Top Ten Spots for Spring Birding

East: Cypress Swamps and Salt Marshes: South Carolina Lowcountry

With ancient bald-cypress forests and black-water swamps, stands of huge old oaks draped with Spanish moss, and an imperviously wild coast that is a fractured mix of salt marshes, river delta, and barrier beach, South Carolina's Lowcountry practically oozes the promise of exotic flora and fauna. And it doesn't disappoint—the area is replete with rare orchids and carnivorous plants, living fossils like huge gar fish and alligators, and an explosion of birdlife. During spring and summer, incandescent-yellow prothonotary warblers flit about the eerie depths of inland cypress swamps, illuminating the gloom like fireflies; at floodplain forests like Congaree Swamp National Monument, red-cockaded and pileated woodpeckers hammer away at outsize loblolly pines. Legions of wading birds—including wood storks, great blue herons, various egrets, and white ibis—settle in to nest in rookeries at places like Bird Island in Lake Marion, while down on the coast at Bear Island and other places in the A.C.E. Basin you might glass painted buntings, Sandwich terns, swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites, and nearly thirty species of warblers.

Just the Facts

Birding Hot Spots: Inland, don't miss Congaree Swamp National Monument, Lake Marion, or Francis Beidler Forest. Down on the coast, highlights include Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, the A.C.E. Basin, Bear Island, Edisto Beach State Park, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, the Wambaw Creek Wilderness, and Santee Coastal WMA.

More Lowcountry Outdoors: The lush, hothouse landscapes of the Carolina Lowcountry are every bit as evocative a backdrop for outdoor adventure as, say, the Rockies, if in a different way. Early spring's the best time to be here, before the salt-marsh mosquitoes and countless other insects erupt; choice pursuits include cycling the coast, exploring Francis Marion National Forest's trails and waterways, paddling the labyrinths of the A.C.E. Basin, and camping at Edisto Beach or Hunting Island State Parks.


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