This column is the second of the two recounting some of the birding my wife and I did in South Carolina in January.
After a couple of productive days in the Beaufort area, described in the first column, we headed north to Charleston. We had a great morning at the Caw Caw Interpretive Center near Ravenel off of U.S. 17. This area is a park of 654 acres. The area was previously three rice plantations and is now managed strictly for wildlife. With a mix of old rice fields, natural wetlands and forest, Caw Caw hosts a diversity of birds and other animals. A series of trails offers access to different habitats. In short, Caw Caw is a gem.
It was a bit chilly by South Carolina standards when we were there (low 40s) and bird activity was low. Nonetheless, we compiled a nice list. Highlights included a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks, two raucous Red-shouldered Hawks, three Tree Swallows, a Common Yellowthroat among the hordes of Yellow-rumped Warblers, three Chipping Sparrows and several alligators sunning themselves on the banks of a canal.
Our birding in the Charleston area was mainly in the adjacent town of Mount Pleasant. A walk along the board walk at Shem Creek Park yield a Bufflehead, six Horned Grebes, four Great Egrets, three Snowy Egrets, two Tricolored Herons and a stunning adult male Northern Harrier.
A trip to Fort Moultrie was interesting historically as well as ornithologically. The sheltered water had Buffleheads, Horned Grebes, many Brown Pelicans and a Great Blue Heron. We were rewarded for our patience as we birded the dense thickets behind the interpretative center. Birds seen included one each of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird as well as a flock of 30 Cedar Waxwings.
We toured the Fort, which affords a view of the open ocean. The sea was angry that day picking out birds on the water was difficult.
We continued on to the small fishing village of McClellanville, just a bit south of Georgetown. We visited friends there for nearly a week. We went birding every day but I will cover just two of our excursions.
The first trip was to Tibwin Plantation in Francis Marion National Forest. Access is off Highway 17 just a bit south of McClellanville. A walk of perhaps a mile through longleaf pine forest leads to a large freshwater impoundment with an observation blind. What a treat this area was. A number of ducks were spooked by our arrival but we enjoyed great looks at Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal. Two Pied-billed Grebes and lots of Double-crested Cormorants were present as well.
The impoundment had some mudflats with six Western Sandpipers and three Short-billed Dowitchers. Over 40 Greater Yellowlegs foraged in shallow water.
Two Belted Kingfishers announced their presence with loud rattles. A Red-tailed Hawk and then a Bald Eagle flew right over our heads.
The highlight of the trip was a flock of American White Pelicans. In my experience, seeing a few of these pelicans along the coast in South Carolina is expected. I did not expect to see the 55 American White Pelicans we saw at Tibwin Plantation! The light was perfect on these birds with their bright yellow bills and gular pouches.
Unlike Brown Pelicans that dive for fish, swimming American White Pelicans cooperatively herd fish into shallow water where they can be scooped up. It was great to see that behavior.
A three-mile hike through the Santee Coastal Reserve north of McClellanville produced a nice list. We found an Anhinga, six American Coots, two Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Pileated Woodpecker, a Marsh Wren, two Carolina Wrens, both species of kinglets, six Swamp Sparrows and two Red-winged Blackbirds.
If you are planning a trip to South Carolina, an excellent birding resource is: