Friday, June 26, 2009

Wood Storks at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge (near Hilton Head Island, SC)

Birding Hilton Head Island and Pinckney Island NWR…continued from Tuesday’s Great Egret Post

The heat was really starting to build, so I walked closer to the salt marsh and deeper under the live oaks to escape the sun for a bit. As I walked, I was looking down at the ground. It was so different from what I was used to. White sand had swept in from the salt marsh, and individual blades of grass had poked through the sand and were growing thick and green. Dappled shade thrown from the live oak’s leaves cast bluish shadows on the white sand, while in patches where the sun seeped through, the sand was snowy white. I stopped and wrote about it in my journal because I knew it was something exquisite that I would forget with my next step, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t do that.

Soon I reached the “back” part of the rookery. On the right, the salt marsh had slowly morphed into a pine forest. I continued to walk and watched a Great Egret land in the boughs ahead, only for a second or two, then take off again for a better perch. I knew the Wood Storks were roosting somewhere in the pines, so I was watching carefully, but didn’t see anything. Coming up on the next section of the rookery, the bird density was picking back up, and as I scanned an expansive reed bed, an adult Green Heron materialized right before my eyes. He was frozen among the stalks, bill pointed toward the water, so I locked in on him, hoping to watch him lurch forward to stab a fish, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the pines to my right, and when I looked up, there they were! A small flock of Wood Storks were resting in the branches. Another life bird for me. As I watched them through the camera lens, I knew they wouldn’t register high on the “classic” beauty scale, but just like the Turkey Vultures, they have their own unique, prehistoric beauty. I couldn’t take my eyes off them (and temporarily forgot about the Green Heron).

Although not "classic" beauty, a dignified, 
peaceful demeanor makes these birds irresistible. 

...that is until they start joking around! It looks like I told 
this guy a funny joke (and he really liked the punch line), 
but really he's just panting in the heat to cool down. 

"I'm in a tree, and I think I'll try to do Tree. 
I love yoga. I am Yoga-Stork!"

"'re a Goofball-Stork!"

...again...more thermoregulation---panting, panting 
(which is really cool to watch), but I prefer to think they 
are discussing last night's skit on "Late Night with 
Jimmy Fallon," which was very funny.


Elaine said...

Wow! Absolutely wonderful photos and wonderful story. These guys are new to me, and you're right, they do look prehistoric but they are beautiful. I am very much enjoying your trip to Pinckney Island. Thanks for taking us along.

Steve B said...

I've only see wood storks once and they were in flight. They are pretty big birds with a face only a mother culd love.

Sue said...

Very beautiful.
I do have a question-is there a "best time" to visit Pinckney Island, or is it so full of birds all the time?

holdingmoments said...

Great post Kelly. I really felt like I was there with your descriptions.

What great birds those Wood Storks are. Certainly prehistoric looking. The body looks like it should have a different head on it. Amazing looking birds.

RuthieJ said...

Wow Kelly, those are great pictures. What neat looking birds.

Kelly said...

Elaine...thank you. I didn't mention they are big...and striking because of that as well!

Steve...they are pretty big. The next day I saw 5 of them in flight. The black and white on their wings in flight was neat looking.

Sue...I don't know that yet. I want to learn. I think the spring is going to be the best time for the island because all the birds were nesting and therefore tied to the nests, but maybe they roost there all year long. I told Rick we need to head out another time (during the winter) to check it out! :-)

Keith....thank you very much. I thought the same. They could easily have different heads!

Ruthie...thank you! It was my first time to see them and I was mesmerized.

Ginnymo said...

Ha! What great photos Kelly!! They are amusing to watch I bet. Awkward looking bird.. I always worry about birds and their legs. They always look so fragile, like they could snap. Great post Kelly!! Really enjoyed how you tell about them and make it seem as though they are talking..LOL

JKoenig said...

What an interesting bird--as big as he is and still able to balance on one leg.

I love the way you describe everything. It makes me feel like I am seeing it in person beside the fact that your pictures are outstanding. Thanks so much!

Montanagirl said...

Terrific photos! I have never seen one of these birds. I love your blog - so many new birds to see, and you describe everything so wonderfully - I can just close my eyes, and picture it all.

Greener Bangalore said...

great shots Kelly!

Anonymous said...

Definitely not a beauty, Kelly, but great images all the same.

Roy said...

What an interesting bird! I'm glad you got such an extended photo session with it. BTW, I popped over to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's bird guide. These guys make some interesting sounds! the almost sound like sheep calling. [Note: The idea of finding out what they sound like came from the pictures of the open mouth shots. I was relieved to find out that they sound nothing like Egrets and Herons croaking!]

