Savannah – On Friday morning after I got home from working in Brunswick for the week, I drove over to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge’s Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. It turned out to be both a good opportunity to take some wildlife photos and get in some mobile monitoring. The weather changed from mostly sunny to overcast over the course of the morning, but it didn’t seem to have any effect on the amount of waterfowl out and about or on the amount of military aviation activity to be heard.
For this trip, I borrowed my father’s 150-500mm zoom lens, it let me get better shots than my usual 200mm zoom lens, especially of some of the ducks. In addition to driving the wildlife drive I walked the Raccoon Island Trail, which allowed me to see even more. I only saw three alligators (not a surprise given the cool temperatures) but there was a mass amount of migratory waterfowl to be seen: American Coots, Blue Winged Teal, Green Winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Norther Shovelers, and Ringed Neck Ducks. I also saw several Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and the ever present Red Winged Blackbirds and Common Gallinules.
As I drove to and through the refuge, there was plenty of good military aviation to listen to, and I used the BC780XLT, the Home Patrol, and the FT-8800 of the mobile station to do it. I wasn’t expecting to hear a lot of activity on the Friday before Christmas week, but I was pleasantly surprised. F/A-18s and F-35s from MCAS Beaufort , F-16s from McEntire, and P-3s and P-8s from NAS Jacksonville were all active. Two E-3 AWACS were in the area on Friday morning as well.
- SWEDE 71/72 (F-35B, VMFAT-501) were on an instructor/student training flight to Townsend Range, where they operated on 228.400 and used 315.300 for air-to-air communications.
- MACE 1# (F-16CM, 169th FW) worked in the Bulldog MOA on 343.750 and used 141.825 for air-to-air communications.
- CHALICE (E-3, 963rd ACCS) was active with Townsend Range on 228.400 and worked with CHECK 6# (F/A-18C, VMFA-312), BENGAL 4# (F/A-18D, VMFA-224), VIPER 2# (F-16CM, 169th FW), and IVAN (ground controlled intercept) on 320.300, 336.225, and 313.300.
- DRAGNET (E-3, 965th ACCS) was active with the BEEFEATER ECM range on 354.300.
- PELICAN 13 (P-8A, 168758, VP-45) and TRIDENT 12 (P-3C, 161766, VP-26) were active with SEALORD on 284.500/120.950 and 267.500. PELICAN was also heard calling for TRIDENT on 285.000.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the morning, it was a feast for the eyes and for the ears. It was also a good way to relax after a week and work. Getting out to the refuge simplifies things and slows things down, allowing me to decompress.