Bird Watching at Huntington Beach State Park

    The sales executives and executive team of the Trembley Group Real Estate in Myrtle Beach love to live, work, and play along South Carolina’s Grand Strand. While a few of the Realtors are South Carolina and Myrtle Brach natives, most hail from the four corners of the United State and Canada. Living in the area is a choice. They’re here because they love everything the area has to offer. They love the weather, the golf, the beach, the history, the nightlife, and the natural beauty of the Grand Strand.

    Huntington Beach State Park

    For many at the Trembley Group, there is no better place to enjoy the natural beauty and weather of the Grand Strand than the jewel of the South Carolina state parks, Huntington Beach State Park. And there is no area better to enjoy a combination of nature, wildlife, and photography than Huntington Beach. Many serious birdwatchers consider it one of the best birding areas on the east coast. Inland, freshwater and marine birds can all be found at various places in the park.

    This beautiful low country park is located on Hwy 17, just south of Murrells Inlet, halfway between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. Huntington Beach State Park is almost directly across the road from the entrance to Brookgreen Gardens, a National Historic Site and recognized as one of the top ten gardens in the country.

    Huntington Beach is the home of Atalaya, the summer home of Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer M. Huntington. The Moorish Spanish style house is a historic site and is open daily for self-guided tours for a nominal fee.

    Birding the Huntington Beach State Park Causeway

    The photographic opportunities in Huntington Beach State Park are endless. It is a favorite destination for many bird photographers from all parts of the country. Ecologically, the park has a variety of habitats that assure a very diverse and plentiful bird population. On any given visit, seeing 100 species or more would not be uncommon. This unique 2,500-acre coastal treasure features salt marsh and tidal waters, forest and maritime shrub thickets, fresh and salt water marshes, and three miles of beach and sand dunes.

    At the entrance to the park, the road crosses a causeway which separates a freshwater marsh pond (The Mullet Pond) on the right from a tidal salt marsh on the left. Almost all species of wading birds (along with alligators) can be found here and most early mornings provide a flood of all types coming from their roosts to feed.

    American Bald Eagle

    Keeping a sharp eye skyward, a birder is likely to see the nation’s symbol, one of the park’s resident bald eagles. Once an endangered species, these beautiful birds have made a great comeback. A pair of bald eagles nest across the marsh from the end of the marsh boardwalk and the birds spend much of the day feeding over the park’s wetlands. Bald Eagles are voracious feeders especially when they have young. The eagles will stop at nothing to feed their eaglets, even theft. It’s not uncommon to see bald eagles pirating fish from ospreys or a wading bird over the mullet pond.

    Roseate Spoonbill

    In the past few years in July-August, the Roseate Spoonbill, which is rarely seen north of Florida, have regularly appeared with all the other visitors. These unusual pink birds have a spoon-like bill.  The Roseate Spoonbill uses its odd bill to filter bits of food out of the water. Its bright pink coloring leads many South Carolina tourists to think they have seen a flamingo.

     

     

    Wood Storks

    A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern marshes and swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States. The bird’s late winter breeding season is timed to the Florida dry season when its fish prey become concentrated in shrinking pools.

     

     

    Anhinga and Double Crested Cormorant

    Anhingas and Double Crested Cormorants are often confused but are only distantly related. It is easy to understand the confusion. Both are dark colored birds that have feathers which are not water proof and need to be air dried in the sun. Their diet consists of similar fish, reptiles and snakes and both dive under the water to fish. Since both birds dive for prey, neither bird has oil glands allowing them to stay submerged for long periods of time. Because of the lack of oil on their feathers, they swim with only their head and out of the water, hence the Anhinga nickname, Ssnakebird.

    The cormorants, male and female, are glossy black and have shorter, thicker necks with an orange throat patch. They swim on the water between dives and have hooked bills which they use to GRASP their prey. The type typically seen in Huntington Beach State Park is the Double-crested Cormorant. The double cresting refers to the tufts of soft feathers behind each eye which appear only during mating season and are shed soon after.

    Anhingas have long necks and small narrow heads. They use their sharp pointed bills to SPEAR fish which they then flip in the air and catch in their mouth. They swim with their body submerged to the neck, unlike the cormorants, and can dive up to sixty from the water’s surface or from the air. Their nostrils have no openings to prevent water from being forced in during a dive.

    Ibis

    A wading bird of the deep South, the striking White Ibis is frequently seen on lawns looking for large insects as well as probing for prey along the shoreline.

