Green Sea Turtle
But I’m brown not green! What’s up with that? In fact, in the Pacific region, people call them Black Sea Turtles. But it turns out that Green Sea turtles eat green algae and sea grass. This diet turns their fat and muscles green, giving them their more common name. Notice that each of the varieties of sea turtles has a different diet, allowing them to more easily co-exist in the same habitat. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle, for example, has a hard beak that it uses to crush crabs, clams, and other crustaceans. With a smaller head, the Green Sea Turtle could not easily eat crustaceans. But its serrated jaw is the perfect tool for its vegetarian meals.
Jekyll Island Sea Turtles
The Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley: the sea turtles of Jekyll Island. Catching a view of one of these is the chance of a lifetime. Even seeing their tracks in the sand or their empty egg shells on the beach is an exciting glimpse into the lives of these wonderful creatures. Our Jekyll Sandpiper visitors can search for turtle nests, visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC), or view a sea turtle release. Sea turtle exploration and conservation should go together, so always remember these are protected animals on our island.
Downing Musgrove Causeway
The nine mile stretch of road connecting GA State Highway 17 to Jekyll Island is the Downing Musgrove Causeway, also known as the Jekyll Island Causeway. Two small ponds flank the first part on the causeway, each displaying a Jekyll Island sign. The road then goes between two Spanish-styled towers before running straight east and creating your gateway to Jekyll Island. To either side of the road you will see saltwater marsh, often with egrets, roseate spoonbills, and hawks hunting for a meal. There are several turn-offs that provide views of the marsh and the Sidney Lanier Bridge. Jekyll Sandpiper renters who appreciate nature will not get tired of driving the causeway. On your next drive you might see Kingfishers, a Bald Eagle, rabbits or a flock of ibis.
Top predators on Jekyll Island are alligators, rattlesnakes and bobcats, according to a Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) presentation. JIA staff made the case to the Jekyll Island Citizens Association for understanding and welcoming predators on the island. Four habitats, forest, marsh, dunes, and ponds, are homes to Jekyll’s predators. Because they needs multiple habitats, these animals often move among them in search of food. And the habitats on the southern end of the island are growing.
Turtle experiences, such as a turtle release on Jekyll Island, create lasting, happy, joyful memories. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) is an active hospital with a primary goal of treating turtles and releasing them back into the wild. An injured turtle might be cold-stunned from the Atlantic coastal waters, a boat may have hit it, or it might have so many barnacles covering it that it can no longer move. Visit the Turtle Center to see these animals recovering. You can view turtle surgeries, attend turtle feedings, or watch the turtles swimming in their temporary homes.
Tideland Nature Center provides guided kayaking tours of the local marshes. Tours depart from the Jekyll boat ramp, which is located on the west side of the island near the nature center. Prior to departure, the tour guides fit participants with life jackets. They also provide basic information about how to use a kayak. On a recent trip they made a stop at Shark Tooth Beach, but other groups choose to spend more time paddling through the salt water marsh. Jekyll Sandpiper renters will have the chance to see such shore birds as the pelican or egret. You might view thousands of fiddler crabs or see dolphins swimming nearby.
Seining refers to a method of fishing. Imagine a 4 foot by 20 foot net, attached to poles on either end. The bottom edge is weighted so that it sits just above the ground. Two people each take a pole and pull the net through the water, catching fish, shrimp, crabs, and other ocean animals in the process. People have used this method of fishing for thousands of years. The length of the nets varies, and you can also seine using boats.
Although it’s not uncommon to encounter turtle nests on the island, baby turtle hatchings are a rare sight. The southern end of Jekyll Island provides a remote and protected stretch of beach where sea turtles lay eggs every year. A walk from St. Andrews Picnic Area toward the sunken shrimp boat provides a glimpse of many sights of nature. Here you can see nests that have been marked and roped off by Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) patrols.
Jekyll’s Tidelands Nature Center offers day camps to youths aged 8 – 12. They hold programs Monday to Thursday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM during the third weeks in June and July. So for 2018, that is June 18th – 21st and July 16th – 19th. Each day of the week has a different focus, and participants can choose to attend one or all of the programs. The cost is $45 / day, with a $20 discount if you sign up for four days. Thursday, however, costs $12 more to cover the cost of a boat trip.
Tidelands is one of the Jekyll organizations that offers summer programs. It is a nature center where Jekyll Sandpiper visitors can go to learn about the diverse nature of the island. Their facility packs in opportunities to see and sometimes touch live shells, horseshoe crabs, fish, and turtles. The center sits next to a saltwater pond and is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM – 4:00 AM, and Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, at a cost of $5 / person.
Sandpipers are a number of species in the large family of shore birds known scientifically as Scolopacidae. Since different species of sandpipers can have different bill lengths, they don’t tend to compete for the same food. So they can coexist in the same areas. Nerve receptors in the tips of their bills let many sandpipers find their prey through touch, odor, and pressure changes and gives them the ability to hunt at night. You can frequently find them at the water’s edge, pecking for a meal.
