Lens-Artists Challenge #225 – Wildlife Close To Home

bobcat, spots
Kiawah Bobcat

“We don’t own the planet Earth, we belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife.” 

Steve Irwin

This week Anne has given us a challenge near and dear to my heart. As a true lover of nature and her many creatures both large and small, our safari in Africa is at the very top of my list of travel memories. Seeing creatures in their natural habitat shows us the world as it was meant to be. On Kiawah we are fortunate that there is a high level of focus on / appreciation of / habitat preservation for our local wildlife. Our deer population is primarily controlled by the bobcats who roam the island. They are elusive creatures but are occasionally seen crossing the roads or raising their kittens in the high grasses that surround us. If we’re really lucky we see them hunting small prey along the grassy edges as shown above.

deer, fawn, wildlife
Kiawah’s Deer

“Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen.”

Alice Walker

Our wildlife is a bit less skittish around humans than in many other places. Deer, for example, will allow us to get quite close. The image on the far right above is actually a deer licking salt from my leg on a hot summer day. I’d stopped my bike to capture an image of her fawn and unfortunately was using my zoom lens so I was unable to get a better image of the doe. I was a quite startled by the whole thing, but I did at least manage to document the incident 😊.

strand feeding, stranding, dolphins, Kiawah
Kiawah’s Dolphins Strand Feeding

“Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test…consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”

Mila Kundera

We are fortunate to be among the very few places where dolphin strand-feeding occurs. Basically the dolphins form “teams” that gather to push baitfish onto the shore at very high speed. Once there they (along with the opportunistic pelicans that follow them) feast on the unlucky fish. It’s a recognized illustration of animal intelligence and learned behaviors which we are only now beginning to understand. National Geographic spent months here on Kiawah filming the behavior for their Predator series a few years back.

birds, collage, Kiawah, egret, heron, eagle, owl, roseate spoonbill, hooded merganser, pelicans
Birds of Kiawah Island (Some of them anyway!)

“Without birds, where would we have learned that there can be song in the heart?”

Hal Borland

I’ve featured many of the birds of Kiawah through the years and will admit that before moving here I hadn’t given birds much thought. Kiawah’s bird species number over 300 strong. We are a stopover point for the amazing red knot species whose annual migration covers 18,000 miles. Last year we had 6 bald eagle nests on our 10 mile island as well as owls, osprey and multiple species of hawks. Shorebirds like skimmers, seagulls, brown pelicans, sanderlings, willets and piping plovers nest and roost along our beaches. Along our wetlands herons, egrets, ducks and kingfishers as well as many others thrive. Our most recent inhabitants are the beautiful pink roseate spoonbills which it seems are moving to our area due to climate change.

Big Ole Boy – Gator Alert!

“Every once in a while an alligator has a lightbulb moment and decides to take a stroll and see the world a bit.”

Maureen Johnson

I had to laugh at the quote beneath my alligator image above because especially during mating season we often see them crossing our streets or strolling along the paths of our golf courses. For the most part however, they stick to their normal habitat which is in and around our lagoons and ponds. Although they appear placid they can be dangerous and there are signs everywhere warning visitors to keep their distance. Often we see them sharing a spot in the sunlight beside egrets, cormorants and herons, neither bothering the other – unless or until the gator decides it’s mealtime. Then we see nothing but the feathers that were lost in the frenzy. They’ll eat most anything, including full-sized deer which they drown before eating. Residents know to keep their distance but we occasionally need to warn inquisitive tourists. They can grow quite large, are very fast, and should never be considered friendly.

squirrels, tree
Too Close For Comfort

“Making a difference to the welfare of Animals doesn’t require a massive effort; it requires small actions that can make a significant impact.”

Paul Oxton

I’ve often thought about how humans have defined other creatures throughout the years. Why are bobcats and eagles seen as beautiful and worthy of admiration, while squirrels and crows are seen as pests and treated with disdain? How have we come to love dogs and cats yet we treat coyotes and wolves as demons worthy of eradication? I’l admit despite my respect for wildlife I don’t tolerate creatures like marsh rats, mice, or armadillos. I love and have many photographs of butterflies but insects like ants and the dreaded “palmetto bugs” make my skin crawl! And yes, occasionally I do eat meat. We humans are a fickle species, aren’t we?!

butterfly, flower, colorful
A Butterfly Flutters By

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

Maya Angelou

Thanks to Anne for the opportunity to explore one of my favorite subjects. I look forward to seeing what other creatures our followers around the world choose to highlight. Please remember to link your response to Anne’s original here, and to use the Lens-Artists Tag.

Thanks to Sofia for last-week’s exposure challenge, and to those of you who responded with so many different approaches. It was great fun seeing how creative and diverse your results were from adjusting exposures in such a wide variety of applications. Finally, we are excited that next week our challenge will be Guest-Hosted by Jude, aka HeyJude of Cornwall in Colours and hope you’ll join us for that. Until then, as always please stay safe and be kind.


