McCullough Millpond, Burke County, Georgia

I planned to visit Big Dukes Pond in Jenkins County, Georgia, but after 3 days of rain, the access road to this Carolina Bay was impassably muddy.  Carolina Bays are interesting geological formations created by a combination of peat fires and wind and water erosion.  Carolina Bay formation was especially prevalent during the last Ice Age (See https://markgelbart.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/blood-residue-found-on-flamingo-bay-south-carolina-artifacts/)  As a consolation, I visited McCullough Mill Pond in Burke County where I’d spotted a few wood storks while I drove to Big Dukes Pond.  This body of water is near the Burke County/Jenkins County line and is not far away from Big Dukes Pond.  Both host the same species of birds.

Map of Georgia highlighting Burke County

Location of Burke County

Map of McCollough Mill Pond

I can’t find any information on the history of McCollough Mill Pond, a property of Burke County.  It’s a manmade body of water formed by the damming of a creek that flows into the Ogeechee River.  The stream doesn’t seem to be rapid enough to have ever been involved in the operation of a grist mill, but I must be wrong.

Wood storks are federally endangered.  They used to be common in Florida, but most of the larger colonies have been forced to move to Georgia and South Carolina due to suburban development.  Two major nesting colonies occur within a 40 minute drive from my house–Big Dukes Pond and the Silver Bluff Audubon Center in Jackson, South Carolina.

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Photo I took of the wood storks (Mycteria americana) at McCollough Mill Pond.  Click to enlarge. They are in the center way back.

Fort DeSoto County Park, Pinellas County, Florida, USA - Nov 15, 2006 © William Hull

I found this much better photo of wood storks on google images.

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Cypress trees, willows, and red maples grow in and around McCollough Mill Pond.

Wood storks require large areas of shallow water where they can use their big ugly bills to forage for small fish, tadpoles, frogs, and crayfish.  Mark Catesby, an early 18th century naturalist, saw wood storks foraging on open pine savannahs after heavy rains caused flooding in this type of environment.  Vast agricultural fields have replaced much of this habitat.  Farmers dig drainage ditches, so their fields of cotton, peanuts, and corn will drain in time for spring planting.  This is not good for wood storks, though crayfish and amphibians can still survive in the deeper ditches.

I always see many birds when I drive through Jenkins County.  In fact, the name of the road on the south side of Big Dukes Pond is “Birdsville Road.”  Last summer, I even saw a rare swallow tailed kite flying high in the sky in this county.  On this occasion I counted 18 species between Big Dukes Pond and McCollough Mill Pond including wood storks, great blue heron, common egrets, turkey vulture, black vultures, a kestrel, broad-winged hawk, red-shouldered hawk, eastern kingbird, mockingbird, cardinal, crow, mourning dove, robins, and at least 3 small species that wouldn’t stay still long enough to allow me to identify them.  The agricultural fields that form the most common type of environment in this area are ideal hunting grounds for hawks.  The leftover grain attracts rodents, but the open grounds don’t afford much cover.  Still, it’s a poor substitute for the original stands of longleaf pine savannah and extensive wetland sand cypress swamps.

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The pond on the other side of Highway 56.

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I think the small tree in the foreground is some type of bay tree, a characteristic species of Carolina Bays.

Bay trees, the characteristic tree of Carolina Bays are in big trouble.   The invasive ambrosia beetle (Xleborus glabratus) is killing these trees wherever this insect spreads.  It’s probably only a matter of time before it reaches this area.

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One Response to “McCullough Millpond, Burke County, Georgia”

  1. Richard Bowers Says:

    I live in a gated community in a resort town, Ponte Vedra Beach, in NE Florida, I live on a small lake, shallow, we see Wood Storks all the time, the most we have seen at any one time is 12. The lake we live on is connected to a number of other lakes, about four times a year, fish run through our lake to other lakes, we will have Wood Storks, Blue Herons, White Herons, Eagles, Osprey, wood ducks, coots, anahingas, Canadian geese, and snake birds. They have adjusted to this area.

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