The second-to-last leg of our hike brought us out of the salt marsh through dunes and scrub forest to Dungeness Beach on the western side of the island. This was the first time in my life that I've been on a beach where there were no houses or other buildings in view.
The beaches on Cumberland Island are important for all kinds of wildlife, including loggerhead turtles. We saw lots of nests like this one marked and numbered along the beach. The park website says there are about 885 nests as of mid-July, which is a record number for them. The turtles nest in three-year cycles, and this is a peak year.
We also saw a bunch of sea birds - an osprey diving, a great egret, some oystercatchers, and lots of pelicans, gulls, and small birds. Definitely some moments when I wished I'd been prepared with my other zoom lens.
One of my favorite parts of the beach was all the vegetation. I was expecting it to look like the beaches I've visited before in Florida, but there are clear differences in the types of plants that grow on the dunes.
It was a lovely surprise to see morning glory vines growing all over the beach. The day before, we had seen few white morning glories on St. Simon's Island, but the pink flowers on Cumberland were especially beautiful. We were lucky to visit when it was cool and overcast, because the flowers close up in the heat of the day.
I loved watching the ghost crabs skitter across the beach. They seem alternately shy and curious, like they want to know what you are doing, but once they realize you are watching them, they start playing hide and seek in the sand. This one was nice enough to pose for a photo, although with his claws all drawn up like that, I think he looks a little bit crabby. ;) Har har.
And then there's the sad fate of many a horseshoe crab. Well...I say that and remember that some horseshoe crabs have a much stranger fate than washing up dead on a beach.Who knew crab-bleeding was a thing?