A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fireworks and our Feathered Friends.

Happy 4th of July!
   The biggest holiday on St. George Island didn't disappoint.  Over 100 floats (golf carts are considered floats), in the
island's parade this year. And if you don't want to get wet, it's not the place to be. It's a water fight to end all water fights. And the colder the water, the better. The only suggestion for the parade is they'd like you to leave the water balloons at home. They can be very painful! And the parade route is going to have to be a little longer. The first floats were finished, and half of them hadn't even started yet!
100 floats strong!
   And when the sun went down, fireworks went off from one end of the beach to the other, lighting up the gulf waters. The main fireworks show, was in the middle of the island. And, as always, it was spectacular. But, it was hard to tell where the center of the island was. With all the fireworks that the visitors brought, going off everywhere, the show was unbelieveable anywhere you happened to be, on the beach.
Get ready to get soaked!
   But not everyone is a big fan of the 4th of July. From March until August, the shorebirds are nesting. And with all of the small barrier islands in the area, there's a large population of  different kinds of shorebirds, all along the beaches.
A "Least Tern" and her chick
   I have always enjoyed the birds, running up and down the beach, back and forth with the surf. But I  don't know
A "Willet"

a lot about them. In years past, the Audubon Society has asked for volunteers, to look after the nests, during the holidays, and when there's a high volume of people on the island. Add fireworks to the mix, and it can often be a matter of the bird's suvival.
    This year, my friend from the society, called and said they were looking for someone to kayak over to Goose Island ( I have no idea how it got it's name), around the holidays, and check on the nests that are there. Goose Island is right across a channel in the bay, from the state park on St. George Island. I was happy to volunteer for such a job.

A "Ruddy Turnstone"  The scavenger!
    The areas where the birds are nesting, are marked, and the oyster beds and sand bars keep the motor boats from getting too close. On occasion, a group of guided kayakers will take an eco trip, over to the island, but for the most part, the island stays undisturbed. Unfortunately, there are other things  that can disrupt the areas, like other birds, or wild animals This can cause the chicks to panic, run to the water, and drown. So it's important to check on them on a regular basis, just to keep track of the chicks.
High tide can wipe out an entire nesting colony.
   So, I've been kayaking over to Goose Island, every Sunday afternoon, since the 4th of July. And a few times in between, just because it's so enjoyable. And there's something different to see with every trip.
  Having been told what to look for, and seeing pictures of the birds that were nesting, made the job a lot easier for me. With this information, I could tell which birds were nesting, and which ones were hanging around, trying to scavenge the eggs
A "banded" plover
   When I first started going, I identified the American Oystercatchers right away. This bird was hunted to near extinction along the Atlantic Coast. Given total protection, they've become numerous, and nest as far north as Massachusetts, where just a few years ago, they were very rare. They stand out with their long, bright orange beak. And with their blade like beak, they can feed on mussels, and other bivalves, by severing the adductor muscles before the shells can close. They'll also feed on barnacles, and snails.They don't nest in colonies, so when you see a group of them, it's not likely they're nesting. I've seen a couple pairs of oystercatchers, but no chicks.  
    The other bird to look for was the Least Tern. It's a  small tern with a yellow beak that likes to feed on minnows and other marine or freshwater organisms. Unlike the oystercatcher, they nest in colonies. Because of this, entire colonies can be wiped out by extremely high tides. But there were a lot of chicks thriving on the big part of the island.  
"American Oystercatcher"
   Both the tern, and the oystercatcher, are migrating birds. But because of the generally mild winters, it's not uncommon to see them, on and around the island during the colder months. 
    It's exciting to discover the newly hatched chicks. And it's fun going back to watch their progress, and waiting for new ones. And as an added bonus, there are 3 Osprey nests on Goose Island that are grouped together and the chicks have yet to hatch.  
   Since many of the birds winter here, and there is a widespread decline in the shorebird population, it's important that the same guidelines used from March through August, are applied for September through January, the non-nesting months. Every time they're disturbed, from eating, or resting, they useing energy needed for their survival. So, fortunately, this is a volunteer job, that can last all year.

Three "Heron" nests



  1. Great pix, and good for you for volunteering, thank You. Norther buddy

  2. Found it, love it! I wish I could help but I would need a super long lens! Keep on bloggin Buddy!

  3. Thanks for sharing the shore birds

  4. Love all your posts Jo! I'll get there some day! <3