Hello from the Nature Program at Kiawah Island Golf Resort!
We hope that this little dose of nature puts a smile on your face today. We will be posting regular videos and lessons on our Facebook page - linked at the bottom of this edition of Nature Notes - to help you and your family connect with nature at Kiawah Island. Thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to seeing you on the island soon!

Video of the Month

This month's featured video comes to us courtesy of Naturalist, Jake Goodrum. These little invertebrates, pictured above in his hand, have taken over the waters of the Kiawah River! During the very low tides we experienced earlier this month around March's full moon phase, the shallow waters exposed an entire diverse invertebrate community. Sea Whips (Leptogorgia virgulata), Knobbed whelks (Busycon carica), Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris), and Red Beard Sponge (Microciona prolifera) are just a few of the organisms that can be seen during a paddle or boat ride. However, even more impressive is when you have to do a double take because the substrate just beneath the surface of the water doesn't look quite normal. That's because it is packed with Sea Cucumbers (Pentamera pulcherrima)! These Echinoderms are related to sea stars, sand dollars, and sea urchins even though they look much different. They have radial symmetry and a tube-like body that is tapered at each end. They have five rows that run horizontally down their body made up of tube feet, allowing them to move along the floor of whatever salty body of water that they are in and graze. Click the photo above to see just how dense these Sea Cucumbers are as Naturalist, Jake gently picks them up. 

Conservation Matters

"The bees life is like a magical well; the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water." - Karl Von Frisch, German Nobel Laureate who decoded the bee waggle dance in 1950
In our off season, we like to get our learning on! In January, we were able to listen in on a talk about bees by Debbie Fisher of the Charleston Area Beekeepers Association put on by the Kiawah Conservancy. We learned all about these important pollinators, and since spring is right around the corner, we thought what better time to share what we learned with you!
There are three kinds of bees that live in a hive: the queen, the drones, and the workers. There can only be one queen, and you can differentiate her from the other bees because of her long abdomen. The drones are easily identifyable because their heads and eyes are so much larger than any other bees. Drones are all male and their whole purpose is to mate with the queen. Once they have fullfilled this destiny, they will pass away. Now, the worker bees are all female as well as the only ones that can sting you. Technically, the queen can sting you; however, it is very unusual for her to leave the nest. The queen lays around 2,000 eggs every day and it is the job of the worker bees to feed and care for the eggs and larvae using royal jelly. More than half the royal jelly fed to future bees is water with the rest being a combination of proteins and sugars secreted by the worker bees. After the first three or four days, the developing bees are switched to a diet consisting of pollen and honey, however, the queen will be fed royal jelly exclusively for her life. 
You may be curious and wonder: how do the honey bees find their flowers? Incredibly, bees can see the ultraviolet light used by flowers, guiding the bees to where their nectar is hidden. They can even sense the electrical fields in flowers at a distance equal to three of their body lengths! The bee's flight creates a positive charge, while the flowers have a negative charge. When the bee lands on the flower, the pollen will magnetically stick to the bee. As the bee travels between flowers, collecting nectar to bring back to the hive, she collects and deposits pollen from flower to flower, assisting in the pollination process. Once a bee has found an adequate flower patch, they will fly back to the hive and perform one of three dances for the other bees so that they can communicate where those flowers are in relation to their hive. If the flowers are closer, they will perform a "round dance", and if they are farther away, they will perform a "waggle dance". If the flowers are an intermediate distance from the hive, the bees perform their "sickle-shaped dance". Once the bees have collected enough nectar to fill their "honey stomachs" they head back to their hive and pass the nectar to other worker bees who chew on the nectar for about half an hour. They pass it from worker bee to worker bee until it becomes honey, which they will store in the cells of the honeycomb and then fan with their wings until it cools. 
Check out the video below to learn more about the waggle dance, and how they use this for communication. Read some of the facts below to learn just how valuable bees are. Thinking of starting your own pollination garden? Make sure to do your research! Check out this website for a guide to native plants, pollinators, and some good tips for how to start in your area!
Did you know?
Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs that would still be edible today because of its amazing antimicrobial properties!
There are close to 20,000 bee species in the world and 4,000 of those are native to the United States. These various bees pollinate approximately 75% of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the United States. 
One out of every four bites of food people take is courtesy of bee pollination!
Bee pollination is responsible for more than 15 BILLION dollars in increased crop value every year!
- Naturalist, Samantha Hart
Azalea's lining a path around Night Heron Park

What's Blooming?

