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Birding Charleston in January!

I love birding Charleston in January! There is such a wide variety of bird species that visit Charleston during the winter. January also starts a new year which means that all the bird lists from the previous year reset. So every bird common or not is super exciting to find and record! 


So far it has been an exciting January finding 128 birds species in only the first two weeks! I have visited some awesome locations around Charleston in search of birds. One of my first stops, my favorite birding hotspot, was Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. Fort Moultrie as expected had a wonderful diverse population of birds, I recorded over 60 bird species! 


Western Kingbird
Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird
Western Kingbird

Red Knot
Red Knot

Red Knots:


American White Pelicans
American White Pelicans

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

I visited the I’On Swamp another favorite birding hotspot of mine. It was overall a quite day but the beautiful wilderness still yielded some very cool birds! 



Blue-headed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo

Winter Wren
Winter Wren

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The winter storms up north apparently pushed some incredible seabirds south with some rarities being observed & rescued off the South Carolina coastline. I visited the Isle of Palms and Sullivans Island a few days in a row with the hope to catch a glimpse of a rare bird. With incredible fortune I witnessed a single, small, chunky and adorable seabird called a Dovekie fly along the shoreline near the Isle the Palms County Park! Over these few days of ocean watching I got to see some other super cool birds too!


Dovekies!

Isle of Palms Beach
Isle of Palms Beach

Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer

Ruddy Turnstone and a Sanderling
Ruddy Turnstone and a Sanderling



My next stop was Pitt Street Bridge, always a great birding location with constant wildlife activity and gorgeous views. I tallied 38 bird species in just over an hour!


White Ibis
White Ibis

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's Hawk


Another great winter location is Romney Street Site (former landfill), the large open fields attract some special birds. My brief exploration was so much fun! It started with nearly 100 Eastern Meadowlarks scattered across the low grassy field. I watched a Loggerhead Shrike, American Kestrel and Northern Harrier all hunting for a meal. And as I walked the damp field I unexpectedly flushed numerous Wilson’s Snipes!


Romney Street Site
Romney Street Site

Savannah Sparrows
Savannah Sparrows

Wilson's Snipe
Wilson's Snipe

Wilson's Snipe
Wilson's Snipe

American Kestrel
American Kestrel



I searched for a sometimes hard to find winter visitor the Rusty Blackbird. These blackbirds are in significant decline and can be found during the winter in wooded wetland habitats. I look for these rusty looking blackbirds in the I’On Swamp area and surprisingly the I’On Rookery in the heart of Mount Pleasant. I walked the I'On Rookery trail for about 20 minutes when I began to hear their check calls which alerted me to their presence high in the trees above the wetland areas. 


Rusty Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird

Winter is a great time to look for birds on the water. The Charleston Harbor and surrounding water ways can have a variety of birds and once in a while something unexpected. I visited the Charleston Battery, Charleston Waterfront Park, and Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. 


Charleston Battery
Charleston Battery

Charleston Battery
Charleston Battery

Bufflehead
Bufflehead

Path to Waterfront Park
Path to Waterfront Park

Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park

Red-shouldered Hawk:


Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park

American Robin
American Robin


Pair of Buffleheads
Pair of Buffleheads

I also visited the accreted land on Sullivans Island, this is stretch of dunes, maritime growth and freshwater habitat between the beach and residential properties. It has been a great hotspot for songbirds, rails, coots, gallinules, woodcocks and so many other birds! 


Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow



Station 26 on Sullivans Island
Station 26 on Sullivan's Island

American Coots:


Sullivan's Island Beach
Sullivan's Island Beach

Sanderling
Sanderling

My most recent adventure was a very early morning trip to the Francis Marion National Forest to listen for American Woodcocks! They were vocalizing as soon as I arrived. I heard male beent calls followed by flight displays with wing twittering and chirps. It was an awesome encounter with these very unique birds!



January is really a wonderful month to go birding in South Carolina!

So get outside this winter to look and listen for birds! *


*If you want to join me birding, I have partnered with the Charleston Parks Conservancy to offer a FREE birding event every 3rd Saturday at different City of Charleston Parks through 2024. (Carr-Richardson Park on Saturday, January 20th)


eBird Checklist for January: https://ebird.org/tripreport/195005


Happy Birding!

-Charles 

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