Su = summer
F = fall
W = winter
Sp = spring
YR = year-round
= Location is within +/- 10 miles of the indicated interstate highway. This is especially helpful for out-of-town birders who may be passing through Georgia while travelling and would like to get out in the field.
= Location is a "Georgia Birding Hotspot." Though this designation is subjective, it generally means that the area should be given high priority when planning a birding trip to a region. Some Hotspots offer productive birding virtually year-round (Jekyll Island, Phinizy Swamp Nature Park), while the best birding of the year may be seasonal at others (Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park).
= Habitat and/or access at location is subject to change according to mixed land use or changes in ownership, such as cattle operations, agricultural fields, pine plantations (logging), and so on. Always adhere to good birding ethics concerning private property, and if the habitat at a location has experienced major changes or is no longer accessible, please email the webmaster.
SBM = Shorebird Migration; this very generally refers to mid-March thru May in spring and mid-July thru mid-October in fall. Fall is the prime shorebird season. Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers likely only in fall. Peak passage of specific species is quite variable.
PM = Passerine Migration; this very generally refers to April and May in spring and August thru mid-October in fall. This includes all songbirds - wood warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, flycatchers, etc. Peak passage of specific species is quite variable. Spring migration is much more concentrated and birds are often in colorful breeding plumage and singing. Fall migration is more spread out; fall wood warblers can be notoriously difficult to identify (or impossible to determine sex), with numerous juveniles which do not exhibit the same obvious field marks as adults.
IBA = Important Bird Area; the aim of the IBA Program is to identify and conserve key breeding and feeding sites for birds. An Important Bird Area is a place that provides essential habitat for one or more species of bird, whether in breeding season, winter, or during migration. These sites are considered to be exceptionally important for bird conservation; see Georgia's IBA Webpage.
If you plan on birding the many wonderful hotspots of McIntosh County, The Blue Heron Inn makes a cozy and very birdy place to stay! Situated directly on the gorgeous tidal saltmarsh, guests may be serenaded in the morning by the numerous Painted Buntings that also flock to their feeders (especially in nesting season) or hear the raucous calls of Clapper Rails in the marsh. Get out in the field, then relax and bird right at your doorstep!
1) Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
IBA, PM, W for waterfowl
GPS via Google Maps
[DeLorme pg. 55, 9-G]
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A favorite coastal stop for all birders in almost any season, this former military airport has been converted into a sanctuary for nesting waders (especially Wood Stork), and also has a wonderful diversity of habitat for many other species including ponds, maritime pine-oak forest, open brushy fields, and marsh. From I-95 where you will see signage for the refuge, get off at Exit 67 (US Hwy 17) and go south on US 17 for just 1.1 miles, and when you see a sign for the "Smallest Church in America," turn left onto Harris Neck Rd. After 6.5 miles, you'll cross a short bridge and turn left into the entrance to the property.
You can take a few moments to explore a boat ramp and fishing dock on the marsh (PHOTO 1), looking for Belted Kingfisher, swallows, waders, and you may hear Clapper Rails sounding off. Then head down the entrance road through some very tall oaks that arch over the road (PHOTO 2). This short stretch can really produce a lot of great birds all year, especially in migration. Listen and look for Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, and plenty of other birds. Through the oaks on the marsh side of this road is a group of large dead pine trees which has hosted a family of Red-headed Woodpeckers.
You will then make a sharp curve to the right as you pass the administrative buildings and visitor's center; there are brochures and clean restrooms here. Look carefully for a couple feeders behind the buildings, which may have Painted Buntings in spring and summer. Next, a pine-oak forest will close in around you as you continue down the road; keep listening for interesting birds, and take your time to stop on the shoulder to enjoy flocks when they pop up.
