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.
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).