99 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge #225 – Wildlife Close To Home

  1. Tina, your photos are so gorgeous! What a delight for my eyes and soul. I appreciate your words too. There is such beauty in nature and grace, whether we are talking about coyotes or butterflies, or even alligators 🙂

  2. Pingback: Lens-ArtistPC-225-Wildlife-Close-to-Home – WoollyMuses

  3. Ah, again you have proved that your Kiawah is a paradise of its own! So beautiful and so varied…Moving out there of course made you a bird enthusiast – I would have been too. This time I have another favourite – the bobcat. A marvelous shot. I guess the closest we get is our Lynx. I have only seen them behind fence, but we have them in our forests – very shy and illusive.

    • Thanks Terri – catch up or not, always good to see your name pop up! We are very fortunate with the wildlife here, and work hard to make sure it stays that way! The dolphin are extraordinary. There is a massive effort underway to stop developers from building out the small, fragile piece of land where they strand.

  4. Such a thorough look at life on Kiawah. You’d naturally become a birder in a place like that.

    I always find your nonchalance so interesting when it comes to the gators. I guess life is about living in harmony with creatures who were there first.

    I lived the question you posed about why we love some and find others a nuisance. It’s true.

    The dolphin strand feeding? interesting.

    • Thanks Donna – the strand feeding is quite something to see, especially from the water. They are massively powerful and to see them working as a team is amazing. As for the gators, nonchalant…not quite! I appreciate the danger and never, ever get close to them.They are definitely not to be messed with!!!

  5. Wow Tina, you are certainly surrounded by a ton of wildlife. Had no idea you had bobcats down there. All great shots…especially like the gator and squirrel shots. And nice shot of the owl. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an owl outside of the zoo. Well done 🙂

    • Thanks Andy – we’re lucky here in that we have a great network of photographers and when one of them spots something lens-worthy they typically let us know when and where to find them. I’ve seen several eagle nests thanks to them, and also the glossy ibis I was so excited about a few months ago. The owl was brought to my attention by a neighbor who knew I was a photographer. One of the true benefits of being in a small pond 😊

    • thanks so much Sue, the bobcats are gorgeous.Photographing them is especially rewarding since they’re so difficult to find, much less capture! His hunting pose was unique and really helped me because he stood absolutely still to focus on his prey.

  6. The variety of wildlife in your area is amazing, Tina. Of course, you’ve photographed them beautifully! The bobcat is a stunner. I hope you “captured” it with a very long telephoto lens! Wow. And the beauty and grace of the birds…so lovely. A great response to Anne’s theme. I hope you have plenty of photo opportunities this week and some sunny, calm days.

    • Many thanks Patti. A zoom is the best way to catch the cats because they are very fast and quite leery of humans so anything less and they’d be out of range in a heartbeat! Funny they are so well-loved here I never considered they might be dangerous but I wager if they had kittens it would not be something you’d want to test! Wishing you sunny and calm as well, and continued rewarding travels!

    • LOL I actually thought of you when I included that one John! Usually I include friendly looking gators but this week I wanted to show one of the less-appealing variety! Glad you enjoyed – the bobcats are everyone’s favorite around here ❤️

  7. You posted some of the reasons your area is so beautiful. I had no idea you had bobcats! Love the dolphin pic, but ah ha … you were in a boat! You very good questions in your last paragraph. Much comes down to predator-prey relationships … and both parties are simply trying to survive. Well done, Tina.

    • Thanks Frank! Yes now and then we go out to watch for the dolphins in a boat. But often we see the strandings from the beach that borders the inlet. Of course the sun needs to be in the right place for the boat images. I have a bunch that are so over-exposed they’re unusable but the memories are still there! And yes, predator prey for sure.

  8. Beautiful photos of the wildlife around you, Tina! I wish I could see a bobcat in the wild some day. Where I am, there are just red foxes which are usually very shy, and a black bear for a brief moment some years ago.

    • Thanks Hien! we have foxes here also but they’re pretty good at hiding! No bears though, which I think I’m happy about LOL. The bobcats are gorgeous but very elusive. In 20+ years I’ve only seen one about a dozen times, but 2 or 3 of them were when Had a camera with me so that was lucky!

  9. These are spectacular Tina!!! I am completely blown away by the deer licking the salt from your leg…WOW!!! Not sure I have ever seen anything like that before!! I can’t believe u were able to capture it…amazing!! I always get an education from your lens!! TU

    • Hi April and thanks! Where have you been hiding lately?! I know, the deer thing was truly weird! If I hand’t had my camera with me I wouldn’t have stopped so it wouldn’t ever have happened so it was just a stroke of luck!

      • nursing injuries…n mom…ALL good!! will ouch base for some golf…may no remember to play but fun catch up…and entertainment!!!

  10. Oh wow, those dolphins are amazing! So special to be able to observe such relatively rare behaviour close to home! I love your bird photos too – the one of the egret with wings spread in particular 😀

    • Thanks so much Sarah – the dolphins are amazing here. To see them swim up onto the beach when they’re hunting is a real privilege. We always take our visitors out to kayak in our inlets and never once have we not seen at least a few dolphins. The strand feeding is a bit harder to catch but I’ve been lucky to see it several times. We also have tons of egrets and their wings are so glorious when the light is right.

