by Paul Serridge
From US 17 North turn right on to County Rd S-22-302 / Litchfield Drive and drive 0.7 miles towards the Litchfield Inn. (You can make a stop here to check out the marsh and causeway.) Turn right on County Rd S-22-303 / Norris Drive and drive about 0.6 miles until you see the entrance to Inlet Point Villas. Do a U-turn and park on the side of the road near the public walkway to the beach. Walk south along the beach for about 1.3 miles to the inlet between Litchfield and Pawleys Island. At the inlet, go around the point to the west and walk north on the inland side for a few hundred yards until you arrive at private houses at the southern end of Norris Drive. Return by the same route.
Birds to look for
Consult the Huntington Beach State Park checklist (see links below) to see which species are likely to be found according to the date of your visit. Many are highly seasonal. While walking along the beach, look out for sea ducks (all 3 scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers), Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Gannets, Brown Pelicans, Horned Grebes, Common and Red-throated Loons, Osprey, and various gulls and terns over the ocean and shorebirds on the beach itself (Red Knots, Piping Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, and Sanderlings). At the point gulls, terns and Black Skimmers (often in large numbers) can often be found roosting and provide good comparison opportunities. In Spring Least Terns are very common and can be observed performing their mating rituals. The sandbars in the estuary and the mudflats along the west side of the point often hold various shorebird species such as Least, Western, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Willet, Semipalmated, Piping, Black-bellied and Wilson's Plovers (the latter nest there), Red Knot, American Oystercatcher, and herons and egrets, including the occasional Reddish Egret. A Whimbrel has been sighted on rare occasions. An occasional Bald Eagle may be seen over the marsh and if you are lucky a Common Ground-Dove may be seen in or close to the dunes. Near the Litchfield Inn the adjacent marsh is a good place to look for Clapper Rails, herons, egrets etc.
When to come
This site can be productive in any season. The best time to bird this area is within a couple of hours at high tide. In fact, it can be good at any time but closer to high tide the sandbars available to roosting birds are much reduced and the birds are closer and easier to ID. A scope is very useful.
The beach is public but not very much visited—most vacationers don't want to walk that far! Even if people (or dogs!) disturb the birds, they (the birds) usually return to the same area after the disturbance has ended. On the ocean side the beach is usually firm and easy to walk on. On the inlet side the footing is not as firm and it is better to walk close to the dunes. DO NOT venture into the dunes which constitute a protected area. The mud flats can be a little dicey and if you walk too far out be prepared to get your feet wet!
The checklist of birds at Huntington Beach State Park is useful for the birds of Litchfield Beach—South (careful—the list has a few errors).