At the end of this section, the road will take a sharp left at a dike with parking, a handicap access ramp, and an informational sign; park off the road here. Put on some bug spray, grab your binos and your scope, and walk quietly to the top of the dike... in spring and summer try not to let your jaw hit the ground at the sight you will behold! In front of you is Woody Pond (PHOTOS 3-6), perhaps the most amazing wader rookery in the state. Literally thousands of birds display, build their nests, and raise their young here. A great success story here is that of the Wood Stork, which is making a big comeback in Georgia right here at Harris Neck, where pairs often raise two healthy chicks, and the breeding population has been increasing annually for several years. Before you go far on the dike, scan carefully in the corner of the pond closest to you for water birds like Pied-billed Grebe, Common Gallinule or (rarely) Purple Gallinule, and in the trees for Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Cattle Egret, and Anhinga. Secretive Least Bitterns (which breed) and Soras (winter) stalk the shorelines and sometimes flush. Then, move quietly along the dike for a better view of the rookery. Birds you may see on nests or coming-and-going overhead include the Wood Storks (which often soar in kettles), Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and White Ibis. Other birds you might see on the pond or overhead include Double-crested Cormorant, Osprey, and Bald Eagle; Roseate Spoonbill has been observed in fall. In winter or early spring you may pick out an American Bittern foraging along the edges of the pond, or waterfowl like Hooded Merganser, Blue-winged or Green-winged Teal, or Bufflehead.
Along with all the action out on Woody Pond, the woods and scrubby edges all along the dike and parking area can be bustling with migrating or breeding passerines such as Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Great-crested Flycatcher, Hooded Warbler, Prairie Warbler, American Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, Gray Catbird, Summer Tanager, and much more. Enjoy the alligators that are present in Woody Pond, but also be aware of them sunning on or near the dike and do not approach too closely - they are beautiful but must be shown the respect that all nature deserves.
When you're finished here, continue down the road through a pine-dominated section and then on to the area that once served as the landing strips of the airport. They have completely grown over now with scattered small oaks, bushes, and other dry, scrubby vegetation (PHOTO 7); this is just right for Painted Buntings. In fact, this is one of the best places for these colorful birds on the mainland. You will curve around to the right through more similar habitat, as you look and listen for Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Northern Mockingbird, and other open habitat and scrub-loving birds. You will soon go up a gravel embankment and you are actually on a short dike; to your left and right (PHOTOS 8 & 9) are more low, wet areas that should be checked for interesting waterfowl and wader. In winter the whole open area is great for cruising Northern Harriers or perched American Kestrels. You will keep following the driving tour signs first to the left, and then to the right and into an area dominated by young pines (PHOTO 10), with one large field (that will be off to your left) and many other smaller open spots where Painted Buntings may continue to serenade you along your way. Listen for Pine and Yellow-throated Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Northern Bobwhite, Yellow-throated Vireo, and other birds mentioned earlier. You will eventually wind through more pine-oak forest and exit the property. By turning right, you will come back to the entrance in 0.9 miles and your tour is complete. Visit the refuge website.
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PHOTO 6 PHOTO 7 PHOTO 8 PHOTO 9 PHOTO 10
3) Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area
GPS via Google Maps
[DeLorme: pg. 63, C-7]
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This area is such an incredible birding destination that you quite simply shouldn't visit the Georgia coast in any season without spending some time here. It is particulary productive very early in the morning and at dusk, when along with calling owls and flocks of wading birds, waterfowl, and blackbirds flying overhead to and from their roosts, you may be treated to a gorgeous coastal sunrise or sunset (PHOTO 11). You can make this a nice, long day of birding here with a lunch break to patronize one of several delicious restaurants of Darien nearby.
From I-95, get off at Exit 49 (GA Hwy 251) and head SE for 1.1 miles to a dead-end intersection with US Hwy 17. Turn right on Hwy 17 and head south through the small town of Darien; obey the speed limit in this area! Just outside the town, you will cross a bridge where shrimp boats are docked down on the river, and then cross another bridge that is popular with local fishermen. At exactly 2.6 miles from GA Hwy 251, turn left at a long, white maintenance building and park (GPS point above; PHOTO 1).