  11. Wonderful portfolio. That shot of the dolphins is fabulous. In most places I would think that deer coming that close means that people are feeding them. I hope that’s not true in Kiawah. It’s sad if they start to change their habits by feeding on human food.

    • Many thanks I.J. But my goodness no, the deer thrive here because there is so much natural foliage for them to eat. No one ever feeds them but they are so used to humans they graze on our lawns and drink from our water elements!

  12. It is really wonderful how you can see such a variety of wildlife where you are in Kiawah, Tina. From the birds to the crocodiles to the dolphins, you’d think all co-exist rather harmoniously. You make a good point there when you mention some of us take a liking to certain species over the other. Like you, I don’t tolerate spiders or flies yet they have a part to play in the ecosystem. Beautiful photography all around and I think my favourite has got to be the butterfly and the flower. You made the vibrant colours work well together. Hope all is well with you 😊

    • Thanks so much Mabel, always happy to see your name pop up. Yes we’re very fortunate with the wildlife here and pay a lot of attention to make sure we maintain their habitats. And we have tons and tons of butterflies which is such a great indicator of the health of the species and our environment.

  13. I remember that you mentioned deer in Kiawah and remember the animal photos from Kiawah that you previously shared, but this post made me realize even more how rich your wildlife is! The dolphins, the variety of birds, the bobcats, and more. Such amazing photos. I hope that I can visit America again and finally see more of its nature, including in Kiawah.

  14. Pingback: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #225: Wildlife Close to Home – Calling-all-RushBabes

  15. Very nice collection, Tina. Although this would be the perfect theme for me, I won’t participate, because I‘m on a trip at the moment. I even won’t check my WP reader on a regular basis for the next 2-3 weeks

  16. I love how much wildlife you have near your home, Tina! And, of course, you have captured them spectacularly. About all we have around here are the squirrels that eat our fence and a bunch of annoying black grackles that make a mess on our sidewalk. LOL. Have a great week!

  17. Gosh you have an amazing variety of animals and birds on Kiawah. I love that Bobcat. And how wonderful to have the deer lick your leg. What an extraordinary experience.

    • We do love our bobcats here Jude – they really are elusive. In 20 years I’ve seen them maybe 20 times or so, and having a camera with me when I do is even more rare. They’re quite beautiful and really fast at disappearing! As for the doe, it was really weird but exciting in an odd kind of way LOL.

  18. Wow, Tina, I expected that you’d have no trouble finding subjects for this challenge, but your examples are amazing. From the bobcat to the butterfly they are beautiful and well photographed. I’m not sure I’d want to be around an alligator though! I do have one question, how do the birds react to the winds of a hurricane? I remember going down to one of our wildlife areas during a high wind, and the small birds were hunkered down, unable to fly.

    • Thanks Anne – my bigger issue was figuring out what to include from among so many choices! Interesting question re the birds/storms. Last time we stayed for a real hurricane, the day before it arrived I’d never seen so many birds, of every variety, all hanging together in the trees, along the lagoons and about everywhere you looked. After the storm abated there wasn’t a bird to be seen anywhere on the island! They all came back over the next few days but it was truly weird! We all wondered where they went to avoid the storm!

      • I’m sorry you had a difficult time deciding which images to put in your post. I just knew it would be spectacular. Regarding the birds, they do know when a storm or earthquake is coming. As to where they take cover, ???? I would think they would fly inland.

  19. As much as you love Gods creatures, I bet you had too many photos to choose from! Love this cross section…. Love that butterfly… hard to focus on their beauty as they flit from flower to flower!

    • So true Mia Linda – my archives are chock full of our beautiful critters! Interesting to have had my camera with me for these tho – more often I see them and regret not having taken it. iPhone isn’t quite up to these kinds of images YET!

  20. What a marvelous collection of wildlife photos! You have so many stunning and beautiful animals on your Kiawah land. The first photo reminded me of a documentary I have recently seen about American leopards. What a lovely creature your Kiawah cat is!

    • Thanks Anne – we are very fortunate on this front, and work hard to make sure our residents honor the habitat rules. The bobcats really are gorgeous. We don’t see them often so it’s always a special moment when we do. The image I included was one of the largest I’d seen, they’re typically a bit smaller. i was lucky to have my camera with me that day!

    • Hi Beth, and many thanks. Yes we do. There was a terrible discovery about 2 years ago that they were eating the marsh rats that had ingested the poison some residents were using to keep the rats away and we lost several before it was discovered. Thankfully the pesticide they used is now banned and the cats have since recovered in number. We do love them here. And yes, the doe/fawn moment was very memorable!!

  21. I have to admit, that gator makes my skin crawl, Tina. I’d be much happier playing with the squirrels, or maybe even a bobcat, if I was feeling brave. Your love for our fellow creatures shines through and on Kiaweh you seem very well placed to admire them.

    • Oh they’re not so bad Jo – we love seeing them along the way (although the one I chose was pretty crusty LOL) They’re fun to see as long as we keep our distance! The bobcats and dolphins are my favorites I must admit – perhaps because they’re both a bit harder to find so not everyday occurrences. Thanks for the visit and comment as always

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