Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2009 12:45:09 -0400
Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Sheila Willis <swillis@WAYXCABLE.COM>
Subject: Jekyll Island area; Northern Waterthrush, Peregrine Falcon,
nesting Wood Storks
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Hope you are fine.
Here is an account of the Okefenokee Bird Club's trip to the Glynn County
area on 3/21. As we drove over that morning from various locations, my
carload that was coming from Waycross, Ware Co. spotted a single WILD TURKEY
in Brantley Co. along U.S. Hwy #82.
That Saturday was one of the windiest days ever and most of the birds seemed
to be hiding from the blasts. The total for the period when we were all
together on the coast was 64 species. The group birded the Jekyll Island
Causeway Welcome Center, Jekyll Island (hitting key points on all sides),
and the Intercoastal Waterway south from Brunswick aboard the Lady Jane (a
shrimp boat turned eco-tourism boat).
It was mostly high tide at the Jekyll Island Causeway's Welcome Center
marshes & mudflats, but the winds were the worst part of the day's
conditions--no way to keep a scope steady there!! Along the ocean side of
Jekyll Island there were white-caps all over the surface of the water. Not
the best situation there either. Walking the path to the south end of the
island, we noticed a deer calmly feeding as we got closer & closer.
Obviously, the wind was keeping it from hearing our approach, and it only
ran off when we got just about on top of it. On the beach itself, the winds
were constantly blowing the sands about.
At Jekyll Point a PEREGRINE FALCON that was sitting near the dune line had
apparently contributed to the lack of birds along that part of the shore.
However, it was a good surprise for us to find. When we emerged from the
dunes the falcon flew off, and so a lone WILSON'S PLOVER scooted into
motion. Off to the side a small group of DUNLIN were probing for any tiny
critters that might be buried in the sand. A male LESSER SCAUP floated only
a few feet offshore and it was easy to see his purplish head in the sun. The
sun also caused a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER that hopped about in the shrubbery
near the cars to really appear blue as its name suggests.
In addition to whatever birds we could find that were out "in the wild"
getting their own meals, we had hoped to pick up some feeder birds at
Tidelands Nature Center & Wild Birds Unlimited, but not much was going on,
especially since the feeders were empty at Tidelands, normally a good place
to get the early Painted Buntings. The dirt road around the old Ski Rixon
pond there led us past where an OSPREY was sitting on its nest on a man-made
platform. Eventually, its mate came by too. A BELTED KINGFISHER rattled at
the boat launch on its way south and 2 HOODED MERGANSER females floated
together in a marsh creek (BFF?).
Next, we made a visit to the wading bird rookery behind the Jekyll Island
Amphitheater and found that several species were engaged in creating the
next generation. WOOD STORKs and GREAT EGRETs were at nests already. The
elongated breeding plumes of the GREAT EGRETs swayed back & forth in the
wind as the birds certainly looked their finest. Several YELLOW-CROWNED
NIGHT-HERONs and a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON were observed side-by-side at
the western end of the rookery. Before we left, a puffed-up HERMIT THRUSH
came out and sat proudly and serenely on a low limb for all to see.
After separating briefly in order to check some shops in the Historic
District, we all met for lunch at St. Andrews Picnic Area where we heard a
PINE WARBLER trill, a NORTHERN PARULA sing, and a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER
Moving next to the Campground, we found it was quite crowded. While we
waited for things to settle down at the Bird Sanctuary that is located at
J9--which did have seed, thank heavens--we were entertained there by a small
dog that was being walked by his owner. He let it stop now & again to dig
furiously for moles. It was a regular dynamo, furiously flinging dirt
everywhere & sticking its nose deep in the hole as if it were attempting to
go to China. Then, suddenly, a NORTHERN PARULA dropped in to take a bath at
the watering hole there. It was followed by a rowdy bunch of NORTHERN
CARDINALs that kept up the action in their corner around the sunflower seeds
and competed with the CAROLINA CHICKADEEs who demanded their share.
We also made time to go to the Landfill (sometimes called the Dump). This is
a somewhat misleading title. It is actually a place where the maintenance
department takes the grass clippings, dead flowers, branches, etc. from the
motels and other places and puts them into huge piles. The composting debris
in the area is then periodically moved around by bulldozers. Overall, it's a
large, grassy, open area with two ponds surrounded by oaks & pines with a
narrow ditch running along the entry road (See directions at end of this
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the loud call of a PILEATED WOODPECKER.
