I had the pleasure of birding beautiful Botany Bay WMA near Edisto Beach this past weekend. This picturesque location has a wide variety of thriving habitats covering over 3,000 acres that provide a vast preserve for wildlife. Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area is eBird Hotspot #7 with 253 bird species recorded.
My day began at 4am doing my best to not disturb my sleeping wife, I was unsuccessful. I brewed a pot of coffee, filled up my mug and began the drive southwest to the edge of Charleston County. Low-tide was at 4:44am and my plan was to get to the beach area at sunrise. The entrance road was pretty dark when I arrived as the cloud cover limited the rising light. A group of White-tailed deer scurried across the dim road and songbirds began to sing. I parked and geared up excited to explore the beach.
Just as I was about to walk the trail toward the beach I could hear vehicles approaching in the distance. Two ATV’s with DNR staff passed me headed to the beach. I followed the beach trail when a whistled warble caught my attention. The singer was not frightened by my close proximity, it was a colorful Painted Bunting on an open branch.
Making it to the beach, I took in the spectacular views of the eroded forest along the beach and ocean. This natural and unique setting has a beach habitat with large bare trees that have mostly fallen with some trees still standing. The extraordinary view was enhanced by the rising sun creeping up through the limbs and casting light on the sand and water.
I headed southwest toward the Townsend Creek inlet, I thought this might be a good feeding location at low tide for a variety of birds. I first noticed 2 Least Terns patrolling the waterway, then some resting Laughing Gulls on the beach. A tight formation of Brown Pelicans navigated the breaking waves. I set up my spotting scope to scan the beach and mud flats in the distance. The magnified views revealed peeps, Whimbrels, and Willets foraging along the the flats.
I headed Northeast along the beach through the scenic fallen trees. After the eroded woods I approached a group of small shorebirds called plovers. There were 2 different species foraging at the edge of the water line, Wilson’s Plovers and Semipalmated Plovers.
Further down the beach I watched some larger sandpipers probing an exposed mud flat. This group included a few Willets and a Marbled Godwit!
Walking the beach I noticed tracks from the ocean toward the dunes, I eventually realized that these tracks were made by nesting Loggerhead turtles! There were numerous nests protected and marked all along the high areas of the beach.
I decided to conclude my beach exploration and head back to the main trail. On my way back I had some great looks at some very cool birds!
As I approached the maritime forest a rain storm approached pausing my expedition for a moment. The rain moved through fast and I continued on my way. Along the trail I encountered a friendly Tri-colored Heron.
I stopped by the car for a drink and snack before exploring the agricultural fields for one of my target birds of the day, the Common Ground Dove. An active flock of birds along the bare soil quickly caught my attention. Scanning the birds I identified lots of Eastern Bluebirds, a Northern Flicker, Red-winged Blackbirds and numerous Mourning Doves. I walked between the fields keeping a close eye on the utility wire as it can be a good place to spot a Common Ground Dove. No doves but I did spot a Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on the edge of some scrubby brush.
Eventually I conceded not finding a Common Ground Dove and headed back to the car. As I was leaving the agricultural fields a small bird flew from over the field and landed on the utility wire. Sure enough it was a Common Ground Dove!
A female Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoy several seeds out of a large Sunflower.
Eventually I conceded not finding a Common Ground Dove and headed back to the car. As I was leaving the agricultural fields a small bird flew across the field and landed on the utility wire. Sure enough it was a Common Ground Dove!
Feeling good about finding the dove I hopped in the car and continued exploring Botany Bay. I drove past more agricultural fields and wooded areas. I could hear and see Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks and more Painted Buntings.
I past some fantastic views of tidal creeks, Picnic Pond, and Jason’s Lake.
The wooded sections were filled with the sounds of Eastern Towhees and Eastern Wood-Pewees.
I made it to Middle Pond and could see 2 Roseate Spoonbills foraging way in the distance. I also noticed a large Buck peering over the grass in my direction.
I drove the remaining road covering mostly a wooded habitat and enjoyed listening to the many songbirds. A Wild Turkey swiftly crossed the road for the last bird of the day! It was a wonderful day exploring this beautiful and unique hotspot. I really enjoyed the untouched coastal habitats that provide such an important sanctuary for a variety of wildlife. I encountered 69 species of birds while covering 9.75 miles. eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S145280240