There are currently a number of great birds to be seen throughout our area. In addition to the normal aggregation in coastal marshes such as those at Huntington Beach State Park, several folks have reported finding wood storks along with other wading bird species in stormwater retention ponds in their neighborhoods.
I also received several reports last week of swallow-tailed kite observations in the Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island areas. These elegant birds of prey, perhaps the epitome of grace as they effortlessly soar and swoop in search of insect prey, are a state endangered species in South Carolina.
Our north coastal area marks the northernmost known limit of their breeding range in North America, and it's always exciting to see these marvelous raptors ply their trade here. A reminder that there's an ongoing project to study and monitor these rare birds, and your observations are important and most helpful in that effort. Please take a moment to report your swallow-tailed kite sightings at: http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/swallowtail-kite.php.
As is normal for this time of year, the numbers of our tiniest feathered friends, ruby-throated hummingbirds, are on the increase in our area. The miniature marvels have met with a measure of success this season, and the fruits of their labors can be seen scouring the landscape seeking to take advantage of every available resource. Last weekend marked a noticeable increase in activity at the flowers and hummer feeders where I live. The annual hummingbird boot camp is once again in session.
While their mothers have shown this year's youngsters the basics of hummingbird survival, summer-resident males are now busy schooling them in the arts of hummingbird combat and politics to hone the physical and mental skills they must have to survive in the real world. Hummingbirds are fiercely territorial creatures, and the young birds learn their lessons quickly or pay the consequences. Adult birds have a decided advantage in their confrontations, and can be relentless in their efforts to evict any intruders into their domains. The highly aggressive and tenacious nature of these amazing avians offers ample opportunity this time of year for an observer to get a peek into the fascinating lives of nature's flying jewels. So hang up another feeder or two, and keep them clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives. The greatest show on earth may currently be playing in your own backyard.