Callawassie Island tries to leave a light footprint in the pluff mud of the Colleton and Okatie rivers that embrace its 800 acres.
This community between Beaufort and Hilton Head Island was the first in South Carolina to be certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. That means residents make it a priority to provide habitat for wildlife by providing the four basics all wildlife needs: food, water, cover and places to raise young.
Callawassie is required to earn 40 points each year to remain certified. For 2011, it earned 105 points.
Beyond that, 207 of about 400 homes on the island, and two community parks, are certified backyard habitats, where things are left in at least a semi-natural state to benefit wildlife. Callawassie Island has the most per-capita certified wildlife habitats of all communities in America.
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Callawassie has no sidewalks, curbs, gutters or street lights.
But it has an Ecology Committee that gets residents educated and active in preserving nature. Its activities include the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, Adopt-A-Highway, bluebird nest monitoring (volunteers counted 220 fledglings in 62 bluebird boxes last year, after the chickadees had done their thing and moved out), publication of an Ecology Guide for newcomers, publication of a calendar with local wildlife photographs as a fundraiser, the Great Backyard Bird Count, oyster reef restoration, tallow tree eradication, National River Cleanup Week, planting wildflower patches, and hosting quarterly lectures on the environment.
Resident Dave Harris initiated a Save-A-Snake program. He responds when residents wish to have a snake relocated from their property, but advises them of the value of snakes on Callawassie and their important purpose in the eco-system.
Dorothy Mosior instigated the Wildlife Habitat Preservation Program, which catalogued and photographed 60 common properties throughout the island with a plan on how to maintain the purpose of each one.
Mosior told me, "We want people to see the Lowcountry as it is and not try to change it. It is like nothing else."
But even for Callawassie, Henry the great blue heron got special treatment.
Henry is the name John Clark gave the heron he saw hunkered down by a pond the week before Christmas.
"He just stayed there all day, never moved," Clark said.
He was there the next day, and the next. The third day was a Sunday, and after church at Lord of Life Lutheran in Bluffton, Clark stopped at Kroger and bought Henry some catfish strips and a croaker fish. He tossed some catfish near Henry. Henry picked it up and took it under some wax myrtles. Clark noticed the regal bird's left wing was drooping down, and he got on the phone.
He found that Dr. Marikay Campbell at the Port Royal Veterinary Hospital would treat Henry. He recruited friend Tom Wise to help quietly flush Henry out of the wax myrtles while he tossed a 6-foot nylon shrimp net over him. On the third try, it worked and they put Henry in a large dog cage in the back of Clark's Explorer.
"He never moved a muscle in the car," Clark said. "It was almost like he felt, 'Hey, thanks a lot.' "
Henry had a compound fracture in his wing, and not much longer to live. Campbell set the wing with pins, and then Henry went to Tom and Dixie Stevenson's Little Friends Wildlife Center in Beaufort for rehab. After being cleared by the doctor, Henry came back to Callawassie on Jan. 31.
Henry was put right back where his adventure started. He flew away.
Last week, Clark saw Henry again. "I could tell it was Henry by the way he was holding himself," he said. But Henry didn't hang around this time, either.
He, too, left a light footprint in the pluff mud of the Colleton and Okatie rivers.
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.