We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We had the privilege of birding last week with ornithologist and author Scott Weidensaul. He is a fine congenial fellow who knows everything, and while he is there he gives a splendid talk on some ornithological topic every evening after supper.
This is a photo travelogue of our second visit to Little Saint Simons Island on the Georgia coast for this year's birding week there. I'll post my bird list at the bottom of this post.
Little Saint Simons is not for everybody. It's a barrier island nature preserve, Southern Maritime Forest habitat and vast salt and brackish marshes. It's rustic and therefore not inexpensive, and you have to entertain yourself unless you partake of the planned outings (ie kayaking through the marshes, birding, fishing trips. Booze and family-style meals included. You can take a bike, kayak or motor skiff out anytime you want, or fish and swim on the ocean beach. The self-serve bar is open 24 hrs/day. There are 3 excellent naturalists available all the time for hikes. The bugs weren't too bad this year but I did donate my share of A+ blood to the cause of mosquito conservation.
Two innovations have been adding a/c to the cabins, and revamping the unheated pool with a gator-proof fence. It used to be a downer to find a 6' gator in the pool. An unwelcome innovation (for me) is the "healthy eating" trend instead of the traditional Southern fare that I love. I like to stay at least 6' away from kale, cilantro, organic produce, and veggie wraps or I break out in a bad case of annoyance.
Cool things about this very special place with photos, below...
- 30 guests maximum, no day-trippers allowed, and 11,000 acres to yourself with hiking/biking trails. Why own a second place when you can hop on United Airline anytime and get abused go to special places whenever you want? Ownership is over-rated, burdensome.
- There are no stores, just the lodge and a few cabins and sheds. You can't bring a car and the "ferry" is a small outboard. The service is excellent and attentive, 5-star. There are no door keys - no reason to lock your room.
- A 7-mile beach all to yourself for hiking, biking on the hard sand, birding. Swim and sun nude if you want - nobody is there.
- All meals are at long tables, family style. No menu choices, and mealtime is mealtime. Don't be late. Within 24 hrs everybody knows everybody,and they are all interesting, smart, pleasant, outdoorsy people because nobody other than that would be there. Cocktail hour and dinner are jolly affairs. Because it's Dixie, ladies pretty themselves up for cocktail hour.
- Around 1/3rd of the guests are from the American South, the rest from all over the US and some from Europe. We dined with people from Vermont, Atlanta, Utah, California, and Boston.
- The Lodge is a 100 year-old hunting camp, and the few cabins are of similar vintage. There are 2 new cabins and I don't think they will add any more. All cabins have working fireplaces.
- There are plenty of skeeters, snakes, and gators, but these are easily dealt with
- The island is growing in size each year thanks to local currents. We joke that it would have been a good real estate investment for that reason. The geography is interesting because you can see old dunes gradually become new uplands, and the beach move further out to sea.
- As an almost entirely undeveloped barrier island, LSS is an important migratory stop-over for the migrating shorebirds, most of which which are headed to the arctic, and also an important breeding spot for locally-breeding, dune-breeding shorebirds like Piping Plovers, Wilson's Plover, and Oystercatchers.
- That's not to mention the local wading breeders: Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, and all of the North American herons and egrets. You can get so close to them that it is like a zoo.
- I would not go in summer. Too hot, muggy, and buggy. The ocean was a perfect swimming temp. last week.
- Hunting? In duck season, you need to be a friend of Mr. Paulson. I wish I were.
- The owners of the island, Hank and Wendy Paulson, have recently donated the island, or the development rights, to The Nature Conservancy so it will never be developed like so many of the Atlantic barrier islands. A fine legacy for them.
We had to stay at a nice place on Amelia Island due to flight and ferry timing. Except for the quaint old town in Fernandina, not too fond of Amelia Island:
View from our cabin's deck on LSS:
Upland maritime forest: redbay and palmetto understory, Live Oak and Slash Pine above. Otherwise, marshlands
Set up for an al fresco lunch
Living room of our cabin (one of the two newer ones)
Planned fun. Lunch that day was a shrimp boil at the beach. Wonderful stuff.
A bike path
Bike path to the ocean beach. Sometimes you have to dodge basking snakes and small gators when biking, which adds to the fun. Somebody accidentally ran over a Glass Lizard (Glass Snake), which was the first one I have ever seen. Lizards without legs.
My bird list from last week:
Mottled Duck Wood Stork Brown Pelican Least Bittern GB Heron Great Egret Snowy Egret Tricolored Heron Green Heron Cattle Egret White ibis Glossy ibis BC Night Heron Roseate Spoonbill Red-Trailed Hawk Black Vulture Turkey Vulture Clapper Rail Common Gallinule Black Bellied Plover Wilson's Plover Semipalm. Plover Killdeer A. Oystercatcher Black-Necked Stilt Spotted Sandpiper G. Yellowlegs L. Yellowlegs Willet Whimbrel Marbled Godwit Ruddy Turnstone Red Knot Sanderling Least Sandpiper Dunlin Dowitcher Laughing Gull Herring Gull Ring Billed Gull Least Tern Gull-Billed Tern Forster's Tern Royal Tern Black Skimmer Mourning Dove N. Cardinal Screech Owl Barred Owl Chimney Swift RT Hummingbird Red-bellied Woodpecker Downy WP Pileated WP Great Crested Flycatcher Fish Crow Carolina Chickadee Carolina Wren Marsh Wren Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher N Mockingbird Common Yellowthroat N Parula Yellow-throated Towhee Summer Tanager N Cardinal Painted Bunting Bobolink RW Blackbird Boat-tailed Grackle Cowbird Baltimore Oriole
I was surprised/disappointed in the few warbler species. Probably all farther north already. And where are the Red-Headed Woodpeckers?
Always liked Amelia and Fernandina.
And historic American Beach has a Caribbean vibe.
Gopher tortoises — The Underwater Forest — Spoiled pond snappers begging for handouts — Red lightning — Hammerhead's Beach Bar — and more!
We have our second home on the next island to the north called Hird Island after Thomas Hird. About 300 acres with 20 or so homes along the creek. Been there 10 years and have never grown tired of the slow pace of life and excellent fishing and boating fun year round. Truly relaxing and beautiful.