The first stop on the third and final day of my South Carolina/North Carolina road trip was the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens in Columbia, SC. I’d been to Riverbanks before, but it was years ago and found it to be much improved than I remembered. They have a large and varied collection of animals and birds and they all appear well taken care of. Many of the exhibits are large and open for the overall space available for the zoo. Unfortunately, given that temperatures for the day started in the low 30s, some of the animals more accustomed to warmer climates weren’t out in their exhibits. The Grizzly Bears weren’t out in their exhibit either, but I’m not sure why. I particularly enjoyed the Kangaroo exhibit, which you’re able to walk through on a path with nothing between you and the Kangaroos and Wallabies.
I wasn’t aware that Greenville, SC had a zoo until I started searching for things to do to replace the Cowpens and Kings Mountain battlefields that were closed due to the government shutdown during my vacation trip. I visited it after Musgrove Mill and the BMW Zentrum on the first day of my road trip and it turned out to be a good choice because it’s a very pleasant, small zoo. They’ve made effective use of the land that they have and although I’ve seen some complaints online that the enclosures are too small, the zoo is AZA accredited (one of the complaints was about the Lion enclosure and the zoo is building a new Lion enclosure). They have a variety of animals in their collection including Amur Leopards, Red Pandas, Orangutans, Black and White Ruffed Lemurs, and Schmidt’s Red-Tailed Guenons (and much more). One of the Black and White Ruffed Lemurs seemed to be just as interested in me as I was in it! As zoos go, the admission is relatively inexpensive at $9.75 for adults, so if you find yourself near Greenville I’d definitely drop in for a visit.
Savannah – It had been a few weeks since I had the chance to visit the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge; since yesterday afternoon’s weather was so beautiful, I took advantage of it and visited the refuge. Alligators were out sunning, the wading birds were out doing their thing, and there were even a few deer out and about (unfortunately, none that I could get a photo of). There was even an American Bittern sighting. The last time I visited in late September, there were a few Blue Wing Teal and what looked to be a couple of Ringneck Ducks already arrived for migratory waterfowl season, but on this visit, there were only a few American Coots to be seen. As far as other migratory birds go, Northern Harriers have made their arrival to the refuge as well. Most folks may love Spring and Summer, but I love Autumn and Winter when things cool down, the leaves begin to fall and the grass thins out making the wildlife easier to see, and the migratory birds arrive. It’s just about my favorite time of the year!
Savannah – I made my first visit to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in quite some time this morning. My parents hadn’t had the opportunity to visit recently either, so they came along as well. The tide was coming up, rapidly so in the diversion canal, so there weren’t a lot of Alligators to be seen, but it turned out to be a great bird day. Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, White and Glossy Ibis, and Cattle Egrets were numerous. We also saw a solitary Wood Stork. In a surprise given the still Summer-like temperatures, we saw some Blue Winged Teal. It may not feel like Autumn yet, but it’s good to some of the migratory waterfowl beginning to show up!
Savannah – It’s been a few months since I’ve been able to make a visit to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge so it getting to make a visit yesterday was a pleasure. My father and I took a ride through the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive around low tide, which was at 11:00 am. It was already getting quite warm but we didn’t see as many alligators out as we hoped. We did see quite a few Great Blue Herons and Green Herons along with a few Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and what was likely an American Bittern (but was a bit too far away to be sure).
The last time I visited the refuge a couple of months ago, they had lowered the water level in some of the impoundments inside the wildlife drive, but yesterday the water levels in those impoundments were definitely back up. Some of the outer impoundments are still dry and have grown up with tall vegetation making it hard to see very much. The diversion canal is still more a tidal creek than a canal after hurricane damage to its controls, but I’ve heard a rumor that funding has been approved for repairs (but nothing official at this point, so it’s still just a rumor).