Built in 1927 as a retirement home for the Brotherhood of Railroad Conductors, the “main building” today serves as an educational center for the surrounding Oatland Island Wildlife Center. It is quite typical of institutional architecture of its era and subsequently served as a Public Health Service hospital in World War II. Until being surplussed in 1973, it was used as a development laboratory by the Centers for Disease Control. The Chatham County Board of Education has owned it since then and it serves over 20,000 students and visitors each year as a wildlife education facility today. To movie buffs, the building may be familiar to viewers of the John Travolta movie, The General’s Daughter, as it was used as a set location. And Martha Barnes adds this interesting bit of Savannah trivia: People who read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will remember the main building as where Luther Driggers worked and actually developed the chemical used in today’s flea collars, but in the book he was always about to poison Savannah’s water supply.
Carol Suttle, a Savannah native and Oatland’s most enthusiastic ambassador, contacted me several months ago about photographing the old water tower at the entrance to the center; it’s scheduled to be demolished and it’s one of her favorite structures on the island. Touring the island and its natural features with Carol and photographer Mike McCall was a real treat, and I hope to revisit in the future. Located just past downtown Savannah on the Islands Expressway (US 80), it’s often overlooked by tourists heading to Tybee Island but is well worth a visit! See the link at the end of this post for specifics about admission and other particulars.
David Delk, Jr., built this cabin in 1837 in the Taylor’s Creek community near Gum Branch in Liberty County. It was moved and reconstructed here by the Youth Conservation Corps in 1979. The layout is of the Scots/Irish or “shotgun” design (not to be confused with the more common and more recent shotgun “house”), a vernacular form common in early Georgia.
Martha Phillips Youngblood writes that the corn crib pictured above was originally owned by her grandfather, Thomas Hilton Phillips, and was moved here from Treutlen County.
The two abandoned structures pictured above are remnants of the bureaucratic era on the island. A hand-crafted boat from the 1970s can also be seen on the property.
Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus), as well as wolves and bison can be easily seen on the property.
Beautiful Richardson Creek runs adjacent to the island.
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.
The Atlantic Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata) or Ghost Fiddler can be spotted at the edges of dunes and vegetation all over the Georgia coast, though they can be a bit elusive.
Commonly known as the Banana Spider, the Golden Silk Orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes) is the most common large spider in Coastal Georgia and can be found in a number of diverse habitats.
Because they are not hunted on the island, White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are quite tame. Like other mammals isolated on islands, they are generally smaller than their mainland counterparts.
I was lucky enough to be on Jekyll Island this weekend for the release of two rehabilitated “patients” by the great folks at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. A large crowd was on hand to witness this special event.
The first of the two releases was an immature Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) named Ebb. Ebb was found in a tidal pool on Jekyll Island on 7 July 2013 and was a bit anemic.
The second patient to be returned to the Atlantic Ocean was Cinnamon, a Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta). The sub-adult turtle, approximately 15 years old, was found stranded on Blackbeard Island on 29 June 2013 and was rehabilitated at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s Turtle Hospital.
The work of the center is ongoing, including perhaps the most important work of all, the monitoring of sea turtle nests around the island and on other barrier islands. Nesting appears to have steadily increased since the work was initiated, and for the fourth consecutive year a record number have been recorded. 2,241 have been monitored this year!
Please visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center when you find yourself on Jekyll Island. It’s some of the best work the state of Georgia does and though admission to the hospital is a bit expensive, all the monies are used exclusively for the educational and rehabilitative mission of the center. They’re located at the old Jekyll Island Power Plant (1903), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A small tyrant flycatcher, this Eastern W00d-Pewee (Contopus virens) was busy catching bugs, which are in great abundance on the island, near the Farmers Alliance Hall during my last visit. I was glad to get a shot of him at work.
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.
American Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are abundant (though generally not aggressive) in the ponds and wetland areas of Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. There were over a dozen young alligators within the first 300 yards or so, posing for my camera then slipping off into the water.