Outdoor

Marie McAden

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Santee Refuge nature trail offers diverse avian habitat

Posted 5/8/2013 12:27:00 PM

You’ve got to love a trail that’s flat, short and offers an incredible diversity of habitat for viewing birds. Wright’s Bluff Nature Trail in the Bluff Unit of the Santee National Wildlife Refuge is that kind of trail.

An easy one-mile loop, the walking path takes visitors through a bottomland swamp habitat known to attract those gorgeous Prothonotary warblers everyone loves, along with wood ducks — the most beautiful of all wild ducks.

You’ll see a number of wood duck nest boxes from the boardwalk overlooking the swamp. These predator-protected homes compensate for a shortage of natural cavities.

Once near the brink of extinction, wood ducks have come back strong thanks to artificial nesting structures like these and regulations limiting hunting. Today, there are more than two million breeding pairs of wood ducks nationwide — and their numbers continue to grow.

A little farther along the trail is a 15-foot observation tower overlooking an open grass field that is planted with corn and other crops to feed migratory birds that fly through the area. This time of year, you’ll see Canadian geese foraging the ground, along with sandhill cranes and eastern meadowlarks. The best times to catch the show are at dawn and dusk.

As the trail loops around to the east, it winds along Cantey Bay. In addition to enjoying the beautiful waterfront vista, visitors can walk out to an observation platform equipped with binoculars to search out wildlife. Great blue herons, egrets and other wading birds are often seen feeding along the shore.

Wright’s Bluff Nature Trail also offers opportunities to spy wild turkey, white-tailed deer, small mammals, reptiles and songbirds such as the spectacular painted bunting and Prothonotary warbler.

To find out more about the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, click here or call (803) 478-2217.