Saturday, May 31, 2014

Practice Citizen Science - Report Swallow-Tailed Kite

Mississippi Kite chasing Swallow-Tailed Kite on 5/27/2014
Spring is the time when the black and white raptors known as Swallow-Tailed Kites are most visible in our area as they move up from Florida. South Carolina is in the upper reaches of their breeding range, but since Lowcountry habitat is favorable to them their population trend is on the increase. The Center for Birds of Prey in Charleston is managing a Citizen Science Project that rely's on input from the public about sightings of the bird. Their long, scissor-like tail is what sets them apart from other birds and they can be a barometer for the health of surrounding bottomland hardwoods and grasslands since they won't frequent any areas that don't provide adequate nesting and foraging zones. One dividend of spending time in the turkey woods is the observation of the natural world, and so far in 2013 I have observed this raptor for three days soaring over recently burned pines associated with agriculture fields and a creek with hardwood bottomlands.

To view past blog entries about the Swallow-Tailed Kite click here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Red Knot shorebirds visit Lowcountry

Red Knot with leg bands
It’s easy to get carried away talking about the great blue heron and the other large and remarkable birds in our wading bird flock. Equally easy is to rave at the bounty of colors on our Neotropical songbirds like the painted bunting and the summer tanager. Shorebirds can easily be overlooked, though they deserve to be marveled at just as much for their great migrations and stamina despite a compact size.

Birding on Edisto Island recently I saw some Dunlin shorebirds in a freshwater impoundment. They had a special patch of breeding feathers on their belly that was black in color, and they were simply stopping by for some rest and food before heading on to the North. These birds are so small that their black bellies were just about in the inky waters they were feeding in, requiring a second look to correctly identify their presence.
Click here for a link to Moonbird by Phillip Hoose
That’s how it can be for most shorebirds, since they are small birds that fly fast in small packs up and down the beaches, and along and around our marshes. To throw out a blanket ID or general term like sandpipers when witnessing these flocks is perfectly understandable for the novice birder. But upon closer review, just like the Dunlins, some of our shorebirds are well famous and gaining notoriety every day.
The Rufa Red Knot shorebird is the subject of the Phillip Hoose book titled Moonbird, which was published in 2012. Hoose is a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Services, and served 37 years as a staff member for The Nature Conservancy. Another book he penned, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, is about the now-extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Moonbird is about one particular Red Knot but it raises awareness that their species is in decline and is now protected as an Endangered Species.
Red Knots migrate from the tip of Argentina, called Tierra Del Fuego, all the way to the Mingan Archipelago in Quebec, Canada. When flying the northbound leg they use the East Coast as a stopover point to rest and replenish their energy via food sources. Delaware Bay is the main stopover but Jacksonville, Florida will see some Red Knot traffic and so will a few precious spots in South Carolina.
One such spot is Harbor Island beach on St. Helena Island just south of Beaufort. Ornithologist Dr. Sid Gauthreaux counted 59 Red Knots there on May 9, and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation (SCWF) saw more of them on the weekend of May 17 and 18. Hoose was the SCWF guest of honor for a Saturday night social at the Penn Center that weekend for members of their Pro Birder Series. 

To view this article in its entirety in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view other bird sightings click on Birding Journal Observations.

Ben Gregg is the Exec. Dir. of the S.C. Wildlife Federation and he shares these remarks: 

