The volunteers gathered for a work day Saturday at Audubon Newhall Preserve on Hilton Head Island were merely doing their best to keep the place tidy for visitors. But if the commotion of clearing away underbrush around the park's signature pocosin wasn’t repellent to the wildlife we were there to see, a couple of youngsters exercising their outside voices definitely was.
Obviously, we had simply picked the wrong day to make our first trip the 50-acre site on Hilton Head Island's southern end. (Actually, our half hour there turned out to be a little more productive than we first thought, as you can see and read about in the attached photo gallery.)
Looking for a way to salvage the morning after making the trip from Beaufort, we decided to hope back on the Cross Island Parkway and check out Jarvis Creek Park, where one of my Untamed Lowcountry readers had recently spotted American redstarts, a bird I had never photographed.
As it turns out, Jarvis Creek Park is a fair consolation prize.It's certainly not as Mother Nature laid out -- indeed, the pond that is the park's central feature was dug by the Town of Hilton Head Island as part of its stormwater management system, and the park's primary purpose is to keep unfiltered water from pouring into the eponymous creek. However, adorned with playground equipment, restrooms, a dock and jogging trails, it's quite a recreational facility, too.
And despite the human activity all around, there was quite a bit of wildlife to observe, too. We counted at least a half dozen alligators in the pond, several anhingas and wading birds on the banks, warblers in the branches, and a snake (albeit dead) near a pathway. In fact, we stopped so often to watch, it took us nearly two hours to circle the 1-mile path around the pond.
We'll definitely make another trip to Newhall -- it features interesting plant life and a lot of interpretive signage and at least one trail we didn't fully explore. But Jarvis Creek Park was not a bad plan B.