Thanksgiving tends to be a time for nostalgia. As conversation around the dinner table edged toward what we did in the past on this day, I thought of Thanksgiving 2014 when Susan and I, along with our birding buddies, ventured to the coast of South Carolina for a few day so birding. Here’s how the trip went:
Birding buddies Pat and Karin, along with Susan and I, opted to do something different. We headed to South Carolina for some serious birding–well, as serious as it gets for us. The impetus for this adventure was the fact that Pat had visited every state in the union except South Carolina; reason enough for an adventure. We’d heard and read lots of good things about birding the area around Huntington Beach State Park, it was a holiday and campsites were available. So what’s not to like?
Twenty-three hundred miles and 100-plus species later, I can tell you it was one great trip, assuming you like seeing thousands of perfectly choreographed Black Skimmers in flight, Wood Storks fishing 25 feet from you, and one of the more endangered birds on the plant, Red Knots, 57 of them, feeding like there’s no tomorrow–and for them, that might be the case.
Okay, so maybe sleeping on the ground when temperatures are a balmy 29 degrees is not for everyone. For us, the rustic tent sites (that’s what they were called) were perfect for our week-long adventure. Although there were many other spots to bird in the region, we found the Huntington Beach area most attractive. The joy of romantic, long walks on the beach lugging tons of spotting scopes, camera gear and day packs filled with almost-nutritious snacks are the things birders look forward to. Susan and I needed time to relax and unwind from the stresses of being retired, ya know. Youngsters Pat and Karin do have jobs so I guess it was relaxing for them, too.
There were many highlights during this trip; good and not-so-good restaurants, Great Horned Owls serenading while setting up the tent the first day, and happening upon a small group of Wood Storks feeding close to the road on our way out the last day.
Of ornithological importance was Pat’s early Friday morning sighting and identification of a group of Red Knots. He returned to camp with the news and we flocked (that’s what birders do) to the beach. We were able to get close enough to the birds to read the leg tags on several, even to see a tracking device on one bird.
Seventy-five percent of the birders in our group of four are not as addicted to listing as me. So I have to toss in the fact that I saw life bird (lower 48 states, no pelagic trips) number 606, a Purple Sandpiper. Again, the high-five for that one goes out to sharp-eyed Pat who spotted it loafing within a group of about 100+ Dunlin, a quarter mile away. Any questions about why we enjoy birding with Pat and Karin?
Happy not to see a television ad or a big box store for a week, made each birding highlight shine a bit brighter. I think only one or two dozen times a day did any of us say, “Well, we coulda gone shopping.”
Endangered Red Knots, Huntington, South Carolina, State Park
Wood Stork having fish for liunch