Savannah – It had been a few months since I had the chance to visit the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge’s Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive, so with low tides on Saturday morning I figured it was a good opportunity to go back over. For whatever reason it turned out not to be the most fruitful visit, but a few hours at the refuge beats a few hours at many other places.
I don’t know if they were Pokemon hunting, or what, but there seemed to be a lot of impatient visitors at the refuge, traveling at a speed far faster than they would be able to see anything but the largest alligator, much less smaller wildlife. The refuge seems to be accommodating to those playing Pokemon Go and they’ve even posted some rules they ask the players to abide by. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for Pokemon players to keep the speed down so the dust doesn’t disturb the wildlife and those of us watching the wildlife. Slow down a bit and you might just find more than Pokemon!
One of my favorite places at the Savannah NWR is the rice trunk just before the first oak hammock you come to. Water levels on one side of the road are effected by tides and it’s a good spot to catch herons and egrets feeding at low tide. On Saturday, there wasn’t the first heron or egret there even though there seemed to be plentiful food in the form of small fish and fiddler crabs.
Pool 16 on the southern end of the wildlife drive is being flooded for the impending arrival of migratory waterfowl. On Saturday, it mostly seemed to be full of Cattle Egrets and Ibis, but it’s a sign that ducks will be arriving in the not too distant future. According to the refuge’s Facebook page they’ll be flooding additional ponds later in the year pending controlled burns and the arrival of the waterfowl.
Surprisingly, we only saw two alligators at the refuge on Saturday. Part of the reason is likely the high water level in the diversion canal; it was covering the banks where many alligators are usually seen lying out in the sun. Other canals and creeks along the drive have very low water levels and judging by the algae on top of the water haven’t seen much circulation or current, so the alligators are probably avoiding those areas as well.
Since the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is underneath the approach and departure path for the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, you also get to see some iron birds in addition to the many feathered birds that call the refuge home. On Saturday, we caught CHECK 61/62 (F/A-18C, VMFA-312) from MCAS Beaufort on approach to the airport, where they were staying while flying sorties up to Bulldog MOA in central Georgia over the weekend. For the mil-spotters, I couldn’t see their bureau numbers, but they were marked NA-301 and NA-307.
I can’t wait for the cooler temperatures of Autumn and Winter to get here and with them the migratory waterfowl. As the temperatures cool down, I’ll be making more and more trips to both the Savannah and Harris Neck NWRs (Harris Neck just partially re-opened as part of the removal of trees effected by the Southern Pine Beetle). It’s almost my favorite time of the year!