Jekyll Island, part of the great Georgia outdoors, is resplendent in plants and animals living in harmony.
Take the opportunity to get out there with your kids and learn about the organisms who share this island paradise with us. You’ll see Jekyll Island – and your own backyard – in a new light!
What will you discover?
These islands are just that – barriers. They’re our first line of defense against storm winds and waves. If you’ve ever been curious about how coastal barrier islands form, how and why they’re constantly evolving, and the dangers they face due to over-development.
The Marshes of Glynn
Without our marsh lands, coastal life would be much different. Fish, birds, mammals, crustaceans – many populations would be vastly depleted. Some would disappear entirely. Learn about the Marshes of Glynn and the other coastal marshes that feed and nurture wildlife, filter pollutants, and breathe life into our world.
What kind of animals live here? Well, lots of crustacean and fish species use the protection of the marsh grass as a nursery for their young, and many different types of birds either nest or feed here. Mammals like marsh hares and raccoons forage through the marsh, and also use the long grasses as cover.
From the unassuming diamondback terrapin to the magnificent loggerhead sea turtle, these reptiles have always captured our imaginations. Find out about their place in the Georgia outdoors, and learn the answer to that age-old question puzzling us all – just how did the tortoise win a footrace over the hare?
Squirrels, Marsh Rabbits and Raccoons
Squirrels are perhaps the most abundant mammal on Jekyll Island. My family has a love affair with Jekyll Island squirrels going back to our first visit. We’ll share our story with you here, introduce you to the industrious squirrel, and reveal it’s importance in Jekyll Island’s ecosystem.
Marsh rabbits (“Mars” rabbits as Scott used to call them) and raccoons also have a role to play. How do they fit in?
You can’t go anywhere on Jekyll Island (or the Georgia outdoors for that matter) without tripping over a coastal whitetail deer, or two, or ten. They’ve adapted well to living in close proximity to humans. Why are we so fascinated with deer? Let’s look into this together.
One of our favorite pass times on Jekyll Island is bird watching. With so many bird species either living on or visiting the island on a regular basis, Jekyll Island is the perfect venue for identifying birds to add to your life list.
Nowhere is Jekyll Island’s diversity more apparent than in its bird population. From pelicans to pipers, gulls to grosbeaks, Jekyll is an avian sanctuary. It hosts both native and migrating populations, their lives all interwoven into the Georgia outdoors tapestry that is Jekyll Island. We’ll explore the various bird species found on the island here.
Beautiful birds abound on this island noted for it’s varied bird habitat. Whether looking for sea gulls, terns, or sand pipers on the beach, or searching for familiar or exotic song birds, Jekyll Island has something for everyone – experienced birders and novices alike.
As one of 18 spots along Georgia’s Colonial Birding Trail, the island is noted for year-round avian activity.
Here are some great bird observation points where you can encounter all types of birds.
Maritime Forest and Plant Communities
The maritime forest is a forest that grows close to the sea. It’s home to many different species of plants and animals. The forest, and the edge growth adjacent to it, are vitally important to the health of Jekyll Island’s ecosystems, as well as others along the coastal Georgia outdoors area.
Lots of sand out there! Why are there dunes? Why are the dune areas not flat, like the beaches? And what’s with not picking that dune grass? They look pretty barren. What lives in them? And why don’t they want us walking (or building) on them? Find the answer to these questions, and more, right here.
Land’s end starts at the mighty Atlantic – probably the largest influence on Jekyll Island’s ecosystems. Just what does all that water mean to the coast? How does it affect the land, influence the winds, and nurture the sea life within it? What are currents and tides and rips and how do they figure into the big equation? And what’s with all that salt!
Rivers and Streams
They say in the Georgia outdoors, rivers run to the sea – and they’re right (for the most part). Jekyll’s streams and rivers certainly do; in fact, they’re intimately linked with the ocean in several ways. Learn about their relationship here, and what it means to the over-all Jekyll Island ecosystem.
Jekyll has several freshwater ponds on the island. Let’s take a look at them. We’ll find out what lives in and around them – gators, anyone? – and point out a few features you wouldn’t expect.
Just what are tides and how are they generated? What does the moon have to do with it, anyway? And how do animals, plants – and people – use the tides for their benefit? Make a date with the tide, and explore the answers to it’s mysteries here.
What influences coastal weather? How does air, water and sunlight create storms? Is there anything to the old salt’s saying, “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight”? And what makes the sky red, anyway? Find out here.
You should know this – they’re are no pythons on Jekyll Island (or anywhere else in the Georgia outdoors – although, I’ve been told some have escaped from snake-loving pet owners and “relocated” themselves to the wild. There are other snakes, however, and we’ll meet them here. You’ll learn how to identify them, and if they’re dangerous to humans. Also, why all snakes – even the venomous ones – are important for a healthy environment.
What kinds of fish school around Jekyll Island, both salt and fresh water? A bunch of varied species, that’s what. We’ll learn about the fish (and the crustaceans, shell fish, and jellies), see how they interact, and why they’re important to the overall scheme of things in the Georgia outdoors.
What’s bugging you? Mosquitoes? No-seeums? Honeybees? These are just a few of the myriad insects you might run into in the wild Georgia outdoors, and specifically Jekyll Island. Believe it or not, they’re all necessary for a healthy ecosystem – even the mosquitoes! Why? Let’s see…
The big guy. Everyone wants to see a gator – and if you’re patient, you will see one here on Jekyll. They’re not as plentiful in the Georgia outdoors as they are in, say, Florida, but they do make their home here. Respect and tread carefully around them, and you, too, can safely experience a “close encounter of the scaly kind”! Find out how – and why – they live their lives on Jekyll here.
Why are we humans so drawn to dolphins? They seem to epitomize fun and freedom. You can see dolphins frolicking in the sea and the rivers here on Jekyll Island. How do they fit in to the Jekyll Island ecosystem?
Dolphins sometimes swim up a stream, actually herding fish ahead of them, and will even chase fish up on a sloping mud flat. The dolphins then literally drive themselves out of the water and up on the mud flat with their powerful flukes, where they grab the fish before sliding effortlessly backward and into the water.
Hope you’ve enjoyed your romp through the wild side, and Jekyll Island’s wonderful ecosystems.
Georgia outdoors ecosystems are diverse and complicated, and dependent on the health and well-being of the plants and animals within them. Everything is linked, everything is inter-connected. Change one thing, and it impacts everything else.
They also change over time. Some changes occur naturally, others are man-made. Species become extinct. We bring in exotic animals and plants. Or tear down the dunes to build condos close to the water. Are natural changes good, or bad? How about human changes?
One thing is for certain. If we don’t understand how ecosystems work – the Big Picture – and humanity’s place in that picture – how can we know if, when we introduce change in an ecosystem, our actions will have a positive or negative impact on the animals and plants that live there?
And how can we know for sure that those impacts won’t affect our species for the worse?
Will the loss of one fish species due to over-fishing have a domino affect and destroy a dozen others?
Will the harvesting of rain-forest trees in the name of progress impact the ability of surviving forests to filter carbon dioxide and generate oxygen to support our burgeoning population?
Will the cure for cancer disappear under the bulldozer’s blades?
Or, even – has the human population increased to such an extent that we’ve overrun the carrying capacity of the world ecosystem?
These are intriguing questions that the sciences of ecology and environment attempt to provide answers for.
It’s a growing field with a future. Maybe a good one for your kids to get into.