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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: The Day that Never Ends, Part 1: The Huntington Park

For my last day in Myrtle Beach I think I must have had a slight over-optimism about what is possible in a day, or my fun-o-meter was screaming to be maxed out, or I must have just lost my mind because today was chalk full or RUNNING from one amazing thing to another. So I had to break the days post up into four parts, YES, four for one day… which even I agree is a bit ridiculous. However this epic day needed the room.

I really did think for a moment about skipping Huntington Park, seeing as I had been the past three days in a row you would think I would have maybe had enough, but oh no that second of indecision left me weak in the knees. I really did LOVE this park though and I just had to go. Mr. Kingfisher decided to join me once again, even with the very early wakeup call.

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The new wide angle lens is proving to be a TREASURE in our lens arsenal. The sunrise photos are so much fun when you are able to get so much of the sky. At 14mm it is almost a fisheye. Of course even with the wide angle it is still fun to zoom right into the sun and get some close photos. The colors aren’t so grandiose but cropped the colors are rich.

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We knew it was going to be a scorcher today, there was no way that I was going to let a little heat ruin the epicness, but anyone that knows me knows that me and heat don’t do so well together. Heat in LALA land is different. It’s the desert and the heat is dry. It still isn’t great but I can handle it. The heat here is muggy, hot, hot, humid nastiness. You know it isn’t going to be a good day when at 6:28 in the morning, with the sun barely up, it is already almost 80 degrees.

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We decided to spend some time on the various boardwalks. The boardwalks allow you to go over the marsh and allow you to get a unique perspective of the vast territory.

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The grasses are the lifeblood of the marsh.

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Apparently a pair of Bald Eagles are nesting at this marsh. Twice I got to see this glorious majestic bird. Once he was far, harassing an osprey for a fish. The second time, Mr. Kingfisher and I were lucky enough to not only spot the bird flying directly toward us but also to have the added luck of having the bird circle directly overhead. The Bald Eagle was using the thermals escalating higher and higher. We just stood in awe.

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BALD EAGLE

Today I also got my first REALLY good look and photo of a Black Vulture. The one and only time I was able to get a photo of this bird was at a park in Florida in 2009. The photo was terrible, the bird was backlit and there were tons of branches and twigs in the way. This time the Black Vulture we found was right in the open not more than 20 feet away. Awesome sight and a great photo opp!

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BLACK VULTURE

Everywhere in the tall grasses there were these tiny elusive sparrows. I knew it was a different type of sparrow but I am still having issues identifying them. At home I found out it was a Seaside Sparrow. A secretive bird that loves wet saltwater marshes. This is the perfect habitat for this bird.

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SEASIDE SPARROW

We headed back to the car to drive to another boardwalk. On the dash was a number I did not want to see. Only 7:22 and it was already 91 degrees. But we ignored it and just kept trudging on. Our next location was another boardwalk, this time we ran into some local birders and they offered to show us a different area of the park. We took a long path through the forest until we reached our destination. A seamlessly never ending path through a canopy of trees.

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Both sides of the path, through the thick vegetation of trees, is a vast fresh water swamp. The path is the barrier between the saltwater marsh and the freshwater swamp. The alligators love both the freshwater swamp and the saltwater swamp. We were able to see several large alligators hanging out on either side of the path. With them being so close to the edge, therefore close to me, it was a little scary to be honest. The little babies however were much better.

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The alligators have several entry and exit ramps. They use these to cross over the path from one side to the other. Our birder guides before leaving us told us to just wait quietly for one to cross. We waited with another couple for about fifteen minutes and then there it was a seven foot alligator crossing the path. Although my video taking abilities are in their infant stages I took a capture, I know I still need work.

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There were several other creatures going bump in the day other than just the alligators. At one point while hiking through the trees I spotted a strange lizard. I thought at first it was a salamander of some type but at the visitor center we found out it was a Five-lined Skink. What a cool discovery.

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FIVE LINED SKINK

I have never seen the vast amount of spiders that we found here. And these spiders were gigantic, some as large as my hand. Their webs were everywhere and we had to be very careful not to walk right into these spiders. Now I am not a bug girl at all. But photographing these little guys, although gives me the creeps, is pretty cool. Insects are beautiful and delicate and in a way gorgeous.

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SOME TYPE OF ORB SPIDER

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GOLDEN SILK SPIDER

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GOLDEN SILK SPIDER

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GOLDEN SILK SPIDER BABIES

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SMALL GREEN GARDEN SPIDER

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CRAB SPIDER CARRYING A DRAGONFLY

The spiders weren’t the only ones out in force. The marsh is also the prefect habitat for dragonflies. We chased any pretty ones we found there were so many different kinds but many would just not land. I have to step back away for a moment and say it is funny that as a person who does not like bugs at all would spend a good hour in super-hot temperatures chasing around dragonflies. The irony isn’t lost on me.

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And of course we found some cool birds. My favorite was the pair of nesting Mute Swans. They were just on the edge of water. Of course it was mid-day, the most terrible time to photograph a white bird. By pulling the light in the camera way back I got the white of the birds not to blow out completely and it created a nice dark backdrop. I love how the photos turn out.

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MUTE SWAN PAIR

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MUTE SWAN MALE

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MUTE SWAN FEMALE ON THE NEST

We also found a Common Moorhen feeding at the end of the marsh. This bird is perfectly adapted to the marsh habitat.

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COMMON MOORHEN

The last bird we found was the Brown Thrasher. Never before have I seen so many of these birds around. This little guy was PANTING in the heat. I for sure knew how he felt it was incredibly hot. Maybe because of the heat he seemed to ignore me for the most park. Usually these Thrashers are very elusive so I was ecstatic to get such a great photo

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BROWN THRASHER

When I took a moment to find the restroom I passed the gift shop and when the door opened I felt the gust of air conditioning. Ten minutes later Mr. Kingfisher found me still huddled under the vent. We wandered around for a while pretending to browse. The air conditioning felt just heavenly. Of course browsing lead to some sad discoveries. The Rosette Spoonbills, which I haven’t ever seen before, were just here. I missed them by just a few days. I found a postcard to remind me of my almost success at finally seeing this bird; vastly annoying to be sure.

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At least the gift shop wasn’t all bad. The air condition was fantastic and then there was the ICEE. Although I got brain freeze and a red tongue that ICEE lowered my body temperature by at least 20 degrees. BEST IDEA EVER!

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As our last hurrah at the Huntington Park we took a tour of the Atalaya Castle, the home of the famous Huntington couple. Anna Hyatt Huntington was an artist and a sculpture. Her husband Archer was a scholar. They built Atalaya Castle as a mild winter retreat. With a watchtower, extensive servants quarters, an inner courtyard Atalaya was a paradise. After their death they donated the castle to be protected as a park.

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I would have really loved to see this place with all its furniture and furnishings. The home was completely devoid of all its beautiful charm. Sure the whitewashed walls and beamed ceilings remain but I am sure this home used to be quite lovely. Still even without the furnishings there was still beauty.

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We finally got back to the car for our next stage of our adventure and that damn dash flashed an awful number. Noon and it is 109 degrees. NOT AWESOME!

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3 comments:

paul peggy zeus said...

Welcome to the scorching heat and humidity of the east coast. Sure you want to move out here? Love the alligator crossing the road, and the swans, awesome!

Jennifer Arens said...

THere are so many things to comment about this post! Alligators, Icee's, welcome to a real Summer, oh and bugs. You photog'd it beautifully :) Muah!

Jess said...

I LOVE the Thrasher photo :) So cute! At least it wasn't 111ยบ!

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