The sap oozing down pine trunks is a sticky sign of the Webb Wildlife Center's significance as a bird habitat.
Owned by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and flanked by two other wildlife management areas, Webb includes acres of longleaf pine forest -- perfect habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, as well as the Bachman's sparrow.
Webb Wildlife Center 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.
Webb is the easternmost site on the list, and its topography is a bit different as a result. In addition to the tupelo and cypress swamps that mark many of the other highlighted spots, the center features areas of sandy hills and stands of longleaf pines that were once a staple of the timber and shipbuilding industries but have largely been replaced by slash and other forms of pines.
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The presence of longleafs at Webb and surrounding areas is crucial to the presence of red-cockaded woodpeckers, as well. That's because this species can thrive only in pines infected with a fungus that only invades older trees and softens the interior wood. That softening makes it easier for woodpeckers to hollow out their nests. Even with the softer timber, it can take red-cockaded woodpeckers several years to complete a nest, which is usually passed from one male to another male in the same family.
Longleaf pines now grow in only about 3 percent of its original range, with predictable results for the red-cockaded woodpecker. Finding them at Webb entails a sharp eye -- they are similar in size and coloration to the hairy and downy woodpeckers that also are abundant at Webb -- but it helps to spot one of the dripping trunks, which typically have a white, painted ring near the base to indicate the presence of a red-cockaded nest.
Don't speed through the oak lined allee on the entrance into the property -- the woodpeckers thrive there. The understory also is a good place to find Bachman's sparrows -- a mostly secretive bird that is easier to spot when singing from low, exposed perches in springtime.
Other species more typical of the other Lowcountry birding spots also abound at Webb. You can follow the main road the gravel road to Bluff Lake, along the way passing fields where you could spot wild turkeys, particularly early in the day. Birding around the lake is excellent. Also make sure to check out the rookery down Nate's Road, as well as the Savannah River Nature Trail. Depending on the time of year, you might see barred owls, prothonotary warblers and Louisiana water thrushes in the tupelo-cypress swamp beyond the lake.