By Burch Barger
Undoubtedly, 2020 has been a challenging year for in-person engagement in all sectors of our society. Meeting via Zoom just isn’t the same as chatting in person. Thankfully, our coast’s mild climate and wide array of outdoor offerings have allowed Stewards to find a few creative, safe ways to gather for learning and recreation this year. As many in our Stewards network have noted, the opportunity to immerse ourselves in nature has been a welcome respite from virtual meetings and pandemic headlines.
In June, we gathered for a Stewards paddle trip along the upper reaches of Cathead Creek through historic rice canals, cypress swamps, and manatee foraging grounds. Native plant sightings along our path included buttonbrush trees and false dragonhead, among others. Christi Lambert, Director of Coastal and Marine Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia, led our conversations about past and current conservation projects within Georgia’s mightiest river system, the Altamaha.
In September, we celebrated World Shorebirds Day with a Stewards boat trip to the mouth of the Altamaha River. Abby Sterling, shorebird biologist with Manomet’s Georgia Bight Shorebird Conservation Initiative, led our conversations about fall shorebird migration, the importance of our coast for shorebirds, and current conservation initiatives involving shorebirds in Georgia.
Traveling at high tide, we saw congregations of roosting shorebirds on the northern tip of Little St. Simons Island, at Little Egg Island Bar, and on Wolf Island. Our group’s sightings included American Avocets, Marbled Godwits, American Oystercatchers, and Long-billed Curlews, among others.
In November, we kayaked coastal Georgia’s only designated Wild and Scenic River, Ebenezer Creek. While paddling through a maze of 1,000+ year-old dwarfed bald cypress trees, we learned from renowned coastal naturalist Stacia Hendricks about the area’s unique natural and cultural histories. Megan Desrosiers shared updates on One Hundred Miles’ work with community members and elected officials to ensure the history and ecology of Ebenezer Creek are protected forever.
Following the paddle trip, we gathered for a picnic lunch near the 18th century Jerusalem Lutheran Church at New Ebenezer. Afterwards, the Georgia Salzburger Society provided a brief tour of the church and museum.
We are planning a full slate of Stewards excursions for 2021, and we hope you will make plans to join us. On Friday, January 22nd, we will kick off the new year with a hike in Cannon’s Point Preserve guided by Wendy Paulson and leaders from the St. Simons Land Trust. Stay tuned for emails about the January 22nd trip and others to follow in 2021.