By Rob Byko for The Island Eye News
Early Saturday morning, while the island was just starting to stir, a small band of birding enthusiasts met at Fort Moultrie for a weekend walk about the fields. The event was billed as the Sullivan’s Island Bird Walk, led by SI resident and highly regarded birding expert Sarah Harper Diaz.
We set out from the parking lot, some of us toting cameras and tripods, some carrying binoculars and note pads, still others with only sunscreen, iPhones and a healthy appetite to discover more about SI’s natural wonders. Across Middle Street we trudged, passing cars and those on bikes who stared in wonder at a conspicuous band of urban explorers. With floppy hats and all other manner of sun protection, we waded across the blacktop appearing much as we might have crossing a dry backwoods creek bed.
Diaz bubbled in anticipation, “May is a great time to see a variety of migratory birds that are breeding on Sullivan’s Island.” she said.
We pressed on, our purposeful strides soon led us to the brink of the high grass and wild flowers of Ft. Moultrie field. We continued our advance in search of migrating hordes. “Summer is Coming,” I heard one sunmasked face remark, to nods of agreement all around. Though, on this morning a mild breeze coming in off the ocean kept things quite comfortable. Still we persisted, acknowledging that soon enough the full heat of summer would make similar treks slightly less bearable. We journeyed epically onward, our little Game of Throngs.
We bantered about each other’s individual migrations, which led us to Sullivan’s Island. Discovering a few common bonds and shared experiences between previously anonymous neighbors that helped to cement fast friendships. The talk moved easily from “Where are you from originally?” and “Wow, you worked at Stevarino’s Subs in Athens?” to “How’d you get involved with birding?” and “What’s an SC Audubon Ambassador?”
Conversations carried on between new friends as easily as the movement of the tide. A common thread among the group…the love for nature, an appreciation for the special things we have and enjoy – being fortunate enough to live on SI. There was also agreement on our individual responsibility for stewardship and a determination to protect the pristine land for the enjoyment of future generations… of all species.
Pressing onward, we furrowed along the nature trail, eyes ever skyward scanning the treetops, then back down to the hedgerows, to the underbrush of dense ground foliage searching for stealthy winged migrators and the possibility of discovering a nest hidden in the shadows. We intended to make our way toward the beach, then right along a mowed path of grass that paralleled the coast, eventually meandering our way back to civility and “safety” of Fort Moultrie.
Altogether, we took in an array of wild flowers and plants of every color, size and shape, some edible some not. Our efforts were also rewarded with the sighting a variety of birds during the ninetyminute walk, including Painted Buntings, Brown Thrashers, Boat-tailed Grackles, Barn Swallows and a pair of nonbreeding Bobolinks! Diaz beamed, “Awesome…The painted buntings really put on a show!”
Thanks to Sarah Harper Diaz for leading the tour, the National Park Service and Ft Moultrie Park Rangers for hosting the event. Saturday’s program by NPS and similar walks are offered up throughout the year by the SC Audubon Society and a variety of local coastal conservation groups encourage all of us to attain a better understanding a fragile coastal ecosystem.
We can all strive to learn more about our environment.
Perhaps with better understanding, we can make better ecological choices that protect what we have and not kill the migrating birds that have laid this golden egg in our laps.
One merry explorer, Sarah VanBuren Church, summed it up neatly for all of us, saying simply, “Love where we live!”