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Ecology Trip to St Phillips Island, South Carolina

In keeping with the philosophy of HHPYC, which is to explore and enjoy this wonderful low country as much as possible, HHPYC arranged for an ecology tour to St. Phillips Island on April 11. Our adventure began when 29 HHPYC members and guests convened at the Russ Point Boat landing on Hunting Island on a beautiful sunny 68-degree morning. A 45 minute boat ride took us to St. Philips on the Story River. Enjoying this trip together provided wonderful opportunities to share common interests and learn from one another and from the questions asked.

St. Phillips is approximately 5,000 acres of untouched barrier island wilderness. The island is written up as “being settled by indigenous cultures thousands of years ago”. Formerly owned by Ted Turner of CNN fame, the island was a refuge for him and his family. Prior to selling the Island to SC Department of Natural Resources, Mr. Turner protected the island through an easement with the Nature Conservancy forever positioning this Eden as wild.

Our trip was led by Claire of Coastal Expeditions who did a masterful job pointing out all sorts of wildlife, shore and water based. Claire has a formal education and deep background in ecology and the environment and she was able to tell stories about the tidal systems, their impact on the ecosystem, and how the thick thatches of spartina grass hide species of fish from the feeding dolphins. She pointed out many different species of shore birds including a young eagle who impressed us with his wing span when he took to flight. Did you know that osprey will occupy an eagle’s nest once the young eagles have flown the nest? We saw bonnethead sharks feeding at the shore and a mink running to hide in the spartina grass. We learned about white pelicans and the feeding habits of different pelicans. She taught us how the low country oysters grow and feed in the tidal basins. We were entertained by playful dolphins who swam along with the boat.

Once we arrived at St. Phillips we jumped on a tram for a 30 minute ride to the beach where we enjoyed our picnic lunches and walked the long stretch of untouched sands.

“As you venture into the untamed wilderness, you quickly discover the stunning beauty of the primordial landscape, thick with towering longleaf pines, old-growth magnolias and gnarled live oaks covered in Spanish moss. The trails take you past freshwater ponds, between brackish sloughs and over sand dune ridges to experience a variety of ecosystems and wetland habitats. Traveling the length of the island, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the salt marsh, Trenchards Inlet and a ‘boneyard’ beach scattered with the weather-beaten remnants of trees.”

Keep an eye on our website for future trips that might entice the curious and entertain those wanting to learn more about our beautiful low country.

Malcolm Maclennan, Member at Large

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