Special thanks to Mount Pleasant Radio for making the Pelicam project possible. Also thanks to Charleston Harbor Pilots, Coastal Expeditions, and the SC Department of Natural Resources whose assistance and support has been invaluable in this project.
The Shutes Folly Pelicam brings you live video of brown pelicans, black skimmers, royal terns and other migratory and threatened sea birds and shorebirds in the Charleston Harbor.
In 2015, the Conservation League launched our live wildlife camera, the Pelicam, from Crab Bank in the Charleston Harbor. We pursued the project with partners (the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Mt. Pleasant Radio, Charleston Harbor Pilots, and Coastal Expeditions) and were excited each year to broadcast a bank teeming with nesting and baby birds.
But 2017 was different. It became clear that Crab Bank was washing away. The numbers of nesting pelicans and downy-white newborns were down. And there were fewer sightings of threatened American oystercatchers, terns and black skimmers. We realized that, without immediate action, it was unlikely the island would support another nesting season. The Pelicam was broadcasting the bank on borrowed time.
Eroding out of existence
One of just a few protected nesting sites in South Carolina, Crab Bank is critical habitat. Yet, the island is now shorter and more narrow than it’s been in 10 years. Erosion has reduced Crab Bank to less than an acre of sand, and the island is increasingly vulnerable to high tides and big storms.
Crab Bank is a special place for our community and coast. The island is vital for nesting shorebirds. It serves as a buffer to prevent erosion for nearby homes on the Harbor and is a resource for scientific research, ecotourism and outdoor recreation.
We won’t let Crab Bank disappear. It is our hope that we will return the Pelicam to its rightful home on Crab Bank next summer. Read more about our efforts to save Crab Bank.
The Shutes Folly Pelicam
Because Crab Bank is right now too small to support nesting and a whole colony of coastal birds, we have relocated the Pelicam to Shutes Folly. The island is also located in Charleston Harbor, within paddling distance of downtown’s Waterfront Park, and houses a historic fort. Shutes Folly has become a makeshift, temporary home for many of Crab Bank’s sea birds and shorebirds.
A solar-powered camera sits on a pole on the sandbar and transmits the live video by radio to the Charleston Harbor Pilots. From there, a computer converts the radio signals to video and sends the footage to YouTube. We can move the Pelicam around using remote controls. We encourage you to check back in often. We move the camera around regularly!
Why ultimately return the camera to Crab Bank?
Crab Bank is a state-designated Seabird Sanctuary, which offers increased protections for birds like closures during nesting season. Outside of nesting season, high ground on Crab Bank where birds nest remains off-limits to people. Human disturbance is a primary threat to sea birds and shorebirds. One incident can destroy an entire colony. Shutes Folly is open to the public, leaving nesting birds vulnerable.
Shutes Folly is also not as big or as variable in habitat as Crab Bank. In previous years, Crab Bank has housed suitable nesting habitat for many species, including brown pelicans, black skimmers, American oystercatchers and royal terns.
Finally, like its neighbor, Shutes Folly has eroded significantly in recent years and cannot support the same number of birds or species that Crab Bank can fully-restored. There is no plan in sight for Shutes Folly’s restoration. If we miss our chance to save Crab Bank, we could end up with no suitable nesting sites in Charleston Harbor, leaving a large gap in our coastal chain of critical nesting, resting and foraging habitat.
Shutes Folly’s birds
Birds that nest there during the summer
Birds that rest and feed on Crab Bank over the winter
- Brown Pelicans
- Double-crested Cormorants
- Ring-billed Gulls
- Greater Black-backed Gulls
- Black-bellied Plovers
- Semipalmated Plovers
- American Oystercatchers
How can you help protect sea and shorebirds?
Beyond making a financial contribution toward Crab Bank’s restoration, there are several things you can do to protect sea and shorebirds (and the fragile habitat they rely on). Here are a few tips to remember when you see these coastal birds:
- Remember to pack up any food or trash you brought to the beach
- Prevent young children (and adults!) from running and “flushing” birds, even when birds are resting in the intertidal zone
- Do not walk near areas of the beach that are closed to nesting birds
- Give nesting pelicans, terns, skimmers and chicks plenty of space
- Do not bring your dog to the beach if a “No Dogs” law is in effect
- Support the work of the South Carolina Coastal Bird Conservation Program and organizations like the Coastal Conservation League, Audubon South Carolina, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources