Marie McAden



Professional photographer to lead Santee birding hikes

Posted 1/5/2014 1:32:00 PM

’Tis the season to catch our favorite winged winter wanderers during their annual visit to Santee National Wildlife Refuge. For those who have a little trouble spotting the neo-tropical migratory birds, the refuge is offering free guided birding hikes in January and February.

The Saturday morning treks will be led by professional photographer Mary Lou Dickson. Participants will walk Wrights Bluff Nature Trail, an easy one-mile loop through a bottomland swamp habitat known to attract a wide range of species, including those glitzy wood ducks and gorgeous Prothonotary warblers.

With more than 13,000 acres of mixed hardwood and pine forests, freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, waterfowl impoundments, croplands, grassland fields and open water, it’s no wonder the refuge is such a popular wintering area for ducks and geese. It also serves as a nesting and stopover area for raptors, shore and wading species and migratory birds on their way to Central and South America and the Caribbean islands.

Dickson, a published nature photographer and a longtime nature and birding enthusiast, will lead the walks from 8 to 10 a.m. Jan. 11 and Feb. 1 and 8.

You don’t have to register to join the hike. Just bring your binoculars and a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The group will be searching the forest canopies for migrant songbirds, wild turkey, Sandhill cranes, migratory geese and ducks, tundra swan bald eagles and other raptors, along with a variety of water birds in nearby waterfowl sanctuary areas.

The walks are designed for both advanced birders unfamiliar with the refuge and newbies looking to learn the basics of birding. If you’d like to participate, meet at 8 a.m. at the Wrights Bluff Nature Trail parking area at 2125 Fort Watson Road in Summerton.

For more information or directions to the refuge, click here or call (803) 478-2217.