The willows around this shack can be productive in migration, and are good for Yellow Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and waterthrush spp. as well as Swamp Sparrow. Overhead in spring and summer you may hear the calls of a colony of Purple Martin that live across the highway on another part of the property you will bird later. Any time you are on the property, pay attention to birds flying overhead because they may be interesting waterfowl in winter (along with Mottled Duck all year); raptors like Northern Harrier, Osprey, Bald Eagle, and others; or cool waterbirds like Anhinga, White or Glossy Ibis, etc. Walk along the shoulder of Hwy 17 for a short ways, and you'll see a gate in front of a long dike. Just before you get to this gate, take advantage of an opening between a few willows to scan a great marshy area; you can see it just fine from the dike later, but you have a better chance to catch a few more skittish birds from the road shoulder because you will blend in to the movement and noise of traffic on US 17 a lot better than when you are exposed out on the dike. In winter, look for Sora, Virginia Rail, American Bittern, and waterfowl like Blue-winged or Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and waders. Next, walk around the gate and slowly and quietly make your way down the dike (PHOTO 2), scanning for birds as you go. The area can have any number of interesting species, including species which may stay only in winter, remain to breed in summer, and others that are just passing through. In spring look for Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, King Rail, Red-winged Blackbird, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret, White and Glossy Ibis, and swallows like Barn, Northern Rough-winged, and Tree. In fall this dike is one of the only reliable places in Georgia for Clay-colored Sparrow. In summer Least Bittern breeds and is seen regularly. At the intersection of the east-west dike you're on and the main north-south dike is an observation tower that provides great views of the surrounding wetlands (PHOTOS 3-7), this is often referred to as the "new" or "east" tower. The level of the water is controlled by gates, and the area is flooded completely in winter for waterfowl and may range from wet, to muddy, to almost completely dry and choked up with vegetation depending on season and rainfall; this obviously affects what birds you may see. In winter, this is an awesome destination for waterfowl observation. Common species you may encounter include Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Shoveler, American Coot, Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon, etc. More interesting birds may be found at any time - American Black Duck, Mottled Duck, Canvasback, Redhead, Northern Pintail, and more have been seen and a rare Cinnamon Teal was found in a group of Blue-winged Teal in February 2004. A new addition to AWMA are Black-bellied Whistling Ducks; a fairly large group was observed consistently from June-July 2006, and has been observed reliably in the area ever since. This species was first documented breeding in Georgia also in summer 2006 (Brooks County); after much speculation, adults with ducklings in tow were finally observed in the fall of 2007, and some were banded by the DNR (confirming their breeding status at the Altamaha). From late fall through winter, take the time to scan the large groups of acrobatic Tree Swallows; since 2002 vagrant Mexican sub-species Cave Swallows have started to show up sporadically, but they are certainly not to be expected. Try to spot a bird with a buffy rump (not unlike a Cliff Swallow) and then stay on it to verify other field marks. You will also see gulls and terns cruising by overhead from time to time, including Least and Gull-billed Tern in spring and summer, along with Royal Tern, Caspian Tern, Laughing Gull, Black Skimmer, and others. Be sure to explore the entire area east of US Hwy 17 by walking along the dikes; be wary of snakes and large fire-ant mounds along the way. When you're done, turn left (south) out of the maintenance shack on US 17 and then make an immediate right (almost directly across the street) onto a packed dirt road to explore another part of the property). You'll notice a nesting platform through some trees to your right; this is used by Osprey in some years and recently a family of Great Horned Owls raised a family here in winter. You'll pass a couple long, narrow canals that are worth exploring for species mentioned above. The surrounding trees and scrubby habitat in this area and throughout the property are just awesome for passerines, too. In various seasons, you may encounter Painted Bunting, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Common Yellowthroat, Marsh Wren, Summer Tanager, Red-eyed , White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Loggerhead Shrike, Orchard Oriole, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow Warbler, Pine Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Louisiana and Northern Waterthrush, and a lot more. After the narrow canals, you'll come to a large pond with an island in the middle (PHOTO 8). This pond is always good for Double-crested Cormorant and Anhinga, and you may also see lots of waders and some waterfowl. Plenty of birds roost and some nest in the trees on the long, narrow island and this is another good spot to look for the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks among the branches. You can continue exploring the property in this area using some relatively good-quality sand roads all the way to a parking area just after passing under I-95 which offers more walk-in birding opportunities in an area that generally does not receive much attention because it is harder to access and involves some hiking; a rare Alder Flycatcher was found here in September 2007, just one example of why a brief foray here is probably worth it. In any open, grassy areas with edge habitat on the property, pay attention for Common Ground Dove or sparrows; common species like Song, Savannah, Swamp, and Field may be joined by Clay-colored or (very rarely) Lark Sparrow in fall and early winter. There is one more piece of the property worth checking out. Head back to US 17 and turn right (south). Exactly 0.9 miles down the road, and just after crossing a small bridge, turn right onto another dirt road. You'll come through some young pines, and then to the parking area for another observation tower, often referred to as the "old" or "west" tower (PHOTO 9). This is another nice spot to look for waders, waterfowl, and shorebirds. The road beyond the tower (PHOTO 10) provides more opportunities to explore a nice combination of habitats ranging from open fields, to wet cattail-filled areas, to scrubby edge habitat, to cypres trees and pines. When you're done exploring, you're probably tired and hungry so turn right back on US 17. Cross another larger bridge, and 0.8 miles from the dirt road turn left onto Charlie Gibbs Rd at a large sign for the Two Way Fish Camp. At the end is Mudcat Charlie's restaurant with some great coastal specialties, cold drinks, and air-conditioning. Incidentally, this marina is where the Altamaha River Delta Cruise departs during the Colonial Coast Birding Festival.
