Friday, November 08, 2013
WILD TIMES ON SKIDAWAY ISLAND - WHAT I LEARNED THAT SURPRISED ME!
WHAT I LEARNED THAT SURPRISED ME
By Karen Dove Barr
Deer, raccoon, and wild hogs outnumbered humans on Skidaway Island when I first moved there. I expected that. Alligators were a protected rarity. But nobody had prepared me for the multitude of other species.
The first time I saw golfers pitching balls around a four-foot-tall endangered great blue heron, I was amazed traffic didn’t stop and cameras aim. I parked my car and walked back to the lagoon to stare. I wanted to holler, “Look! Look!” at the oblivious golfers. Later I learned the big birds line every golf hole and engineered lagoon. When I rode my bike in the mornings I got used to one swiveling his head as I passed within two feet. Only when I stopped my bike did he utter a loud, “grounck, grounck,” and fly off.
Susan Klein surprised me when I asked if she had any unusual encounters with wildlife to share. Neither Susie nor I had expected to reside in a neighborhood with bobcats in our yard. She was watching a golden-crowned kinglet compete with a mockingbird at her feeder when she glimpsed a gray and brown blur hiding in the gray and brown marsh grass just behind the feeder. Stealthy hunter, felis rufus, the North American bobcat was watching too.
I was shocked to see mink crossing the path in front of my bicycle at dawn one morning. Fur coats usually stay in closets in our tropical paradise. I didn’t know mink lived in the South.
Within a twenty year period of strict federal protection in Savannah, seeing an alligator went from a rare and exciting event to being as common as chasing squirrels off a birdfeeder. Now alligators line every lagoon bank in spring and residents eyeball the wake behind snouts and submerged bodies. We weren’t prepared for the rapid repopulation.
I lived the book WILD TIMES ON SKIDAWAY ISLAND. My research followed the experience. I’m still being surprised and still writing new stories about amazing animal encounters on Skidaway Island.
Wild Times on Skidaway Island
by Karen Dove Barr
WILD TIMES ON SKIDAWAY ISLAND, Georgia's Historic Rain Forest, details life in a unique Audubon-designated, ecologically friendly refuge. There, golfers pitch balls around endangered great blue herons, mama raccoons march their babies across backyard decks where once Guale Indians trapped ancestors of the same raccoons, and residents dodge alligators and rescue snakes.
Even the vegetation is wild. Three hundred-year-old oaks dripping Spanish moss and poison ivy surmount an under-story of wax myrtle and holly. Carolina jasmine, Cherokee roses, and endangered orchids grow wild in the rain forest. The book examines choices residents make when stared down by a bald eagle, when a red-tailed hawk mistakes a golf ball for bird food, when wakened at midnight by deer munching hibiscus. Wild Times on Skidaway Island educates about the species that residents must adapt to on this historic island.
When Walt and Carol Culin topped their house at The Landings with a coated metal roof they were confident the roof would be problem-free for a hundred years. Walt’s contacts as head of an industrial coating company helped him get the latest technology. Even a hurricane shouldn’t destroy their unusual–looking roof.
But nothing in Walt’s Princeton-educated background prepared him for dryocopus pileatus, the pilated wookpecker.
Male pilated woodpeckers are fixated on the notion that female woodpeckers are attracted to the stud with the noisiest pecker. Usually the woodpecker has to be content with drumming on a hollow tree to resonate his sound. Walt and Carol’s metal roof, however, raised the bar for the local woodpecker population. Walt and Carol were regularly awakened by mate-seeking woodpeckers as soon as they moved into the house.
Walt ended up having to make a run to Toys ’R Us for rubber snakes. Glued to the chimney alongside a big fake owl, the snakes allowed Walt and Carol to catch some winks in the early morning during woodpecker mating season.
KAREN DOVE BARR, ATTORNEY AND AUTHOR
Karen Dove Barr, Attorney, was recently recognized by the Georgia State Bar for providing legal assistance to military families and service members. She has practiced in the field of family law in Savannah for 34 years.
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