Sometimes, right under my nose, I tend to neglect birding opportunities on our own island because I get fixated on some other location. Such is the case with Priest Landing at the upper end of Skidaway (not to be confused with Priest Landing Drive in The Landings). If you haven't been there, it is public access, on the right fork of McWhorter past the north gate and dead ends at the Wilmington River. It is easy to drive up there at any given time, on any given day, and see almost nothing, but at daybreak most of the year it can be magic for birds on the lagoons and hidden wetlands which border the road on either side. When the sun is well up it often goes quiet.
At the dead-end a walking trail runs off to the left on a dike which impounds the largest freshwater lagoon on one side, and contains the salt marsh on the other. On a falling tide during migration, when the mud flats are exposed, the marsh can be alive with shorebirds. The lagoon itself hosts a variety of species large and small, some hidden in the cattails which border the perimeter. There are unseen ducks and sparrows in winter.
In Spring it helps to have an ear for bird song, and many skilled birders identify much of their talley by ear alone. Birders have reported in excess of 170 species at Priest Landing and the one mile drive in. Actually the total is over 180, but some of the species reported are by less experienced observers, and some calls range from questionable to bizarre in the eyes of the Skidaway Island Ornithological Union Checklist Committee - a committee of one.
Photography there can be tough because often the birds are shy and or distant, but I am including a few here that were worth saving.
|An immature Red-tailed Hawk blends neatly with its surroundings at Priest Landing|
|A Wood Duck pair|
|With the arrival of winter Priest Landing can host over 50 Wood Ducks at once|
|This young Northern Pintail spent about two months on the back side of the big lagoon|
|Green-winged Teal are skittish and shy - and don't like to have their pictures taken. They have been regular the past three winters.|
|There is not much handsome about a Wood Stork, but the swampy environment of the lagoons would not be the same without them|
|This Great Egret looked almost regal perched |
on a dead snag in the water
|The Green Heron is migratory, but can almost always be found in these algae-covered lagoons during breeding season|
|The Black-crowned Night-heron is a fixture on the two big ponds|
|A young Wood Stork shares a perch with |
a visiting Roseate Spoonbill
|The bright red shield of this Common Gallinule contrasts easily with the water plants in which it is partially hidden|
|The simple slurred-whistle song of the Eastern Wood Pewee |
is at the top of my favorites list -
Listen to the Pewee