Home » Nature » Photos From the July 4th Holiday at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Photos From the July 4th Holiday at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

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Yesterday and today I took trips to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge; yesterday’s was an afternoon trip and today’s was a morning trip.  Both days it was like the wildlife knew there was a holiday and decided to put on a show for the visitors.  The water level in the refuge’s diversion canal is very high, so most of the Alligators were to be found in the first half of the wildlife drive instead of the second half where they’re often seen.  On Thursday,  I counted 21 Alligators – more than I’ve seen at the Savannah NWR in my last few trips.  This morning, I counted even more – 27, of which 21 in the first half of the wildlife drive.  On both days, Great Egrets were out in large numbers as well.  Royal Terns were also out in good numbers, putting on an impressive airshow with with swift turns and dives over the water.

3 July 2014

Alligator mostly submerged, keeping cool on a hot summer day

Alligator mostly submerged, keeping cool on a hot summer day

Alligator swimming along the interior of the wildlife drive

Alligator swimming along the interior of the wildlife drive

Camouflaged Alligator

Camouflaged Alligator

IMG_6769

This large Alligator gathered a small crowd of visitors and didn't seem the least bit perturbed by it

This large Alligator gathered a small crowd of visitors and didn’t seem the least bit perturbed by it

Small Alligator in the "turtle hole"

Small Alligator in the “turtle hole”

5 Great Egrets along the bank of the wildlife drive

6 Great Egrets along the bank of the wildlife drive

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egrets among the sawgrass

Great Egrets among the sawgrass

Great Egrets in flight

Great Egrets in flight

Great Egret preening in the trees

Great Egret preening in the trees

Yellow Bellied Slider in the "turtle hole"

Yellow Bellied Slider in the “turtle hole”

Yellow Bellied Slider in the "turtle hole"

Yellow Bellied Slider in the “turtle hole”

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

Royal Tern diving

Royal Tern diving

Osprey

Osprey

One of the things I notice frequently is how quickly visitors drive through the refuge’s wildlife drive.  It boggles me that folks take the time to drive over then rush through.  I think many of them are just looking for Alligators but even if that’s all they’re doing they’re still going to miss small ones or almost hidden ones.  That’s not to mention that there is more to see than just Alligators if you look for it.  I have two suggestions if you’re going to visit the refuge:

  1. Drive through slowly
  2. Get out of the car

I drive through at 5 mph and slower; often time in first gear at or just above an idle just letting the car roll slowly.  It allows me to see more and pick up smaller wildlife or concealed wildlife that one wouldn’t see at faster speeds.  It also doesn’t make as much noise and commotion that will scare off wildlife near the drive.  Get out of the car and walk the trails, you’ll see even more than what you will from the car.  If you see one Alligator or bird, stop and get out of the car to look – you might just see even more than what you initially saw.  Following these tips will increase the amount of wildlife you see and enhance your visit to the refuge.

Example:  What do you see in this photo? In addition to the Great Egrets, there are also 2 Alligators

Example: What do you see in this photo? In addition to the Great Egrets, there are also 2 Alligators

In my opinion, mornings are the best time to visit the refuge in the summer. During the heat of the day, most of the wildlife is trying to beat the heat and there just isn’t as much to see. You’re more likely to see birds out hunting and foraging in the mornings and there are usually more Alligators out and about.  I like to get there around 0800-0830; if you go earlier, you’ll be trying to take photos into the rising sun (if photography is your thing).  This morning’s trip yielded three Great Blue Herons, two of which were relatively close encounters as I was able to get within 15-20 feet of them.  In addition to the Royal Terns putting on their aerial displays as they did the day before, I also saw Black Skimmers for the first time; it was fun to watch them coming speeding by, lower beak in the water skimming for fish! Unfortunately I never was able to get a good photo of them, nor the Brown Bellied Whistling Ducks I saw.

4 July 2014

Alligators swimming past each other peacefully

Alligators swimming past each other peacefully

Alligator resting on some submerged sawgrass

Alligator resting on some submerged sawgrass

Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule

Alligator and Great Egret

Alligator and Great Egret

Great Egret among the lilly pads

Great Egret among the lilly pads

Young Alligator sunning on a mud bank at low tide

Young Alligator sunning on a mud bank at low tide

Great Blue Heron with an Alligator in the background

Great Blue Heron with an Alligator in the background

Great Blue Heron grooming

Great Blue Heron grooming

Great Blue Heron spreading its wings

Great Blue Heron spreading its wings

Great Blue Heron hunting at water's edge

Great Blue Heron hunting at water’s edge

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Red Winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird

Sunbathing Alligator style

Sunbathing Alligator style

Almost camouflaged

Almost camouflaged

More sunbathing Alligator style

More sunbathing Alligator style

Close up

Close up

If you slow down and look carefully, you'll wildlife like these juvenile Green Herons

If you slow down and look carefully, you’ll wildlife like these juvenile Green Herons

Juvenile Green Heron

Juvenile Green Heron

Juvenile Green Heron

Juvenile Green Heron

When I looked closer, there were 3, not just 2

When I looked closer, there were 3, not just 2

Juvenile Green Heron

Juvenile Green Heron

Young Alligator sunning on a log in the "turtle hole"

Young Alligator sunning on a log in the “turtle hole”


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