Meet our Naturalists
The Little St. Simons Island Naturalists offer a host of daily interpretive excursions to immerse our guests in the ecology of Georgia’s barrier islands and the plants and wildlife that can be found in this diverse environment. Lively discussions and hands-on experiences will craft memories lasting well beyond the vacation experience. Whether Bird watching, hiking through the diversity of island habitats, kayaking the tidal waters, bicycling the island’s roads, fishing the surf or tidal waters, our gifted Naturalists will lead you through memorable and enriching experiences to savor for years to come.
Stacia joined Little St. Simons Island and the Naturalist team as the Naturalist Manager in September 2008. Prior to arriving to lead the Naturalist staff, Stacia was the Naturalist for Sea Island Company for eleven years and prior to that was the Naturalist for Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island for fourteen years. After growing up in twelve states and abroad, she relishes every season she is privileged to experience on the Georgia coast. Her other passions include gardening, beekeeping and working in her clay studio.
Cohen’s appreciation for the outdoors started at a young age as he explored the woods and rivers around Perry, Georgia where he grew up. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Georgia Southern University and a Master of Science in Coastal Biology from the University of North Florida. Cohen’s research focused on describing shark nursery habitat use in Southeast Georgia estuaries and comparing survey techniques used by fisheries managers. This work was completed in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, where Cohen worked seasonally for four years. During that time, Cohen was also leading eco-based kayak adventures in coastal Georgia. Cohen joined the naturalist team as the assistant manager in early 2017. Cohen is passionate about sharing the natural world with others, especially through writing and photography. Some of his other hobbies are running, carpentry, and spending time with his two German Shepherds.
Willy was born and raised in Macon, Georgia and received his B.S. degree in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia. For over a decade, Willy has led sea kayak excursions in coastal Georgia and has worked with the National Outdoor Leadership School, leading expeditions to exciting paddling destinations around the globe. He joined the Naturalist team in 2010 and serves as the Naturalist Supervisor. Willy's greatest passion is exploring remote natural areas where he can paddle, fish or hike. Other passions Willy pursues are surfing, bicycling, cooking and carpentry.
Eric is a Georgia native who developed a passion for the outdoors during his adventures throughout the state’s diverse ecoregions. He received his B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries from the University of Georgia. Eric worked as a field technician researching blue catfish in Lake Oconee, and helped lead a UGA summer class that collected and studied native fishes, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians. He joined the Naturalist team in January 2014. Eric enjoys spending his free time camping, biking, fishing, hunting, kayaking, and hiking.
A Georgia resident for 18 years, Andrew spent most of his time camping and exploring nature from a very young age. As of May 2016, he received his B.S. in Biology and a minor in Appalachian Studies of Community Engagement from Young Harris College. During his time at YHC, Andrew researched behavioral patterns in North American snakes. His previous experiences include working for seven years at Camp Rainey Mountain, a Georgia Boy Scout camp, where he spent most of those years in the Ecology and Conservation Department. Andrew has also interned with the Palm Beach Zoo and has volunteered with groups such as GADNR and USFWS. In his free time, Andrew enjoys surf fishing, searching for reptiles and amphibians, birding, and hiking.
Kialey's sense of place and love of nature began in wilderness. Whether clamoring around on rocks or marveling at all forms of life in mountain streams, her appreciation of nature began in Upstate New York on her family's home in the woods. Kialey received her B.S. in Natural History and Interpretation from The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Since 2012 Kialey has worked for the National Park Service and the National Forest Service providing visitors with educational programs based in ecology, history, and wildlife. Kialey has worked in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho, Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. In her spare time, Kialey loves to knit, backpack, fish or go bird watching.
