Birds, Trees, Castles, Oysters, and Adventure

Here’s another blog just chock full of photos, and not all of them are nature. It’s all good though. We just had a long day of visiting a variety of sights and sites.

This broad-headed skink is not a bird.

We set out early (for us), determined to see everything possible at Huntington Beach State Park. It’s across the road from Brookgreen Gardens, and features nature, birds, beaches, and a really interesting house that belonged to the people who used to own both the properties, the Huntingtons. Last year I saw better birds, but we still had a good time today.

We first went out to see the nature, where, of course, I spent a lot of time taking close-up pictures of plants. Lee says this is what I always look like.

Taking pictures of plants

I did find some pretty things to take pictures of, though some of them were Lee. There were many native berries, a spider, and the MOST exciting, a painted bunting.

From there, we headed over to Atalaya, the “castle” where the Huntington family lived in the winters. Folks, this is a really, really weird house. It’s all brick, even the floors, and all one story. It’s in the shape of a huge square with a very large courtyard in the middle. Every room, even the bathrooms, has a fireplace. I find that interesting, but it does get cold enough, even in South Carolina, to need some winter warmth.

At least half the house is set up with quarters for their staff of servants, cooks, washing people, and such. They had nice rooms, and the cook and head housekeeper had NICE rooms. Plus they had a lounge area with a view of the sea. Not bad. Besides that, they had a beautiful grounds to live on, and back then it had an ocean view (it’s grown up now). And, the family had all sorts of interesting pets, like bears, parrots, and large dogs, which must have been quite a sight for the staff.

You can sorta see them.

We then went out to the marsh and looked at all the observation points, chatting with nice folks we ran into, and generally having a good time. The highlight of that time was two-fold. We were chatting with a woman, when I noticed something that looked like an alligator tail, but in front of it were just some oysters. Then, the oysters turned into an alligator head! It was a very large gator, and we got to watch it swim for quite a while. Unfortunately, it was too far for pictures, but our eyes enjoyed it. Then, the lady we were talking to spotted another great thing, a family of raccoons patrolling the water’s edge. We got to watch them for quite a while, and they were extra fun. I did get a photo of them before they disappeared.

One more thing we did was visit the new Nature Center, which wasn’t finished when we were there last year. THERE we got to see the male painted bunting many times, which was really exciting for me. We got to see it up very close, both in a tree and at a feeder. And wow, that’s one colorful little bird. Later on, I found a female at a bird feeder. She was a very shiny green, herself. None of my photos were great, but they are good enough to prove I got to see the birds! They aren’t common, so this was my lucky day!

The boardwalk leading from the Nature Center goes out over a tidal marsh. It was low tide, so we got to see many, many of the little ghost crabs waving their claws as menacingly as a tiny crab can do. The fish were literally teeming, too. With their waterways so low, they were quite crowded in there among the oysters.

There are actually a lot of fish in this photo.

We didn’t see many other fancy birds, but I did get to see these sandpiper guys fighting and running around.

Gee, we went so many places in this part that I can’t keep them straight, but I do know that I had to go to the causeway where I saw so many amazing birds last time. There weren’t as many there as I’d seen before, but it’s later in the year, after all. I did manage to find a couple of herons and egrets, the cutest cormorants ever, as well as a new bird for me, a black plover. It was a beautiful bird, with a black chest and black-and-white spotted wings, but not close enough to get a good photo. I was thrilled to see it.

As you can imagine, we were worn out after all this traipsing around and enjoying coastal beauty. And it WAS Mother’s Day, after all. So, we went looking for seafood in Murrell’s Inlet, the most beautiful little town in the area, and a place with real, fresh seafood. The first place we tried turned out to be a seafood shop, not a restaurant. The next place, right across the street, was closed on Sundays. But the third one was the charm. It was both a restaurant AND open, to quote Lee. We got there right as it opened, so we didn’t even have to wait and got a great view of the marsh.

Not a bad restaurant view!

This was the perfect ending to my day. It turned out that this restaurant served those steamed local oysters that Anita and I had eaten last time we were in Hilton Head. You know, my favorite thing I ever ate! Lee enjoyed a fine seafood platter, while I had a giant alcoholic beverage…

Lee took this picture of me and my giant beverage.

…folowed by a huge tub of the local cluster oysters. Man, oh, man, those are tasty little morsels and so much fun to eat. I ate, opened, ate some more, pried open more, and was enormously satisfied. It’s just so much fun to find the big ones, get everything out of the tiny ones, and enjoy all the sea life still clinging to the shells (which get recycled to be the base of more oyster beds).

We finally headed home, only to be delayed by driving through the heart of this week’s Biker Rally. It was an experience. There were many vendors, many bikes, and many things I don’t think I would like to see again. For example, there were two guys, one white and one black, hawking t-shirts that said “Biden Sucks and Harris Swallows.” Ick. There were plenty more tasteless things, but I’m sure most people were just out to have some loud fun.

Tomorrow, believe it or not, I have more fun stuff planned. By gosh, I’m going to have fun or else. And I feel loved by my family and friends, too. That’s the MOST precious Mother’s Day gift, or a gift to appreciate any day!

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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