Visit to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge; 25 November 2015

Savannah – After coming back to Savannah from Brunswick on Wednesday, I joined my parents for a visit to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Parts of the interior portion of the wildlife drive that had been drained and overgrown were burned in the previous week and are now flooded. The tide was very high (US 80 near Fort Pulaski had been closed due to water over the road earlier in the morning) so the wading bird sightings were reduced and it was also a windy, so I think the waterfowl may have been sheltering from the wind because we didn’t see as many as when I visited about a week ago.

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Female Anhinga at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge
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Female Anhinga at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge
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This White Ibis was perched on one of Savannah NWR’s rice trunks
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Snowy Egrets and a turtle on branch exposed by low water in one of the Savannah NWR’s canals
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Little Blue Heron at the Savannah NWR
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Little Blue Heron at the Savannah NWR

This next series of photos aren’t very close enough, but they are as close up as I could get with the camera from the long range… This part of the visit simply made my day. It isn’t every day that you get to see a Bald Eagle, but we saw this one fishing and circling over one of the recently flooded impoundments. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to watch this magnificent bird for awhile before it flew off to another area!

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Bald Eagle flying and fishing over the Savannah NWR
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Bald Eagle flying and fishing over the Savannah NWR
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Bald Eagle flying and fishing over the Savannah NWR
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Bald Eagle flying and fishing over the Savannah NWR
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Bald Eagle flying and fishing over the Savannah NWR
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Bald Eagle flying and fishing over the Savannah NWR

Even though it was a bit chilly, there were still some Alligators to be seen. We saw eight of various size, most of them along the portion of the wildlife drive that goes along the diversion canal. We also saw some Pied Billed Grebes and other waterfowl and wading birds in that same section.

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Alligator in the Savannah NWR’s diversion canal
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Alligator sunning on the bank of one of the Savannah NWR’s many canals
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Pied Billed Grebe in the Savannah NWR’s diversion canal
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Snowy Egret trying to shelter from the wind along one of the Savannah NWR’s canals

After visiting the wildlife drive, we stopped by another part of the refuge – Onslow Island – which is only open on Wednesdays. This was the first any of us stopped at Onslow Island and we didn’t know what to expect. We walked down the road between the parking lot gate and the island, walked up the hill and found a raised trail that goes around what looks like a retention area. The water level was very low, and we saw a bunch of Avocets and some female Northern Shovelers feeding in the low water and more Avocets foraging in the areas left dry. There was also evidence in the form of tracks that Alligators could be seen in the area as well. For some reason, this area was also home to a lot of butterflys, particularly Gulf Fritillaries, Cloudless Sulphurs, and Common Buckeyes. The fascinating thing about Onslow Island is that it is practically within a stone’s throw of the Weyerhaeuser paper plant! The plant is just across the Savannah River from the island. If you want to visit Onslow Island, it’s off of Georgia SR25 just past the Houlihan Bridge from Port Wentworth on the downriver side.

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Looking out at the Houlihan Bridge from the trail leading to Onslow Island
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Closer view of the Houlihan Bridge from the trail leading to Onslow Island
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Looking up to the raised trail going around Onslow Island
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Looking out at the retention area in Onslow Island, the Weyerhaeuser Plant on the other side of the Savannah River can be seen in the background
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Avocet feeding in the low water of the Onslow Island’s retention area
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Avocet foraging in Onslow Island’s retention area
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Alligator tracks in the mud in Onslow Island’s retention area
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Alligator tracks through the mud of Onslow Island’s retention area, you can see the tail drag marks between the footprints
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Gulf Fritillary Butterfly at Onslow Island
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Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly at Onslow Island
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Common Buckeye Butterfly at Onslow Island

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