January 2016 Nature Notes
Kiawah Island Nature Program
Hanging out - cormorants
This month's photo of a cormorant pool party was taken by the Christmas Bird Count boat crew. This was probably the largest grouping of cormorants our Naturalists had ever seen - the "quick count" was around 80 birds! To read more about this year's count, check out the bottom article! Submit your wildlife photos to be featured in next month's Nature Notes.
Ask a Naturalist
Between the Christmas holiday and New Year's, the Nature Center got a lot of calls about weird blue bags washing up on the beach. These guys look unassuming and nonthreatening if you're not sure what you're looking at, but they pack a mighty punch.
This little plastic bag-looking thing (pictured below) is actually a Portuguese Man o' War, a marine cnidarian, whose venomous tentacles can [frighteningly enough] reach up to 50 feet in length. Though it looks like a jellyfish, the Man o' War is actually a siphonophore - a multicelluar, colonial organism made up of little individual organisms called zooids. These zooids are clustered, and are divided into three categories, making the siphonophore: dactylozooid (defense), gonozooid (reproduction), and gastrozooid (feeding). The dactylozooids make up the long tentacles, each of which bears stinging, venom-filled nematocysts. Contractile cells in each tentacle capture food and and bring it towards the digestive gastrozooids.
At its head, the Man o' War also sports a gas-filled air sac, the size of which is determined by the size of the siphonphore, called a pneumatophore, or "sail." Carbon monoxide is generated by the gas gland, and can fill the sail to about 14% carbon monoxide. The sail is also equipped with a siphon, so in the event of a surface attack, it can quickly deflate the bladder and submerge itself to stay hidden. 
Join our Naturalists on a Winter Wonders Walk to learn more about the cool things that wash up on the beach!
Tiny Mon o' War
What other siphonophore has gained Nature Notes fame in the past few months? Email us your guess, and tune in next month for the answer!!
Peregrine Falcon
Check out the latest Wildlife Sightings on our website, as well as our Facebook, to see what Naturalists and guests are seeing on Kiawah. In early December, Town Biologists Aaron Given and Jim Jordan spotted this Peregrine Falcon on the beach with his Sanderling lunch! Send us your photos of what you're seeing around the island!
Drop Us a Line!
Have a wildlife question? Want to get in contact with us? Have a thought for next month's issue? We'd love to hear from you! Email us here!
Do you love loggerhead sea turtles? So do we! In late 2015, the Kiawah Conservancy put out this beautiful video documenting a mother turtle's nesting journey. Check this out!!
Loggerhead Documentary
Christmas Bird Count - January 4th, 2016
The Christmas Bird Count began in the early 19th century, but not in the way that we know it today. Many North Americans at that time would participate in traditional Christmas "side hunts," wherein they would compete to see how many birds they could kill - regardless of whether or not the birds were useful or beneficial, or just beautiful or rare. Thankfully, in Decemeber of 1900, US Ornithologist Frank Chapman (founder of Bird-Lore magazine, which later became Audubon magazine) proposed that the birds be counted, not killed. 
The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running citizen science bird project in the nation. Running from December 14th to January 5th, tens of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers conduct this "bird census," providing population data to be used in conjunction with various conservation biology programs, including Audubon's yearly Climate Change report, The Common Birds in Decline report, as well as being used by the EPA as evidence in their own reports. 
Four hours in Kiawah's saltmarsh yielded us 770 birds, representing over 38 different species. That was just from one zone! Some of us (well, me, actually) underestimated the weather, and were, therefore, totally freezing on the boat. Our boat crew also spotted an American Mink - not a bird for our count, but definitely a super neat addition to a freezing cold day! 
Ally Valladares, Naturalist
CBC Sea Island Territories - Kiawah 2016
Kiawah's Christmas Bird Count Territories. There are 15 territories for the Sea Islands area; of those, Kiawah boasts 5.
CBC Crew 2016
Counterclockwise from top: Naturalists Brogin van Skoik, Anna Kimelblatt, Ally Valladares; Nature Program Manager Kristen Lococo; and Assistant Director of Outdoor Programs Jake Feary.

Heron Park Nature Center

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