A native of the Buckeye state, Nate hails from Scioto County in Southern Ohio where he spent much of his time exploring the forests and creeks of the Appalachian foothills. Nate obtained his B.S in Natural Sciences from Shawnee State University. Before coming to Little Saint Simons, Nate worked for The Ohio State University’s F.T Stone Laboratory located on Lake Erie. There he worked as a Research Assistant for the Lake Erie Water Snake monitoring program as well as a fieldtrip program educator for visiting school groups teaching Lake Erie ecology workshops. In his free time Nate enjoys looking for reptiles and amphibians as well as, fishing, hiking, and hunting.
Here, Only the Sky is Crowded
Located on the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, our Island is a prized paradise for avid and casual birders. More than 330 species have been regularly spotted here, from Bald Eagles and Roseate Spoonbills to Oystercatchers and Painted Buntings. And the Island's undisturbed beaches and woodlands are havens for a number of threatened and endangered species.
Early morning birding trips, evening owl prowls and other bird-seeking excursion are regular activities led by our skilled naturalists. Or strike out on your own with binoculars, a map of birding hot spots and a Little St. Simons Island Birding Checklist.
- Located on the Atlantic Migratory Flyway
- More than 330 species recorded here
- Value nesting, foraging and stop-over grounds
- A critical staging for shorebirds
- Recognized as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by the American Bird Conservancy
- Recognized as a Reserve Site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)
Recent Bird Activity
To see bird sightings on Little St. Simons Island recorded by our Naturalists as well as guests and local birders please visit eBird’s Hotspot Map. You can also visit our News page where our Naturalists post notable sightings.
Birding Hot Spots
Our Naturalists can either take you to or direct you to the best locations for spotting various bird species. In general terms, these are the Island's birding Hot Spots:
- North Pond, Goose Pond, Skimmer Pond: Herons, Egrets, Ibis, and Spoonbills
- Main Beach: Pelicans, Terns, Skimmers, Plovers and Gannets
- Sancho Panza Beach: Shorebirds and Waders
- Myrtle Pond Observation Towers: Waterfowl and Egrets
- Myrtle Pond Blind: Wood storks and Roseate Spoonbills
- South End Road: Osprey, Eagles, Kingfishers
- Middle Woods Road: Owls and Woodpeckers
- North End Road, Old House Road, Backbone Trail: Flycatchers, Vireos and Warblers
For questions about the best season to see specific species, please download our bird checklist
Spring Birding Days 2017: April 23 - 29, 2017
Enjoy guided outings and evening lectures with guest ornithologists during bird migration season on Little St. Simons Island. This is a great opportunity for beginner and advanced birders to see migrants and residents in their natural habitats.
All-inclusive rates cover guided tours, nightly presentations, all meals, use of island equipment, and boat rides to and from the island. Please call 888-733-5774 for rates and availability.
Little St. Simons Island partners with many state, Federal and non- governmental organizations to conduct valuable research on the bird species on the Island–including many threatened and endangered species. Little St. Simons Island’s avian research partners include:
- Nature Conservancy
- American Bird Conservancy
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources
- US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)
- Georgia Ornithological Society
In conjunction with our partners, our naturalists conduct surveys and collect data on the Island’s permanent and migratory populations. We report rare species sightings, track migration and are involved in special projects with breeding species. For more information, please visit the Ecological Projects page.
For anglers (avid and first-timers), there’s always something biting in the surf, creeks or off the dock; and our tackle shack is ready with all the necessary poles, tackle and bait you’ll need. Our naturalists will take you out to their favorite fishing holes where they'll help you land the big one. Or if you'd rather go out on your own they will tell you about the best spots to fish and set you up with all the right tackle. Our chefs will even cook-up your catch!
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, pristine estuaries, marshes and rivers, Little St. Simons Island offers guests rare access to one of the most productive fisheries on the East Coast and presents a unique saltwater fishing opportunity. The estuary of the Altamaha River provides habitat and nutrients to support large numbers of resident inshore game fish and a spawning ground for larger offshore fish.
The most commonly caught sport fish are red drum, black drum, spotted sea trout, flounder, Southern kingfish (whiting), tarpon, sheepshead as well as various sharks and rays.
