Home » Nature » Starting the New Year at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and Contemplating the Refuge’s Future

Starting the New Year at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and Contemplating the Refuge’s Future

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Savannah – When I woke up yesterday morning, it was a beautiful day; temperatures were in the 40’s and climbing and the sky was clear and blue. It was a great day for a refuge visit so after breakfast I drove over to the Savannah NWR. I drove around the wildlife drive and walked some of the trails. Getting out of the car and walking the trails paid off, I was able to borrow a 150-500mm zoom lens and there were some wonderful sights to use it on. Highlights of the trip were Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, Blue Winged Teal, Ring Necked Ducks, Cormorants, Northern Shovelers, Green Winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Harriers, Anhingas, and Alligators. The warming and sunny conditions brought out more Alligators than I’ve seen at the Savannah NWR in the last several visits.

The wildlife sightings began as soon as I entered the refuge. A Great Blue Heron and Little Blue Heron were the first wildlife I saw with a Snowy Egret and a couple of foraging White Ibis just down the road. Just after rounding the first turn, I saw the first of the 11 Alligators I was to see during the visit. It was a good way to start the visit!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Juvenile White Ibis

Juvenile White Ibis

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

An Alligator taking advantage of the best sunshine we've had in a few days

An Alligator taking advantage of the best sunshine we’ve had in a few days

Farther down the wildlife drive, I saw a group of Ring-necked Ducks, several Cormorants, and some Blue Winged Teal in the area where the Vortac used to be. That particular spot has been a great one for seeing the Blue Winged Teal and Ring-necked Ducks this winter; they’ve been there almost every trip I’ve made since the migratory waterfowl began arriving.

Ring-necked Ducks

Ring-necked Ducks

Cormorant

Cormorant

Blue Winged Teal

Blue Winged Teal

When I got to the Rice Trunk past the old Vortac site, I saw a beautiful Great Blue Heron. Whenever the tide is low like it was yesterday, you’re almost sure to see a Great Blue Heron or Snowy Egret there if not both. Yesterday there was just the Great Blue Heron, but its plumage was was in terrific form and I was able to photograph it from two different locations as it moved to the middle of a canal from its original spot just by the Rice Trunk.

Great Blue Heron near the Rice Trunk

Great Blue Heron near the Rice Trunk

Great Blue Heron grooming after moving out to the middle of the canal

Great Blue Heron grooming after moving out to the middle of the canal

I thought the Great Blue Heron's location relative to these old pilings made for an interesting image

I thought the Great Blue Heron’s location relative to these old pilings made for an interesting image

When I got to the Raccoon Island Trail, I decided to walk the trail since the weather was so good. Along the way, I saw a massive number of Green Winged Teal which took off when I spooked them by walking out of a wooded portion of the trail out into the open. The Alligator sightings began to pick up as well with more of them taking advantage of the sunny conditions.

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Alligator halfway onto the bank

Alligator halfway onto the bank

Two Alligators sunning

Two Alligators sunning

How many Alligators do you see in this photo?

How many Alligators do you see in this photo?

On the last leg of the wildlife drive, I saw some Ruddy Ducks up close to the road as well as some more Alligators and a female Anhinga. While I was taking photos of the Anhinga, she decided that instead of flying off she would swim off so I have a series of photos of her moving down the branch she was perched on and sliding into the water. There was a large Alligator floating in the water near the wildlife drive exit and visitors seemed to be paying so much attention to it that they missed a Great Blue Heron somewhat hidden in some nearby brush.

A pair of female Ruddy Ducks

A pair of female Ruddy Ducks

Male and Female Ruddy Ducks

Male and Female Ruddy Ducks

Female Anhinga

Female Anhinga

After drying her wings for awhile...

After drying her wings for awhile…

She moved down the branch...

She moved down the branch…

Slid into the diversion canal...

Slid into the diversion canal…

And swam off...

And swam off…

Large Alligator floating in a canal

Large Alligator floating in a canal

This Great Blue Heron was somewhat hidden in the brush just down from the Alligator

This Great Blue Heron was somewhat hidden in the brush just down from the Alligator

While walking along the Raccoon Island Trail, I took a couple of photographs that to me perfectly illustrate the essence of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It is a beautiful slice of nature and wildlife habitat adjacent to the industry of man. One one side of the river, you have a wonderful habitat for waterfowl, Alligators, and other animals and on the other you have the Port of Savannah, Dixie Crystals, and Weyerhaeuser .

Green Winged Teal flying with the Dixie Crytals sugar refinery in the background

Green Winged Teal flying with the Dixie Crytals sugar refinery in the background

Green Winged Teal flying with Georgia Ports Authority cranes in the background

Green Winged Teal flying with Georgia Ports Authority cranes in the background

The two photos above show the wildlife and their habitat against the backdrop of Dixie Crystals in the top photo and Georgia Ports Authority cranes in the bottom photo. As I looked at them on the back of the camera and while I was looking at them later on the computer I pondered the future of the refuge. The Savannah River Deepening Project will begin soon and I wonder what effect it will have on the refuge. There has been a lot of talk of salt water intrusion as a result of the deepening damaging parts of the habitat within the refuge. I wonder how much habitat will be damaged or changed? Apparently it all depends upon which study you want to believe and I’ve been told that the studies are flawed. I can only hope the deepening does minimum damage to the refuge; any loss will be a terrible one for both the wildlife and for us.


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