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PHOTO 6 PHOTO 7 PHOTO 8 PHOTO 9 PHOTO 10 PHOTO 11
Text and photos by KB
2) Sapelo Island
GPS via Google Maps
[DeLorme pg. 63, A-9 and B-9]
This is a barrier island with limited access, diverse habitats, and some great birds. It only takes a little extra effort and planning to get out here, and it can be done as a day trip or an overnight by using one of a couple affordable lodging options (see notes later). One interesting specialty of Sapelo Island is a small breeding population of Plain Chachalaca, which was introduced as a game bird in the early 20th century when the island was privately owned by tobacco tycoon R.J. Reynolds (the species is officially "countable" here by ABA standards). From I-95, get off at Exit 49 (GA Hwy 251) and SE for 1.1 miles to a dead-end with US Hwy 17 in the town of Darien. Turn right, and drive through a commercial area in Darien (obey the speed limit because local police are vigilant) and in 1.0 miles, turn left onto GA Hwy 99 (there is a brown sign here for the Ft. King George State Historic Site). Head north on Hwy 99 for a total of 8.0 miles, and turn right onto Landing Rd, where there should be a sign for the Sapelo Island Visitor's Center (along Hwy 99 at 5.3 miles, you may want to make a quick stop at Tolomato Causeway Pond, see description below). Just 0.5 miles on Landing Rd, and you will curve to the right and enter the gate for the Sapelo Island Visitor's Center; park near the building. As long as you have already called a contact on the island to arrange transportation, they will have given your name to the DNR officers who run the ferry so you do not need to check in at the visitor's center. However, there are clean restrooms, some cool exhibits and a gift shop here. Take all the optics, water, and snacks you will need for the day (or more if you're staying the night) and walk down to the boat dock and give your name and $2.00 fee to a DNR official who should be standing there with a clipboard; the ferry leaves at 8:30am so don't be late! While you wait for the boat to leave you may enjoy the sounds of Marsh Wrens singing, or a Clapper Rail sounding off. A new, larger vessel was put into service in fall 2006 (PHOTO 1), and cuts the ride out to the island down to only 15 minutes. Along the way, stand on the top deck to enjoy the sea breeze and (depending on season) birds like Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Laughing Gull, Northern Harrier (winter), Merlin or Peregrine Falcon (especially fall), divers, waders, etc. If you are on a guided trip, you will have a pick-up truck waiting for you at the boat dock with benches in the back to take you around the island. Otherwise, you will need to meet your contact here. A good place to start is around the island's trash dump, where the Chachalacas are often found, and it's not difficult to arrange to be dropped off here with a bike for the day for about $15. The secretive Chachalacas are most vocal very early in the morning, so if you stay a night on the island get there just before dawn. If you are standing at the dumpsters looking east down the dirt (not asphalt) section of the road, you'll see a little intersection of two dirt roads (PHOTO 2). Around an approximate quarter-mile radius of this intersection is where the birds are usually detected; if you play audio here please use it sparingly - if the birds do not respond they are probably not in the area, and they are certainly not a given on every visit. From the intersection (again, looking at it from the dump), you can continue straight ahead and you're on Old Beach Rd, heading through some scrubby vegetation, and then into a woods with pines, large oaks, and palms. Listen for birds like Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireo, Eastern Wood Pewee, Summer Tanager, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and more. In migration the pine-oak woods can have all kinds of migrants including American Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and both waterthrush species are possible in low, wet muddy areas. This sand and dirt road will eventually come through an area of dead pine snags on your right that is great for woodpeckers including Red-headed, and then into tidal flats and scrubby trees, where Painted Buntings are found in spring and summer. Finally, you'll reach the sand dunes and the beach; the folks who loan the bikes do not allow them onto the beach itself, unfortunately, so leave them at the end of the road, take your scope and some water and hit the beach (PHOTO 3). You should see at least a couple groups of shorebirds along the surf and depending on season you may find Red Knot, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, peeps, and possibly Marbled Godwit. You may find Reddish Egret in summer; Wilson's Plovers and Least Tern breed here so be sure to walk only below the high tide line. You will have a good assortment of gulls, terns, and divers to sort through as well - in winter pay attention to rafts of divers offshore which may contain both Scaup spp. or scoters, and Northern Gannets may be found doing tremendous dives in the distance. Also in winter, Sapelo is the second best place in Georgia to