A Visit to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge; 5 December 2015

Yesterday was a wonderful early winter day for a visit to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. The temperature was in the mid-40s and the skies were clearing; the wind was a up a bit but that didn’t seem to be causing any issues. Since the temperatures have been cooling, I thought it might be a good day to take my first trail walk in awhile since the alligators wouldn’t be as active (I’ve had several too close for comfort run-ins with large alligators on the trails in warmer weather).

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I parked the car and did some trail walking at Savannah NWR yesterday and it was well worth it.

Yesterday’s visit coincided with low tide and I stopped by one of the rice trunks where there are several good spots for catching wading birds at low tide. I wasn’t disappointed, finding a Great Blue Heron, a Snowy Egret, and a White Ibis along the canal banks.

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White Ibis feeding along a canal bank at low tide
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White Ibis on a canal bank at low tide, hunched down against the wind
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Great Blue Heron on a canal bank at low tide, hunched down against the wind

Stopping to walk the Raccoon Island trail was well worth the time. The skills I learned hunting serve me well behind the lens of a camera just as they did behind iron sights or a scope. I was able to get within fairly close distance of a Whitetail doe twice as it was feeding along the canal bank. Both sides of the trail were full of Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks; the Savannah River side of the trail was absolutely packed with them. I also saw some Mallards and Northern Shovelers, but none of them were within camera range. When I walked out of the woods on one of the hammocks along the trail, masses of Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks took flight. I never hunted ducks, but I would think it was a sight that duck hunters would have loved to see.

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Whitetail doe feeding along the bank of the canal that runs between the legs of the Raccoon Island Trail
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The treeline along the other side of the trail didn’t offer much protection…
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So it ran farther down the trail where I was able to sneak up on it again before it ran all the way down the trail to one of the hammocks
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I saw this Gulf Fritillary Butterfly in the area where I first saw the doe feeding at
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Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks taking flight
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Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks taking flight
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Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks
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Tri Colored Heron
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Tri Colored Heron
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Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks taking flight; Georgia Ports Authority cranes in the background
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Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks taking flight; Georgia Ports Authority cranes in the background
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Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks taking flight; Georgia Ports Authority cranes in the background
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Blue Winged Teal and Ring Necked Ducks in flight
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The sky was absolutely filled with Blue Wings and Ring Necks; Georgia Ports Authority in the background
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These photos just don’t do justice to how many Blue Wings and Ring Necks there were between the Raccoon Island Trail and the Savannah River; Talmadge Bridge in the background

After finishing on the trail, the rest of the wildlife drive didn’t disappoint either. During the slow drive along the diversion canal, I saw a Sora for the first time in the flooded area on the other side of the road from the canal. It blended in with its surrounding so well that I would have never noticed it except for its bright yellow beak.  The yellow caught my attention and I used the camera to zoom in to see what it was and noticed the rest of the bird. It wasn’t until I got home and consulted the Stokes bird book that I knew what it was. Pied Billed Grebes were along both sides of the drive; I took a photo of one out of the window, if I would have tied to get out of the car it would have surely taken a dive. I saw the only three Alligators of the whole visit along this part of the drive as well; all three were on the opposite side of the drive as the canal.

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Pied Billed Grebe
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White Ibis
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Sora (a type of rail); I would have never seen this one if not for the bright yellow beak
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One of only three Alligators I saw during this visit
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One of only three Alligators I saw during this visit and the only one that was in the water

Yesterday was easily the best visit I’ve had to a refuge in months. The weather was almost perfect and there was a great variety of wildlife out. Winter is my favorite time of year and I’m looking forward to more visits like this over the next few months!

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