By Pat Foster-Turley
February 3, 2023
Most times when I am in search of a column and I’ve exhausted Bucko’s help, I turn to a gal friend for a walk outdoors somewhere interesting. And with the right friend with a love for nature, it is always fun. Susan Gallion often accompanies me on these outings. She’s up for anything!
So on a recent Saturday Susan and I headed to Bone Yard Beach on Big Talbot Island. It’s been years since I’ve been there, and with everything else, there have been some changes. For one thing, the path to the beach from the main Big Talbot Island State Park parking lot has been lengthened through the coastal forest. It’s now a nice, easy walk on a dirt path through the forest, past fungi-covered logs and under scraggly shoreside trees.
And Bone Yard Beach is well worth walking to. This seaward edge of the Big Talbot barrier island has been modified by currents and climate changes over the years, and many once tall cedar and oak trees have died and fallen, with their “bones” spread all across the sand. These dead trees make great climbing spots for kids and scenic photos for one and all.
Professional and amateur photographers alike head to Bone Yard Beach for artistic portraits and photos. On the Saturday Susan and I walked there, two groups were taking photos. One family lined up in front of a photogenic dead tree while family members took turns taking photos and then another kind beach goer stepped up to take photos of all of them together. I usually volunteer to do this, but this gal got there first. Great!
Another photo session nearby was organized by a professional photographer. A handsome couple dressed in dramatic shocking pink and red clothing was posing together, fully dressed in front of a dead tree, and then they walked closer to the water, where they were posing for photos hugging each other with bare torsos that showed off her late term pregnancy. We kept on walking to give them privacy. I’m sure the photos will be spectacular!
There were few people further down the beach towards the Nassau Sound Bridge, and Susan and I headed that way. Along the way we were captivated by the stretch of beach, now at near-low tide, which was made of dark-colored clay and not sand. Although it looked muddy, it wasn’t mud. I grabbed a handful of this muck and found that the clay was workable and, if it was there ages ago too, I’m guessing the Timucuan early residents there used it to make pottery. In fact, years ago I met someone who told me that they, too, went to this beach to collect clay for art projects, but I imagine this activity is discouraged now in this protected state park.
Susan is often more observant than I, and she spotted some small orange-brownish things sticking up from the clay in one area. Were they some kind of invertebrate? But no, upon touching them they did not move, so they weren’t mollusks or worms or anything else “animal” that I could think of. We are guessing they are plant sprouts, but what kind of plant? At first we thought mangroves, but this is still north of their northward range expansion and upon more Googling they didn’t look like mangrove seedlings. If anyone reading this column knows from the photos, I’d love to learn more.
We were hoping to walk behind Spoonbill Pond, the pond that has a boardwalk bordering it at the start of Big Talbot Island just over the Nassau Sound Bridge, and all the way back to the parking lot, for a loop walk. But this turned out to be difficult. We did get a nice view of the backside of Spoonbill Pond and the signs protecting it from disturbance but beyond that water was rushing from the ocean in a gully that was too deep for us to cross without removing our shoes, rolling up our pants and wading in the cold water – and we weren’t up for that. So, regretfully, we had to turn back the way we came.
But it still was another great outing for two friends on a nice temperate day at the seashore. Hopefully, now, other readers will check it out too. It’s a very different beach than our more familiar ones. And if you do go be sure to bring your camera!
Pat Foster-Turley, Ph.D., is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations. [email protected]