The seven miles of Atlantic Ocean beach on Little St. Simons Island are perfect for strolling, sunning and swimming. And perfect for solitude too, as it’s not unusual to spend long hours here and encounter only armies of shorebirds and acres of seashells.
Guided excursions to the beach to explore the shoreline's bird life, aquatics and ecosystems are a mainstay of the Island's naturalist programs. And seasonal evening turtle walks with a naturalist are among our most popular adventures!
Whether you walk, pedal or ride to the beach, travel light. Our beach pavilion has towels, chairs, lotions, umbrellas and floats.
The ocean waves and tidal waterways that surround Little St. Simons Island are wonderfully abundant in the recreation they offer and the secrets they reveal. Explore and enjoy them in our fleet of kayaks, canoes and motorized skiffs.
Every Season Is Spectacular On Little St. Simons Island!
With every month and new season across this rare natural sanctuary come fascinating changes in wildlife activity, bird sightings, plant species, landscapes and other natural phenomenon. Based upon past observations by our team of naturalists, the following is a brief and general look at what you might expect to see, encounter or experience during your visit to Little St. Simons Island.
- Very rarely Pilot Whales have been spotted off of Main Beach
- Adult Bald Eagles are visible on nests, incubating during the first week of the month
- Christmas bird count reveals over 100 species spend the winter on the Island, including White Pelicans, Red Knots, Wilson’s Plovers and Piping Plovers. Northern Gannets can be spotted on the horizon diving into the ocean
- Yellow-rumped Warblers are everywhere. Chipping can be heard from every Wax Myrtle shrub
- Bald Eagles are common, both resident nesting birds and larger northern birds overwintering
- Cedar Waxwings show up in large flocks, feeding on holly berries
- Bald Eagle nest shows signs of hatched chicks!
- Great Horned Owls continue to incubate their eggs at nest
- Mars is brilliant right now and at its closest approach to Earth–a great time to view
- Purple Martins spotted on martin house. Scouts come back and begin to search out suitable nest locations. Yellow-throated warblers can be heard singing late in the month
- Carolina Jessamine blooming all along beach road; earliest wildflowers begin to bloom
- Great Horned Owl chicks seen sitting on top of its mom in the nest
- Bald Eagle chicks are more active, moving around and very visible
- Organic garden is flourishing! Winter crops like kale, collards, radishes and carrots are regularly incorporated into guest meals
- Many ducks spotted at Myrtle Pond, including Blue and Green Winged
- Teal, Bufflehead, Scaup, Gadwall, Mottled Ducks, Mallards and Pied-billed Grebe
- Owl chicks grow larger and likely fledge
- Coral-root, a delicate saprophytic orchid is now in bloom
- As days warm up, alligators are frequently seen sunning on banks
- Ruby Crowned Kinglets and Robins seen around the compound
- Eagle chicks getting larger; stretching and flapping their wings and keeping the adults busy
- Black-necked Stilts forming pairs, common in Myrtle Pond and North Pond
- Bird song fills the forests- Parula, Pine Wablers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Vireos
- First Oystercatcher nests can be found on the beach
- Leopard frogs seen on the path to Norms Pond
- Painted Buntings return (often seen at the feeder near the Main Lodge)
- Bald Eagle chicks fledge
- Fallow bucks sport new antler growth
- Squirrel Treefrogs, Green Treefrogs, Southern Leopard Frogs and Southern Toads are heard calling and seen mating. Listen for the roaring bellow of male alligators as mating season begins
- Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons in courtship displays around ponds
- Horseshoe Crabs emerge by the thousands, then retreat to the sea as mating season begins on beaches
- First Roseate Spoonbills and Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds of the season
- Prickly Pears flowering and Magnolias in bloom
- Spring tides offer great beachcombing discoveries
- Spring migration peaks with excellent opportunities to view songbirds, shorebirds, birds of prey and rare birds
- Fishing activity picks up (Red Drum, Black Drum, Spotted Sea Trout, Sheepshead). Surf fishing, too, with sharks being caught
- Lovebugs are out, especially at the gazebo. Their arrival means its truly spring on the island!
