Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge Hike

As promised yesterday…here’s a second post that has our photos from the hike.

The destination for the day was Pinckney Island NWR…it’s about 30 miles or so from here by road…maybe 6 as the crow flies but there’s no bridge over the river and swamp areas…and is at the landward end of the bridge out to Hilton Head Island. Pinckney Island is a 4000 acre site…it’s named after Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney who served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War. After our stop at the electrical supply store to order fuses we drove over and once parked set out on our planned hike out to Ibis Pond and back. It’s about 3/4 of a mile out and about 1/2 mile around the pond so offered us a total hike of about 2 miles…we decided that this was a good distance as we really haven’t gotten our hiking fitness back up this spring yet. As it turned out this is a pretty popular spot as we got the last spot in the parking area. On the way out we were bemoaning the likely low number of birds we might see as there was a school tour and other folks on the hike as well…usually this means lots of noise…which usually means no birds. Luckily…our expectations were not met and this turned out to be an excellent birding day…although one wouldn’t have thought so based on what we saw on the way out to Ibis Pond.

To set the stage…here’s a shot of the marshland off of gravel road we hiked out to the pond followed by a couple of shots out at the pond. It’s about 300 yards or so in diameter with a large hammock of marshy area in the middle with some trees and semi-dry land. What we hadn’t anticipated was that being further north the nesting season would be later and it turns out that it is full swing…albeit some of the species are earlier in the mating/nesting season than others as I’ll point out on some of the photos in a bit.

I should note here that whenever birds and landscapes are involved in then same blog post it’s more than likely that Neil took the birds and Connie the landscapes. When we upgraded our camera this past winter we kept the old Nikon D7000 for Connie and just got her a wide to mid length zoom lens…she didn’t want to carry anything heavier. This keeps Neil from having to continually change lenses on the Nikon D7100…he usually keeps the 50-500 Sigma Lens mounted so we’ve got the ability to reach out and get bird photos that are more than just a dot while Connie with her 18-55mm Nikor lens gets the “set the stage” shots. She’s also in charge of almost all of the flower shots.

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Ok, without further ado…on to the wildlife…identification and whatever notes seem appropriate included.

A Summer Tanager off the right side of the path…the only thing we saw before getting out to to the pond and the source of our original dismay due to the crowds.

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A Tricolored Heron…very similar to a Great Blue Heron in size and coloring.

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Better view of the Tricolored

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Breeding Little Blue Heron…you can see that this species doesn’t get the really long plumage…it’s breeding plumage is primarily the tufts of feathers that stick out from the back of the head along with the more reddish coloration of the neck. We originally thought these were Reddish Egrets due to the neck colors…but decided that they had to be Little Blues instead since the Reddish has a pinkish bill with a black tip as opposed to the pale blue dark tipped bill of the Little Blue. In addition…Reddish Egrets are pretty uncommon and we saw lots of this species around the pond.

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A Snowy Egret with it’s breeding plumage about half grown in…compare this to the Great Egret shots later and you’ll see the difference. Either this guy is a late bloomer or the mating season for Snowy’s is a bit later in the year.

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Great Egret breeding plumage…hangs down more than the Snowy above so it’s closer to mating time for it.

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Tricolored poised to take off. Note the white crest which along with the blue, brown and white gives it the name.

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Great Egret carrying some nesting material back to the nest.

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A couple of shots of the cutest little baby ‘gators. They were only about 2 feet long or so and we saw probably a half dozen different specimens. This one was on the bank about 5 feet from where we walked by.

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Great Egret (different specimen than the other two)

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Still another Great Egret specimen with more nesting material.

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Great Egret on the nest adding the material from the shot above to it’s home…I’m pretty sure it was the same specimen based on our location around the pond, the way it was flying, and the time stamps on the two shots.

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Black Crowned Night Heron…the pinkish legs indicate it’s in high breeding condition…but it does not display the two white head plumes…they’re a little further down his back and maybe the wing is hiding them from us.

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Great Egret with fully mature breeding plumage…these feathers were the cause of death for thousands of these birds back in the late 1800s/early 1900s when fashionable ladies wore extravagant hats. 

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Female Grackle we think…it’s nesting anyway as it was carrying nesting material and it’s got the wrong eyes for either a cowbird or one of the female blackbird types (female blackbirds are normally brownish…who woulda thunk it?) Peterson’s wasn’t much help on this one…and using the identification tools at whatbird.com didn’t help much either.

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Common Moorhen…this was quite near the baby gators.

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Another poised Tricolored.

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Another Black Crowned Night Heron…you can see one of the plumes on this specimen…it’s the long white almost stick like thing going down his back from just about where the black crown features meet the white neck feathers.

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The same Black Crowned as the shot above about 5 seconds later…you don’t get many chance to get a flight shot of them and Neil got this one just as it took off. He got a few more of the flight sequence…but they were behind some limbs and not in great focus so I didn’t post them.

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A Cliff Swallow. We saw a lot of these flying around in one of the tree patches we passed through on the way to the pond but trying to get a shot of one on the wing is nigh on impossible as they don’t fly in a straight line more than a quarter of a second or so before changing direction. This one conveniently landed on a pine tree near where we stopped half way around the pond for a drink on a handily located bench. It isn’t the greatest shot…but it’s a small bird and was 40 or 50 yards away from us

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Another Snowy with half grown breeding plumage. The Snowy is identifiable from any of the other white waders by the black beak and the golden slippers. Snowy’s fish differently than other waders. Most waders stand still moving their legs very slowly as they walk pulling them completely out of the water to step forward and than stab down when breakfast happens by. Snowy’s on the other hand shuffle their feet along the bottom and the brightly colored yellow feet startle the prey which then tries to escape and hence becomes available on the menu.

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Another Tricolored.

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And another one…this one was on a little spit of land that sort of curled out from the bank behind a piece of the hammock.

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Another Snowy Egret.

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A shot of the Summer Tanager that Connie got on the way out.

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A pair of nesting Little Blue Herons.

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And that’s about it. All in all a really great photo day.

Once back at the car we changed out of our hiking boots and headed home. We had a stop at the Golden Arches for a fish sammy for lunch then stopped by a Levi’s outlet store to see if we could find Connie another pair of jeans as it’s not always warm enough in Alaska for shorts…no luck but we’ll keep looking. Our final stop for the day was at the Port Royal Sound Maritime Center museum…this is fairly new and we spent a few minutes wandering around their exhibits and getting a stuffed turtle for Alex…and “No Bryan, you can’t have it. Not Yours.”

After a shower and a nap…and the monthly Honda generator maintenance run for Neil…we had leftover pork, Gumbolaya and veggies for dinner along with the rest of our 1.5 liter of Pinot Noir from the other day…then TV until bedtime.

It was supposed to rain all day today (Wednesday) and Thursday…but it’s partly sunny right now and pretty warm…maybe it’s just gonna be PM thundershowers later although Neil’s iPhone Yahoo Weather app says 60-100% rain for the remainder of the day and evening. Tomorrow now only says 50% rain but Connie had some work to do today and planned for tomorrow…if she’s done and the weather cooperates we’ll go do some Fun Stuff©. More of that is scheduled for Friday and Saturday anyway then we’ll get packed up and ready for our next move on Sunday afternoon. Our new local friends we met at Fat Patties the other night suggested some drinking and dining establishments and we’re planning on using them Friday and Saturday as well…and we’ll do laundry somewhere along the line late in the week or weekend. 

Cyas.

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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