The SCWF "Red Knot Rendezvous" was one I had been looking forward to for over a year.  It was our biggest Palmetto Pro Birder weekend since we first started the Outdoor Academy three years ago.
What an inspiring weekend it was - inspired by the people involved and the shorebirds we focused on.  The setting was the St. Helena area of Beaufort County.  We designed the whole weekend around the anticipated peak of shorebird migration and in particular the red knot, which has received so much attention in recent years. 
Some areas have seen declines in the Red Knot population of up to 75% due to losses of quality stopover areas along their migratory route. Development, beach erosion, sea level fluctuations and potential changes to arctic tundra due to climate change are all affecting these wonderful birds that circumnavigate the globe.  Our planning (and of course a little luck) paid off as the red knots showed up in amazing numbers and we observed them feeding profusely on the eggs of the spawning horseshoe crabs. 
The epicenter of the red knot/horseshoe crab relationship and its importance has been Delaware Bay north of us, but thanks to the dedicated work of scientists from the SC Department of Natural Resources, everyone is realizing the SC coast is one of the vital nursery grounds and fueling spots for red knots and other shorebirds.  
To protect this crucial habitat, we need to offer continued protection of beaches deemed important spawning sites for horseshoe crabs (the eggs of which are vitally important to knots and a long list of other shorebirds), ensure proper harvesting of horseshoe crabs in an effort to keep their populations stabilized, and educate the public on how things as varied as coastal development and keeping dogs on leashes while on beaches impact the survivorship of migrating and breeding shorebirds.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 5/27/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
The 2014 Wahoo bite has been slowing recently
Charleston Inshore: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West says to Pick Your Poison when it comes to species right now! From trout to flounder, Spanish to sharks, redfish and bluefish, there are dozens of ways to bend a rod these days. The Spanish armada is once again back in port, and anglers can find them schooled up both in and around the jetties, as well as by Castle Pinckney. Other toothy silver slashers that may take the bait include bluefish and ladyfish! A Strong flounder bite is going on around rock piles and inlets when using small bucktail jigs, or by hooking on the old reliable can't-kill'em-so-might-as-well-fish-em Mud Minnows. Topwater is where its at for trout right now early in the morning before they seek refuge from the summer sunshine, and just after the topwater strikes stop switchover to a DOA-shrimp and popping cork Deadly Combo. Both bonnethead and sharpnose sharks are plentiful around the inlets and creek mouths using a half blue crab or cut mullet. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Beaufort Inshore: Craig Lupton at Buck, Bass and Beyond shares that the redfish bite is going good despite a downturn in water clarity. Nice redfish are being caught on Carolina rigs with mud minnows and by using artificial lures like DOA shrimp around creek mouths and oyster banks. When the reds are pushing in the grass try the gold Bagley spoon tipped with a Zman chartreuse swimming mullet rigged weedless in electric chicken or redbone coloration. The trout bite has begun to slow but a few are being caught from deep water using mud minnows under a popping cork. Keeper-size flounder are jumping on Gulp swimming mullets and jerk shads fished around creek intersections closer to the ocean inlets. Don't forget the whiting bite is awesome right now at the beaches using cut shrimp and mix in some cut mullet to catch a small sandbar shark too. Cobia are still being found but the bite tapers off by late May and 2014 is no different, but best bets include fishing at the 170 bridge in the Broad River using greenback herring and live eels. Remember that chum will aid in catching their attention so keep it fresh and flowing if you want to encounter a brown bomber. A more sure bet for cobia is to head to a nearshore reef like the Betsy Ross or the Edisto 60 and fish with a SPRO jig. Take advantage of the weakfish bite while out there using one-ounce jigheads and Gulp swimming mullets. For the latest store info visit the Internet at Buck, Bass n Beyond.

Offshore: Craig says the house is a rocking both north and south for the mahi bite! Trolling just about any color lure rigged with a medium ballyhoo is working fine. A few wahoo singles are being caught here and there using a Braid Marauder in blue and silver fished way back behind the boat. The blackfin tuna bite has all but disappeared but the bottom fishing remains excellent with good reports of vermillion snapper, triggerfish, and porgy - and they all want to eat some SQUID.

