More Upstate residents discovering the fun of birdwatching
Birdwatching is a favorite pastime in South Carolina, which is home to hundreds of year-round and migrating species. And it’s become a new hobby for many who discovered birding while quarantined because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Audubon reports that birdwatching has surged during the pandemic with sales that are through the roof for seed suppliers, birdhouse builders and small businesses that help people connect with the nature in their backyards. For Susan Ware-Snow of Easley, birdwatching offered a diversion during quarantine. Now, she’s hooked.
“I’ve been playing around with photography ever since my first camera, the Polaroid Swinger, back in 1970,” Ware-Snow said. “Until the pandemic, I had never taken an interest in photographing birds until I was forced to stay home and stare out my back door. Now, I look for birds everywhere we go!”
Of course, you can enjoy birdwatching in your own backyard, but the Upstate has several birding hotspots with ideal habitats for attracting a variety of species. The Carolina Bird Club has a statewide list of birding hotspots on its website. Here’s a sampling of some favorite spots for birdwatching in the Upstate, according to avid watchers.
Lake Conestee Nature Preserve, Greenville SC
Designated a wildlife sanctuary in 2016, Lake Conestee Park Nature Preserve has been selected as an Important Bird Area of Global Significance by the National Audubon Society. Considered a birding hotspot, more than 220 different bird species have been recorded there. The preserve is just 2.6 miles from downtown Mauldin SC and only six miles south of downtown Greenville.
Ashmore Heritage Preserve, Cleveland SC
Part of the Caesars Head Wildlife Management Area, Ashmore Heritage Preserve is home to all kinds of birds, including wood ducks, blue-headed vireos and ovenbirds.
Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve, Travelers Rest SC
Owned and managed by the SC Department of Natural Resources, Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve off Tigerville Road features a family-friendly, 1.25-mile hiking trail. Visitors can see a variety of birds, including grasshopper sparrows, blue grosbeaks, indigo buntings, bluebirds, cardinals and quail.
Caesar’s Head State Park, Cleveland SC
Caesar’s head State Park‘s 3,266-foot outcropping atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment offers one of the best views for one of North America’s great birding events – the annual fall raptor migration. The birds most often seen are broad-winged hawks, but many other species come through, including bald eagles, sharp-shinned hawks, merlin, American kestrel, Mississippi kites, Cooper’s hawks and black vultures.
Jones Gap State Park, Marietta SC
Jones Gap State Park is a forested wilderness that ranges in elevation from 1,000 to 3,000 feet and is home to more than 60 varieties of mammals, 600 kinds of wildflowers and 160 types of songbird. In the winter, there are an array of birds soaring including bald eagles and hawks.
Dobbins Farm, Townville SC
Recent bird sightings at Dobbins Farm including redhead and ruddy ducks, red-bellied woodpecker and red-tailed hawk are listed by the SC Birding Trail and Waxwing Eco, a site designed for bird watchers.
Project Feeder Watch
Avid and novice birders alike will enjoy Project Feeder Watch, a fun way to identify migrating birds who show up in area parks, along hiking trails and in your own backyard.
Started by the Ornithology lab at Cornell University, Project Feeder Watch tracks birds in North America during the migration period of November 15 through April 9, according to Jennifer Sontag of Anderson County Library System, which is participating in the program.
“It’s educational, something you can do from your backyard or go to a park and social distance,” Sontag said. “I have really enjoyed the time I’ve spent bird watching since we started this in November.”
Participants can go to FeederWatch.org to learn how to put up a feeder to attract birds, and how to count birds and enter the data. Birders also can download the free apps, Merlin and Song Sleuth, which help users identify bird species by submitting photos or audio clips of bird calls.
Ingredients for successful bird watching include a pair of binoculars, a good bird feeder and good bird food, Sontag explains. “In this area, birds love sunflower seeds.”
You can make your own bird feeder by simply finding a large pinecone, smearing it with peanut butter, rolling it in bird seed, then hanging it.
Photos courtesy of Susan Ware-Snow.