North Carolina county #57 Lake Waccamaw State Park
This weekend I set out on my last overnight trip until the summer is over. It is starting to get very warm and birding is often not as productive in July and August as well as it being somewhat less comfortable with the heat and insects in some locations.
My first stop on this trip was Lake Waccamaw State Park.
The hike started out great – there is a long boardwalk that leads to an observation area for the lake and the birds were chirping away. I saw my first Little Blue Heron of the year and several Orchard Orioles. At the observation area there was a nice breeze and even though it was over 80 degrees already, it was comfortable. I took some photos and moved along.
Unfortunately I was soon presented with a very difficult area, as I started to get swarmed with those biting flies that inhabit sandy areas in the summer. I had loaded myself up with insect repellant so I wasn’t getting bitten yet, but I wasn’t taking chances so I moved along quickly. At one point I looked ahead on the path and could see hundreds of them swarming along the ground and in the air ahead of me. I tried to walk around them but it was bad. At one point I broke into a jog to escape them as they dive bombed me.
I did clear them but then was beset by hundreds of mosquitos. I needed to get away from the water and hopefully it would clear up. After a mile of this I was hoping the trail would loop back so I could get out before it got any worse. Unfortunately I am sure that I missed some birds as I wasn’t able to stop and listen or even pay much attention to anything besides getting out of there.
However, the bright yellow of a Prothonotary Warbler managed to stop me in an area where it wasn’t quite as bad, and I managed to take some photos before moving along again quickly.
These guys practically glow they are so brightly colored. Definitely one of my favorite warblers.
Finally the trail brought me back to the main road and I walked the rest of the way back on pavement away from the swarms. Eventually I got back to the cleared area near the Visitor’s Center where I was parked, and watched the Barn Swallows fly around for a while.
As bad as it was for some of that walk, I would actually like to come back here some day before the insects come out in the spring. There are a lot of birds here and it’s a very nice State Park. I won’t be returning in the summertime though!
As a side note – the most exciting part of Columbus County for me was on the drive towards the shore after I left. I spotted a new life bird and got great looks from the side of the road – a Swallow-tailed Kite! What a great bird that is.