find Long-billed Curlew (after Little St. Simons Island). One of the more productive areas to scan from this access point is to head north on the beach to an area of sand bars where a tidal creek empties into the ocean; note that it is too deep even at low tide to ford and thus you cannot get from here to the northern end of the island or vice-versa along the shore. When you're done exploring the beach, backtrack to the dump intersection; if you want to explore the island's historic community of Hog Hammock, turn right (PHOTOS 4 & 5); importantly, this is where both lodging options on the island are located. In addition, the northern portion of the island that can be accessed from the community has another lesser-used beach access (Cabretta Beach), a DNR group-only campground, and plenty more birding opportunities so if you're here for a longer stay keep this in mind; the nice local folks have come up with a hand-drawn map that is geared towards points of interest for birders and hunters that you can ask for when you meet them at the boat dock. Back at the dump, for day-trip birding coming back from the beach, continue straight, pass the dump on your right, and you'll be back on a paved road that will dead-end into the North-South Autobahn where you will turn left to head south down the island. (IMPORTANT: though you could technically turn left back at the dump intersection, or even use another "road" closer to the beach to get to points south on the island - both roads are shown on maps - these roads are both very overgrown, with soft sand that is nearly impossible to bike on, and plenty of mosquitoes and ticks, so use your best judgement. In March 2008, Root Patch Road - which is the one heading south from the dump intersection - was cleared with brushmowers for easier motorized or walking access to the Reynold's Mansion, but the soft sand would still make biking very difficult). Heading south on the paved North-South Autobahn, you'll pass through some nice pine and oak habitat with a scrubby understory that is great for Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Indigo Bunting, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, various sparrows, wrens, and lots of woodpeckers. Keep an eye overhead for soaring birds such as Turkey and Black-headed Vulture, Bald Eagle, and Osprey. You will pass the road on your right that heads out to the boat dock, and then you will curve to the left. You will next come into the area of the UGA Estuarine Research Center, with a nice tidal marsh on your right. You'll next enter the UGA buildings area (on the right) and on your left is an area of canals/ditches (PHOTO 8) that are filled with fresh water and cattails. Lots of interesting breeding birds may be found around here, including Northern Parula, Orchard Oriole, Northern Mockingbird, Yellow-throated Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, Brown-headed Nuhatch, along with plenty of great migrants in season. Explore this area further by briefly wandering down an oak-lined paved road to your left (PHOTO 9) across from some long-overgrown tennis courts. Some guided field trips will also make a restroom break at the UGA facility, with an opportunity to hit a cold drink machine as well. Continue past the tennis courts, and you'll notice that you are also passing the Reynold's Mansion on your left, a historic building that has been restored and turned into a group conference center. The open areas with huge oaks on the mansion grounds can produce some awesome passerines, especially in migration, so go slowly and be attentive for birds calling or singing. Along with breeding birds already mentioned, you may encounter Black-throated Blue Warbler, American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Summer Tanager, and lots more. When you loop around the mansion a little more, you will see another paved road split off to your right that heads to Nannygoat Beach; turn here. You'll soon come into more tidal flats and scrubby dune areas that are great for migrants, as well as Painted Bunting in spring and summer. Just a bit further down this road, you'll notice a shell road on the right, which leads out to the Sapelo Island Lighthouse (PHOTO 6). This road, and other open areas of the island, can be covered up with Tree Swallows along with Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers and Savannah Sparrows in fall and winter. At the end of this road, explore the area around the lighthouse, including a trail that goes out to a raised metal observation platform. In fall, this can be an amazing Hawk Watch location, especially noted for good numbers of Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel, and Broad-winged Hawk, along with other raptors. In addition, the tidal spartina grass areas near the lighthouse (PHOTO 7) can produce all three "salty" sparrows in fall and winter - Seaside Sparrow, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. However, be very careful because a) you should try not to crush the base of the the spartina grass bunches as you walk and b) the fiddler crab-covered mud in these areas can range from firm and nearly dry to muddy and up to knee-deep. Back on the road to Nannygoat Beach, you may run into Common