Birding bonanza and gators galore! A visit to Pinckney National Wildlife Refuge [1/2 miles west of Hilton Head Island off of U.S. Highway 278] is a nature lovers dream come true. Just outside of Hilton Head it is a must visit if you are in the area, and was a perfect place to stretch our legs on a road trip from Charleston to Savannah. I was surprised upon entry, no visitor’s center, no bathrooms, not even a water fountain? Hmpf. We started walking on a gravel path, seemingly ordinary, but it is worth it and things would get wild soon enough.
There are 14 miles of trails in the preserve, an important link in the Atlantic Flyway. Soon we came upon a salt marsh, a scene filled with clickity clackity little crabs – okay, that’s pretty neat.
Continuing down the stretch the first place of serious interest is Ibis Pond. Here we found a rookery brimming with life.
How exciting to see all of these big birds up in the trees! They were so active and boisterous. Taking a closer look there was quite the variety present. In the heron department there were green heron, black-crowned night heron, great blue heron, little blue heron, and most thrilling to me, the tri-colored heron!
I had never even heard of the tri-colored heron before. I was so impressed by the vibrant blue beak and fabulous plumage. It’s always fantastic to discover a new bird. Other waterfowl including ibis, egret, hens, and ducks were included in the swampy scene.
After gawking at all of the birds, we began to walk around the pond. We bumped into some other people who excitedly pointed out to us the teeny tiny gators that were sitting right on the shore. It was shocking how well they camouflage, but now that we knew what to look for – they started popping up everywhere!
So many little alligators enjoying the sun on a beautiful day! Having amazing luck, even though we had a limited time availability we decided to keep walking. We looped around Starr Pond and Osprey pond which had the loveliest scenery.
There were certainly more birds and gators to be seen, and also, we spotted a sizable snake sitting by the shore!
Pinckney is a true treasure, essential to the wildlife and extraordinary to the viewers.