Ten Places Every Bird Lover Should Visit

By:Marie McAden

Date:1/19/2014


You know who you are. The first thing you pack for vacation is your spotting scope and field guide. Bird watching trumps every other activity on your itinerary. Your definition of a wing nut has nothing to do with hardware.

This one is just for you, bird nerds.

South Carolina’s top 10 bird watching spots:

1. Huntington Beach State P​ark: It’s considered by many to be the best birding spot on the East Coast. More than 300 species of birds have been sighted in the park’s 2,500 acres, including such exotic species as jaegers, harlequin duck, snow buntings, lesser black-backed gull and the federally endangered piping plover.

2.​ Santee National Wildlife Refuge: Located on the North shore of Lake Marion, this 13,000-acre preserve is a major wintering area for ducks and geese, as well as a stopover for neo-tropical migratory birds, raptors, shore birds and wading birds.

3. Ravenel Caw Caw Interpretive Center: Just a few miles south of Charleston, this county park features a diversity of habitats, including pine, hardwoods, a cypress swamp and an old rice impoundment managed for waterfowl.

4. Caesars He​ad State Park: The park’s 3,266-foot outcropping atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment offers the best seat in the house for one of North America’s great birding events—the annual raptor migration.

5. Savannah National Wildlife Refuge: Each winter, the 29,000-acre preserve plays host to thousands of ring-necked, teal, pintails and as many as 10 other species of migrating ducks. In the spring and fall, it’s a preferred stopover for transient songbirds.

6. Bomb Island on L​ake Murray: It is an avian spectacle no birder should miss. Tens of thousands of purple martins flying in to roost on a small uninhabited island in the middle of a Midlands lake. The Hitchcockian event takes place every evening in July and August. Southern Patriot offers boat tours to the show Sundays and Mondays.

7. Audubon Center at Franc​is Beidler Forest: The undisputed headliner of this 1,800-acre old-growth cypress-tupelo swamp is the Prothonotary warbler. But there’s plenty more to see here, including the ever-popular painted bunting.

8. Cape Romain N​ational Wildlife Refuge: Located along 22 miles of the Atlantic Coast, the refuge includes an expanse of barrier islands, salt marshes, coastal waterways, fresh and brackish impoundments and maritime forests enjoyed by a wide variety of migratory birds. One of the best places to see the winged visitors is on Bull Island.

9. Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge: Boasting the largest population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker on U.S. service-owned lands, this 46,000-acre preserve also serves as habitat for more than 190 other species of birds.

10. Audubon Swamp Garden: Once a reservoir for Magnolia Plantation’s rice crops, the 60-acre cypress and tupelo swamp features a network of boardwalks, bridges and dykes where visitors can observe hundreds of egrets, herons and other waterfowl nesting each year.

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