During the fall and winter, the largest wetland serves as a roosting site for many species including herons, egrets, wood ducks, and hooded mergansers. This habitat and the preserve it created is critical for the protection of wildlife and is an incredible example of the restoration of wetlands.
With its trails and elevated boardwalks winding through the Rookery and individual wetland sections, the Cypress Wetlands has become not only a model to inspire other regional stormwater improvement projects but a working functional organic laboratory, a Port Royal treasure and an educational and incredible “must see” destination for visitors and residents alike.
Port Royal Cypress Wetlands Timeline
The ecological value of the wetland became even more important in 1999 when a severe drought dried up the cypress swamps far inland where the egrets nested. The egrets that formerly just roosted at the Cypress Wetlands now saw it as a nesting area. Out in the middle of the wetland, where the water is deeper, a handful of great egrets built their nests in the old button bushes that had been growing there for decades. The next year there were a few more egret nests and the next year even more.
In 2000 Town officials began working with local ecologists to develop a management plan for this wetland, one that would involve deepening some sections and creating islands which could become future rookeries. The islands and open water areas you see today are the outcome of this work which was completed in 2002.
The habitat management work done in 2002 caused the rookery of nesting wading birds to thrive. For the next ten years the trees planted on the main island were covered with nesting egrets, herons, and white ibis.
In 2012 the boardwalk was built allowing the public greater access to the wetlands and better viewing opportunities to watch the nesting birds. Birders and wildlife photographers from across the eastern United States came to this area specifically to observe and photograph the wildlife at the Cypress Wetlands rookery.
Ten years after the rookery islands had been created, things changed. Non-native tallow trees proliferated transforming the island into a dense forest where racoons could live and hide. The number of egrets nesting on the main island decreased significantly. Fortunately, the old button bushes, the same ones originally used by the first nesting egrets, continued to provide a place for the egrets and anhingas to nest.
First annual Birthday for the Birds event.
In October of 2019, the Friends of Port Royal Cypress Wetlands, a 501c3 organization, was formed to support the ongoing work, preservation, and education of the community about this Town of Port Royal treasure. We invite you to join with us and become a Friend of the Wetlands with your donations.
Now, almost 20 years after the first management project was planned, it is now time for active habitat management to occur again in this wetland. The goal will be to thin the stands of trees on the islands so they will again be attractive to nesting birds, create open stands of water by removing dense stands of swamp loosestrife while keeping the old, mature button bushes, and where possible, to deepen areas with open water.
May 1, 2021
Check back with us for the next celebration of the eighth annual Birthday for the Birds event.