Posts Tagged ‘painted bunting’

Vacation 2022 Part 2–The Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

May 25, 2022

During World War II the U.S. government bought the land that currently makes up The Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Before the Civil War most of this land belonged to a single wealthy plantation-owner, but in 1865 he deeded the land to one of his slaves. The land was later sold in parcels to white and black families who primarily worked in the seafood industry. An airfield was built on one of the parcels of this land during 1929 to serve as an emergency landing strip for flights between Jacksonville, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. The U.S. Army Air Force decided to purchase the airfield and all of the surrounding land during 1942, so the airfield could be used for aircraft that hunted for German submarines lurking off the coast. The U.S. government paid white landowners $37.21 per acre, while black owners were paid $26.90 per acre. I’m against reparations for slavery because it is too late. The time for slavery reparations was 100 years ago, but the victims of slavery and their immediate descendants are long gone. It also seems ridiculous to make modern taxpayers pay for the sins of some people’s great-great-great-great-grandfathers. However, I am in favor of reparations for African Americans who suffered discrimination by the federal government since the World War II era. The above-mentioned land purchase is one example. Many WWII era black veterans were denied GI benefits given to their white counterparts. The Agriculture Department routinely would not give loans to black farmers. Families that can show the federal government discriminated against them since the WWII era should be eligible for reparations. Many of these families and their immediate descendants are still alive.

Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge is located near Brunswick, Georgia, a coastal industrial town. I saw 14 species of birds here in less than an hour. (We didn’t stay long because the burning sun punished us, while biting horse flies dive-bombed our heads.) As soon as I parked my car, I spotted rare male and female painted buntings feeding at a bird feeder placed near the entrance. This alone made this side trip on the way home from Jekyll Island worth the time. I almost took a perfect photo of the colorful male, but it flew away as soon as my camera focused. I didn’t want to keep harassing the shy bird and left satisfied with my partially obscured photo.

Spanish moss-draped live oaks dominate the drier areas of The Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.
I saw these rare painted buntings as soon as I pulled into the parking lot. The male is the more colorful one. I almost took a photo of its entire body, but it flew away as soon as I had it in focus. I didn’t want to continuously harass it.

We walked to a couple of ponds, past the “don’t feed the alligator” signs, and saw great egrets, snowy egrets, cormorants, anhinga, and endangered wood storks. Who is stupid enough to feed an alligator?

I think this is an anhinga and not a cormorant because of the neck coloration.
This is a double-crested cormorant.
Endangered wood stork in flight.
Endangered wood storks.

This refuge is a mecca for ducks, geese, and bald eagles during winter, and during summer it serves as a rookery for egrets, herons, and storks. I was excited to realize when I got home that I’d taken a photo of a black-crowned night heron. I took the photo from a distance into the shade and wrongly assumed it was just another great blue heron. I have taken many photos of great blue herons. I can now add this species along with the painted bunting to my lifetime bird checklist. I had never seen either species before. In addition I saw red-headed woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, mourning dove, cardinal, tufted titmouse, black vulture, and a catbird.

Black-crowned night heron. This was the first time I had ever seen this species, and I didn’t realize I had gotten it on camera. I took this shot from a distance and assumed it was just another great blue heron.