Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

On Sunday, March 09, Judy and I decided to do some birding at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of Hilton Head Island.

Pinckney Island NWR, established December 4, 1975, was once included in the plantation of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a prominent lawyer active in South Carolina politics from 1801 to 1815. Few traces of the island's plantation in the 1800's exist today. From 1937 to 1975, when it was donated to the Fish and Wildlife Service, Pinckney Island was privately owned and managed as a game preserve.

The 4,053 acre refuge includes Pinckney Island, Corn Island, Big and Little Harry Islands, Buzzard Island and numerous small hammocks. Pinckney is the largest of the islands and the only one open to public use. Nearly 67% of the refuge consists of salt marsh and tidal creeks. A wide variety of land types are found on Pinckney Island alone: salt marsh, forestland, brushland, fallow field and freshwater ponds. In combination, these habitats support a diversity of bird and plant life. Wildlife commonly observed on Pinckney Island include waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, neo-tropical migrants, white-tailed deer and American alligators, with large concentrations of white ibis, herons, and egrets.

We are always intrigued with the plethora of the epiphyte, Spanish moss. Spanish moss is not biologically related to either mosses or lichens. Instead, it is a flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) that grows hanging from tree branches in full sun or partial shade.

The tide was out when we walked the trial so the wading birds were not in the dry marshes.

We walked to the first bird observation area which is about a 2 hour round trip. This area, Ibis pond, is a freshwater pond that is a great habitat for critters - like the critter below!

Upon arriving at the pond, we observed this large gator sunning itself. The American alligator has really made a comeback in the South.

The American coots were making their loud high-pitched squeaking honk somewhat like a goose's but more hollow sounding.

A person has to love their yellowish legs, with scalloped toes rather than webbed feet.


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