DSC_1023Kingfishers know Hobcaw very well indeed—sunlit pines, dusty roads, muddy marshes, and familiar and friendly faces of the staff. But each visit brings new and amazing experiences.

DSC_0976On Thursday, October 5, we piled into various cars and crossed the bridges over to the 16,000-acre nature preserve.  In the Discovery Center, Julie of DNR and Beth of Hobcaw welcomed us and explained a little about our upcoming boat trip down Winyah Bay on the DNR’s education vessel Discovery.

Plumes of yellow dust filled the air as our caravan rattled down the narrow dirt road to Hobcaw House. Captain Tom, Julie, and Hannah of DNR met us on the dock, where a nice stiff breeze was blowing. After donning our life vests, we were soon underway. The crew let down a type of net that would drag the bottom of the bay and capture some sea life, then they brought up a large water sample in a Plexiglas aquarium. Now it was our turn to work!

DSC_1007Using specially-prepared kits, groups of three to five Kingfishers performed a series of tests on the water sample, gauging its temperature, salinity, pH, nitrites, phosphates, and turbidity. We recorded our results like real scientists.

DSC_1015Then Julie and Hannah pulled up the net and dispersed its contents into buckets for each group. Using a field guide, we identified such species as anchovies, perch, croaker, flounder, gar, and three types of shrimp. One gar was too big to fit in a bucket so he stayed in the aquarium but some kids got to touch him and pronounced him “very slimy.” Annika said, “I liked it when we got to see what we pulled up.”

Lunch back at the Center was a quiet affair, until Ian noticed a red-waisted wasp dragging a fat green caterpillar to a spot in the sand. Efficiently, it dug a hole, then dragged its prey down inside. When the wasp was finished, it covered the hole back up with sand. Dr. Neubauer was able to record this miracle of nature on her phone.

DSC_1035Our visit to Hobcaw ended with a quick walk to a mostly freshwater pond, where we did some more water testing and learned to use a refractor. Back at the Center, we cooled off and enjoyed the interactive exhibits in the classroom. Many kids were taken with seeing the animal skulls and using the microscopes. “My favorite part was when the leader took out the snake,” said Ella. Kids crowded around to touch and hold the (very much alive) reptile.

After leaving Hobcaw, we visited the fishing pier and did some impromptu foot races. Then we were off to East Bay Park to swing on the swings and enjoy the sunshine. Finally, the chaperons headed to IP for a quick rinse at the car wash. The dust of Hobcaw was gone but not our memories of this awesome day.