Why sit around grousing when you could be out bird watching?
Whether you call it birding or birdwatching, the idea is the same: outdoors fun – and the Savannah / Savannah Quarters area is a prime location.
Grab binoculars – or not, if you want to keep it simple – some comfortable shoes, a hat, sunblock, maybe some bug repellent spray and walk out into your back yard. You could pick up the Golden Field Guides’ Birds of North America, which has helpful maps and song recognition phonetics – and it will fit into a coat pocket.
It’s really that simple. In our area you’re likely to see swifts, hummingbirds, waterfowl, coots, cranes, storm-petrels, cormorants and more. Some 425 species have been documented in Georgia. Seven more are on the list but classed as provisional. Of those 425, 98 are classed as rare and another classified as rare may well be extinct: the ivory-billed woodpecker.
Many of these can be spotted in and around our wooded community. But if you’re in the mood to travel, there’s excellent birding nearby.
Some 30 minutes away, the birding is great at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, especially during fall, winter, and spring. Try the four-mile Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive and adjacent hiking/bicycling trails. Look for American alligators too. Many species of wading and marsh birds can also be spotted here throughout the year. The trails adjacent to the Kingfisher Pond Recreation Area are great for watching woodland songbirds such as prothonotary warblers and American redstarts during spring and fall migrations. Summertime brings in purple gallinules in the managed impoundments and swallow-tailed kites soaring in the sky; both species nest on the refuge.
At Tybee island, about 45 minutes away, walk the north beach near Tybee’s famous lighthouse to see seabirds and shorebirds. Check out the black skimmers, whose lower beak is longer than its upper beak. Oystercatchers, also full-time residents, use their flat red bills to pry open oysters. Winter is the best time to see shorebirds who migrate from the Arctic tundra to spend the fall and winter on Tybee’s beach.
The north beach of Tybee is the best place on the coast of Georgia to see the purple sandpiper. You’ll spot them migrating and wintering along with sanderlings, turnstones, dunlins, western sandpipers, knots, willets, black-bellied plovers, semipalmated plovers and sometimes the endangered piping plover.
In the winter you’ll see many Northern Gannets circle and dive into the nearby water. This area is also the cold weather home for loons (common and red necked), scaup, bufflehead, black scoters, ruddy ducks and mergansers. Year-round you’ll see terns, gulls, pelicans, and cormorants. Also during the winter look for Caspian terns, greater and lesser black-backed gulls and Bonaparte’s gulls.
Colonial Coast Birding Trail
Visiting the 18 sites along the Colonial Coast Birding Trail will keep you plenty busy and plenty entertained. More than 300 species of birds (75 percent of the total species of birds seen in Georgia) have been spotted at these sites, and because each is in a different location, each offers a glimpse of certain species.
Bald eagles soaring over coastal rivers, endangered wood storks feeding their young, sanderlings chasing waves on a sandy beach and great egrets standing motionless in a placid pond while it’s fishing … the Colonial Coast Birding Trail has it all.
Insider hint: Do your birding at Fort McAllister State Park and enjoy some history. Fort McAllister saw considerable Civil War action during General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea. Located on the banks of the Ogeechee River, the site contains a mix of saltmarsh and forested habitats.
For inspiration, consider Phoebe Snetsinger, who many call the world’s premier birder. She was a birder in her retirement years and classified more than 8,000 species and possibly thousands more subspecies. Researchers still use her notes and photographs to gain a better understanding of wildlife. Her book, Birding on Borrowed Time, describes her passion to continue birding while battling melanoma in the early 1980s. She died on a birdwatching expedition in Madagascar in 1999 at the age of 68 but remains an inspiration.
For more, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/ColonialCoastBirdingTrail.