Birding at Caw Caw Swamp

By:Marie McAden


Just south of Charleston off U.S. 17 is one of the best birding spots on the Carolina coast.

The Caw Caw Interpretive Center, a 654-acre wildlife sanctuary within the Caw Caw Swamp, is the stomping grounds for a wide range of birds — 254 species to be exact. The diverse habitats within the sanctuary draw everything from raptors to shore birds to waterfowl and warblers.

Once part of rice plantations that operated during the 18th and 19th centuries, the center encompasses fresh, brackish and saltwater marshes, cypress-tupelo swamps and maritime, bottomland and beech-holly forests.

Every Wednesday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon, a Caw Caw naturalist leads guided walks through the pristine preserve, offering participants the chance to see some of the many avian visitors who enjoy wintering in the Lowcountry. The cost of the tour is $10.

Pre-registration is not required, and if you’re not feeling up to the 3 ½-hour trek, you’re welcome to cut out at any time. Binoculars are available if you don’t have your own.

During the walk you may see American Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, Blue Wing Teals, Blue-Headed Vireos and Sedge Wrens, among the many raptors, ducks and songbirds taking up residence in the forests and marshland.

“Habitat is key to birding,” said Keith McCullough, interpretation coordinator for Charleston County Parks. “Within a short walk, you can pass through a number of different bird habitats, including forest land, open fields along the rice dikes and saltwater marshes. There’s one boardwalk that extends more than 1,000 feet through a tupelo swamp.”

If you can’t make it to one of the bird walks, feel free to venture out on your own. The center features more than six miles of well-marked trails.

Got questions? Call (843) 762-8015.

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