ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT HAS BECOME A HOLIDAY TRADITION

As part of the world’s largest and longest-running citizen science project, bird lovers in more than 2,500 locations in the Western Hemisphere will participate in the 118th Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Between Dec. 14 and Jan, 5, each group will cover a 15-mile radius and tally the birds spotted.

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE ENDS IN THE REAL SOUTH

Having worn out the old route from Hilton Head Island, where I grew up, to college in Charleston along S.C. 17, it was only a matter of time before I started taking detours. “Into the exit zone” I would call it — the deep, green South. In just a few years of taking this route, I saw the old South recede under the pressures of development. The highway expanded, displacing an old, painfully nostalgic Texaco station, and my search for the essence of what was left grew ever more urgent. Overgrown in kudzu, the barns would speak to me. Shrouded by oaks, the darker the road, the better. And it was on one of these countless forays that I chanced upon the bridge to nowhere.

swampland2SWAMPLAND IS THE HEART OF LOWCOUNTRY

“Swamps settled South Carolina,” Todd Ballentine explained during an interview. The environmental consultant added: “It wasn’t cotton. It was rice that first settled South Carolina.” And there would be no rice without swamps. Luckily, South Carolina is still home to prime freshwater wetlands and many traces of the heyday of rice cultivation. On Hilton Head Island, in fact, lies a clue in the heart of Sea Pines Forest Preserve. The Boggy Gut swamp was once used to cultivate rice using a method established by West African slaves with knowledge passed down from their ancestors.

LOCAL GROUP AIMS TO BAN PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS, WHICH ARE A DANGER TO MARINE LIFE

Plastic shopping bags, a popular convenience item, may soon no longer be available at your local grocery store. And for good reason: They are especially dangerous to coastal communities because they clog waterways, endanger sea creatures like birds, turtles and dolphins, and fill landfills and trash piles.

“GIVE A MAN A FISH, AND YOU FEED HIM FOR A DAY,” THE OLD SAYING GOES. “TEACH A MAN TO FISH, AND YOU FEED HIM FOR A LIFETIME.”

That’s true for women and kids, too, and a group of longtime fishermen from Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church is out to teach the skill to anyone who wants to learn.

HURRICANE SEASON IS UNDERWAY AND IT’S A GREAT TIME TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE PREPARED.

THE SEASON IS FROM JUNE 1 TO NOV. 30, WITH THE HIGHEST PROBABILITY FOR A STORM STARTING MID-AUGUST AND ENDING LATE SEPTEMBER.

Since 1804, 12 hurricanes have had an impact on the area. The most recent was Hurricane Hugo in 1989. No damage was done on Hilton Head Island, but the mandatory evacuation took an economic toll. Floyd also came close in 1999, but only resulted in a few downed branches (although anyone who went through that evacuation will tell you it was a challenge, to say the least).

The ocean has been creeping closer for a long time, reaching higher onto our beaches, spilling onto our docks and roads, and lapping at our way of life. It has been a beloved neighbor, but it is not a welcome guest.

And most climate scientists say the ocean is not going to stop knocking on our doors.

“We have the data and we can’t ignore it,” said Kate Schaefer, Coastal Conservation League’s south coast director.

SAY YOUR PRAYERS AND PREPARE YOUR RITES — A RARE SOLAR ECLIPSE WILL GRACE THE LOWCOUNTRY ON MONDAY, AUG. 21.

Like a Beethoven symphony, the climax will be as short as it is powerful when the moon blots out the sun for about a minute. But for three hours, the two celestial orbs will converge in a dance that has its own name: syzygy (pronounced SIS-igy). No tickets are required for this matinee performance, starting at 1:13 p.m. and ending at 4:06 p.m. However, using special sunglasses is a must (Amazon has certified safe shades starting $14).

Gardens help attract colorful insects to the Lowcountry

Summer is the perfect opportunity to interact with butterflies in the Lowcountry, as their peak season falls between June and August. 

The dainty, often colorful insects get their energy from the heat, and the warmer the weather, the faster their metabolism works — and the faster the caterpillars turn into butterflies, according to Carlos Chacaon, the manager or natural history at the Coastal Discovery Museum.

Get out on the water during the second annual Keep The Broad Creek Clean Festival.

Conservation is written into the DNA of Hilton Head Island. From the time the first shovel full of dirt was pulled up in Sea Pines, the island has been developed in a way that works with nature, respecting the ecological wonder we call home.