As Robert Rommel of the Hilton Head Island Audubon Society attests in the accompanying video, there are few better places in the Lowcountry to view shorebirds than Fish Haul Creek and Mitchelville Beach parks.
These two Town of Hilton Head Island parks allow access to the Port Royal flats and nearby marshes. The 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.
By road, there is some separation between Fish Haul Creek and Mitchelville Beach, but along the water, the parks are contiguous. At the northernmost end, a boardwalk -- technically part of adjacent Barker Field Park, but accessible from the Mitchelville Beach parking area -- takes visitors into brackish marsh. Another boardwalk crosses a freshwater marsh and links Mitchelville to Barker. Rails and other marsh species inhabit the area around these boardwalks. They can be difficult to spot but are easy to hear.
On the southernmost end, a trail winding through forest and along a marshy edge connects the parking area to the beach at Fish Haul Creek. It's worth a slow walk to the sound to check out songbirds.
But the real highlight of the site is the beach and mud flats. With only a brief slow time in early summer, this area provides feeding habitat for most of every variety of heron, shorebird, gull and tern that one might find on the South Carolina coast, according to the Carolina Bird Club website.
A telescope or spotting scope will be helpful if you prefer to stick to the sand, but if you're willing to don boots or old shoes for a romp across a flat, you can get sneak fairly close. Black skimmers can be viewed year round, and the area is a particularly good spot for wintering marbled godwits.
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