While attending a family reunion in Surfside Beach, SC, Joe Morlan and I were able to steal some time for birding. Its a treat for California birders to reacquaint ourselves with the breeding birds on the Carolina coast. We chose Memorial Day morning to check out Huntington Beach State Park. We parked at the end of the causeway and were greeted by a pair of Painted Buntings on the ground. The male was displaying by walking flattened to the ground with wings extended, tail spread and rump twitching invitingly, behavior Ive observed more often in female birds of various species. Joe checked the literature and found that, according to Bent, this courtship behavior is characteristic of male Painted Buntings.


The woods and fields nearby provided great looks at Orchard Orioles, Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, singing Indigo Buntings, Yellow-breasted Chat and Yellow-billed Cuckoos (including one we found dead of unknown cause on the old causeway). Brown Thrashers and White-eyed Vireos were abundant. The marshes had both Clapper and a very close King Rail along with the herons and egrets. Chimney Swifts, Purple Martins, Eastern Kingbirds and Bank Swallows helped to keep the insects at bay.


Many of the shorebirds had flown north but we did find Willet, Black-necked Stilt, Whimbrel and Spotted Sandpiper along with a few Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers and Semipalmated Sandpipers, all in alternate plumage. Late in the morning we walked a short way along North Beach and were surprised to find a Black Tern fishing in the tide pools with Least Terns.


On Tuesday Joe and I visited Brookgreen Gardens in the afternoon. Here there is extensive live oak habitat with some pines and ornamental plantings. The back of the property has a tidal creek and former rice fields. Northern Parulas were the most abundant warbler, with the occasional Pine Warbler singing from the treetops. Brown-headed Nuthatches, Tufted Titmouse, Gray Catbirds and Fish Crows are exciting when most of your birding is done in California. I found an Eastern Wood-Pewee sitting on a nest about thirty feet up in a tree. Joe located a Carolina Wren nest under a fallen log in the pines. Singing Orchard Orioles entertained near a pond.


We walked the perimeter of the marsh and saw a Least Bittern and a family of Green Herons. Eastern Bluebirds hawked insects along with the Great-crested Flycatchers. Even in this public park with families strolling amidst the sculptures, Yellow-billed Cuckoos called. It was time to leave. A family dinner awaited but well be back.