It is quite an exciting time to be a naturalist on Cumberland Island. From April to May, many seasonal changes have already been observed on the island. The Hooded Mergansers and other winter migratory birds have departed, and in turn, our spring and summer migratory birds have begun to arrive – including the Painted Bunting.
With summer quickly approaching (bringing along with it the warmer temperatures), we have even noticed changes in our flora. Our Sparkleberry Trees bloomed during April, and now our Southern Magnolias are starting to bloom. These seasonal changes could not have occurred at a better time, as we celebrated a handful of naturalist events throughout the month of April here at Greyfield Inn. April played host to Arbor Day, Jupiter being at opposition to the Earth (closest in its orbit for the year), Earth Day, and the birthday of famed coastal and American naturalist, William Bartram.
These seasonal changes also bring warmer water temperatures, which act as the catalyst to begin the sea turtle nesting season. Cumberland Island, with its protected seashore, plays a vital role in the sea turtle nesting season. At the time of writing this blog post, Cumberland Island has two documented nests for the 2017 season! With the discovery of these nests, the island has been host to the first sea turtle nests in Georgia for four years in a row. Just in the last three and a half seasons, Cumberland’s shore has produced over 1,800 nests. Each year, Cumberland Island accounts for 25-30% of the statewide nesting total. The protection and monitoring of these nests are vital to the sea turtle conservation efforts. With the nesting season lasting from May through October, we ask guests and visitors to be aware of the Loggerhead Sea Turtles nesting between the dunes and high tide line. It’s an exciting time with the nesting season beginning, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources anticipates the nest number to be above average for 2017.
As May continues into June, we anticipate seeing more Loggerhead Sea Turtles as well as more seasonal changes. Some of the seasonal changes we are anticipating are the Saw Palmettos blooming and an increase in Fireflies on the island. Overall, the temperatures may be getting warmer, but with all the changes going on, it’s a great time to visit Cumberland Island and Greyfield Inn if you’ve never experienced these changes from spring to summer. As naturalists for Greyfield Inn, we will do our best to highlight these seasonal changes on our tours and hope you experience all the island has to offer.
– Alex Furness and Christina Nelson, Greyfield Inn Naturalists