On Tuesday, February 4, eleven Seabrook Island Birders set off at 7:00 AM for Santee Coastal Reserve. After negotiating the traffic on Maybank Highway and the misdirection of the GPS, the group finally arrived at the gate where Felicia, a SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) employee, met us. At the gate, we strolled into a beautiful open longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forest. White paint bands circles some of the trees indicating trees that Red-cockaded Woodpeckers use for nesting. Mark Andrews quickly spied a Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The bird cooperated and stayed perched for most of the group to see through Mark’s scope. Felicia regaled the group with information about the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, an endangered species, and the efforts of the SCDNR to assist in this bird’s survival. Chittering away, sounding like a rubber duck, the Brown-headed Nuthatches were often audible, but rarely visible while we explored the longleaf pine forest.
Felicia announced that the next stop would be a walk on a boardwalk in to the Washo Reserve. People got in their cars and took off, but poor Mark’s car would not start. Thankfully, Dave and Ginna had not set off yet and were able to give Mark a jump. Mark decided that he needed a new battery and it would be best if he went right away. Bob and Eileen moved into Dave and Ginna’s car for the next leg.
The trail to the boardwalk offered views of other woodpeckers and four White Pelicans. The boardwalk, prominently marked to no more than 10 people, was a thin walk requiring single file travel for the eleven of us. It traversed a cypress/tupelo swamp that the SCDNR recently drained with plans to use fire as a management tool on portions of the swamp. As we approached the observation deck that overlooked open water, a mass of 25 duck rose up and vanished into the woods. Those in the front were able to identify the Gadwall. Felicia explained the uniqueness of the swamp and how the department maintained the whole preserve with an emphasis on waterfowl and access to hunters. The Nature Conservancy worked with the Santee Rod and Gun Club to preserve the more than 24,000 acres with the proviso that hunting be allowed in season. Certainly a fair compromise since the hunter’s license fees paid for the purchase. The Nature Conservancy still owns the 1,040 acre Washo Reserve, recognized as the oldest wading bird rookery in continuous use in North America!
We moved onto the headquarters, the old hunting lodge, as a restroom stop. Around the headquarters, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Hermit Thrush provided the nicest views. Dave and Ginna needed to leave early. If they wanted to stay, Bob and Eileen would need to squeeze into Judy’s already full car. Dave implored Bob and Eileen to travel with them, but Bob (if you know him, you will understand) was not done birding such a beautiful spot. When he looked at the pile of coats and gear in Judy’s car, he could see a soft bed, so agreed to ride in the boot for the return trip.
A short walk between some impoundments enabled everyone to enjoy a study of a female Belted Kingfisher, Blue-winged Teal, and Green-winged Teal. A river otter made a brief show, popping it head up to check us out as we checked it out.
Towards the end of the short walk, Cedar Waxwings poured out of the cedar trees, Red-winged Blackbirds called and displayed, giving everyone a great view.
With stomach’s growling, the group set off for T. W. Graham & Co., a seafood restaurant in McClellanville, SC, we all highly recommend now.
A total of 46 bird species were seen:
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Articles and photos submitted by: Bob Mercer