Mark your calendars…The 7th Annual Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding & Nature Festival will take place October 8th-12th at Jekyll Island and along the GA coast. Come for the weekend, just a day or a few hours. Activities span the entire Georgia Coast and will appeal to a wide spectrum of the public from the casual nature enthusiast to the serious birdwatcher. An exhibit hall,”The Rookery”, featuring conservation-based organizations and vendors, will be in the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

There will be seminars, interactive programs, field trips, boat trips to barrier islands in outstanding natural habitats spanning the entire GA coast. They will be guided by expert naturalists and biologists. The Jekyll Island Convention Center will have “The Rookery”, an exhibit hall with conservation based organizations and vendors, live raptor show, activities for children and much more. Saturday night the keynote speaker is Donald Kroodsma, author The Singing Life of Birds.”

Early registration begins August 29th online and most popular field trips will likely fill up quickly. For information please visit www.jekyllisland.com, email info@coastalbirding.org or call 1-877-4jekyll.

by Beth Burnsed, Jekyll Island Authority

Box turtle on a white backgroundThanks to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the University of Georgia, and the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, diamondback terrapins now have safe havens along the Jekyll Island Causeway. Artificial nest mounds with raccoon proof cages have been placed at strategic points to hopefully reduce the number of terrapins crossing the road.

“Every year 200-300 terrapins are hit by cars while trying to cross the causeway,” said Dr. Terry Norton, Director and Veterinarian for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center “The turtles are looking for elevated ground to nest. Since the roadways are elevated above the marshlands around them, terrapins often believe them to be suitable nesting areas.”

The mounds were built to be safe elevated nesting areas approximately 30 ft back from the edge of the causeway to thereby decrease the number of times the terrapins try to cross the road. In addition, cages on top of the mounds will reduce the threat of predation. Terrapins can get in and out of the cages through small spaces at the bottom, but predators such as raccoons can not.

The work, although in its preliminary stages, is backed by similar projects in the Northeast for wood turtles. The concept is still in a research stage, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and its collaborators will examine the results at the end of the nesting season to see how much of difference the project made. “We are basically testing it out,” said Norton. “So it is a research project with conservation implications.”

by Beth Burnsed, Jekyll Island Authority 

Celebrate Spring on Jekyll Island with the first annual Jekyll Island Mother Nature Festival on Saturday, April 18, 2009. The festival boasts numerous activities for families to enjoy the outdoors and explore Jekyll Island while being green-conscious.

00321g“Jekyll Island is an environmentally rich vacation destination with numerous amenities that allow our guests to get an up-close, non-invasive look at the eco-systems that make our island unique, said Beth Burnsed, Event Marketing Coordinator for the Jekyll Island Authority. The Mother Nature Festival showcases those amenities while educating children and their parents on how to be more eco-friendly.” 

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the main hub of event festivities. From 10 AM 4 PM, the Center will host an eco-friendly exhibitor area, eco-craft zone, outdoor entertainment and silent auction. In the exhibitor area, environmental organizations, artists, and shops will exhibit their eco-conscious and nature-related wares. Simultaneously, in the childrens eco-craft zone, kids can practice being environmentally friendly by making recycled-art projects while learning about Sea Turtles and their habitat.

Other activities include a Family Fishing Day sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, an Eco-Book Fair at Jekyll Books, a kite buggy demonstration on the beach, and a herpetology session at Tidelands Nature Center. All of these events are free and open to the public.

Horses on Sea Island, GeorgiaFor added adventure, families can choose from a variety guided excursions. Tours include Helicopter Rides, Dolphin Tours, Eco-Tours, Off-Shore Fishing, Kayaking, Bird Rambles, Beach Ecology Walks and Horseback Riding. Advanced registration for the above excursions is highly recommended.

As an eco-friendly incentive, the Jekyll Island parking fee will be waived on April 18 for all guests driving a hybrid vehicle to the festival.  For more information on all Mother Nature Festival activities and excursions visit www.jekyllisland.com/mothernaturefestival or call 1-877-4JEKYLL. Get regular updates on the festival by being a fan of the Jekyll Island Mother Nature Festival on Facebook.com

by Guerry Norwood

Harris Neck NWR was established in 1962 by transfer of federal lands formerly managed by the Federal Aviation Administration as a WWII Army airfield.  The refuge’s 2,824 acres consist of saltwater marsh, grassland, mixed deciduous woods and cropland.  Because of this great variety in habitat, many different species of birds are attracted to the refuge throughout the year.

Harris Neck

Harris Neck

In the summer, thousands of egrets, herons and endangered wood storks nest in the swamps, while in the winter, large concentrations of ducks (especially mallards, gadwall and teal) gather in the marshland and freshwater pools.  Over 15 miles of paved roads and trails provide the visitor easy access to these areas.  Some portions of the refuge may be closed seasonally to protect wildlife from human disturbance.
Harris Neck NWR is one of seven refuges administered by the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex.

This chain of national wildlife refuges extends from Pinckney Island NWR near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to Wolf Island NWR near Darien, Georgia.  Between these lie Savannah (the largest unit in the complex), Wassaw, Tybee, Harris Neck, and Blackbeard Island refuges.  Together they span a 100-mile coastline and total nearly 57,000 acres.  The Savannah Coastal Refuges are administered from headquarters located in Savannah, Georgia.