By dawn's early light: Something magical about Lowcountry in the morning

Posted by JEFF KIDD on January 20, 2014 

Something about sunrise speaks to the endless possibilities of a day too young to have turned unruly, particularly if you love the outdoors. Temperatures and winds are mild, nocturnal creatures are still active, and early birds are rising to find their worms. 

And to think, I used to be a night owl.

A trip this past weekend to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge's Wildlife Drive got me thinking about how much I enjoy being up before sunrise on my way to watch Lowcountry nature wake up, the dashboard lights soon to be replaced by skies awash in brilliant oranges, yellows and blues.

My wife and I were aiming to be the first on the 4-mile drive, where the gates open just before sunrise. Chris Marsh of the LowCountry Institute told my wife's master naturalist class that if your car is the first to pass in the morning, you see all sorts of unusual or reclusive animals along the way. Once a car passes, though, the jig usually is up.

Despite waking up at 5:30 a.m. and hitting the road from Lady's Island just before 6 a.m., someone still managed to beat us to the punch — when we pulled in the gates, we saw taillights about a quarter mile ahead of us, and none of the bobcats or deer or other mammals we had hoped to encounter. Except, of course, for squirrels. And maybe a marsh rat.

Nonetheless, a drive through the refuge seldom fails to provide something new. So even though we were forced to focus on spotting birds, as usual for us, I still was able to capture four species I had never photographed before — a blue-gray gnatcatcher, an eastern meadowlark, a house wren and a Bachman's sparrow.

The accompanying gallery starts with some photos from our weekend trip. I've added other wildlife and landscape shots from different places and times of year. Hunting Island State Park is another of my favorite places to watch the day begin, and it is well-represented. Other shots were simply fortuitous, like the fawn I stopped to watch early one morning on my way to Lowe's, when I just happened to have my camera in the car.

Maybe a night owl or two will be inspired to rise and shine before the sun sometime.


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