That sounded promising. Then, we got a FOTS migrant--NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH
which bobbed along the ditch. Great. But then our mini-birding-jinx
continued. Except for a few flyovers such as another OSPREY, there was
nothing at the pond except stacks of Yellow-bellied Turtles and a deer which
threw its tail up & ran off. The grassy/weedy spots were not productive
either. However, a little RUBY-THROATED KINGLET did flit about to end that
portion of the day's hikes.
Exiting the island, some got to see a large group of WOOD STORKs passing
overhead while others in different cars saw 2 AMERICAN KESTRELs sitting &
swaying on the wires and a PEREGRINE FALCON dashing off. The last Jekyll
Island area stop was at the Welcome Center but the steady winds & high
waters were continuing there as they had earlier. So it was on to the boat
Here's the Jekyll Island & Jekyll Island Causeway list:
LESSER SCAUP: 1 male w/ pretty purple head sheen (Jekyll Point)
HOODED MERGANSER: 2 female
PIED-BILLED GREBE: 1 (Amphitheater)
BROWN PELICAN: 13+
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT: 14+ (w/ 6+ at Amphitheater)
ANHINGA: 1 pair sitting together & 1 female (Amphitheater)
GREAT BLUE HERON: 1
GREAT EGRET: 17 (including at least 3 on nest at Amphitheater & 1 seen
SNOWY EGRET: 2
LITTLE BLUE HERON: 1
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON: 1 adult (Amphitheater)
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON: 5 (4 adult, 1 immature) at Amphitheater
WOOD STORK: 54+ (w/ ~7 on nests, ~21 in trees at Amphitheater; prob. more w/
nests--hard to tell for some)
BLACK VULTURE: 3+
TURKEY VULTURE: 25+ (several keeping low over marsh)
OSPREY: 3 (1 on nest at Tidelands w/ mate nearby)
NORTHERN HARRIER: 1
RED-TAILED HAWK: 1 (Landfill)
AMERICAN KESTREL: 2 (Causeway only)
PEREGRINE FALCON: 2 (Jekyll Point sitting near base of dunes; over Causeway)
CLAPPER RAIL: 1 heard
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER: 3 (1 Jekyll Point, 2 Causeway)
WILSON'S PLOVER: 1 female (Jekyll Point)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER: 1 (Jekyll Point)
KILLDEER: 1 (4-H/Soccer Field area)
SANDERLING: 6 (Jekyll Point)
DUNLIN: 10 (Jekyll Point)
LAUGHING GULL: 2 (w/ black heads)
RING-BILLED GULL: 2
HERRING GULL: 1
ROYAL TERN: 1
FORSTER'S TERN: 7+ (w/ black caps)
BLACK SKIMMER: 8 flying (Jekyll Point)
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE: 1
MOURNING DOVE: 3 (w/ 2 at Campground Sanctuary)
PILEATED WOODPECKER: 1 (Landfill)
WHITE-EYED VIREO: 4 (calling)
BLUE JAY: 2 (Campground Sanctuary & Landfill)
FISH CROW: 2
TREE SWALLOW: 3
CAROLINA CHICKADEE: 3 at or near feeders (1 Tidelands, 2 Campground
TUFTED TITMOUSE: 2
CAROLINA WREN: 2
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET: 1
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER: 1 pretty, along path to Jekyll Point
HERMIT THRUSH: 1 great looks!! (Amphitheater)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD: 1
NORTHERN PARULA: 4 calling at assorted places w/1 male bathing at Campground
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER: 4+
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH: 1 (Landfill ditch)-- FOTS "doing its thing"
NORTHERN CARDINAL: 12+ (w/ 6 assorted males, females at Campground Sanctuary
SEASIDE SPARROW: 1
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW: 4
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD: 2+
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE: 18+
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD: 12 in mixed flock of males, females
For the afternoon we took an excursion on the Lady Jane which was docked
near Spanky's Restaurant in se. Brunswick. We traveled from 4:00 to 6:00
p.m. through the area's creeks & sounds. Before we headed out, as the crew
gunned the motor, several CLAPPER RAILS called out suddenly in unison. The
same thing has happened when the cannons fire during re-enactments at Ft.
