The heart of Beidler Forest, one of two remaining old-growth tracts in South Carolina, is its 1.75-mile boardwalk. Arguably the best in the country, it begins in hardwoods, then gives way to the soft light and velvet silence of 1,000-year-old bald cypress trees, a natural cathedral haunted by the Ivory-bills and Bachman’s Warblers that flew here when the trees were saplings.
Today the forest is home to more than 2,000 pairs of Prothonotary Warblers, making it the easiest place in the country to see the “Golden Swamp Warbler.” Adding harmony and percussion to the warbler chorus may be the piercing scream of a Red-shouldered Hawk, the deep hooting of a Barred Owl, or the raucous wicker of a Pileated Woodpecker.
Although the bird list barely tops 150 species, one trip around the boardwalk will convince even the most jaded birder that Beidler is about quality, not quantity. The possibilities include Swainson’s Warblers lurking in dwarf palmetto, a Carolina Chickadee bringing caterpillars to a nest hole, and Wood Storks dropping into the lake while Swallow-tailed Kites flirt with openings in the shadowy canopy above. — Jim Burns
Spring and fall migrants: Veery, American Redstart, Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks. Summer: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chuckwill’s-widow, Acadian Flycatcher, White-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Red-eyed Vireos, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, Swainson’s, Kentucky, and Hooded Warblers, Summer Tanager. Winter: Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Rusty Blackbird, kinglets, thrushes, and sparrows. Year-round: Wood Stork, Wood Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, Red-headed, Red-bellied, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal.
When to go
April and May for migration and peak Prothonotary Warbler breeding activity.
Audubon Center has a gift shop, restrooms, drinking water, and a picnic area. Guided kayak and canoe trips and guided naturalist walks are available by reservation. Hiking trails on old logging roads.
Audubon South Carolina and Nature Conservancy preserve. Open 9-5 Tuesdays through Sundays, closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission: $8 for adults, $7 for Audubon members and seniors, $4 for children 6-12, $25 for annual pass. No pets.
No water or restrooms on the boardwalk or hiking trails. Deer flies and mosquitos can be a problem in the parking lot and picnic area; bug spray recommended.
Jim Burns is an outdoor writer and photographer and the author of four books illustrated with his photos: A Beginner’s Field Guide to Phoenix Birds (Maricopa Audubon Society, 2004), North American Owls: Journey Through a Shadowed World (Willow Creek Press, 2004), Jim Burns’ Arizona Birds (University of Arizona Press, 2008), and Owls Rock (e-book, 2012). In the October 2016 issue of BirdWatching, he described a close encounter with an Elegant Trogon, and in our April 2017 issue, he wrote about toucans and barbets in Costa Rica.
Jim Burns on social media
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