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The Carolina Bird Club is a non-profit organization that represents and supports the birding community in the Carolinas through its website, publications, meetings, workshops, trips, and partnerships, whose mission is

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The Carolina Bird Club, Inc., is a non-profit educational and scientific association open to anyone interested in the study and conservation of wildlife, particularly birds.

The Club meets each winter, spring, and fall at different locations in the Carolinas. Meeting sites are selected to give participants an opportunity to see many different kinds of birds. Guided field trips and informative programs are combined for an exciting weekend of meeting with people who share an enthusiasm and concern for birds.

The Club offers research grants in avian biology for undergraduate and graduate students, and scholarships for young birders.

The Club publishes two print publications (now also available online). The Chat is a quarterly ornithological journal that contains scientific articles, reports of bird records committees and bird counts, and general field notes on bird sightings. CBC Newsletter is published bimonthly and includes birding articles and information about meetings, field trips, and Club news.

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By becoming a member, you support the activities of the Club, receive reduced registration fee for meetings, can participate in bonus field trips, and receive our publications.

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Hunting Island State Park

Robin Carter


From Beaufort follow US 21 east for about 18 miles to the park entrance on the left.

Birds to look for

Greater Scaup (w), Lesser Scaup (w), Surf Scoter (w), White-winged Scoter (w), Black Scoter (w), Bufflehead (w), Hooded Merganser (w), Red-breasted Merganser (w), Red-throated Loon (w), Common Loon (w), Horned Grebe (w), Northern Gannet (w), Brown Pelican (w), Double-crested Cormorant, Least Bittern (s), Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret (August to December), Cattle Egret (s), Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (s), White Ibis, Wood Stork, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier (w), Merlin (m), Peregrine Falcon (m), Clapper Rail, Black-bellied Plover (m, w), Semipalmated Plover (m, w), Piping Plover (m, w), American Oystercatcher, Marbled Godwit (w), Ruddy Turnstone (m, w), Red Knot (m, w), Sanderling (m, w), Semipalmated Sandpiper (m), Western Sandpiper (m, w), Least Sandpiper (m, w), Dunlin (m, w), Short-billed Dowitcher (m, w), Laughing Gull, Bonaparte's Gull (w), Ring-billed Gull (w), Herring Gull (w), Lesser Black-backed Gull (w), Great Black-backed Gull (w), Gull-billed Tern (s), Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern (s), Forster's Tern, Least Tern (s), Black Skimmer, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher (w), Brown-headed Nuthatch, Sedge Wren (w), Marsh Wren, Nelson's Sparrow (w), Saltmarsh Sparrow (w), Seaside Sparrow, Painted Bunting (s), Boat-tailed Grackle


The birding starts along US 21, before you get to the state park. At about 7 miles east of St. Helena Island US 21 emerges onto a causeway through a broad salt marsh, leading up to a bridge over a salt creek known as Harbor River. Just before you get to the bridge over Harbor River, look for a boat ramp in a small county park on the right (south) side of US 21. This is Butch's Island. At high tide there are often hundreds of shorebirds here, as well as the usual species of the salt marsh. At low tide the birds scatter, and you won't see much. You might find a Marsh Wren or a Seaside Sparrow in the marsh.

After checking out the shorebirds at Butch's Island, continue east on US 21 to the state park.

Hunting Island State Park consists of about 5000 acres of beach, dunes, salt marsh, salt creek, and maritime forest. It is the most popular South Carolina state park, crowded in summer and even busy in the dead of winter. Despite the crowds Hunting Island State Park is an excellent birding area, well worth a visit any time of year.

There are several good birding areas in the park. We will cover four general areas in this account -- the Lighthouse to Johnson Creek Inlet, the Lagoon and Fripp Inlet, the Marsh Boardwalk Trail, and the fishing pier.

To reach the lighthouse, use the main park entrance and follow the signs to the lighthouse or North Beach parking lot. Park near the lighthouse and look for the beginning of the Lighthouse Trail, a one mile trail that begins at the edge of the parking lot on the far (north) side of the lighthouse. This trail goes to the beach via an avenue through a thicket and brushy slough. This swampy slough is great for birds, especially in migration. In winter this swampy area will be overrun with hundreds of Yellow-rumped Warblers. In spring or fall migration look for migrant land birds. This is an excellent place to observe warblers in migration. The Northern Waterthrush is especially fond of this swamp spot.

Once you come to the beach, turn left and follow the beach northward to Johnson Creek Inlet.. In summer Painted Buntings are common in the brushy thickets just inland from the dunes. Keep in mind how fragile the dunes are, and walk only along the beach. It is against South Carolina law to walk over beach dunes.

In about a mile you will reach Johnson Creek Inlet. This is good place for shorebirds, especially on the sandbars and tidal flats on the other side of the creek. With a good telescope you will be able to pick numerous species of gulls, terns, sandpipers, and plovers. The Black Skimmer is common here, and sometimes American Oystercatchers winter here by the hundreds. After you have checked out the inlet, backtrack to the Lighthouse parking lot. If you are camping you will find that Johnson Creek Inlet is close to the campground

To reach the fishing pier, the Lagoon and Fripp Inlet, return to US 21 and turn left, towards Fripp Island. Just before you get to the bridge over Fripp Inlet turn left into the parking lot for the fishing pier.

The pier juts 1,120 feet out into Fripp Inlet. This is a great place to sit and wait for the birds to come to you, especially when the tide is going out or at sunset. There are restrooms, a store, and a nature center at the pier. The bird feeders at the nature center are a good place to find Painted Buntings late in the season, when they are tough to find in natural areas.

Look for a hiking and bike trail that starts at the northeast corner of the parking lot. This is the trail to the Lagoon and the cabin area.

The Lagoon is usually better for fishing than birding, but you can sometimes find a few birds here, such as Red-breasted Merganser, Brown Pelican, and a few shorebirds. If you walk all the way to the cabins you can reach the beach by a beach access trail next to one of the northernmost cabins. You may also reach this point on the beach by parking at the South Beach parking lot and walking south along the beach.

Once on the beach walk south to the inlet. The dunes here are an important high-tide roost for shorebirds, gulls, terns, and skimmers.

Another good birding spot in the park is the Marsh Boardwalk. To reach the boardwalk parking lot, do not enter the main park road, but rather continue south on the road to Fripp Island. You will find two pulloffs to the right. The first leads to an overlook of the salt marshes along Johnson Creek. The second pull-off leads to the parking lot for the Marsh Boardwalk Trail. (If you get to the private bridge to Fripp Island, you have gone too far.)

The Marsh Boardwalk Trail consists of a boardwalk over the marsh leading to a small pine and palmetto-covered island. This is an excellent place from which to study the salt marsh without getting your feet muddy. Look and listen for the common birds of the salt marsh -- Clapper Rail, Marsh Wren, and Seaside Sparrow, as well as numerous herons, egrets, gulls, and terns. The pine island is great for Yellow-rumped Warblers in winter and a few migrants in the fall.



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