My 3 kiddos and I explored Charleston’s Beachwalker County Park this past Sunday. Beachwalker Park is a beautiful public beach located on Kiawah Island. We birded the whole beach but we focused on the south end of Kiawah Island where Captain Sams Creek and the Kiawah River enter the Atlantic Ocean. This sandy inlet is a popular feeding area for all kinds of wildlife especially birds! The sand flats, sand bars and tidal pools attract a variety of birds at lower tides. Beachwalker County Park is eBird Hotspot #26 with 201 bird species recorded!
We timed our Kiawah Island trip to arrive about an hour and a half before low-tide. The Charleston county park was busy with lots of beach goers set to enjoy this Sunday! We quickly packed the wagon and headed out.
It was a hot and humid day with a nice ocean breeze and clear blue skies. Walking through the many vacationers that populated the beach we reflected on how lucky we are to have this paradise so close to home! Once we made it through the life guard area the crowd disappeared and we could take in the true beauty of this wonderful beach. We trekked over a mile to the mouth of the two rivers also called Captain Sam’s Spit. Along the way we watched terns, pelicans, gulls and sandpipers. We even encountered a few starfish along the tide line.
Approaching the sand flats we found loose flocks of Least Terns resting and preening their feathers between the low tidal pools.
While looking at the Least Terns we found a darker tern mixed in the group, it was an immature Black Tern! Black Terns are much less common and can be found resting with groups of terns on sand bars during migration.
Least Terns and a Black Tern in a shallow tidal pool:
Black Tern in a shallow tidal pool:
The most numerous type of bird resting on the sand flats was the Black Skimmer, there were an estimated 200 Skimmers congregating on the flats. I was able to get fairly close to these super cool birds without disturbing them. The Skimmers show a sleek black and white plumage with a large reddish and black bill.
Group of Black Skimmers calling:
Lots of resting Black Skimmers:
Closer to the water there were some larger terns and a huge group of Brown Pelicans. The majority of the terns were Royal Terns showing molted white crowns and looking like a balding elder or the "Friar Tuck" hair style. We found 7 tern species throughout the sand flats!
Sandwich Terns getting a little too close with food showing display:
After reviewing all the birds on the flats closet to me I began to scan the sandbars and North Seabrook Beach in the distance. I could see two white egret/heron shaped birds way in the distance feeding in a tidal pool. As I observed through the spotting scope I could identify the two birds as a Snowy Egret and a Reddish Egret! I continued to scan the beach and sand bars finding more pelicans, terns and gulls. Then another tidal pool revealed 7 foraging Marbled Godwits! The heat waves made for poor photographs of these birds but later in the day one Marbled Godwit flew to the Kiawah Beach side and I was able to get some close images.
Foraging Marbled Godwit:
We enjoyed watching the active Sanderlings along the shallow pools, beach, and river edge. In the same areas we also found a Least Sandpiper and a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers.
I noticed a small group of people gathering near the river, and realized they were waiting to watch Dolphins feeding in the inlet. We did see some Dolphins but were not lucky enough to observe the awesome strand feeding display.
We decided to pack our gear/toys and make the long walk back to the car. Along the way we encountered a friendly Willet and a colorful Ruddy Turnstone looking for food.
Willet foraging in a tidal pool:
Ruddy Turnstone searching for food by turning over beach debris:
It was wonderful day at an incredible beach, what a great way to spend a Sunday!
I would recommend Kiawah Beachwalker Park to any beach lover, wildlife fan, Dolphin watcher and of course any birder!
We identified 21 very cool birds while covering 2.65 miles.
eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S147186877