South Carolina's Premier Birding Location
The expansive coastal plain of South Carolina plays host to a wide variety of bird species. The coast area is the best place to see the widest variety of these birds, with Huntington Beach State Park widely recognized as a great publicly accessible area for birdwatching. Inland, freshwater and marine birds can all be found at various places in the park. The state park property was originally purchased by Archer and Anna Huntington in 1930. Archer, a well to do philanthropist from New York City, was in part interested in the property so he could study wildlife in their natural habitats. While there is not much evidence that he pursued this interest to any great extent, he did leave all of us the chance to pursue his idea. In fact today most serious birders feel Huntington Beach State Park is one of the top birding spots on the east coast.
There are many reasons for the park's popularity with birders. First is the expanse of coastline protected within the park. There is roughly three miles of ocean beachfront. Only a small portion of this Grand Strand beach is used by the public for recreation. There are also only a limited number of access points. One can quickly be on a relatively uncrowded portion of the beach by simply walking on the shore for five to ten minutes. The shore is not the only protected habitat found here. Dune habitats, maritime forest, salt marsh, freshwater wetlands and oak-pine forest are all found in Huntington Beach State Park.
Another aspect of the park's attraction to birders is its access to a variety of great birding locations. There are a number of nature trials, boardwalks and great vantage points for bird watching. The freshwater pond and salt marsh that greats you as you drive along the park's entrance road, for example, both have viewing platforms that can be reached by walkways that are accessed from traveling further along the park's roadways. Getting beyond the window gazing or short walks to some great spots, you can also find other great spots if you are willing to do a little walking. There is a maritime forest trail and the beach has relatively remote areas where you will see very few people. The northern portion of the beach has a large fishing jetty that often holds many different species, although this part of the park is not always open for use.
Another great deal for birders that want to check out the park is the campground. You can stay in the park, wake up before sunrise, and practically have the park to yourself as you go out birding during the early part of the day. You can also easily visit Brookhaven Gardens, located on the other side of the highway that defines the park's western boundary, and spend some fruitful time birding on their grounds.
Here is the Huntington Beach Bird Checklist. Its a PDF so you can print it out.