Bird Lady Blog

November 8, 2010

Three Tips for Birding Wherever You Are

Filed under: Hilton Head Birding,Three Birding Tips — Munds Park Birding @ 11:13 pm

Birding in a location outside your own “roosting grounds” is exciting – one never knows what new birds you will sight or with which previously-seen birds you will reconnect.  This was my attitude of anticipation when we landed in Hilton Head to spend a week golfing, birding, and just relaxing, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Here are my top three learnings from this trip, and I think they can apply to anyone out for a birding adventure in an unfamiliar place.

First, treat yourself and hire a local nature guide for at least a couple of hours.  I have always found these folks to be professional, knowledgeable, and entertaining as they efficiently take you to local birding spots and point out species that you would probably not easily find yourself.  In our case, I hired a nature guide for two hours, and he took my husband and me out on his boat into the sounds around the southern part of Hilton Head Island.  We saw Marsh Wrens, Seaside Sparrows, and Clapper Rails in the marsh reeds, roosting Wood Storks and four species of Herons on a private but viewable preserve, Oyster Catchers, Ruddy Turnstones and several types of Plovers on a long and narrow mound made of oyster shells jutting out above the water, and Ospreys and Bald Eagles overhead.  How did I find Howard Costa, our guide?  I looked up the Hilton Head Audubon Society on the internet, e-mailed the contact person for the Society, was referred to Howard as a guide, and made final plans over the phone.  It was easy.

Second, always be prepared to bird no matter where you are.  I brought along two pair of binoculars and a book titled “Birding South Carolina” that I bought second hand on the internet for less than $7, including shipping.  The smaller pair of binoculars was always with me and came in especially handy on the golf courses.  We saw Anhingas – large cormorant-like birds that swim submerged in the water with just their necks and heads up, looking like snakes cruising at the top of the lakes.  We got great looks at several grown alligators and three baby ones sunning themselves at the edge of a golf course pond.  On one golf course I figured out that the bird that was singing like mad over and over was the Carolina Wren.  It is a tiny bird, as are wrens, with a loud song, and while the others in the foursome were teeing off, I spotted one singing away on someone’s house deck so I could finally make an identification.  And again on the golf course I got a wonderful look at a Blue Jay, my favorite bird, as it stopped at a home’s bird feeder not far from the cart path. 

Third, sometimes just putting your feet up and staying put will pay off because birds will come to you.  Over a glass of wine overlooking the Calibogue Sound from our second-floor patio, I saw my first-ever Brown-headed Nuthatch and later a Downy Woodpecker and a Red-headed Woodpecker.  My favorite sighting and a “lifer” was on a short walk to the nearby marina.  I stopped for a few minutes in a small grove of trees and spotted a Black-throated Blue Warbler.  This clean-cut warbler was one I always admired in the birding field guides but had never seen until this very serendipitous walk.  The next day in the same group of trees was a Black-and-White Warbler, again just within a hundred yards of our rented condo.

Now that we are back in Phoenix, I will fill up our bird feeders and bird bath and see what birds will come by for the winter.  I hope this season will again bring Lesser Goldfinches, Spotted Towhees, Dark-Eyed Juncos, White-Crowned Sparrows, and Costa and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, plus the usual year-round species.  One never knows what surprises are ahead when it comes to birding!

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