Savannah – When I woke up yesterday morning, it was a beautiful day; temperatures were in the 40’s and climbing and the sky was clear and blue. It was a great day for a refuge visit so after breakfast I drove over to the Savannah NWR. I drove around the wildlife drive and walked some of the trails. Getting out of the car and walking the trails paid off, I was able to borrow a 150-500mm zoom lens and there were some wonderful sights to use it on. Highlights of the trip were Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, Blue Winged Teal, Ring Necked Ducks, Cormorants, Northern Shovelers, Green Winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Harriers, Anhingas, and Alligators. The warming and sunny conditions brought out more Alligators than I’ve seen at the Savannah NWR in the last several visits.
The wildlife sightings began as soon as I entered the refuge. A Great Blue Heron and Little Blue Heron were the first wildlife I saw with a Snowy Egret and a couple of foraging White Ibis just down the road. Just after rounding the first turn, I saw the first of the 11 Alligators I was to see during the visit. It was a good way to start the visit!
Farther down the wildlife drive, I saw a group of Ring-necked Ducks, several Cormorants, and some Blue Winged Teal in the area where the Vortac used to be. That particular spot has been a great one for seeing the Blue Winged Teal and Ring-necked Ducks this winter; they’ve been there almost every trip I’ve made since the migratory waterfowl began arriving.
When I got to the Rice Trunk past the old Vortac site, I saw a beautiful Great Blue Heron. Whenever the tide is low like it was yesterday, you’re almost sure to see a Great Blue Heron or Snowy Egret there if not both. Yesterday there was just the Great Blue Heron, but its plumage was was in terrific form and I was able to photograph it from two different locations as it moved to the middle of a canal from its original spot just by the Rice Trunk.
When I got to the Raccoon Island Trail, I decided to walk the trail since the weather was so good. Along the way, I saw a massive number of Green Winged Teal which took off when I spooked them by walking out of a wooded portion of the trail out into the open. The Alligator sightings began to pick up as well with more of them taking advantage of the sunny conditions.
On the last leg of the wildlife drive, I saw some Ruddy Ducks up close to the road as well as some more Alligators and a female Anhinga. While I was taking photos of the Anhinga, she decided that instead of flying off she would swim off so I have a series of photos of her moving down the branch she was perched on and sliding into the water. There was a large Alligator floating in the water near the wildlife drive exit and visitors seemed to be paying so much attention to it that they missed a Great Blue Heron somewhat hidden in some nearby brush.
While walking along the Raccoon Island Trail, I took a couple of photographs that to me perfectly illustrate the essence of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It is a beautiful slice of nature and wildlife habitat adjacent to the industry of man. One one side of the river, you have a wonderful habitat for waterfowl, Alligators, and other animals and on the other you have the Port of Savannah, Dixie Crystals, and Weyerhaeuser .
The two photos above show the wildlife and their habitat against the backdrop of Dixie Crystals in the top photo and Georgia Ports Authority cranes in the bottom photo. As I looked at them on the back of the camera and while I was looking at them later on the computer I pondered the future of the refuge. The Savannah River Deepening Project will begin soon and I wonder what effect it will have on the refuge. There has been a lot of talk of salt water intrusion as a result of the deepening damaging parts of the habitat within the refuge. I wonder how much habitat will be damaged or changed? Apparently it all depends upon which study you want to believe and I’ve been told that the studies are flawed. I can only hope the deepening does minimum damage to the refuge; any loss will be a terrible one for both the wildlife and for us.