Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pinkney Island Rookery

It's been two weeks now, actually two weeks and three days, but while I was at the beach at Hilton Head Island, I had a short but remarkable hike to Pinkney Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I could have spent much of a day there, but only had a few hours.  And much of that time was spent bird watching, not hiking.  I've hiked here before, but never in the nesting season, so it was quite different.

About a mile from the refuge parking lot is tiny Ibis Pond, but most of the pond is an island.  It is almost like the pond part forms a green, alligator infested moat to protect the island from raccoons.  Not that a raccoon couldn't easily swim there, and probably make it more often than not.  But do that enough times to get a breakfast of heron eggs, and you are going to become breakfast yourself!  It is like playing Russian Roulette, only with an alligator instead of a handgun.  So in the trees on the tiny island are hundreds of loud, squawking birds - herons, egrets, and white ibises.  They are safe enough.  Now and then, a young and clumsy baby bird will fall or get pushed out of its nest - a tax of sorts to the alligators patrolling below in the green soup.

To get oriented for our little hike, here are a couple of views.  The first is a map showing my route, parking at the south and hiking north to Ibis Pond.  Pinkney Island NWR is east of Bluffton (which has an amazing French restaurant, Claude and Uli's in the Shoppes at Moss Creek, by the way) and just west of Hilton Head Island.

This view shows an aerial view of my route, as tracked by my DeLorme inReach.  You can see where I walked around the pond.  It doesn't look like much of a pond, because it is more forested island than pond!

I'll show a number of pictures from this hike, and reserve a few for my "What am I?" feature, which I've not done in a while.

In one of the wooded areas near the parking lot, Spanish moss hangs from live oaks.

Here is a view over the coastal wetlands and hummocks.

Palmetto seedlings

The wildlife refuge is where land, estuaries, and wetlands all come together.

A white ibis sits on her nest.

Four little egrets are not quite ready to leave the nest.

A marsh rabbit grazes on the border of the pond.

Here are two views of an immature tri-colored heron.

Look how green the moat-like pond is.  The birds nest on the island out across the alligator infested water.  Would you swim here?  Not I!

A moorhen braves the alligators to find something to eat.

You can see white specks in the trees on the island.  These are egrets and ibises.

Cattails with "pea soup" behind them.

Nesting ibises.

I loved hiking here and seeing all of the wildlife, and hope to get back here next year for a longer hike.