Scott continues to see a Wide Open dolphin bite off the coast now with a lot of big fish caught in the 25 to 45-pound range. Plenty of teenager fish are mixed in, and the latest Dolphinfish Research newsletter from Don Hammond reports that more juvenile fish are on the way up from Florida presently. Wahoo continue to be found along good bottom relief while trolling from 130 to 250-feet deep. A strong blue marlin bite kicked in recently too. Cobia continue to be found in better-than-usual numbers around artificial reefs in and around 60-feet of water, where a well-presented Hogy Eel or live bait can produce the chance for the cobia of a lifetime.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

2014 East Cooper CCA Banquet

USS Yorktown on May 23
Dee Dee and McKenzie having fun
A change of venue brought recreational anglers to the banks of the Cooper River for the 2014 Celebrating Conservation Banquet at the U.S.S. Yorktown maritime museum. The temperature reached 97-degrees, setting a new record for May 23, and the open air facility was plenty warm for CCA volunteers and guests to enjoy. The food by Lowcountry Eats included seared tuna and barbecue with rice perlot, and the cold beverage station worked overtime to keep everyone from getting too hot. A silent auction included nautical themed gifts and CCA-branded merchandise, fishing prints and fishing gear. A large live auction included hunting trips, guided fishing trip, island vacations and the kind of sporting art that anglers love to bid for. The East Cooper Chapter announced they had reached a new record number of 126 sponsors members, and most of them were in attendance at this standing room only event that was on the inner flight deck of the retired aircraft carrier. Guests also had access to the aft deck that provided a great view of the Charleston Harbor and thankfully a nice cool breeze too. Lots of American flags gave a nod to those who served in the armed forces for Memorial Day.
Guy Harvey Rep David Wilkinson 
and Aftco Rep Alex Chandler

Trout fishing print on the silent auction 

To view past blog entries from the East Cooper CCA banquet click 2013201220112010, or2009.

To view past blog entries from the CCA State Convention click 2013, 20112010 or 2009.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Guy Harvey Magazine - Shuckin' Oysters and Sustainable Seafood

Recycle your oyster shells whenever possible for sustainable seafood

The annual Boone Hall Oyster Festival is a serious good time. How good you ask? Try 80,000-pounds of succulant, salty bivalves worth of coastal living goodness. More importantly, the good folks of the Lowcountry are serious about putting the leftovers to good use by returning them to the estuary.

A $75,000 dollar grant from Guy Harvey to the South Carolina chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) in 2013 directed them to practice conservation that benefits both fish and fishermen.  In this case, that translates into good news for future oyster production and for local anglers too!
Volunteers in the Topwater Action committee, under the supervision of Gary Keisler, arrived before the event began and worked all day to transfer the shell from oyster tables to portable metal bins. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources oversees the oyster recycling efforts. The metal bins are adorned with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation stickers and CCA slogans that state Habitat Today Equals Fish Tomorrow.
Oysters play a role in the Lowcountry economy when smaller oyster roasts are executed countless times each winter in social settings. In the estuary, oysters filter the saltwater and improve water quality, while the oyster banks provide habitat for small fish and other life that use the inshore waters to mature.
Shuckin' For The Cause is in the Spring 2014 edition
Placing the shell back into the estuary is imperative because when oysters spawn their larvae are released into the water. After free swimming in the current they need to find a hard substrate, attach to it, and begin growing. If there isn’t enough shell out there, possibly from over harvesting, then oysters cannot stay sustainable. Keeping oysters as a viable source of sustainable seafood is a great reason to recycle them.
CCA will muster its volunteers again at a later date and load the shells into large john boats that serve as barges, in order to transport and offload the shell. Guy Harvey lottery proceeds will help to purchase a portion of the equipment needed for these oyster restoration efforts. The partnership between Guy Harvey and CCA to practice wise management of the Palmetto State’s marine resources will help to raise awareness how important oyster shell recycling is for everyone.

To view past blog entries from the 2014 Boone Hall Oyster Festival with more info on oyster recycling efforts click here.

To view past feature article in Guy Harvey Magazine click Kite Fishing or Dolphin Tagging.

