - January 2017December 2016 - June 2016 - February 2016December 2015 - October 2015 - September 2015 - August 2015 - July 2015 - June 2015 - February 2105 - October 2014  September 2014 - August 2014 - June 2014 - March 2012 - February 2012 - October 2011 - September 2011

Monday, June 22, 2020

2020 RBC Heritage - Webb Simpson Wins

Webb Simpson wins the 2020 RBC Heritage on Father's Day
The 2020 RBC Classic is going down in the history books as unique. Due to Covid-19 the 2020 RBC tourney which traditionally is played the week following The Masters Tournament, was initially canceled before being rescheduled. It is the first ever edition of this long-running Lowcountry PGA tourney that was played in June, and ending on Father's Day. Without the long-lasting daylight of summer, the 2020 tournament would likely not have ended on Sunday, with the final putts on Hole number 18 taking place at 8:26 p.m. in the twilight hour. Veteran Webb Simpson claimed the 2020 tartan jacket with his new course record score of 22-under after a making a string of birdie putts on the back nine to win in dramatic fashion.

As a long-time attendee of the Heritage tournament in Hilton Head, I'm not sure where to start. The calendar usually reads April when this event is held, meaning cooler weather, shorter grass, and no long summer's day. The sweltering humidity seemed to build all week long and then right after the leaders teed off on Sunday, an afternoon thunderstorm popped up, causing a three-hour weather delay. The PGA Tour restart gave the players a shortened 20-minute warm up period before resuming play at 5:20, giving them just enough time for the last groups to finish playing 18-holes. If the 2020 tourney had gone to a playoff, then that would have meant a Monday finish, and less TV drama.

Speaking of playoffs, let's not forget that Simpson lost a playoff at the 2013 RBC Heritage to Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open Champion. One of the main factors for the 2013 McDowell win was that his putter got hot on Sunday afternoon, propelling him to victory. Which sounds very much like the formula Simpson followed at the RBC in 2020. Webb has more playoff history in nearby St. Simon's Island where he lost a playoff to Ben Crane at the 2011 McGladrey Classic, and lost another playoff in 2019 at the RSM Classic (formerly McGladrey) to Tyler Duncan. Webb Simpson is a native of North Carolina, and clearly likes the golf courses along the coast. As Simpson was walking up the 18th fairway on Sunday, the open mic caught him telling his caddy that he had never seen the tide so high. A good observation, but Lowcountry locals are all too familiar with the increase in flood tides that are the new normal of coastal living.

Simpson is now a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 2012 U.S. Open, and currently enjoys the lofty status of being ranked one of the top five players in the world. The RBC Heritage list of past champions is distinguished, and Simpson is a natural fit for this roster. He claims the tartan jacket and the top prize money of 1.2-million, with a chance to defend his title next April at the 2021 RBC Heritage. Second place at the 2020 RBC goes to Abraham Ancer, who finished at 21-under par after hitting all 18 greens in regulation during his Sunday round of golf.

To view past blog entries from the RBC Heritage click on 20192018 - 2017 - 2016 20152014 - 2013

To view past blog entries from The Masters click on 20192015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2009

To view past blog entries about the PGA Championship click on 2017 - 2012

To view past blog entries from the BMW Charity click on 2018 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

2020 Edisto River Basin Council Meets June 17

The Edisto River Basin is shaded in light blue
The first Edisto River Basin council meeting will be held on June 17 and is open to the public, but due to Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings, the meeting will be held at 3 p.m. online. The stated goal is to guide surface and groundwater management in the Palmetto State over the next 50 years.

Two meetings in the fall of 2019, at Blackville and St. George, introduced the public to the new South Carolina State Water Planning Framework as it pertains to the Edisto River Basin. Applications for Edisto River Basin council members were being accepted until January 2020, and then twenty-three appointments were made from a diverse group in several counties. The public can access the agenda and presentation from both meetings in the fall of 2019, headed by Ken Rentiers the SCDNR Deputy Director of the Land, Water and Conservation Division. 

The increasing demand on water in the state of South Carolina is coming from an array of needs including energy production, agriculture irrigation, manufacturing industries, and public water supplies. All of these have to be balanced with the water needs for fish and wildlife, and the heritage of outdoor recreation that provides quality of life for those enjoying the Edisto River Basin.

Two major factors driving this need for future water planning are increased population and fickle weather patterns. The hydrology website states that from 1990 – 2018 the population in South Carolina increased from 3.5-million to 5.1-million. Forecasts for a population of 5.7-million by 2030 are likely way too conservative, but any increase will translate into more competition for water supplies and our natural resources in general. 

In the past 20 years, local residents have come to know what drought conditions look like, and since long-term weather patterns are cyclical it is likely that more periods of drought are on the way. While El Nino patterns and tropical rains can replenish groundwater, each drought adds a stress to the fragile Edisto River Basin ecosystem that is hard to measure.

