After a wet, overcast morning, bird lovers in the Lowcountry got perfect weather to welcome the arrival of new hatchlings in Port Royal’s Cypress Wetlands on Saturday.
The rain that soaked volunteers setting up for the third annual Birthday for the Birds at the Cypress Wetlands in Port Royal cleared by the program’s 9 a.m. start time, giving bird lovers and families ample sunlight for their trip around the wetlands between Paris and Richmond avenues in Port Royal.
Many who carried umbrellas to protect from the rain repurposed them as shade from the sun while biologist Bridget Lussier gave a brief overview about her findings in the wetlands and Fripp Aubudon Club president Pete Richards led the assembled crowd in a kazoo rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
“We were wondering what the day was going to bring,” Richards said. “We got some great weather.”
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About 75 to 100 people stayed to listen to Lussier’s speech, but many more walked the trail around the wetlands to spot different birds and wildlife. Richards said master naturalists were placed at intervals along the trail to answer questions the partygoers might have.
The society also put together a scavenger hunt for children, asking them to search for the different kinds of wildlife in the wetlands and mark off ones they had seen. Port Royal Elementary School students even painted birds that lined both boardwalks near the amphitheatre on Paris Avenue.
Lussier said the growth in population in the wetlands improved this year but was still smaller than the explosion in population they saw in 2013. She noted a number of egret, ibis and heron species now call the wetlands home.
Lussier also said the alligator population is growing, but the reptiles don’t cause the birds much of a threat. While she was surveying the bird population from a kayak one night last fall, Lussier said she saw 13 alligators in a 15-minute span.
The gators don’t pose a threat to nearby businesses or homes, either, Lussier said. The alligators aren’t likely to leave the wetlands unless they’re searching for a mate.
Many of the attendees carried binoculars or cameras to get a better look at the birds and other wildlife in the wetlands, like Lou Drucker of Hilton Head Island. Drucker, who normally photographs birds around Hilton Head, said she saw bird nests and chicks learning to fly in the wetlands, snapping photos of a snowy egret, a wood duck and alligators.
“It was so beautiful,” she said. “They have just a little treasure here.”