NCmountainwoman said...

Absolutely wonderful post. I loved the narrative and all of the photographs. Just beautiful.

Laure Ferlita said...

The wood storks are fairly common around here, but I have never witnessed the panting before. Very cool!

Kelly said...

Ginny....I know what you mean about their legs...they are so fragile looking!

J...thank you so much for your kind words. It's fun to write about them.

Mona....thank you for you kind comments. I really enjoy your blog too, because I get to see Big Sky country...horses....things I know nothing about!

Greener....thank you!

Roy1...they are beautiful in their own way... these photos they were just panting, but I they were also making noises (a few of the other birds where chatty and they did have strange sounds.

Mountainwoman...thank you so much!!

Laure....It was really hot an humid, and they were not making much noise. If I weren't looking for them, I might have never looked up there. On your next really hot day, head out and see. It was very cool to watch.

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly. More great photo's. I made a schoolboy error on the day before this report. On the pictures with the Great White Egrets, I meant to refer to to the other bird in the shot as a White Ibis, not Wood Stork. I knew what I meant, it just came out wrong, how could I mix them 2 up..Ooops!

Kelly said...

...Ken.....I knew what you meant too! So you needn't have worried! :-)

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hey Cutie, I laughed outloud when seeing that picture of the wood stork laughing at YOU.... Maybe you had a silly looking camera around your neck. Ya think?????????? ha ha ha

Love those pictures and the words you put with them are terrific... Great post!!!!

I'm too old to stay up late enough to watch Jimmy Fallon these days. BUT--when I was young, I NEVER missed Johnny Carson. (Showing my age, aren't I????)

Love you,

Jenny said...

They are extraordinary looking birds and what fabulous photos you got. They really show up well against the pine tree foliage. What am amazing place Pinckney Island is!!! If I ever got to SC, this place would defo be on my list to visit!

Laubaine said...


Cindy said...

These are fantastic shots. I love your photos.

Nature As Is said...

suerb shots Kelly!! Never seen a Storks before.

dAwN said...

Excellent! congrats on a life bird.
pretty they arent but very cool they are!
Great photos as well.

Kelly said...

Betsy...thank you! I know...the way their bills curve up at the face make them look like they are laughing. It's funny (and a bit disturbing in real life...). :-)

Jenny....yes, you definitely want to go there. If you visit Savannah, Georgia, it's only about 40 mins. Savannah is a beautiful city. Hilton Head is on the SC/GA border.

Laubaine...merci beaucoup! Thank you!

Cindy...thank you! I enjoyed yours as well when I visited.

Crista...thank you. I hadn't either until I set foot on that island!! :-)

Dawn...thank you so much. There is definitely something about those eyes...and necks and heads that kept me riveted.

Linda McGeary said...

They could be an alien species from off world they look so unique.

Without them who would deliver our babies. Now we know why they have such big and powerful beaks.

When you say 'Life Bird', which I've noticed you've said about a few other bids, what do you mean? Is it like a totem? A bird that carries a symbolic meaning for you? Some connection beyond just bird.

Kelly said...

Linda....good question. In this case, it's not a totem. It's just a bird I've never seen before. When you keep a list of all the birds you've ever seen, it's call a Life List...and every time you get to add a new bird to the list, it's a Life Bird!

Jayne said...

Those bills DO look like wood, don't they? What great images Kelly!

Bren said...

You have a beautiful site and also an Ohioan like me! Thank you for stopping by my page. I am super honored to have someone as talented as you stop over and leave a comment. I am going to add you to my list of favorite Bloggers on my BGgarden blog. THANK YOU!

ENJOY the summer - can't wait to return soon.

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
These are truly wonderful birds and you did capture them very well. Good shots! the temperature does not raise that much here although they are forecasting more than 20 degrees celsius tomorrow which will be a record!!

Kelly said...

Jayne...I thought the same thing and wondered at first if that's where their name came from.

Bren...thank you! There are a lot of Ohio nature bloggers. I guess we all like the woods and the birds! :-)

Chris...I need to do a conversion. I'm still a Fahrenheit girl. I think 20 C is starting to push the 80s. A record high for Iceland! I wonder if you'll reach it. It has definitely been hot in Cincy. Usually in June I don't need my air conditioner--often not until July, but I've had it on since the first week. Next week it's supposed to cool to the 70s. I'm looking forward to that.

Mary said...

What a great bird! They look like they are smiling. Great photos!

Nick S said...

Jeez, would you look at those things :-)
I'd love to see these too. My friend from Regina just visited Florida and saw some.