Saturday, March 18, 2017

Back to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and St. George (after awhile away)

It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.
Aesop

In the almost-three years we have lived in NC, there have been only two things I miss about Florida--the St. Marks wildlife refuge and St. George Island. They have been tugging at me for a long time and so I finally decided I had to go back.

I stopped at the refuge on my way to the island, which turned out to be a good decision--the day I left St. George it was pouring rain, and so I would have missed the refuge altogether if I had waited.

I have not seen a limpkin for a very long time!

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I drove up to the lighthouse and parked, as usual, and started the walk around Lighthouse Pond. The birds were, as always, perched on the pilings.

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There were the usual ducks in the pond. I used to know what these were but now I am not sure...

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There was a grebe in amongst them, but he decided to go elsewhere...

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I guess it takes a lot of hops to finally become airborne.

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But he did finally land and swim on.

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After getting to the boat launch area, I decided to take a walk down the Cedar Point trail, where I had often encountered nesting osprey. No luck with that this time, but I did see these egrets standing in a very still pool.

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Just a note--that picture took forever to take. I didn't want to alarm them and have them fly away, nonetheless I had to walk across underbrush and pretty much climb into a tree to get that photo. There were some egrets with some juvenile ibis nearby, so as long as I was already in the thickets, I got those as well.

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I had hoped to see pelicans when I got to the end of the trail, which juts out into the Gulf, but there were none. So back to walking. I got to the lighthouse and continued on behind it, another trail we always walked. This heron was standing there near the water.

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I continued on to the little beach-like area, where I found this egret.

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He didn't want company....

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It was time to move on and get to a house I had rented at St. George (see the following post for that section of the trip) so I got in the car to drive out. There are many pools and ponds alongside the road, and I couldn't resist stopping near one when I saw this egret getting fluffed by the breeze. Note the bright green nares, a sign that it is breeding time.

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It was a joy to be back there. Read on for the second part of the trip.

Back to St. George Island (after about 3 years away...)

In every outthrust headland, 
in every curving beach, 
in every grain of sand 
there is the story of the earth. 
Rachel Carson

As mentioned in the post above, it became time to get back to St. George Island. Rather than camping, my lodging mode when we lived in FL, this time I rented a house right on the beach for a week. It had a fantastic screen porch and was only a very short path through the sand to the shore. The oysters and shrimp were as good as I recalled. And finally--birds!!

On my first walk on the beach, I came to this great blue heron:

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A little while later it was joined by a much smaller shorebird...

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And off in the distance was a boat that I presume was busy already replacing the huge amount of oysters or shrimp I planned to consume. They must have known I was coming.

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I had sunshine every day that I was there except for the morning that I packed up the car and headed for home. On that day it rained steadily over 300 miles. But while at my rental house, I spent time every day on the beach. I have always done my beach sitting at the state park--dogs are not allowed on the beach at the state park. So it was quite a joy to see all the dogs playing in the water in this section. I saw these poodles almost every day.

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Most of the time I would take my Kindle down with the thought of reading, but I got very little reading done on the beach...too much to see. This was fun (though hard to photograph very well)--

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and going the other way:

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I saw dolphins swimming by almost every day.

I love the sandpipers, which come in both small and large. I used to know what this larger one is. Very cute.

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It caught something!

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It dropped it....

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And got it back!

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And then there are the little sandpipers, my favorites--

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These dogs were having fun, but the people with them somewhat less so. I imagine they were young dogs and they may have been having a little too much fun, particularly if the one had to be kept leashed.

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I was very disappointed at the lack of pelicans, it must have something to do with the time of year or availability of fish now. It was not until my last full day there that a few finally flew by. I have missed these birds in particular.

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And one more dog who was having a great time in the surf--

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I've decided to make this trip an annual thing. When we moved to NC, I thought I could trade the beach for the mountains, and that worked with every beach but this one. I don't enjoy the lengthy and tedious drive, but once I get there, it is certainly worth it.

Meanwhile, I don't know if we will get back to paddling this summer, but this blog will get more attention eventually. Seems odd to live in NC and not have ever seen the Outer Banks, so that is the next trip, coming up this summer. In the meantime, stand by.