April showers bring May flowers... But actually, April brings flowers too! While you're on Kiawah, try and spot some of our flowering plants that are beginning to bring color back to the island. Carolina Jessamine (South Carolina's state flower), Azalea, Coral Honeysuckle, Prickly Pear Cactus, and Wild Geranium are just some of the plants we can expect to see flowering in the coming month! Kiawah Island has created an easy to use Native Plant Database, giving you ample information about 200 different plant species that have adapted to survive the sometimes harsh environment on Kiawah and what each one needs in order to grow successfully on the island! 

Migration, Migration, Migration 

As you're watching out for pops of color around Kiawah, you should also keep an eye out for all of the different bird species that will be setting up shop, prepping to spend their summer on the island! Summer tanagers, Orchard orioles, Painted buntings, Eastern kingbirds, Great crested flycatchers, Barn swallows, and Ruby-throated hummingbirds are just a few of the species that will be arriving in the coming month. You can also expect to see songbirds, Common moorhens, Green herons working hard on their nests and protecting their eggs. On the beach, keep an eye out for our Shorebird Stewards protecting migratory and nesting shorebirds: Least terns, Wilson's plovers, Black skimmers, and American Oystercatchers are some of those just diving into the nesting process. Birds of prey like Osprey, hawks, Great horned owl and Eagle chicks are hatching and will be fledging soon. Unfortuately, we will be bidding good luck and farewell to some of our winter residents: Yellow-rumped warblers, Tree swallows, Kinglets, Hermit thrush, Sparrows, and Sapsuckers. 

The Nature Center's Animal of the Month: 

Kemosabe the Diamondback Terrapin
Kemosabe is one of our resident Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), a unique turtle species that we find in the salt marshes surrounding Kiawah Island. These reptiles have a wide distribution along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Corpus Christi, Texas. Females grow to be larger than the males, reaching lengths up to 9.8 inches while males may only grow to 5.5 inches. As you can see on Kemosabe, above, their skin is white to gray and covered in dark spots or blotches (kind of like Dalmatians!). Their coloration is highly variable and Kemosabe has a very dark gray carapace, sometimes they even have a moustache on their beak! You can also see Diamondback Terrapins that are much lighter with carapace hues of yellows or oranges and concentric rings on each of their scutes. Because they are a terrapin species, they have nice big webbed feet with claws, allowing them to swim proficiently, but also climb up onto banks when they want to warm up their blood, like Kemosabe is doing in the photo! In the wild, they typically feed on mollusks and crustaceans such as periwinkle snails and Fiddler Crabs, however on Kiawah, we feed them a rotating diet of nutritional pellets, krill, shrimp, and small fish. 
Unbelievably, Diamondback Terrapins almost became extinct during the 20th century. They were overharvested for meat, being sold across the globe in quantities of 400,000 pounds every year. During the Great Depression, their populations were able to make a slight recovery, although today they are being exported overseas in growing quanities. More imminent threats include habitat loss due to the diking, dredging, and filling of salt marshes and surrounding maritime forests where they lay their nests. Increased pollution and runoff such as sediments and sewege, make their habitat unlivable. They are often found after drowning in crab pots, or females are killed while they are crossing the road to lay their nests. 
Luckily, there is much we can do to help this species! If you see a turtle in the road, just give it time to cross or if you feel comfortable and the situation is safe, you can help it along by picking it up and walking it to the side of the road it was facing. Don't try and take it somewhere you think it is safe, like a new pond or location, it was crossing the road for a reason! If you plan on using a crab pot, you can add a bycatch reduction device to it which allows the turtles, which are a swimming species, to swim to the top of the pot and slip out while the crabs, who will stay on the bottom, won't be able to leave. Lastly, reducing the amount of trash and plastics you use, riding a bike instead of driving when you can, making sure to throw away trash and recycle what you can are all simple solutions that can make a big impact not only on our terrapins, but on our habitat in general! 
Next time you're visiting our Nature Center, make sure you stop by to say hello to Kemosabe and the other Diamondback Terrapins that he lives with! Stay tuned for next month's Nature Notes to meet another of our Ambassador Animals! 

Upcoming Events

We offer a variety of nature-based programming all year long, and with the warm weather approaching we will be adding even more eco-tours for your family to enjoy! From Wake Up Walks on the beach to Pluff Mud Paddles in the marsh and everything in between, we have something that is sure to please everyone in your group! Click on the button below to see what other programs we will be offerin during your visit. Don't forget to call the Nature Center at the number on the bottom of the page with any questions and to make your reservation today!
Event Calendar
Heron Park Nature Center
Opens daily at 8:30 a.m.
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