    Egrets

    Snowy Egret

    The all-white Snowy Egret is much smaller than a Great Egre and has a more slender black bill and black legs with bright-yellow feet. Among the most elegant of the herons, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. Those feet seem to play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as the egret forages. Breeding Snowy Egrets grow filmy, curving plumes that once fetched astronomical prices in the fashion industry, endangering the species. Early conservationists rallied to protect egrets by the early twentieth century, and this species is once again a common sight in shallow coastal wetlands.

    Great Egret

    The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. In the late nineteenth century, Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes for lady’s hats, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

    Herons

    Herons

    The herons are the long-legged freshwater and coastal bird in the family Ardeidae, with 64 recognised species, some of which are referred to as “egrets” rather than herons. Egrets are not a biologically distinct group from the herons, and tend to be named differently because they are mainly white or have decorative plumes. Although egrets have the same build as herons, they tend to be smaller. Herons, by evolutionary adaptation, have long beaks.

    Although herons resemble birds in some other families, such as the storks, ibises, spoonbills, and cranes, they differ from herons in flying with their necks retracted, not outstretched.

    Great Blue Heron

    Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind.

     

    Little Blue Heron

    A small, dark heron arrayed in moody blues and purples, the Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of marshes and estuaries in the Southeast. They stalk shallow waters for small fish and amphibians, adopting a quiet, methodical approach that can make these gorgeous herons surprisingly easy to overlook at first glance. Little Blue Herons build stick nests in trees alongside other colonial waterbirds. In the U.S., their populations have been in a gradual decline since the mid-twentieth century.

     

    Green Heron

    From a distance, the Green Heron is a dark, stocky bird hunched on slender yellow legs at the water’s edge, often hidden behind a tangle of leaves. Seen up close, it is a striking bird with a velvet-green back, rich chestnut body, and a dark cap often raised into a short crest. These small herons crouch patiently to surprise fish with a snatch of their daggerlike bill. They sometimes lure in fish using small items such as twigs or insects as bait.

     

    Black Crowned Night Heron

    Black-crowned Night-Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands. In the light of day adults are striking in gray-and-black plumage and long white head plumes. These social birds breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world.

    Painted Buntings

    No article on Huntington Beach State Park birding would be complete with mentioning the painted bunting. Sometimes called the “Nonpareil,” meaning “unrivalled,” some have called it the most beautiful bird in America. The unbelievable colors of the male Painted Bunting look like something out of a child’s imagination. Females and immatures are a distinctive bright green. This species is common to Huntington Beach State Parke from April through September. It is often secretive, staying low in dense cover. However, males sing their bright warbling songs from higher in the trees, partly hidden among foliage or sometimes out in the sun on an exposed perch. They are often caught and sold illegally as cage birds, particularly in Mexico and the Caribbean, a practice that puts pressure on their breeding populations.

     

    Birding the Jetty

    Another hot spot for birding is the jetty at the northern end of the park. It’s a 1.2 mile hike up the beach from the parking lot at the north end of the island but it’s worth it. The jetty is man-made rocky coastline and is the southernmost point recorded in the ranges of several species. Some of the unusual wintertime birds found here include razorbills and black guillemots, both relatives of the puffins.

    Because the jetty is paved on top, visitors  can stroll out across the breakers for a great view of the waters just offshore of the beach. Here, you will find wintering common and red-throated loons, not to mention delicate horned grebes. Pay close attention to the rocks as you walk out to the point – here, you will find the very well camouflaged purple sandpipers.

    Birding the Beach

    As you make your way along the beach, keep an eye out for other shorebirds. While winter is the best time of year to see the federally endangered piping plover. Many of te plovers have been banded in an effort to learn more about this disappearing species.

    Here is the Huntington Beach Bird Checklist. Its a PDF so you can print it out.                                     

    If you enjoy visiting Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand for the birding, the golf, the beach, or the nightlife, why not consider moving here. The Sales Executives at the Trembley Group Real Estate are experts at Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand real estate. Whether you’re looking for a vacation home or a permanent home, you won’t find a Realtor better trained, with more integrity, or more hardworking than a Sales Executive at the Trembley Group Real Estate.

     

    Need help? Call The Trembley Group at 843.945.1880 ext. 100 and we’ll help you look for the perfect listing or buyers agent!

    At The Trembley Group, we pride ourselves on being the experts at more than just selling real estate. We are local residents, some of us have been here for a lifetime. The rest of us will be here until the end of time. We love living, working, and playing in the diverse backyard of Coastal Carolina, and look forward to helping you live and love your dreams soon too. Please reach out to us by phone or email for personalized service and one-on-one advice. 

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