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Salt Marsh Series

Surrounded by a mostly evergreen, nautical forest, the salt marsh defines the landscape of Hilton Head Island. South Carolina is home to around 420,000 acres of salt marsh where the ocean gives way to pluff mud and spartina grass. As each day becomes longer and warmer, we observe a transformation in both the vegetation and wildlife that fills the salt marsh eco-system. It provides a nursery to different species of crabs, shrimp, fish, and oysters. Even the smell of the salt marsh is wonderfully aromatic. Residents have long associated the wonders and fragrances of this rich ecosystem with home.



Bottlenose Dolphins – Strand Feeding

Strand feeding is a learned behavior that young, Bottlenose calves acquire by observing their mother; it is only documented along a 100 mile stretch of coastline in this part of South Carolina and Georgia. The technique of strand feeding is quite ingenious. A pod of dolphins find a school of fish and begin to swim around them in small concentric circles, compressing them into a tight, controllable mass. They herd the fish, usually mullet, into shallow water to corral the fish against the shoreline. Turning parallel to the shore, the dolphins then create a wave filled with the small fish, which comes crashing onto the bank, leaving the fish stranded out of water. They grab and eat the fish and head back into the water to repeat the process all over again. South Carolina and Georgia dolphins are the only dolphins that strand feed daily. Dolphins have excellent out of water vision and have no problem catching the fish as they flop around on the bank. It is not clear as to why, but the dolphins always land on their right sides when they come up onto the bank, portraying a synchronized movement of dance. Due to the abrasiveness of the mud banks, their teeth on the right sides of their jaws get worn down from the repeated beachings.

© Joyce Harkins 2018