- Dewberries ripe along Beach Road
- Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting season begins. (Join in an evening, naturalist-led turtle walk!)
- Osprey chicks in nest; juvenile Bald Eagles likely seen
- Baby Southern Toads all along Beach Road
- Owls and Chuck-Will-Widows heard at night
- Deer fawns observed
- Coral Bean in bloom
- Shorebirds are feeding heavily on Horseshoe Crab eggs and other marine resources
- Fishing for Red Drum and Spotted Sea Trout is becoming more productive in Mosquito Creek; off the main dock, too
- A great month for birding! This is the height of shorebird migration seen at Sancho Panza Beach and Myrtle Pond
- While kayaking in the creeks, look for baby striped burr fish swimming about–a type of Pufferfish very abundant this season
- Baby Armadillos and baby Marsh Rabbits out and about all along Beach Road
- New Loggerhead Sea Turtle nests observed and recorded
- Spanish Bayonet blooming along Beach Road
- Large Alligator populations active in ponds and tidal marshes
Snowy Egret and Great Egrets chicks likely seen at Norm’s and Stag ponds
- Look for fuzzballs at the beach! American Oystercatchers, Wilson’s Plovers and Willets all have chicks
- Pulling the seine net is a great way to see the abundant ocean life just off of Main Beach. This time of year is very productive and the diversity is great!
- Diamondback Terrapins laying their eggs
- Evening Turtle Walks, led by naturalists, are a favorite summer evening adventure
- Warmer waters mean good fishing: creek, surf, dock or pond. First Tarpon of the season are often hooked
- The sky is crowded in June! Sightings likely of: Willet, Osprey, Wood Stork, White and Glossy Ibis, Painted Bunting, Reddish Egret, Bald Eagle, American Oystercatcher, Belted Kingfisher, Black Skimmer, Roseate Spoonbill and more
- Roseate Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Cattle Egret, Black-necked Stilt, Yellowlegs, Black-crowned Night Heron and alligators at Goose Pond
- Barn Swallows nesting
- Blossoming Railroad Vine all over beach dunes; Sea Oats are fresh and green
- New Loggerhead Sea Turtle nests (and false crawls) observed and recorded; nests are beginning to hatch
- Alligators are nesting
- The beach is calling: go sunning, shelling, biking, surf fishing. Seining with our naturalists is a discovery-rich family event!
- Fallow bucks with full antlers and young fawns all getting larger
- Birds rules the beach! Least Tern, Reddish Egret, Piping Plover, Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Sanderling and Black Tern
- Pond environs lively with dragonflies, tadpoles, and frogs
- Pickerelweed and marsh hibiscus flowers are in full bloom at Willow Pond and other freshwater wetlands
- Warm summer days get the creatures stirring, including raccoons, armadillos, turtles, frogs, deer and more
- Loggerhead Sea Turtle hatching season reaching its peak. Spotting a baby turtle hatchling is rare, but possible
- Female alligators patrol this year’s nests, with last year’s young swimming nearby
- Horsemint in is bloom; Beauty Berries are bright pink
- Adult and immature Bald Eagles, as well as Osprey and Red-tailed Hawks patrol the skies
- A naturalist-led pond tour will likely spot Black-crowned Night Heron,
- Glossy Ibis, Anhinga, Common Moorhen, Least Bittern, Blue-winged Teal and Roseate Spoonbill
- Crabbing usually good off the main dock and the beach ponds
Red Knot, Long-billed Curlew and Marbled Godwit start returning to Sancho Panza beach
- Tarpon can be found by lucky fishermen in deep water holes in Pine Creek or the Hampton River
- Beach seining with a naturalist may yield pompanos, pogies and shrimp
Gulf Fritillary butterflies likely everywhere
- Tree Swallows, by the thousands, begin to gather in Sancho Panza area and near Main Beach
- Alligator nests begin to hatch
- Green Fly Orchid in bloom around the compound and in the maritime forest
- Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting season slows (join a naturalist on a nest excavation)