To view past blog entries about Guy Harvey click S.C. Lottery or 2012 Memorial Day Visit or World Headquarters Visit.

To view past blog entries about sustainable seafood click Pink House / Savannah - Boathouse On Breech Inlet / Isle Of Palms - Circa 1886 / Charleston - Wine on the Water / SC Aquarium - Fish Restaurant / Charleston - Fresh On The Menu

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 BMW Charity Pro-Am on Tour

The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, in the media center

Professional golf made another stop in the Palmetto state over the weekend, and this tour event included talented pros hoping to qualify for the PGA Tour, mixed in with celebrities from sports and television. The format for the event requires three separate golf courses and plenty of logistics, with the final round played at Thornblade Club on Sunday.

NHL Hall of Famer Gretzky wins the Amateur Division
The PGA Tour that sponsors events like The Heritage in Hilton Head, is now running the tour which is the equivalent of the minor leagues of professional golf. The PGA Tour used to use a qualifying school process in order for players to earn a playing spot on the pro tour, but now the young players and talented veterans must first be tested by a regular slate of golf tournaments.
The 2014 edition of the BMW Charity Pro-Am offered a fun mix of golfers and celebrities enjoying the outdoor sport of golf. This event enjoys the support of the BMW Manufacturing plant based in Greenville, and the first class grandstands set up at the 18th green at Thornblade Club creates an atmosphere similar to a PGA tour event. The other courses played were The Reserve at Lake Keowee and Green Valley Country Club.
18th Hole at Thornblade Club in Greenville 
Congrats to 23-year old Max Homa from California for winning his first tournament at the BMW Pro-Am, earning him $117K in winnings. He fired a round of 63 on Sunday, including an eagle, to win by one stroke over Jonathan Randolph. Homa also takes home the distinctive trophy that is shaped like a steering wheel from a BMW. All of the players were invited to the BMW performance track earlier in the week to test their driving skills in a high-performance German auto.
Kiddie driving range on Tour
Each pro player is paired with either an amateur golfer or a celebrity golfer like Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who won a Super Bowl and still remains a football icon. If hockey is your sport, then NHL Hall Of Fame player Wayne Gretzky was on hand to sign autographs and pose for photos. Gretzky’s wife and son were also on hand to play in the tournament, but it was Wayne Gretzky’s team that took home the top spot in the amateur competition, with all winnings donated to charity.
There was no shortage of television stars on hand to play golf, and movie star Kevin Bacon turned up for a special concert by his Bacon Brothers Band. TV actors included Andy Buckley from The Office, Debbie Dunning from Home Improvement, Greg Ellis from 24, Dennis Haysbert from The Unit, Frankie Muniz from Malcolm in the Middle, Paula Trickey from Pacific Blue and funny man John O’Hurley from Seinfeld. While finishing up on Hole No. 18 O’Hurley approached the BMW booth for a cold beverage and was glad to swap some banter and photos to entertain the crowd.
Max Homa accepts the winner's check and trophy
Some professional golfers that have played on the tour and then moved up to the big leagues include Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedecker, Jim Furyk and more recently Bubba Watson. Watson won the BMW event in 2010, after finishing school at UGA in 2008, and he has since gone on to win a pair of green jackets at The Masters in 2012 and 2014. So the BMW event is going to continue to be a tough test of golf, which is required to allow the best players to move on to greater goals.

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

To view past blog entries about the PGA Tour click McGladrey Classic or 2012 PGA Championship.

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Saluda Arts Festival

2014 Arts Festival official poster
The fames Saluda Grade mural
The 11th annual Saluda Arts Festival was held under cool and cloudy conditions on May 17. The small town (see map) was packed to the hilt with folks who came to view the hand-crafted artwork created by local North Carolina artisans. There was lots of glass work, pottery, iron and other useful offerings. Three live bands played in the park just above Main Street and hot dogs were for sale in the library parking lot  to raise funds. From what I could tell, this was a very successful festival that signaled the beginning of the high season in Saluda. God Bless The Sumer Folks!