Ground Dove, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, or House Wren here year-round, at other times of year you may see Palm Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, or more Painted Buntings, and always keep an eye on the sky for falcons or other raptors in migration. At the end of this road you'll come to the only beach structures on Sapelo (PHOTO 10), a public restroom, picnic tables, and a nice covered picnic pavilion and a boardwalk that will take you over the dunes to the beach. Take your time here to enjoy the waves, the view, and beach birds mentioned earlier in this section. The south end of the island is very rarely birded and if you're here for a while you may wish to explore it; it looks on satellite to offer very similar habitat as the south end of Jekyll Island (scrubby dunes and perhaps a nice roosting flock of beach birds), but be very careful because rattlesnakes may be found in this habitat as well as birds. If you've explored all of the areas above and/or you need to catch the ferry back to the mainland, backtrack to the road for the boat dock and turn left. A little more than half the distance to the boat dock, you'll come to a little bridge over a nice tidal creek and some cypress and pine habitat (PHOTO 11). Stop here if you have the opportunity, and look and listen for Clapper Rail, Marsh Wren, Red-headed Woodpecker, waders, passerines, and soaring birds; a group of Roseate Spoonbills was seen over the area in June 2007. Whenever your Sapelo adventure is over, catch your afternoon ferry back to the mainland. A few options for getting to and staying on the island... one is a newer lodging called The Wallow. It is a large house with six interestingly-decorated guest rooms, and a communal kitchen and family room. The families who built and own this establishment also offer various island tours (which can be customized) and some unique local foods and crafts, and they have a website called GeeChee Tours. Just down the North-South Autobahn from here is The Weekender, another lodging option on the island. By contacting the proprietors of The Wallow or The Weekender, you can usually gain access to the island in different ways... a) you can stay at one of their establishments, b) you can take one of their tours, or c) you can arrange for someone to meet you at the dock with bikes and/or a ride to the dump (they will clear you through the DNR officers on the ferry). In the latter case, you would need to negotiate over the phone the services you would like provided, and agree on a price ahead of time. A ride to the dump in the morning with two bikes for the whole day cost Rachel and me $30 total in June 2007. George Walker of The Wallow was my contact the first time, and Cesar from the Weekender the second time, both really nice guys. NOTE: The whole island can be full of ticks and mosquitoes, especially in warmer weather, so bring plenty of DEET-containing repellant!
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PHOTO 6 PHOTO 7 PHOTO 8 PHOTO 9 PHOTO 10 PHOTO 11
Text by KB; Photos by KB & RC.
4) Tolomato Causeway Pond [March 2008]
[DeLorme pg. 63, grid B-8]
This quick stop in the vicinity of the town of Darien is good for waders and other marsh/tidal species. Birds of interest since 2001 include Roseate Spoonbill, Black-necked Stilt, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Wood Stork, Tri-colored Heron, Semi-palmated Plover, Semi-palmated and Least Sandpiper. In Jan 2007, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-crowned Night Heron, Wood Stork, Dunlin, Tri-colored Heron. From downtown Darien, turn onto GA Hwy 99 (heading north) off of US Hwy 17; this is the same road that goes to the Sapelo Island Visitor Center and ferry. Pass Milepost 8, then pass Carneghan Emanuel Baptist Church on the right. After a total of 5.3 miles from US 17, turn at the next road on the right after the church, Tolomato Causeway - there's a historic marker here (PHOTO 1). Continue about 0.5 miles, and the pond will be on your right, with a nature trail around part of it. The best option for birding while not blocking the road is to drive past the pond to a small seashell/gravel parking area for a boardwalk to a marsh viewing platform (PHOTO 4) where the road curves sharply to the left. Park here and walk back to scope the pond. When we explored this area in Jan 2007, we had truly mixed feelings. The area is covered with twisted old live oaks, cedars, and pines and is surrounded on all sides by gorgeous marshes and tidal creeks. You can see views of the pond in PHOTOS 2 & 3, and a view of the marsh from a little viewing platform that serves the community in PHOTO 3 (where you parked to scope the pond). Another cool aspect is an area of tabby ruins that was once part of a major sugar mill and rum distillery complex; these ruins can be viewed now but will be behind a set of gates once all the lots are developed.
a short walk around the island would be great for passerines during migration... but in a few years you'd be basically walking around looking into people's yards with binoculars which usually doesn't go over so well.
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Copyright 2013 Ken Blankenship. All rights reserved.