This young bird was spotted in Waterfront Park.
Woody Pond is perhaps the most popular spot for birding at Harris Neck, though there are many other places to ramble in this place that I consider one of the best-kept secrets of the Georgia Coast. Whether a birder, hiker, bicyclist or just plain nature aficionado, there is much to be seen.
Walk along the dam for a sure encounter with some natives!
Very soon, the rookeries of the pond will be abuzz with new life. Wood Storks (Mcyteria americana) are a big presence here though not as commonly seen in winter. On that last day I visited, American Coots and Common Gallinules were the most populous residents.
Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata), Woody Pond.
The gallinules can be easily distinguished from the coots by their bright orange and yellow bills.
American Coot (Fulica americana)
Of course, the other big attraction at Woody Pond is the alligator population. But remember, don’t harass them!
You’ll generally see smaller ones in winter, but they live here year round!
Take nothing but pictures, and lots of good memories. You’ll want to return in the spring.
Sragglers from their native Central and South America, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) have been expanding their range in recent years. There is a small but healthy flock in the pond beside the Tolomato Island causeway. They’re fascinating to watch and are generally not very wary of human presence.
Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) were once a symbol of the diminishing wetland habitat necessary for their survival in the swamps of the Southeast. For a time one of the most endangered species in America, recent years have seen gains in their population, enough so that the Fish & Wildlife Service is considering removing them from the endangered list. They would still have a threatened status. A friend of mine recently suggested I not place them on a “vanishing” site; in honor of her positive outlook, I offer them as an evocation of how far we’ve come in protecting Georgia’s wetlands but a reminder in how much we still need to fight to protect them. Anyone who has been around Coastal Georgia in the past few years knows that population and development race forward, nearly unfettered.
Visiting Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in late winter and early spring when the Wood Storks, along with myriad other waterfowl and waders are abundant, is a must-do when in McIntosh County.
The riverfront park in St. Marys, named for the late timber magnate and art patron Howard Gilman, is a wonderful public space, rivaling any in Coastal Georgia.
I could have spent hours just watching and photographing the birds in the ornamental fountain. Pictured below: Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major).