Bird-Watch at Pinckney Island

By:Marie McAden

Date:5/26/2010

Ibises on Pinckney Island in South Carolina Lowcountry
White ibis come home to roost on Pinckney Island.

If you’re visiting Hilton Head Island or Bluffton this spring, you owe it to yourself to stop by Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.

And bring your bike. The flat gravel road that runs the length of the island makes for one fun day of easy, breezy riding.

Located between Skull Creek (the Intracoastal Waterway) and Mackay Creek, this 4,053-acre refuge offers all kinds of opportunities to check out the local wildlife from alligators and turtles to white-tailed deer and Nine-banded armadillos to the ever-popular bottlenose dolphin.

But it’s the bird population that will have you oohing and aahing. Just half a mile from the parking lot is Ibis Pond where great flocks of white ibis, egrets and herons come home to roost on an island in the center of the water. We were eating lunch on the banks of the pond when a couple dozen orange-beaked ibis took flight. They sounded like a hundred kites fluttering in the air.

Ready to work off our deli sandwiches, we continued our ride to the end of the gravel road where we took a grass trail to White Point, four miles from the parking lot at the northern end of the island. Upon reaching the beach, we parked our bikes to explore the sandy shores and enjoy the coastal panorama that includes Daws and Parris islands.

On the return trip, we took another grass trail to Dick Point Pond, where we found a pair of osprey guarding their nest atop a nesting platform. They buzzed overhead, circling us like World War I flying aces, until we rode out of range.

On the ride back to our car, we savored the cool island breeze coming off the water and the sweet smell of spring wildflowers in the air. Just another day in paradise.

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk. Entrance is free. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/pinck​n​eyisland or call (843) 784-2468.

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