To view past blog entries about Saluda click on 50th Annual Coon Dog Day or Green River Games or The Orchard Inn or Nature Notes or Green River barbecue - Saluda Tailgate Market

View from the RR tracks of downtown Saluda

Late blooming azaleas - So Pretty

Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 Atlantic Cup: MacFarlane first to Newport

New York City to Newport Race Start!
In a dramatic turnaround from Leg One of the 2014 Atlantic Cup where Jeffrey MacFarlane finished last, he won the Second Leg from New York City to Newport, crossing the finish line on Sunday afternoon. The #116 boat navigated Block Island the best and never looked back on the way to shattering the course record by six hours and claim the second stretch race. Finishing in second place by just one minute and twenty-seconds is #54 Dragon Ocean Racing and third place goes to  Gryphon Solo II, the boat that was first to NYC. Pleiad finishes in fourth on Leg Two and Flatline took fifth. Flatline did not race in Leg one as schedules, since they were unable to reach Charleston in time for the 2014 race start. The boats will now compete for the overall title during the final day races held in Newport.

Team MacFarlane info

Lady Liberty and the #116 boat
 To view past blog entries for the 2014 Atlantic Cup click First to NYC or Race Start.

To view past blog entries from the Atlantic Cup click on 2013 or 2012.
In Port of Charleston

Thursday, May 15, 2014

2014 Edisto Island Open Land Trust - Spring Birding Trip

Dr. Sid Gauthreaux and John Girault and EIOLT birders

Three weeks ago wet weather wiped out a proposed birding trip on Edisto Island. In a twist of fate the trip was rescheduled for May 10, which happens to be International Migratory Bird Day. Greeted with sunshine, pleasant temps and even a nice breeze to hold back the mosquitoes, the birding tour had great luck in viewing songbirds including the painted bunting, and even a group of dunlin shorebirds on a brief Lowcountry layover during their annual trek to the breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
The birding trip was organized by the Edisto Island Open Land Trust (EIOLT) and led by two of their members, Dr. Sid Gauthreaux and Carroll Belser. The tour began on the property near their home at Sunnyside Plantation, which included a large agriculture field planted in winter wheat next to a live oak and pine tree habitat. The birding synergy that occurs in early spring on this barrier island soon became apparent to everyone with a pair of binoculars. For tips on birding gear click here.
A Royal Flush - Roseate Spoonbill over blue-winged teal
“It’s worth noting that the ground we are bird watching on is under a conservation easement since 2009,” said John Girault, EIOLT executive director. “EIOLT annually donates a portion of resources towards an education outreach component, and bird watching is a part of our Back To Nature Series.” Simply put, this type of trip allows members of the public to experience a privately held property that might not otherwise be accessible, in order to raise awareness about the environmental benefits derived from conservation.
The value of a live oak was clear to the birders on Saturday when a pair of yellow-throated warblers were spotted by their nest in a clump of Spanish moss suspended from an overhanging limb. The female was carrying nesting material in her mouth to the nest and the male was keeping watch over our group. “This is likely a second nest for these birds, since we are into late spring,” said Dr. Gauthreaux, a noted ornithologist.
A little further down the birding trail we encountered some scrub and shrub habitat where we found an immature male Orchard Oriole singing loudly. It is a striking yellow bird with a black patch on his throat, and while I already had Orchard Oriole on my birding Life List, this was the first immature male encountered. Soon a Northern Parula warbler has us aiming optics at that small but brightly colored bird, before it flitted away. To read about more sightings click my Birding Journal Observations

A total of twenty-seven species of birds were recorded in just an hour or so. We decided to change locations and visit a property with large freshwater wetlands that is under a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy, located near the old shrimp farm. At this location we recorded thirty-eight species of bird life over about two hours, before the tour ending at noon.

