The Savannah Coastal National Wildlife Refuge is conducting a 190 acre controlled burn today. Earlier this afternoon I heard the Savannah NWR Complex repeater system become active with coordination traffic so I drove across the Savannah River to the NWR to do some scanning and searching with the radios. The two Savannah NWR Complex repeaters within range – 172.450 (Skidaway, NAC 68F) and 172.650 (Onslow (NAC 455) were being used for coordination and communications between the refuge and the Savannah office. 168.200, Tac 2, was being used at the refuge for communication between the personnel doing the burn. The burn was creating quite a bit of smoke that was drifting north and the plume was visible for quite a distance. The traffic between the portable radios of the personnel doing the burn (something I never would have heard from home) was interesting to listen to as they first did a test burn then began igniting fires in various parts of the area based on how the fire was progressing.
As far as the wildlife portion of the NWR visit goes, there weren’t a lot of alligators to be seen, but there were plenty of turtles out sunning themselves in the warm weather today. I also saw a lot of wood ducks, which you don’t get to see very often. There were probably more alligators out than what I saw but the water levels are up covering the canal banks, so I think they may have been sunning on some of the small interior islands. Viewing along the end of the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive will be easier this year; much of the vegetation and scrub brush that was obscuring the canal has been not just cut back but cut down.
Note: My camera battery ran out this afternoon, so all of these photos were taken by the camera on my new cellphone, a Samsung Galaxy SIII. The picture quality seems good up until 3x zoom, when you use between 3x-4x zoon like the two alligator photos things get pixelated.
On the way back home from the refuge, I got to listen to some great air combat training communications from F-15s and F/A-18s training offshore. F-15s from the Florida Air National Guard 125th FW at Jacksonville and F/A-18Ds from VMFA(AW)-533 at MCAS Beaufort were operating on 293.600 and 316.300:
293.600 – NORAD Discrete; FANG 0# wkg HUNTRESS
316.300 – NORAD Discrete; SNAKE 0#, COIL 01, RATTLER 01, HAWK 81-83 wkg HUNTRESS
343.000 – 125 FW Aux 8; FANG, SNAKE, COIL, RATTLER, HAWK common
All in all it turned out to be a good trip on the wildlife watching side and the radio side. The unseasonably warm temperatures accounted for more alligator and turtle sightings than you’d usually get in mid January and the radio activity was pretty good for a Monday, which are typically a bit slow compared to Tuesday – Friday.