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Birding the other Carolina

August 1, 2011

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending a few days in South Carolina, and while I realize “pleasure” and “South Carolina” are generally not words you would expect to see together (unless it’s “I had the pleasure of leaving South Carolina”) I came to the realization that all my North Carolina based ire for our little neighbor to the south is mostly unfounded.  Sure, its history is largely defined by the fact that it was the first state to decide back in the 1860s that it wanted nothing to do with the USA, and sure, its modern political figures seem mostly to go out of their way to to make the rest of us regret making an effort to retain it, but once you put aside all the rancor and hard feelings and focus only on the birds, the Palmetto State comes out looking pretty good.  My trip was mostly a family and beach-based one, not only my wife and kid but a few others, and all with young children.  But like I’m able to do on most excursions away from home, I was able to slip out one morning to explore, and I focused my efforts on the absolutely spectacular Huntington Beach State Park in Georgetown County.

There was so much to see there, and I’ll be unpacking the few hours I spent there and the massive numbers of birds I saw, for some time.  But here are a few of the best examples of what you can find if you, like me, put aside the hard feeling engendered by the American Civil War (you’d be surprised how oft picked that poorly healed scar is down here) and recognize the South Carolina coast as one of the south’s objectively great birding hotspots. So here goes…

First thing to greet me when I rolled in was a flock of Wood Storks 65+ birds deep.  Look upon them and despair.

When I saw these Snowy Egrets I immediately wanted to make an elaborate woman’s hat out of them.  But I didn’t.  Because we birders look down on that sort of stuff.

Roseate Spoonbills are so weird that even Salvador Dali says they’re too much.

This Sanderling has flown all the way from the tundra and now finds you in its path.  It will not hesitate to bowl you over. I would not test it.

I don’t want to brag about the Clapper Rail photos that I got, but I will suggest that you come back to this blog every single day to see if I post them.  Again, no pressure, it’s just that you’ll never look at this bird the same way again.  Yes, this is full-frame.

I don’t have much to say about this photo except that this is pretty significantly cropped and it caused me to stop and consider how many potential photographic issues are rendered completely moot simply by the presence of good light.  Not much of an insight, I know, but definitely something any would-be photographer needs to remember most of the time.  Also, I love Ammodramus sparrow irrationally, even common ones like Seaside Sparrows.

So, there’s lots more to come, but I wanted to get these up because the experience shook me to my very core.  South Carolina, a real destination.  Whocoodanode?

  1. Erla B permalink
    August 1, 2011 5:17 pm

    Glad to see your approval of Huntington Beach State Park in SC! I traveled there this spring on a weekend trip with the naturalists of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. We saw scores of bird species, including a male PAINTED BUNTING, a EUROPEAN COLLARED DOVE, a half-dozen various shorebird species, and plenty of songbirds, too. Best part: seeing a massive alligator “attack” another gator… eventually we figured out they were enjoying a passionate date! I hear the CBC will sponsor a trip to this great park on Sept 10 – check out their web site for more information, and good luck with the trip! (And by the way, it’s not the American Civil War – it’s the War of Northern Aggression. When in Rome…)

  2. August 2, 2011 11:00 am

    “Also, I love Ammodramus sparrow irrationally…”

    Come to my heart (as the Germans say in an embrace of friendship), my soul relative (again, as the Germans put it).

  3. August 2, 2011 11:40 pm

    Holy crap, that is a beautiful shot of the rail! Nicely done, sir. Nicely done.

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