To view this story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past entries about EIOLT click Oyster Roast, Spring Birding or Conservation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2014 Atlantic Cup: Gryphon Solo II first to New York City

Gryphon Solo II making preparations in Charleston
It took a little less than four days for the first three boats to cross the finish line in New York City, after departing Charleston at noon on May 10. Gryphon Solo II claims the first leg of the 2014 Atlantic Cup Race, with one leg left to go up to Newport. However, there will be plenty of non-racing activities while the fleet lays in New York Harbor since this event continues to grow in stature each year. Finishing in second place for the first leg is Dragon Ocean Racing and finishing in third is Pleiad Racing. The #116 boat with Jeffrey MacFarlane finished in fourth and click here for race results.

To view past blog entries from the 2014 Atlantic Cup click here.

Team Details

Finish Line fun; light wind and strong tide

Here's a teachable moment about sailing

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 5/13/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
Cobia 'cut-back' Artwork
Inshore Report: Shane Clevenger at Charleston Angler in West Ashley shares a report from a local fishing guide. Captain Kevin Bair says that Folly Beach and Charleston anglers have a lot of options right now as a good variety of fish are now within reach. Bluefish and Spanish mackerel are eager to chase artificial plugs like 'Gotcha' lures and diamond jigs, and are both easy and fun to catch. Redfish and speckled trout and flounder continue to provide exciting action on soft plastics made by DOA lures and Z-man just to name a few. If using live bait, mud minnows under a popping cork, on a bottom rig, or even just on a jighead will catch just about everything inshore right now. Load up on fiddlers before heading to the jetties or the grillage cause the sheepshead bite is still good. Use mullet or menhaden if looking to catch a few sharks. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet at The Charleston Angler.

Scott Hammond at Hadrell's Point West reports that water temps are now holding well over 70-degrees now, and the usual suspects are showing up now - including the cobia! A strong flounder bite is going on around our inlets and harbor using live minnows and jerk shads. Spanish mackerel have shown up in good numbers all along the tideline, the front beaches, and in the harbor. A 1/2-ounce silver casting jig or #00 clarkspoon is all you need to catch and release schooling Spanish and bluefish. Trout reports have been a little bit spotty by the catch numbers, but those specks are in the 16 to 22-inch range, and they are falling for 17MR Mirrolures, Zman Streakz and the new savage gear shrimp. For all the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrells' Point.

Offshore Report: Scott says there can be NO Doubt that it is May off the S.C. coast, since the dolphin bite is now WIDE OPEN. With the pretty weather of late the bite has been everywhere from 130-feet to 1200-feet of water, and the dolphin have been good-sized gaffer fish. Blackfin tuna are being found in good numbers, and the wahoo are still hanging around the ledge. We are already hearing the first blue marlin and sailfish reports too. In the nearshore, the cobia are gathering at the artificial reefs, and some larger fish in the 45 to 70-pound range are coming to the store scales to weigh in. Try throwing a Hogy eel or Bomber bucktail to the cobia, and it never hurts to have some live baits ready too.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

2014 Offshore Fishing Tournament Calendar

Tourney Fishin' Pics and article in All At Sea magazine
Offshore Fishing Tournament Time is Now! Here is a Tourney Calendar for the Southeastern US that I compiled and published in All At Sea magazine. I enjoy attending these competitions when able and have done my best to list some of the top tier tourneys that I am aware of.

In most cases, the bait and the pelagic species of gamefish that consume them begin to stir in May and stay active all summer long. Participation in billfishing tournaments are a great way to get recreational anglers involved in the offshore game. What better way to test your metal than loading up a sportfisher boat with fishing gear and fishing friends in order to pursue a blue marlin on the open ocean.
Here's the tourney list on a .jpg
While some billfish tournaments are steeped in rich tradition such as this year’s 47th Annual Blue Marlin Tournament in Georgetown, South Carolina. Others have a more modern face with the best possible website and entertainment value such as the Blue Marlin Grand Championship in Alabama. 

