July 28, 2014

Rookery, painted buntings call birders to Pinckney Island NWR

Few vestiges of the 1800s plantation once owned by a prominent South Carolina politician still remain on the property, but Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, located just off U.S. 278 between the bridges to Hilton Head Island, features an abundance of birds and other animals.

The island complex is highlighted on The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette's interactive graphic, the Lowcountry's 10 Best Spots for Birding. Launched June 16, the graphic is a resource highlighting some of the region's best spots to view nature and wildlife. Untamed Lowcountry is showcasing each of the spots individually, starting at the northernmost location and working south.

This week's countdown spot is Pinckney Island, a plantation once owned by Major Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Later maintained as a game preserve, it was then donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the refuge website. The 4,053-acre refuge includes Pinckney Island, Corn Island, Big and Little Harry islands. Pinckney is the largest of the islands and the only one open to public use.

Salt marsh and tidal creeks are the most prominent features of the island, but it also includes salt marsh, forestland, brushland, fallow field and freshwater ponds.

Wildlife commonly observed on Pinckney Island include waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, neo-tropical migrants, white-tailed deer and American alligators, with large concentrations of white ibis, herons and egrets. Active rookeries of wading birds are a major draw during spring, and painted buntings and other passerines are the main attraction during summertime.

If you would more information about the other top birding spots in the Lowcountry, there's no need to wait for the countdown to unfold. Visit the graphic and see photo galleries, videos, seasonal bird lists, maps and all sorts of other information about all 10 sites.

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