King George State Historic Site in Darien (McIntosh Co.). Imagine the
commotion when all the real battles were taking place!
The crew dredged for marine life 3 times & let folks see what all is out
there by putting the catch on a deck table. It was quite amazing--silvery
thin Ribbon Fish, almost translucent Squid, yellowish Puffer Fish w/ 1
puffed like a spiny ball, Flounder, Rays, Shrimp Mantis--spooky!, Blue
Crabs, Tongue Fish, Speckled Sea Trout, Spot Fish, etc.
As you might expect, large flocks of gulls, terns, & pelicans would follow
the boat & get either what was churned up in the wake or what was put back
into the water after we checked things out--except for the Shrimp which we
ate fresh-boiled right on the boat--yum! A particularly brave BROWN PELICAN
kept repeatedly landing at the sorting table & stealing the fish before the
others!! We also saw several Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphins swimming around
the boat at various times too.
Believe it or not, you could hear MARSH WRENs calling over the sound of the
engine! And as we were returning, a GREATER YELLOWLEGs was flushed from the
I did not try to keep a full count of the various birds here as mostly they
were species we had already seen; however, we did get a few that were
different. Coastal Georgia Audubon Society was on the same trip, so maybe
they got the numbers. I know they took pics. Check Lydia Thompson's
excellent coastal blog: http://coastalgeorgiabirding-lydia.blogspot.com/.
The winds were too rough for us to go to past Bird Island as we had hoped.
Here's a brief list for the salt marshes between St. Simons Island & Jekyll
Island (that I saw/heard) w/ most following the boat:
BROWN PELICAN: several
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT: swimming
TRICOLORED HERON: 2
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER: 1
TURKEY VULTURE: over marshes very low
NORTHERN HARRIER: 1 marshes off Hwy #17 at Brunswick
CLAPPER RAIL: 3+ called
GREATER YELLOWLEGS: 1 flushed near dock
WILLET: 30+ on or near dock
LAUGHING GULL: scores after boat; w/ black head
RING-BILLED GULL: some
HERRING GULL: a few
ROYAL TERN: some
FORSTER'S TERN: many after boat; w/ black cap
MARSH WREN: 1 heard
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD: some
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE: some
After the boat ride, some of us stayed to enjoy a seafood dinner at Spanky's
Restaurant and we even got to see a "red ball" sunset on the way home.
Landfill Specifics: It is north of a major golf course & the Historic
District and east of the residential Old Plantation Drive. There is no sign
to let you know where it is. If you are on the marsh side of the island (N.
Riverview Dr.), turn east at Magee (just n. of the Historic District) & go
one block to Old Plantation Dr. Then turn left/north for just a bit until
you see a small ditch hidden in the woods to the east/right. Turn there &
enter the area via a dirt road that is paralleled on its right/south by that
ditch (great for otters, etc.). In a few yards you will come to a Pumping
Station on your left-- park there.
The road & ditch continue east. There is a gate at the start that you can
walk around. However, beware! If the gate happens to be open, DON'T drive
through it or you might get locked in!! You can see one of the water towers
nearby when you enter the Landfill area itself. You can walk the road as it
curves to the left/north, passes shrubbery, & goes past the ponds and into
the woods. The first pond is the largest with the smaller, more plant-choked
one hidden to the west. To reach the back side of the large pond, go via a
path that follows its shoreline along its northern & then western sides.
Incidentally, the shrubs & wildflowers (Shepard's Needle, etc.) at the
Landfill are great and especially in the Fall are favorites with all manner
of butterflies!! It is one of my fun places to bird because of the variety
of bird species which use it, especially hawks of all kinds and sparrows.
Lots of White Ibis have roosted there at the first pond in the past, but the
staff have cut out a section of the Wax Myrtles which surround it, so they
don't seem to be using it as before. The area past the ponds is the spot
where they dump the road-kill animals, so often vultures come there too.
It's always a surprise what you'll find.
Take care. Come join us sometime!
Sheila Willis, President
Okefenokee Bird Club
Native American-Naturalist Talks & Tours
Waycross, Ware Co., GA
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