Cover of the May 2014 issue
These friendly competitions do turn serious when the big money is on the line, but for the most part everyone is competing for the right to hoist a burgee flag once back in port. The upside down representation of a billfish signals that a billfish was hooked up, handled and released on that day, and it generally takes multiple flags to indicate the kind of success that might lead to a tourney WIN.

To view the Offshore Tournament Calendar click on All At Sea.

To view a past blog entry about the S.C. Governor's Cup Billfishing Series click 25th Anniversary.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

2014 Atlantic Cup Sailing Race Starts in Charleston

Start Line action photo for the 2014 Atlantic Cup Race
Dragon gives chase at sea
The 2014 Atlantic Cup Sailing Race is Underway from Charleston to New York and Newport!! When I stopped by the Charleston City Marina  on May 8 to visit with Race Logistics Director Hugh Piggin and Media Coordinator Julianna Barbieri, they told me that a fifth competitor did not make it to Charleston in tme to start the race due to headwinds. Therefore the 2014 fleet is a foursome of Class 40 sailboats, and some crews have more experience than others in the Atlantic Cup Race. There was talk of slack winds for the start early in the week, but by noon on May 10 the winds had filled in and sporty conditions allowed the fleet to use double-reefed mainsails at the start line. Heading into the Atlantic Ocean for a sleepless night of racing in favorable winds must be an exhilerating feeling, and the best of the 2014 Atlantic Cup lies ahead of them. First stop is New York City, and the shoreside events continue to offer strong support for this race. The final destination in Rhode Island is offering the most events ever in conjunction with this race that is said to be the most sustainable sailing race in America. They will have be using biodiesel when able, will offer composting and recycling of race office materials in an effort to stay carbon neutral. Here some more info and team details for the 2014 competitors, and we'll keep a close eye on the first sailboat to reach NYC!

To view past blog entries from the Atlantic Cup click on 2013 or 2012.

MegaDock flying Atlantic Cup flags
To view past blog entries about Charleston Race Week click 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 

To view past blog entries about the Charleston To Bermuda race click here.

To view past blog entries about the Velux 5 Oceans Race click here.

Facts about Class 40 Racing

Friday, May 9, 2014

2014 Spring Birding in Town and Country

Love this depiction of male and female scarlet tanager,
set against the North America / South America migration route

The extension of winter in 2014 through the month of April has focused the spring happenings in nature this year. When the flowers blossomed they all bloomed, as those who suffer sinus allergies can attest, and these blooms are usually followed by sightings of ruby-throated hummingbirds. As continued wet weather keeps the conditions in the Lowcountry more tropical, colorful migratory songbirds may choose to linger here a while longer.
The up and down weather pattern in April wasn’t more evident that the weekend of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head. The weekdays were sunny and pleasant, but by Friday three inches of rainfall were recorded along the coast. The cloudy and breezy conditions made wearing a golf shirt out of the question for the remainder of the weekend.

Flowering plants at this time include wisteria, dogwoods and late-blooming azaleas but a green up of vegetation is occurring wherein trees begin soaking in water and putting out fresh leaves. This process can dry out the woodlands quickly, but the heavy rains mentioned above served to replenish swamps and ditches overnight, making this the second wet spring in a row.

Black and White warbler spotted in downtown Charleston
These observations serve as intangibles when I say that the 2014 bird migration started a little late, much like those delayed blooms, and then a wide array of neotropical migratory songbirds began to show up in bunches. The careful birder will be able to record many memorable sightings into their logbook in May and beyond, including other species like swallow-tailed kites and wading birds like roseate spoonbills.

Celebrated every May 10
Birding is a great hobby all 365 days a year, but spring birding is by far the main event. There is an added anticipation of anything can happen, like when a scissor-tailed flycatcher was observed at the Santee Birding Festival. Colorful birds against a lush green backdrop are not hard to spot and they bring a flash of panache to our woods, and in some cases to our yards. Attracting songbirds takes dedication and like most endeavors, hard work can pay off over time.

