{ SC's September Calendar + Our Featured SC Event }

September 17-20  —  This year's September Calendar of Events is brought to you by Greenville's 10th anniversary euphoria celebration. Founded by platinum-selling singer and songwriter Edwin McCain and restaurateur Carl Sobocinski, euphoria educates, entices, enlightens, and entertains. This highly anticipated weekend-long event includes exclusive tasting events, cooking demonstrations, and wine seminars, as well as multi-course dinners and live musical performances. Dedicated to excellence, euphoria features domestic and international wines, celebrity chefs, master sommeliers, and national recording artists. Every September, euphoria shines a spotlight on Greenville, one of South Carolina's thriving Culinary and Arts Communities. Greenville, situated at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, stands out with its award-winning downtown, vast entertainment options, and diverse population.

{ A Sacred Space: Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary }

Situated in the Charleston Harbor between two iconic landmarks – Shem Creek and Fort Sumter – rests a narrow strip of land called Crab Bank. The 22-acre islet was documented on maps more than 250 years ago as a sand bar. By the 1950s the sand bar had become an island. As dredge spoils from Shem Creek accreted, the bank built up with sediment. Vulnerable to erosion caused by storms and passing wakes, the island's shape and size frequently shift. However, Crab Bank has not been completely submerged since before 1979, the first year it was high enough to be used as a nesting site for seabirds.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

Since that pivotal time, Crab Bank has proven to be one of the state's most prolific seabird nesting sites. Fifteen different species of birds, including brown pelicans (seen below), black skimmers, royal terns, and American oystercatchers, use the island for breeding during the summer nesting season, while others, such as double-breasted cormorants and ring-billed gulls, rest and feed on the island during the winter. One of the reasons for Crab Bank's success as a nesting colony is the island's natural isolation, keeping birds and nests safe from predators such as raccoons.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

The need to protect wildlife within the Charleston Harbor was recognized in 1986 with the creation of the Charleston Harbor Wildlife Sanctuary, which prohibited people from hunting, taking, or otherwise physically disrupting mammals and birds, including eggs, within the harbor. Yet, this designation still did not prevent people and their canine friends from exploring Crab Bank and inadvertently disturbing nests. The island's proximity to the local beaches and Shem Creek (seen below with Crab Bank just beyond) made it a popular stop for boaters and paddlers.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

One particular problem facing nests was the exposure of eggs to the scorching sun when people and their dogs would come ashore, scaring away nesting birds. Visitors would also accidentally crush eggs while walking, as the seabirds build their nests on the ground. The solution came in 2005 when the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources designated Crab Bank, along with Deveaux Bank near Edisto Island and Bird Key off Folly Beach, as a seabird sanctuary.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

Today people are no longer allowed on the island from March 15th through October 15th, which is the official nesting season. During the remaining months, the island is open only below the high tide line. Pets and camping remain strictly prohibited at all times. The island is monitored by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

Since Crab Bank became a bird sanctuary, populations have increased dramatically. In its first year as a sanctuary, Crab Bank's number of royal tern nests rose from 346 to 1,639. Other species have also shown a significant jump in nest numbers. Royal terns can be seen in the below photo.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

Though the island itself is mostly inaccessible, people are invited to explore it from the water in kayaks or motorized boats. However, boaters are advised to avoid creating wakes, which aid erosion. The experience of approaching Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary during nesting season can be overwhelming to the senses, with thousands of birds calling in the breeze, feeding from their parents' mouths, circling overhead, and guarding their nests.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

Paddlers can usually hear the birds before they see them, and when they approach the island, they witness a flurry of activity. The experience of watching wildlife thrive on this small yet important sliver of land is encouraging to those who value the ecology of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

{ Vanessa Kauffmann: A True Friend }

This month we're pleased to feature Vanessa Kauffmann, the artist behind each of the photos above.

I don't know Vanessa Kauffmann's middle name, but it may as well be Amazing. Not only is her work exquisite, but her heart is kind beyond compare. Once, when my best friend Louisa was dying, she even volunteered to come take pictures of us, free of charge.

( Vanessa Kauffmann © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

Vanessa, a fearless flyer, has been contributing both ground and aerial photography to the South Carolina Picture Project for years. Despite the fact that she's stunningly talented, she's far from a diva. On the contrary, she remains one of the most patient, easy-going, and generous artists I've ever met.

Vanessa may also be the most exciting artist I've met. In fact, her middle name could just as easily be Adventure, because her roaming spirit knows no bounds. Vanessa thinks nothing of hopping on a helicopter or roaming through fields in a pair of boots to capture that perfect shot. Once she even rode in the Blue Angels' "Fat Albert" C-130 while documenting the MCAS Beaufort Airshow for SCIWAY. Now that's dedication!

Although she originally hails from South Africa, Vanessa shares a special love for our state's rural culture, often turning her lens to local agriculture and other increasingly rare trades such as fishing and shrimping. She has been a good friend to the Lowcountry's Gullah community, capturing commemorations and native lifeways, and she also acts as a photographer of record for McLeod Plantation. A recent project, devoted to Southern summer crops, had her driving 700 miles to visit four Upstate farms in one weekend!

Then again, weekends are seldom ordinary events in Vanessa's world, as any one of them might lead her along the backroads of South Carolina, finding miracles in the places most of us pass unnoticed every day. As you can see from her images in the SC Picture Project, her work possesses an almost magical luminosity, and no matter which humble barn or ancient oak she captures, we are all the luckier for it.


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