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web-coyotes
If you believe the tales, coyotes are everywhere on Hilton Head Island. Until five years, it was mostly urban legend and many cases of mistaken identity. But a funny thing happened among all the storytelling. Coyotes literally made their way down U.S. 278 and on to the island. While we are far from an outbreak situation, experts caution that the migratory predator is here to stay, like it or not.

TABLETOP FOUNTAINS, GARDEN ART, DECORATIVE PLANTERS HIGHLIGHT 2014 GARDEN TRENDS

gardenmay17Gardeners have known for centuries that their pastime has a calming and -- forgive the pun -- grounding effect. Now, science confi rms what we already know on a subliminal level.

Researchers have reported in the journal Neuroscience that contact with a bacteria in soil triggers the release of serotonin in our brains, which improves mood and learning. We’re naturally wired to want more time in the garden – to “play” in the dirt – and to bring plants inside our homes and offices to reduce stress and anxiety. The biggest trends in gardening for 2014 involve the evolution of our outdoor spaces as we spend more of our leisure time outdoors, and bring more live plants indoors.

BEAUTIFUL TREES AND PLANTS, FLOWERS IN A RIOT OF COLORS, STONE WALKWAYS AND PERGOLAS AWAIT THE VISITORS WHO TAKE PART IN GARDEN TOURS THIS MONTH IN HILTON HEAD ISLAND AND SUN CITY IN BLUFFTON.

gardenmay14For those of an historic persuasion, there will be a tea in Old Town Bluffton with scones and desserts and a fashion show of vintage dresses dating back to the 1800s.

The Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, which is putting on the tea, is considering adding a garden tour next year to its repertoire of walking historic tours.

The 27th annual All Saints Garden Tour, the granddaddy of the garden tours sponsored by All Saints Episcopal Church, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 17, and has the theme of “A Potpourri of Gardens.” It will feature seven home gardens and the gardens of Hilton Head Island High School.

WHAT ANIMAL HAS 10 EYES, TELLS TIME WITH ITS TAIL, CHEWS WITH ITS LEGS AND IS 445 MILLION YEARS OLD?

crabhorsesIf you guessed a horseshoe crab you are correct! The American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) is an amazing creature that can be found in our coastal waters and sometimes on our beaches. The horseshoe crab is not a true crab like a blue crab or ghost crab. Although it is related to true crabs, the horseshoe crab is surprisingly even more closely related to spiders and scorpions.

The horseshoe crab spends most of its time moving along the ocean floor like a small tank, eating shellfish, worms and dead and decaying matter. Ten walking legs, a mouth, two chelicera (appendage use for placing food in their mouth), and book gills, are located on the underside of the horseshoe crab. They are protected by a hard exoskeleton.

Sea Turtle Protection Project monitors Hilton Head’s endangered reptiles

greenhhi10Loggerhead sea turtles emerge from the ocean onto Hilton Head beaches every year in May to lay their eggs. Last year, 339 sea turtle nests broke the previous record for Hilton Head Island set in 2011 (324 nests).

It is a rare sight to see a 400-pound sea turtle lumber up the beach on fins designed to push her gracefully through the water.

It happens at dusk and into the night. Under the cover of darkness, the female loggerhead avoids predators and baking in the summer sun; her cold-blooded, reptilian nature does not allow her to regulate her own body temperature. Her approach, the dig, the egg laying, the disguise, and the return can take anywhere between 2 to 4 hours depending on the tide and obstacles on the beach.

greenhhi5Residents fresh from the Midwest get in their minds that a green, manicured lawn is healthy, but the native plants are so much better.

For decades, Hilton Head Island has proudly proclaimed its “green” creds, pointing to its development rules that preserve trees, programs to set aside acres of green space throughout the island and efforts to protect sea turtles.

In the meantime, other communities have eagerly and aggressively climbed about the ecotourism bandwagon.

DR. ERIC MONTIE TEACHES ANIMAL PHYSIOLOGY, NEUROBIOLOGY AND ICHTHYOLOGY AT USCB’S HILTON HEAD GATEWAY CAMPUS.

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His research interests involve marine biology, neurobiology and ecotoxicology. His research program focuses on brain architecture, hearing of fish and marine mammals, and acoustic communication of aquatic vertebrates. The more applied part of his research program focuses on studies that investigate how stressors, such as man-made chemicals, harmful algal blooms, noise pollution, and climate change may impact the brain, hearing, and acoustic communication.

Experience Green has spent four years making the Lowcountry’s future a little greener.

There’s no one thing you can do to make the world a better place. There’s no magic bullet to make for cleaner water, clearer air, and a brighter tomorrow. There are, however, a million little things you can do. And few know this like Experience Green founder Teresa Wade.

“So many people are motivated to make big changes, starting with the small changes,” she said.

3 local growers share their stories, secrets, recipes

greenhhi32It’s March. That means it’s the time of year that gardeners across Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, long itching to dig in the soil again, will be pulling out their hoes and trowels and set about planting their first crop of the new year.

Some will plant their garden in their backyard. But many others without a back yard, or with one too small to fit their ambitions, have the opportunity to turn to a community garden where, for a fee, they can plant to their heart’s content in their very own vegetable patch — or double up with two.

greenhhi20On Hilton Head Island, it’s hard to ignore the variety of birds one sees, from shorebirds to warblers and wrens.

For some, a passing observation is sufficient: “I saw a big white bird in the marsh.”

Conversely, Audubon Society members might note, “I saw an ibis. I noticed it was a juvenile because its beak wasn’t deep red yet.”

Providing that extra layer of knowledge is what the Hilton Head Island Audubon Society does through its monthly programs, nature walks through the Audubon Newhall Preserve, field trips and “Ecobon” newsletter, said Rick Riebesell, chapter president.

“One of the things we try to do is to get people involved in understanding that our natural world is something we have to protect,” Riebesell said. “Why has nature reacted this way? Once you’ve hit that point -- that I should pay attention -- you need knowledge.”