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A mystery in the ponds? Oh what can it be!
A mystery in the ponds? Oh what can it be!
July 2014
Photo of the Month
This picture of a Green Tree Frog is from our very own Jamie Rood while leading her Nature Photography Tour.  Send us your nature photos for your chance to be featured in the Photo of the Month.

A Mystery in the Ponds

This past month, guests sent in pictures of an alligator feeding on something in its mouth. After looking through the pictures and gaining the insight of others, it was determined that the gator was eating an eel. This surprised all of the naturalists for none of us had ever spotted an eel in one of the ponds around Kiawah. 
These snake-like fish are long and slimy with a thick mucous coating covering the scales. Females are larger than males and may grow up to five feet long. Eels have a pointed head with a long mouth, the lower jaw often protruding past the upper jaw. The color of an eel is determined by the eel's habitat and age. In muddy habitats, eels will appear darker than ones in a clearer sandy habitat. Older eels are a dark brown to green with a yellow to white belly. Juvenile eels are transparent, gradually becoming darker as they age.
The long mouth of an eel is ideal for preying upon worms, small fish, amphibians, and small crustaceans such as shrimp. They are mostly nocturnal, burying themselves in mud or in dense vegetation to hunt for prey or to hide from predators. Larger fish, birds, and apparently alligators like to prey on eels. 

Eel larvae, known as a "glass eel"

Eels are very unique animals and not much was known about eels until recent years. What makes the eel so different is that it is catadromous, meaning they spend most of their life in freshwater, but must travel into salt water to spawn. The American Eel starts its life as eggs in the Sargasso Sea, located just beyond the Gulf Stream in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As the eels hatch into tiny larvae called "glass eels", they drift towards the Eastern Coast in ocean currents. This process may take years to complete! Eels will then mature and grow once they have reached the coast.  Most eels will swim upstream into freshwater rivers and streams while some will stay in brackish bays. These eels will have to make this journey again and return to their birth waters in the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die. Some eels live for 20 years in freshwater before they return to the Sargasso Sea.
So the next question is, how did this eel get into Kiawah's ponds? All the ponds are managed by the Lakes Department through the Kiawah Island Community Association. Most of these ponds are man-made and have drainage structures that allow inflow from the marsh, promoting water exchange. Eel larvae may have drifted in with the tides and survived in the ponds. They can navigate through many obstacles and can even climb over rocks. Eels also have they ablity to absorb oxygen through their skin, allowing them to survive out of the water for several hours.  So don't be surprised to catch an eel the next time you go fishing in one of Kiawah's ponds.
To learn more about the wildlife living in our pond's habitats, join a naturalist on a Kiawah's Creatures tour.

Naturalist, Kristen Lococo

Sea Turtle Nesting

Our first Loggerhead Sea Turtle nest hatched on July 15th! After three days, Turtle Patrol will evaluate the nest to see how many eggs hatched, if there are hatchlings still needing help to the water, and how many eggs did not hatch. As of the 31st of July, we have 114 nests on Kiawah.


Register today for Kiawah Island's Triathlon. Challenge yourself to a .7 mile swim, 25.1 miles of biking, and a 6.1 mile run.

Wildlife as we see it

View our wildlife webpage to see what naturalists and guests are seeing on our tours and Kiawah.

Kiawah island marathon

Register today for our 37th annual marathon and half-marathon! Not looking to run but still want to be involved?  We always need volunteers!

Snake Eggs Hatch

Back in April, our cornsnake at the Nature Center laid some eggs. Earlier this month, the eggs finally hatched! We released these tiny guys near one of the ponds. Shortly after, another guest brought in what appears to be Black Racer eggs. Stay tuned to see when they hatch!
Picture by Juliana Smith

Upcoming Events

Join us every Tuesday night on the Sanctuary lawn for a complimentary presentation from the Birds of Prey, including flight demonstrations. 
7pm - 8pm
Sanctuary Lawn
After shucking some oysters, come on one of our sunset cruises to view the marsh. Cruises are 30 minutes long and offered every 45 minutes. Bring your favorite cocktail!
5:30pm - 8:45pm
Mingo Point
Join the largest one day volunteer cleanup event of its kind in SC. Keep our Kiawah River clean with a day of trash pick up while kayaking on the river.
September 20th
Mingo Point
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