Photos From the July 4th Holiday at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday and today I took trips to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge; yesterday’s was an afternoon trip and today’s was a morning trip.  Both days it was like the wildlife knew there was a holiday and decided to put on a show for the visitors.  The water level in the refuge’s diversion canal is very high, so most of the Alligators were to be found in the first half of the wildlife drive instead of the second half where they’re often seen.  On Thursday,  I counted 21 Alligators – more than I’ve seen at the Savannah NWR in my last few trips.  This morning, I counted even more – 27, of which 21 in the first half of the wildlife drive.  On both days, Great Egrets were out in large numbers as well.  Royal Terns were also out in good numbers, putting on an impressive airshow with with swift turns and dives over the water.

3 July 2014

Alligator mostly submerged, keeping cool on a hot summer day
Alligator mostly submerged, keeping cool on a hot summer day
Alligator swimming along the interior of the wildlife drive
Alligator swimming along the interior of the wildlife drive
Camouflaged Alligator
Camouflaged Alligator

IMG_6769

This large Alligator gathered a small crowd of visitors and didn't seem the least bit perturbed by it
This large Alligator gathered a small crowd of visitors and didn’t seem the least bit perturbed by it
Small Alligator in the "turtle hole"
Small Alligator in the “turtle hole”
5 Great Egrets along the bank of the wildlife drive
6 Great Egrets along the bank of the wildlife drive
Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egrets among the sawgrass
Great Egrets among the sawgrass
Great Egrets in flight
Great Egrets in flight
Great Egret preening in the trees
Great Egret preening in the trees
Yellow Bellied Slider in the "turtle hole"
Yellow Bellied Slider in the “turtle hole”
Yellow Bellied Slider in the "turtle hole"
Yellow Bellied Slider in the “turtle hole”
Royal Tern
Royal Tern
Royal Tern diving
Royal Tern diving
Osprey
Osprey

One of the things I notice frequently is how quickly visitors drive through the refuge’s wildlife drive.  It boggles me that folks take the time to drive over then rush through.  I think many of them are just looking for Alligators but even if that’s all they’re doing they’re still going to miss small ones or almost hidden ones.  That’s not to mention that there is more to see than just Alligators if you look for it.  I have two suggestions if you’re going to visit the refuge:

  1. Drive through slowly
  2. Get out of the car

I drive through at 5 mph and slower; often time in first gear at or just above an idle just letting the car roll slowly.  It allows me to see more and pick up smaller wildlife or concealed wildlife that one wouldn’t see at faster speeds.  It also doesn’t make as much noise and commotion that will scare off wildlife near the drive.  Get out of the car and walk the trails, you’ll see even more than what you will from the car.  If you see one Alligator or bird, stop and get out of the car to look – you might just see even more than what you initially saw.  Following these tips will increase the amount of wildlife you see and enhance your visit to the refuge.

Example:  What do you see in this photo? In addition to the Great Egrets, there are also 2 Alligators
Example: What do you see in this photo? In addition to the Great Egrets, there are also 2 Alligators

In my opinion, mornings are the best time to visit the refuge in the summer. During the heat of the day, most of the wildlife is trying to beat the heat and there just isn’t as much to see. You’re more likely to see birds out hunting and foraging in the mornings and there are usually more Alligators out and about.  I like to get there around 0800-0830; if you go earlier, you’ll be trying to take photos into the rising sun (if photography is your thing).  This morning’s trip yielded three Great Blue Herons, two of which were relatively close encounters as I was able to get within 15-20 feet of them.  In addition to the Royal Terns putting on their aerial displays as they did the day before, I also saw Black Skimmers for the first time; it was fun to watch them coming speeding by, lower beak in the water skimming for fish! Unfortunately I never was able to get a good photo of them, nor the Brown Bellied Whistling Ducks I saw.

4 July 2014

Alligators swimming past each other peacefully
Alligators swimming past each other peacefully
Alligator resting on some submerged sawgrass
Alligator resting on some submerged sawgrass
Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule
Alligator and Great Egret
Alligator and Great Egret
Great Egret among the lilly pads
Great Egret among the lilly pads
Young Alligator sunning on a mud bank at low tide
Young Alligator sunning on a mud bank at low tide
Great Blue Heron with an Alligator in the background
Great Blue Heron with an Alligator in the background
Great Blue Heron grooming
Great Blue Heron grooming
Great Blue Heron spreading its wings
Great Blue Heron spreading its wings
Great Blue Heron hunting at water's edge
Great Blue Heron hunting at water’s edge
Purple Gallinule
Purple Gallinule
Red Winged Blackbird
Red Winged Blackbird
Sunbathing Alligator style
Sunbathing Alligator style
Almost camouflaged
Almost camouflaged
More sunbathing Alligator style
More sunbathing Alligator style
Close up
Close up
If you slow down and look carefully, you'll wildlife like these juvenile Green Herons
If you slow down and look carefully, you’ll wildlife like these juvenile Green Herons
Juvenile Green Heron
Juvenile Green Heron
Juvenile Green Heron
Juvenile Green Heron
When I looked closer, there were 3, not just 2
When I looked closer, there were 3, not just 2
Juvenile Green Heron
Juvenile Green Heron
Young Alligator sunning on a log in the "turtle hole"
Young Alligator sunning on a log in the “turtle hole”

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