Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Go fly a KITE!

On a family trip to Savannah, I saw the opportunity to get my Georgia list cranked up (currently at 21). Well, little did I know, most of the  Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is in South Carolina.  No worries, with low expectation July birding, my son, Patrick, and I,  managed some nice views, and the ride back to Augusta presented an awesome birding surprise.  We were cruising along SC 125 when we came upon numerous birders and their vehicles parked along the roadside.  Whoa – I quickly, safely, pulled over, spotting a Swallow-tailed Kite in the corner of my right eye.  “Greetings, what is hap…….OMG !!”  The KITE MOTHERLOAD.  It was a moment beyond photography, we just watched as near 100 Swallow-tailed Kites and a dozen Mississippi Kites soared high and low over the immense hay fields.  This is why I bird. 

Gull-billed Tern

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Purple Gallinule

The Refuge

This was my first chance to bird the Savannah area and only my second birding trip ever to coastal South Carolina.   The Savannah NWR is located immediately north of the city of Savannah, Georgia; however, the refuge is almost completely located in South Carolina, 30,000 acres of former rice plantations and bottomland hardwood forests.

The Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is the main access for viewing wildlife and is open daylight hours. We spent about 2 hours each of two mornings driving the 4-mile dirt road.  

Morning one – started out with a lifer, the Black-bellied Whistling Duck sitting on a fence post.  After getting some good photos,  I tried to move out of the way of another photographer and started my car (oops!), sorry about that. Fortunately, the bird remained. 

Around the bend, we parked for a while, and while doing the fire ant dance, we watched Green Herons, Least Bitterns, Common and Purple Gallinules,  Gull-billed Terns and Black Skimmers.  

Morning two – an extraordinary July morning, cool and bright, beautiful colors, no bugs.  It seemed the Gallinule families were really into the cooler weather. We watched multiple family groups prancing over the lily-pads with their huge feet gingerly moving from one pad to the next.  Awesome. So happy the alligators were not taking advantage.  

Here are the eBird checklists for – July 29 and July 30

Link to all the photos from Savannah NWR.

American Alligator – we saw about 5-6 each morning

Little Blue Heron

Common Gallinule family

Cattle Egret

Common Gallinule with two young


Cattle Egret

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