Rainbow in the morning…

On the Bull Island ferry Caretta, we headed south down the waterway toward  the southern end of the island. Our passengers included myself as a guide for our beach walk, 21 walkers, our captain Chris Crolley, his wife Kari (and her sister) along with their daughter Olivia, on her maiden voyage on Caretta.oliviacapt

Photo credit: Kelley Whitley

Thunderstorms loomed in the early morning, the darkest clouds appearing in the vicinity of our drop-off beach. Always observant Chris pointed out a rainbow ahead, and mentioned to the group about “Rainbow in the morning”. On our afternoon return he informed the group that he had looked up the saying and it concluded “Rainbow in the morning, donate”, referring to our mission in organizing the Walk on the Edge – fundraising for the Cape Romain turtle program. I did not share then or later my understanding of the old mariner’s adage – “Rainbow in the morning, sailor take warning”. We had no thunderstorm issues at our disembarkation.

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PHOTO CREDIT: heidi alton

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PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Kussard

The cloudy atmosphere was serendipitous, sparing us a broiling sun for most of our seven mile walk. rainbow03

PHOTO CREDIT: Jack Buchanan

Our diverse group included some serious walkers/hikers, and my guidance to walk at your own pace was taken literally with the group stretched out along the beach. We had come to raise money for the turtle program, and so were also looking for turtle sign. I had planned a rendezvous with Jim Hawkins, my old turtle program friend and volunteer who was out on turtle patrol duties.  After his sweep of the beach, I learned via a phone call that there were no new nests, but up the beach there was a false crawl (also known as a non-nesting event.) We did get together to speak with Jim, and talk all things turtle, including some of the findings of the genetic survey. Jim left a ATV donut on the beach ahead marking the false crawl, and we took a look at the tracks of the mother’s visit the previous night. rainbow06

PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

Earlier we had taken a closer look at one of the marked nests, the #1 signifying the first nest of the season on the island, and in fact on the refuge. rainbow04

PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

Since it was day 58 for that nest, it would hatch out any night now. I did point out one of the predators prepared to make a meal of a hatchling: the ghost crab. rainbow02

PHOTO CREDIT: brian kussard

Several of our group wondered when one could see turtles, and I shared that the best time was at night when the island was off limits. A few of our group commented on the trash scattered along the beach, and inquired about opportunities to help collect and remove this debris. A few larger items appeared in several spots – large sandbags. jacksandbag

PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

These deposits were from a controversial protection project at Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms that had received complaints, including from a Dewees Island group. It seemed an early version of what my home section of the coast in New Jersey had become: a hardening of the shore, with rock jetties jutting out from the beach into the Atlantic every hundred yards, and in places solid high rock bulkheads replacing sand dunes. The New Jerseyization of the shoreline: destructive, unfortunate, and eventually futile. When will we ever learn? Our scattered group came together at the Boneyard as we stopped to explore, eat lunch, and cool off in the ocean.heidi2

PHOTO CREDIT: heidi alton

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PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Kussard

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PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

As usual the group fell under the spell of this ghost forest. We were confronted again with thunder, this time from the mainland. Tempting fate, I wondered if our group had a protective halo carrying us along. The southeast wind finally stirred and gave a little cooling air movement. The osprey nest built in a live oak tree standing erect out in the water was vacant today, though in May a pair attended to their young.rainbow08

PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

We were well ahead of schedule on our walk, and I provided the opportunity for interested explorers to take a look at the island’s interior via a trail connection to the road system off of the Boneyard: a mosquito survey would be a bonus. I was surprised when over half the group made the climb up the berm to the trail. As they disappeared into the maritime forest I joked with the remaining group about “lightening up” Caretta for the return cruise. The group returned, some earlier than others, driven back by a high mosquito count. I reflected on the rationale for not doing a long interior walk as part of this hike, and reserving those plans for winter. Past the Boneyard we continued to reap the rewards of walking the strand on a falling tide. As usual, birds congregated at the Waiting Beach. rainbow09

PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

We encountered two tidal creeks requiring a crossing, the second featuring a wonderful and transient waterfall. rainbow11

PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

I had discussed the dynamic nature of the island all along the strand, and once again the eroded dike system at Jack’s Creek was a focal point for the discussion. I had just learned from Chris about concrete plans and funding for building a check dike across the 750 acre Jack’s Creek impoundment in preparation for the inevitable breach. The outcome would leave a portion of the large pond fresh/brackish water to support migratory waterfowl. We took the quick circuit around the remaining secondary dike here, and noticed new inhabitants occupying the water feature between the beach and this short curved dike – about ten alligators, the first I had observed in this pool.heidi3

PHOTO CREDIT: HEIDI ALTON

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PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

A similar number of squawking black-necked stilts flew around, their sounded alarms suggesting nesting behavior. The stilts were new for most of our group, as was a white pelican out on Jacks’s Creek. This short side jaunt off the beach allowed us to enter a most different aquatic and avian world. We returned to civilization at the Northeast point where a number of boaters moored along the beach, and relaxed on the strand. We had plenty of time to rest and cool off in the inlet prior to Caretta coming into view for our pickup. On our return cruise, a most pleasurable ride allowing our group to interact and process the day, we had a memorable and stimulating port/starboard moment. As I chatted with Chris by the helm the forward passenger on the port side pointed out fins cutting the water right next to the oyster bank. It was clearly a bonnethead shark feeding along the edge. Only several of our group saw the fins before Caretta’s wake on the bank closed down the shark’s show. Attention quickly turned to starboard and the appearance of a dolphin, followed by a sizable dolphin pod. rainbow12

 PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Kussard

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PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

Soon Caretta had a list to starboard with all hands on that rail. A couple just moved to the Lowcountry from Arizona were earlier thrilled by a dolphin sighting at the Boneyard, so this up close and personal interaction with a pod upped the experience. We pointed out the particular character of the dorsal fins providing identification marks for marine biologist researchers. Both Chris and the pod circled to continue the interaction, and we could only wonder at the cetaceans’ experience and consciousness.heidi4

PHOTO CREDIT: HEIDI ALTON

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PHOTO CREDIT: JACK BUCHANAN

Having had a little “rest” after dinner, I headed down to our landing to hopefully get a glimpse of the July supermoon’s rising. Despite the cloud cover,  a section of the moon appeared as if a white building was plopped down on the island’s Northeast point in the distance. The moon continued to dance and grapple with the low clouds until finding clear skies overhead, sailing free and sparkling on the channel’s swollen waters. As if this was not enough, a dolphin appeared and cruised by within ten yards of the pier head. I was grateful to not be asleep.rainbow15

7 thoughts on “Rainbow in the morning…

  1. Beautiful Bob! Thanks for the continuing posts. Wish I was there with you all and congrats to Chris and Kari on their daughters maiden voyage to Bull Island. You have a good photographic eye as well.

    • A number of the group was asking when I would plan a next guided hike. Will definitely plan a winter excursion when we can explore the island’s interior fully, and hopefully you can join us then. Speaking of photographic eye, I borrowed the eyes of several of our walkers for the images.

  2. Thanks to Bob for a wonderful posting after another outstanding walk on Bulls Is. And especially a BIG THANK YOU to those who ventured forth for the day. The island is a very special place and I am glad you had such a wonderful day. If you folks have not been on the island in winter, I urge you to join Bob & Chris when they venture out there again. The interior is also spectacular and the walk around Jacks Creek Pond is always worth the time. Ginny

    • As I have already said, Chris and Coastal Ex did the heavy lifting for the trip, and I just did the “walk in the park”. A Jacks Creek walk-around might be in order for the next hike.

      • Bob, you and Chris (Coastal Expeditions) working together make wonderful things happen. Each of you contributes your resources and talents and are so generous not just with the SEWEE (Friends of Coastal South Carolina) but for what you do, each in your own way, to educate others and convey your love and enthusiasm for this special place we call home.

  3. Excellent photos! This was a wonderful adventure and I would definitely love to do this again! Thanks Bob for sharing all your wisdom and passion for this beautiful area! I cannot wait for the winter excursion!

    Heidi

    • And thank you Heidi with your own passion for the natural world, and for sharing photos, too. I updated this post to include several of your images. Yes, we will plan a winter hike where we can fully access the island’s interior.

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