By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader
This year for Christmas, my wife and I traveled to Myrtle Beach, SC to visit my parents. Myrtle Beach is the heart of the “Grand Strand”, a 20-mile long area in northeastern South Carolina known for its hundreds of golf courses, high-rise hotels, and miles of developed beach. Natural settings can be found in the area if you look around. My favorites include Huntington Beach State Park, Brookgreen Gardens, and the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, just outside town which has the most dense population of Black Bear outside the SC mountains.
Loblolly Pine and Yaupon Holly thickets
Behind where we stay at a development called “Myrtlewood”, there is a lot of open loblolly pine woods with yaupon holly thickets that have not yet been developed. Over the last 20 years, many of the woodlands I used to walk here have been have turned into office complexes, condo developments, etc., as this area probably will be once the economy turns around. Anyway, for now, “Myrtlewood” development is an outstanding place to bird and look for wildlife.
A Loggerhead Shrike surveys the thicket at Myrtlewood.
Over the last 3, gloriously warm 70-degree days in Myrtle Beach, we have seen lots of birds, and even lizards, frogs and butterflies. One of my favorites is the Loggerhead Shrike, which is pretty common around Myrtle Beach, even in town. We got a quick look at a Baltimore Oriole here as well, which is scarce wintering species on the southeast coast.
A Squirrel Treefrog is active in the 70-degree Christmas-day temperatures.
Reptiles and amphibians have been active as well this week. It doesn’t seem like Christmas here unless Spring Peepers are calling, Squirrel Treefrogs are out hunting, Green Anoles are scurrying, and turtles are basking in the ponds. We even saw a few Cloudless Sulphur butterflies flitting about. I am just in a little bit of shock because when we left on Monday morning to drive here, it was 15 degrees in Delaware!
Myrtle Beach State Park back-dunes and maritime forest.
Another one of my favorite places to walk and identify birds, plants and anything else is Myrtle Beach State Park. This park is about 300-acres in size, and contains the last unspoiled maritime forest in the Grand Strand. The forest here is a mature mix of live oak, southern magnolia, pignut hickory, tuliptree, sweetgum, yaupon holly, sweetbay magnolia, and many other plants. It is extremely diverse, and on this December day, is very much filled with evergreen plants. Flocks of birds flit through the forest, many of which are not abundant in Delaware. For instance, we saw 5 Orange-crowned Warblers in one mixed flock here.
An Orange-crowned Warbler pokes its head into sticks and dead leaves.
You can enjoy nature wherever you are, whether it is in a town, a wilderness, or even a golf resort. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoyed some time in the great outdoors on your break. Check out the list below of all the sightings of birds and other animals we made here over the last few days…
Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Gannet, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Wood Stork (just one soaring overhead), Canada Goose, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, American Coot, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Laughing Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Tree Swallow, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Loggerhead Shrike, European Starling, Blue-headed Vireo, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow. Herps include Squirrel Treefrog, Spring Peeper, Green Anole, Yellow-pond Sliders.