Venture to Huntington Beach
State Park & Georgetown WWTP,
February 17-19, 2012
It always seems to take ages to get to Murrell's Inlet, but we all managed to get there around the meeting
time on Friday night, prior to the start of our beach birding weekend. We certainly started as we meant
to go on with a delicious meal at Russell's seafood restaurant. They had only opened for the season the previous evening and the place was packed. Thankfully we did not have to wait too long before several of us tucked into plates of oysters, clams and shrimp! A great start to the weekend. We met Wayne and Marian at the gate to Huntington Beach State Park and birded the causeway and freshwater ponds before lunchtime. It has been a mild winter so the duck population was way down and we had to be happy with a handful of Scaup and a nice sized flock of Green-winged Teal. A Bald Eagle flew over and an Osprey put in a brief appearance before we walked the Carriage Trail along the back of the pool. A lot of work had been done here over the past few years allowing views into the nearby marshes and wetlands. We did see a few Gadwall, a small flock of Blue-winged Teal and several Common Moorhen. The highlight of this walk had to be the Virginia Rail that fed in full view for all of us to enjoy at length. To be able to see such a shy bird so well was quite a treat. Lunch was at Nance's in Murrell's Inlet - a nice spot to eat seafood (!) and enjoy the view over the marsh and emerging oysterbeds, along with a selection of gulls and a single Oystercatcher. Our afternoon walk was along the beach up to the jetty- always an energetic and fun thing to do. The tide was quite low allowing us to walk along the hard sand and watch the dark clouds gathering to our south. The sea was quite active with small flocks of Horned Grebes just off the breakers: some were even starting to get into breeding plumage with reddish feathers appearing on their necks. Small numbers of Red-throated Loons were moving north as were a couple of flocks of distant Black Scoters. Birding around the jetty was enjoyable with some very close Common Loons and a small flock of Northern Gannets plunge-diving after fish. We had heard unconfirmed rumors of a Black Guillemot up near the rocks, but we had no luck finding this rare vagrant.
By the time we got back to the hotel, the first rain drops had started to fall and this was a precursor to the impending weather that was moving in from the southwest. Dinner at Russell's (again!) was excellent and a great seafood-infused end to our birding day. Unfortunately the weather the next morning was looking pretty bad with heavy rain moving in from the south. We did manage a quick stop at the Georgetown Wastewater Treatment Plant where the highlights were some Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead and our only White Ibis of the weekend. After that we all decided to head home and try to avoid the worst of the weather.