The night was soft and thick and black and warm as velvet, silky on my skin, smelling of iodine and salt and crepe myrtle and that ineffable, skin-prickling saline emanation that says ‘ocean’ to me whenever I smell it, hundreds of miles inland. It always moves me close to tears, so visceral, so old and tidal is its pull. I have often thought that it is the first smell we know, the amniotic smell of our first, secret sea.” ― Anne Rivers Siddons, Downtown
Here’s a reminder of my imaginary sectioning of Jekyll Island, for reference:
In this post, I’ll focus on the mid-island beach of Jekyll (the middle map), from below the Villas by the Sea on the north side to the South Dunes Picnic Area on the southern end. (Also check out my posting about the beach at the north end.) All photos were taken by me in December 2015.
This section of beach is the most peopled, being near the hotels, the shops, the Great Dunes Park. Often, that’s meant it’s got fewer birds than the rest of the beach, other than small clutches of scurrying sandpipers and sanderlings, but not so on this trip. Instead of roosting at the south end where I usually see them, mixed flocks of shorebirds — mainly skimmers, various gulls (herring, laughing, ring-billed), royal and least terns, a few pelicans, some willets, a couple of red knots and ruddy turnstones — occupied the beach along with people and dogs. In fact, adults and their dogs (many off-leash) and children often walked or ran right into the birds as they roosted, causing them to fly off a few hundred yards, and then fly back to try to settle again. I watched this happen over and over, and wondered what these people were thinking, to interrupt birds at rest so cavalierly, so thoughtlessly. I also wondered why the birds insisted on this bit of real estate rather than the less crowded south or north ends.
In any case, their presence provided quite a smashing show:
The willets were common all over the beach during this visit, the first time I’ve seen so many (or any at all). And lots of sandpipers, including sanderlings, plus two birds I haven’t seen much, the red knot and the ruddy turnstone:
Other plants, animals, and human-made creations on the mid-beach this time included sea whip, other corals and sponges, shells, horseshoe crabs, plume worm tubes, whelk egg cases, sea pork, a sand fortress, and various stick-written messages.
Visible from the beach at various points are the access ramps and boardwalks over the dunes from the picnic area, bike path and streets, and hotels, as well as the hotels and island infrastructure itself, and at low tide, a sand bar:
The sand dunes are necessary for the integrity of the beach, and for the nesting sea turtles, and they’re beautiful, with beach croton, orach, railroad vine and morning glory, sea oats, panic grass, cordgrass, beach elder holding everything together. You can see some dune erosion along the mid-beach, but generally they seem to be flourishing.
Because this beach is near our lodgings, I walk some of it every day we’re here, usually in mid-morning and early evening, though that depends on the season and tide. I rarely take photos on evening walks.
It’s all so different every day.
Beware of plankton.