What kind of colorful songbirds am I referencing? How about the neon red Summer tanager, and the equally red Scarlet tanager with his distinctive black wings. Three shades of blue are in season too, including the hue of the Indigo bunting, Blue grosbeak and the Eastern bluebird. And who can forget the Painted bunting and his coat of many colors that so many consider to be THE bird to see.

To view a photo of the painted bunting click for my Birding Journal Observations.

To read the remainder of my feature article in the newspaper click Charleston Mercury


Thursday, May 8, 2014

2014 King Kat Competition in Georgetown

Ralph Willey and Mark Lawson with the KING KAT from April 26

The freshwater fishing has been challenging this spring due to high water levels, but a couple of anglers who chase catfish found success in Georgetown County. The Cabela’s King Kat Tourney sent anglers into rivers like the Waccamaw, Sampit, Black and Santee to catch and release catfish. These Colleton County anglers took home the big catfish prize with a 32.36-pounder and took second place overall including a nice payday and plaque.
Congrats to the First Place Team

Ralph Willey of Walterboro and Mark Lawson of Round O have fished numerous catfish tourneys over the past few years in the Cooper River and the Santee Cooper Lakes. This time they were in the N. Santee River on April 25 and 26 in Lawson’s 24-foot Bentley pontoon boat rigged with a 90-horsepower Mercury and fourteen driftmaster rod holders.
The King Kat rules only allow six rods out at any one time, and all catfish must be weighed alive and then returned to the water. Their first day on the water was forgettable since they lost their electronics due to a blown fuse. With the river water levels high and up into the bank, having a working fishfinder to locate the structure where the catfish hang out was a must. They did manage to catch a few small catfish to weigh in but left the water early that day to make repairs.
Returning to the river the next morning at 6:30 a.m. they were able to zero in on a likely spot and elected to fish in about 18-feet of water. “We like to soak cut up river herring in a menhaden milk made by VooDoo offshore,” said Willey. “We were about 10-feet away from the bank when I dropped down a chunk of fish on a 6-ought Eagle Claw circle hook. I use an Ugly Stik rod and my Abu Garcia reel is spooled up with green 30-pound test Stren.”
Team Matherly finished in Third Place
The team had caught two small fish early but the bite at 8:30 a.m. was the big one. The river current was running hard and Willey grabbed the rod and fought the fish for 15-minutes. Using a landing net they placed the catfish in a 100-gallon tank on the boat that is powered by a small aerator. They wondered if the big catfish would be ok in their tank, and it soon began to float sideways and show signs of stress.
They called the King Kat weigh station at 10:30 a.m. and said to get ready for them to come weigh the fish. Their quick action ensured that the catfish was weighed and released in good shape, and they also ended up taking the Big Cat cash prize of $470. “We lost another catfish that was the same size or bigger when he was fighting hard under the boat,” said Lawson. “Yep, if we had landed that fish I think we would have won the tourney, but that’s fishing.”
Finishing in first place was Brian Tanner of Hemingway and Bryon Lavoie of Andrews with a two-day total of 108.68-pounds of catfish, good for the $4000 first place payout. Each team is allowed to weigh in five catfish per day and the winning team weighed in a total of ten flathead catfish, with the largest being 17.18-pounds, caught in the Waccamaw River.
Willey and Lawson weighed in a two-day total of 82.84-pounds of catfish and took home the $2000 second place prize, plus the Big Cat braggin’ rights. Third place went to James Matherly of Pamlico and Dennis Matherly of Florence for weighing 80.62-pounds of catfish good for $1000, fishing in the Pee Dee River. Besides cash and prizes anglers were qualifying for the King Kat Championships coming October 3 and 4 on Lake Wateree in Camden.

To read this feature story in the newspaper click Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about the King Kat Competition click here.