Okay, just one last post from our Gulf Coast vacation last month. Bob and I both love "nature" things. So when I read about this wildlife refuge, a visit was in order. Located just off I-10 near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, it's an easy stop.
This 19,000 acre refuge was established in 1975 to protect the endangered Mississippi Sandhill Crane and it's unique and disappearing pine savannah habitat.
The refuge boasts a fabulous visitor center -- clean and tidy, very interactive for the younger set, a wonderful short film depicting the plight of these elusive birds. There's a library and a gift shop, free posters, and a patio that overlooks the savanna.
Near the visitor center there's a well-tended walking trail. We saw trees, tall grasses, palmettos . . .
lots of wildflowers and carnivorous plants like this Pitcher Plant . . .
and butterflies . . .
. . . but did we see cranes? No! This was disappointing, but I didn't feel so bad after learning that the gentleman who manned the visitor center (and had for several years) had never seen a crane at the refuge either. Apparently, they are very private birds. Here's a photo I found on the Audubon website.
The Refuge has this website, but it is currently unavailable due to the government shutdown.
Here are some interesting facts about the sandhills:
- Sandhills are large birds. They stand around 3-4 feet tall and have a wingspan of 6-8 feet.
- They mate for life and rarely lay more than 2 eggs a year. This contributes to their endangered status. That, and their disappearing natural habitat.
- They eat just about anything and search for food in shallow water.
- They currently live only in Jackson County, Mississippi, but their original habitat stretched across the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle.
- In the 1970s, only around 30 of these birds existed. Through the concerted efforts of the wildlife protection folks, they now number around 200.
- Sandhills live up to 20 years in the wild.