- American Avocets can be seen at Myrtle Pond
- Bull Redfish are on the move and may be caught during fall surf fishing
From the dock, shore or a skiff, this is a good month for trout in Mosquito Creek
- The early fall weather is perfect for a bike or kayak adventure
- What a month for bird lovers! Likely spottings include: Black-crowned Night Heron, Long-billed Curlew, Black-bellied Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Piping Plover, Reddish Egret, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Glossy Ibis, Marbled Godwit, American Oystercatcher, American Bittern, Marsh Wren, Greater Black-backed Gull, Nighthawk, Osprey, Brown Thrasher (our state bird), Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-winged Teal, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red Knot, Anhinga and many more
- Sweetgrass and Goldenrod in full bloom; marsh plants are many shades of yellow, red, and orange
- Bountiful butterflies on the Island, including Zebra Longwing, Long-tailed Skipper, Gulf Fritillary, Monarch, White Peacocks and Little Yellows
- Reptiles are very active including snakes, skinks and lizards
- Fall warblers, countless swallows and other passerines moving through during migration
- Fishing luck may include Bluefish, Tarpon, Reds, Spotted Sea Trout and Flounder
- Great Horned Owls and Eastern Screech Owls calling in the Lodge compound
- The Island is alive with birds this month. Large numbers of shorebirds getting ready for migration and a huge numbers of Peregrine Falcons migrating through
- Turtle nesting season concludes. Nest excavation on the last few nests are going on now
- Dolphins feeding in Mosquito Creek
- Bald Eagles begin nesting at their traditional Island locations
- Clouds of Tree Swallows swarm the Wax Myrtle trees, eating the berries before they continue to move south
- Alligators out, soaking up the autumn sun and foraging deer often seen
- American White Pelicans can potentially be spotted at the beach
- Bald Eagles return and may be seen rebuilding nests to be ready for the upcoming breeding season
- Excellent fishing for Sea Trout, Redfish, and Flounder on artificial lures
- Great Horned Owls busy nesting
- Good month for spotting ducks around the Island's ponds and tidal creeks including Mottled Ducks, Hooded Mergansers and Buffleheads
- Bald Eagles begin to incubate their eggs
Here are some of the species you may find on Little St. Simons Island.
The Scarlet Snake
The Scarlet snake (Cemophora coccinea) is an elusive snake, rarely found by humans. This species is quite slender and reaches a maximum length of about thirty inches. These snakes always have wide red bands separated by yellow or white bands which are bordered with black. The bands do not encircle the entire body, leaving the belly of these snakes white or cream-colored.
The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) is frequently mistaken for a hummingbird or bee based on the moth’s appearance and behavior. Adult coloration is variable, but a “furry” olive green and burgundy back is common. Its underside is light yellow or white on the thorax, and burgundy on abdomen.
The Northern Gannet
The Northern Gannet is a large seabird, and the largest member of the gannet family. These birds have long, slender, black-tipped wings with wingspans reaching about 70 inches from tip to tip. Adult birds have yellowish heads and all white bodies (pictured above) while immature gannets are very dark with white spots. It can take three or more years to attain full adult plumage.
The Wood Stork
The Wood Stork is a large, white wading bird with black flight feathers. This bird has a long, decurved bill on its bald head. Its wingspan averages 5.5 feet, making it unmistakable in flight.
The American Mink
The American mink is a fascinating voracious predator in the Mustelidae family, which includes otters, weasels, badgers, wolverines, and minks. The Mustelidae family is actually the most diverse family within the order Carnivora.