The following are some species of sandpipers that are common to Jekyll Island.
March is an especially beautiful time of year on Jekyll Island when it comes to blooming. The March flowers, from spreads of bright-colored azaleas to pinkish white Cherokee Roses, provide a cacophony of color.
Georgia adopted the Rosa Laevigata, also know as the Cherokee Rose, as the state flower in 1916. It is believed the Native America tribe of Cherokee distributed plant cuttings that originated in China. The Cherokee legend about about the rose says that the mothers cried at their forced removal from the their homelands. Then this beautiful rose grew where the tears fell. You can find the rose along the path called the Trail of Tears, the route the Cherokee followed from Georgia to Oklahoma.
Summer Camp Registration
Registration for four types of camps on Jekyll Island, Georgia opened in late February. Participants can choose from Time Travelers Camp, Sea Turtle Camp, Golf Camp, and Tennis Camp. Although each summer camp has its own specific focus, they do have common aspects, such as a visit to Summer Waves Water Park and a daily lunch. The camps run Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 2 PM, leaving campers time to enjoy other aspects of the island during their own time. Jekyll Sandpiper Vacation renters may want to signup for camp slots taking place during their summer stays.
Horton Pond – Alligator Mecca
Across Beachview from the entrance to the Villas lies the access road to Horton Pond. A short walk takes you to the wheelchair-accessible viewing stand, from which you’ll almost certainly see turtles. Multiple varieties of turtles swim throughout the pond, including the larger Florida Softshell Turtles, the largest softshell turtles in North America. And you can frequently see turtles sunning themselves on the man-made platform in the middle of the pond. If you’re lucky, you might also see an alligator or two lying on the platform or swimming slowly through the pond. Although the reptiles and fish are the pond’s main attractions, you might see such birds as Roseate Spoonbills, Pied-Billed Grebes, Belted Kingfishers, or herons. While you might feel an urge to throw food to the animals, that’s not a good idea.
Bobcats on the Isle
The first sighting of bobcats on Jekyll Island was in September, 2014. Since then, the family has grown to four as the parents, Boris and Natasha, had two kittens, Rocky and Bullwinkle. Bobcats are native to Georgia. They are carnivores that prey on small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons. They can also eat birds and reptiles and occasionally kill such larger prey as deer. So they may be a natural method to help control Jekyll’s deer population. Healthy bobcats do not attack humans.
Sea Turtle Center
At the Turtle Center, it is all about the turtles. You can find one of the most impressive sights just inside the gift store. You will see a replica of Archelon, a skeleton of a pre-historic extinct sea turtle, hanging from the ceiling. She makes an impressive sight. When Archelons roamed the earth, these turtles would have weighed in at over 11,000 pounds with a length over 16 feet.
The center is an active working turtle hospital, with two distinct public sections. The first is an interactive museum, with information about Georgia’s sea turtles and the challenges they face. The second area holds tanks of recovering turtles. The turtle feeding includes a very informative talk about turtles currently at the center, so note the time of the next feeding (typically 10 AM, 11 AM, 3 PM, and 4 PM). If you are close to a feeding time, head to the turtle pavilion before you tour the museum section.
The Sand dollar is a flat member of the sea urchin family. All sea urchins are roughly circular in shape and have a hard skeleton called a test. Live sand dollars have a test covered in velvety, hair-like spins. A sand dollar uses these spins to capture food particles and to move the food to its mouth on the bottom of its body. Seagulls are the most common sand dollar prey.
Handling a sand dollar is not harmful to you or the sea urchin. Sand dollars have a five-petaled design visible on the top of their exoskeleton. They are often found on the east-facing beaches on Jekyll Island near the waterline.
St. Andrews Beach
Walking from the St. Andrews Beach parking lot to the southernmost point of Jekyll is one of our favorite hikes on the island. On this walk you’ll see Little Cumberland Island, gorgeous stretches of Georgia beach, the mast of a buried shrimp boat, and you’ll likely see many shore birds. The round trip from the parking lot along the beach to the shipwreck and back is a little over a mile. But you might want to increase the distance of the hike by walking further along beach.
The St. Andrews Picnic Area parking lot is located off of Riverview Dr. on the southwest side of the island. Our usual route has us heading to the beach and turning left or south. Follow the coast until you see mast of the sunken shrimp boat. You can also take a short detour north from the parking lot to a lookout tower that provides a nice view.
Sunrise Biking on the Beach
There was a thunderstorm offshore this morning. It made for a beautiful sunrise. Snapped this shot from the beach right by our house. Folks were just standing and staring at the horizon. Shrimp boats plying the local waters and a dolphin looking for breakfast. What a wonderful way to start my morning!