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A Winter Sojourn in Coastal South Carolina

By Peter Alden

Roseate Spoonbills

In February I was invited to help organize the first Bioblitz in South Carolina. They knew of my 3 Great Walden Bioblitzes I ran with Dr. E.O. Wilson, 100's of invited field biologists, and sponsored by the Walden Woods Project, the National Park Service and National Geograhic Society from 1998 - 2019. We documented 3,600+ species of fauna, flora and fungi in 3 events all held in early July.

Our gathering of local experts took place in Charleston County headquartered at the Caw Caw Interpretive Center. My visit was sponsored by the county parks (via Kristina Wheeler) and the Coastal Master Naturalist Association. We were well aware that most plants were not in flower, most insects had yet to appear, and spring migration was just beginning.

Highlights were close views of Cottonmouths, American Alligators and a Timber Rattlesnake and my spotting of the rarely seen Red-bellied Snake. Birds were plentiful and we were pleased that there were no ticks or mosquitoes. I urged the dozens of experts on this trial event to consider planning a major event next year later in the spring and to include sampling salt water habitats.

The following weekend I was the keynote speaker at SouthCarolina's Hammock Coast Birding Festival. This was centered at Pawley's Island north of Charleston and south of Myrtle Beach. My powerpoint was on "The dawn of world birding tourism" which was enthusiastically received (and I sold 60 of my Audubon Southeastern Guide). I also co-led field trips for three days to delightful spots with great birding at Brookgreen Gardens, Huntington Beach State Park, the Yawkey Wildlife Center and other sites. It was great seeing so many Wood Storks, White Ibis, White Pelicans, Anhingas and especially the many colonies of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in carefully managed long-leaf pine woodlands.

White Pelican

One evening while sharing a verbal bird checklist to the group at a southern dinner with country music, I was calling out songbird sightings when I came to the mockingbird. Mentioning that i have been involved with several committees "improving common bird names" I said "I may be a damn Yankee, but I note that most Dixie states now have "Official" state birds now called the Northern Cardinal, the Northern Flicker (Alabama) and the Northern Mockingbird. Yes, I know there are other mockingbirds in Latin America, but our mockingbird has always been a symbol of our South despite invaded northwards due to Asian Multiflora Rose hips. In this case I suggest its common name should become the Southern Mockingbird". I got a standing O!

We are in early stages of planing a Spark Birding week next February in coastal South Carolina. Stay tuned.

Wood Stork


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