Throughout the state there are eight planning basins designed around the eight major river basins. Once completed the collection of River Basin Plans will form the new State Water Plan. Surface water assessments were completed in 2017 and groundwater assessments from 2019 are being finalized in 2020. Water demand projections are also being calculated, but it will be hard to assess how much water is needed in the future with populations and development booming along the coastal plain. The current focus on water quality is refreshing, but the bottom line in the future may be water quantities.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about the Edisto River Basin click on 2019 MeetingEdisto River Book - ACE Basin 25th Anniversary - Kayak Trip - Gator Hunt 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

2020 Spadefish and Tripletail - New Regulations

Spadefish are common in summer near artificial reefs
Spadefish and tripletail are two fish species that are targeted by anglers during warm weather. This latest action to restrict size and bag limits on saltwater fish, is just the latest round of conservation measures that are being put in place to combat the threat of overfishing. Senator Chip Campsen introduced this legislation in 2019, and it was passed and signed into law by South Carolina Governor McMaster in 2020. Anglers may now keep ten spadefish per day, with a total daily limit of 30 per boat, with a minimum size limit of 14-inches total length. Anglers may keep three tripletail per person per day, with a total boat limit of nine per day, with a minimum size limit of 18-inches total length.

Atlantic spadefish have a black and silver bar pattern on their skin, and they are commonly found in large schools associated with reef habitat. Anglers use a strip of jellyfish as bait to target spadefish, which is unique among saltwater tactics. In fact, one cannonball jellyfish can provide many strip baits for a spadefish excursion, but some anglers choose to drop another whole jellyball down to the fishing grounds in order to serve as a teaser to attract the spadefish. Once the spadefish are located multiple anglers can drop down hook and line in an attempt to catch a spadefish, known for good table fare. This group fishing tactic can be too successful at times, which is why the keeper limit was reduced in 2020.

The tripletail fish is not common in the Lowcountry estuary, but with the warming climate they seem to be appearing more and more. There were no previous limits in South Carolina before the 2020 restrictions, but these fish are more common in Florida and Georgia waters and they are well-known as excellent table fare. Tripletail are most likely encountered in the nearshore waters and are often found near reef structure. Sight-fishing for tripletail is becoming popular with Lowcountry anglers that are already accustomed to keeping an eye out for cobia and other game fish species while on the water.

To view past blog entries about spadefish click on 2011 Reelin' Up The Coast TV 

To view past blog entries on tripletail click on 2010 IGFA Fly Rod Record 3T

Friday, June 5, 2020

Shorebird Protection on Botany Bay WMA Beach

Least tern on Botany beach - Photo by Bess Kellett
With the arrival of June, the new normal of life during the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve for the outdoors enthusiast. The big news for beach goers came down on May 27 when the SCDNR officially reopened the beach access at Botany Bay WMA, although some restrictions are in place to protect shorebirds currently nesting on the north end of that beach. This Wildlife Management Area and Heritage Preserve had already reopened to visitors that wanted to utilize the driving tour or perhaps go birdwatching on the main property. SCDNR reports active shorebird nesting on the beach currently including 80-pairs of least terns, a half-dozen pairs of Wilson’s Plovers and one American oystercatcher. Other shorebirds that might be visiting the beach include red knots, dunlins and ruddy turnstones. 

Least tern eggs and nest site on Botany beach
Bess Kellett is the volunteer coordinator at Botany Bay WMA and she explains that the restart process is still ongoing. “While the public has access to the property, we have not had any volunteers on duty since the original Covid-19 restrictions on March 23,” said Kellett. “Driving tour visitors still have access to the kiosk where the sign-in and maps are located, but there are no volunteers present to answer frequently asked questions. For those walking to the beach, the restricted access is on the North end, so look for restricted access signs right past the boneyard beach area. Beachwalkers heading to the South are able to walk down to the inlet without restriction.”

The causeway to the beach is wheel chair accessible, and visitors cross through the maritime forest on Pockoy Island, which is a great place to look for colorful birds like the painted bunting. This fragile ecosystem is a part of the ACE Basin, with a multitude of birds utilizing this habitat in conjunction with other nearby protected areas such as Deveaux Bank and Edisto Beach State Park. Remember that shelling is prohibited on the beach at Botany Bay, since those same shells break down over time creating a heathy habitat that signals shorebirds to nest there. And yes, a sea turtle patrol is active on the beach at Botany Bay WMA too.

To read the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries on shorebirds click on 2017 Shorebird Symposium - S.C. Spring Shorebird Synergy - Manomet visits Yawkey Preserve - The Narrow Edge book - Red Knot Rendezvous - World Shorebird Day

To read past blog entries from Edisto in 2020 click on Pockoy Island Dig Delayed

To view past blog entries from Edisto in 2019 click on ACE Basin Appreciation - Dolphin Slam - Jim Bost Memorial - Sea Turtle Nesting - Billfish Tourney 

 To view past blog entries from 2018 at Edisto click on Thirsty Whale Tours - I Love Edisto Auction - Jim Bost Memorial - Dolphin Slam - Coastal Geology - Grits Cook Off - Billfish Tourney 

To view past blog entries from 2017 at Edisto click on Holiday Business After Hours - EIOLT Oyster Roast - Billfish Tourney - Bingo - Tomato OpenI Love Edisto Auction - Jim Bost Memorial - Shark Tourney

To view past blog entries from 2016 at Edisto click on Serpentarium - Jim Bost Memorial - Dolphin Slam - Cobia Tourney - Spring Shorebird Synergy - Bovine Bones on Beach - Edisto River book - Billfish Tourney