Natural Hilton Head

When I was in third grade, I wrote an award-winning poem entitled, Loving Animals (It won the school and went on to win the county-wide poetry contest. However, one of my third grade classmates was not convinced and told me that her poem deserved to win because she wrote “about love.” Even as a third grader I enjoyed the sarcasm quite a bit and told her, “Well I guess you didn’t read the title of my poem.”). The smash success of the poem was followed up by a play that I wrote on saving manatees that was performed to the elementary school by my class of gifted students. I played the kindly Fish and Wildlife officer who lectured the out of control speedboat drivers about the need to slow down while in the manatees natural habitat (even then, I also loved a good lecture). When I was the same age, I can be seen in Street family home videos lamenting to my mom that the Everglades Kite (a kind of bird) was “becoming extinct.” I cared very much.

However, as with most things in my life, I didn’t show much of follow-through and although I always cared about endangered species, I didn’t grow up and become a Fish and Wildlife Officer or show consistent passion for the cause. My sister, Melissa, however did. She is the conversation biology major who grew up to work on two different wildlife refuges and now teaches the new generation about loving all things natural. Since she couldn’t engage in many of the sporting activities of the trip, she led the way in participating in the nature activities.

First, there was the beach. It had sand, not as white as Pensacola Beach, but that did sparkle in the sunlight.

The thing about Hilton Head is that, although it is a big time resort destination, considerable pride has been maintained in preserving natural Hilton Head. This of course, is in contrast to the tackier developments of Myrtle Beach up the coast. As proper Southern girls, we learned from the movie Shag that respectable young ladies do not go to Myrtle Beach without their parents’ permissions. Probably the reason for this has to do with what happens to the human psyche when we wantonly destroy nature. However, it is perfectly respectable for young ladies to enjoy the wonders of Hilton Head with its natural surroundings like Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge:
There, the wading and swamp birds live in abundance, like these two Anhingas, identified by Melissa as “pretty common swamp birds”:


The Pinckney Island refuge also provided a few grassy areas ideal for taking a nap and enjoying a perfect spring day:


Just be careful where you rest, or course, as there are American Alligators (a threatened species), lurking in the brush:

Aside from my leaf project in seventh grade, when I had to identify 60 different trees through their leaves, I am not so good at identifying the flora as the fauna. However, I do want to point out how lovely the mix of live oaks and palmettos are, and how the combination of trees provides the most glorious shade around.

I just love this picture of Sarah checking out the reedy tidal marshes:

And also this one with her leaning on a palm tree:

Melissa is at it again, this time with Mom and Jordan, trying to identify another critter:

We move on now to our dolphin spotting excursion. Again, let me comment that the weather couldn’t have been better for a few hours on the water in Broad Creek and the Calibogue Sound. Here is Jordan enjoying the sunshine:
And here is Melissa and a very unsightly picture of myself.

Here is a picture (from the water) of the Disney Hilton Head Resort where we stayed. I love how from the water, you cannot see what an immense complex that it is and that they kept so many of the trees and shade when they built the resort.

In the water, we observed ospreys carefully attending to their young in their lofty perches.

Jordan demonstrated his talents as wildlife spotter extraordinaire, by pointing out the dolphins for us.

They were a beautiful site to behold, even with my poor wildlife photography skills:

The incredible thing about Hilton Head’s ecosystem is that you can see it working right before your eyes. Broad Creek’s oyster beds are at the foundation of that ecosystem’s infrastructure.

As the shells break down, they get carried into the Sound and deposited on these shores, where the sound of the waves beating against them is absolutely wonderful. You can’t see it here, but amongst these shells were two American Oystercatchers, which was a new species of birds that Melissa saw that she was able to check off in her Sibley’s bird guide.

With Melissa having successfully identified a new species that she had not seen before, we knew the Hilton Head nature experience was complete.
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