Summerville Invites Birders to Its Nest for Migration Season

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Town of Summerville, South Carolina offers immersive artistic and active experience for bird and nature enthusiasts.

Thanks to this town’s proximity to a virtual airborne highway, aviary attractions in Summerville, SC have taken flight. Just in time for spring migration season – of both the avian and human variety – Summerville’s local merchants and naturalists are celebrating the season.

This town just 25 miles from Charleston has built a bevy of avian activities that will have tourists flocking to “Flowertown” from March through May. Tourists can explore and celebrate wonderful feathered creatures in several ways that appeal to the artistic and active, the avid and the amateur.

The town may be onto something. Of the 47 million Americans who avidly bird watch, nearly 18 million observe birds away from home annually, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report – Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis.

With its tree-lined residential streets, nearby plantations and sprawling forests, Summerville offers a promising habitat for natural resources to thrive. The town spans a prime section of the Southeast’s extensive natural aviary habitat that is home (permanently and sporadically) to countless species of birds and other wildlife.

Among the themed calendar items are guided birding walks in historic downtown Summerville and nearby Beidler Forest, a special (Prothonotary) “Warbler Blend” Coffee, bird-themed painting nights at Wine & Design, Night Flight Yoga followed by a flight of beer, the downtown B.I.R.D.S. Sculpture Trail, and even more.

Downtown Summerville Guided Birding Walks
Staff from the National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest offer free, guided walks in Summerville on the second and third Saturdays in the spring and fall. In the spring, the group is given special access to the yet-to-be-developed, 80-acre Ashley River Park that offers a variety of habitats.

Painted Buntings at Summerville’s 7-mile Sawmill Branch Trail
On the third Saturdays in the spring, guided walks explore the popular Sawmill Branch Trail. This walking and biking trail offers several great birding locations, and is one of the best places in the area to see the beautiful Painted Bunting. Walks are FREE and occur from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. No registration is required. A limited number of binoculars will be available for use.

Night Flight Yoga
Strike an eagle or a crow pose! A leisurely walk at Beidler Forest will warm you up for Night Flight Yoga scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of the month during migration season. Yoga happens in the warehouse at Coastal Coffee Roasters, which offers a beer flight for yoga participants following the class. Wine, soda or kombucha tea flights are available as well.

Stretch Your Creative Wings
Sit and sip with family or friends while painting beautiful birds at Summerville’s Wine & Design. Alight at 138 South Main Street on the first and third Thursdays of the month during migration season for a bird-themed painting night.

Sculpture Lovers: B.I.R.D.S. - Birds in Residence Downtown Summerville
Visitors can “catch” more than 22 life-size bird sculptures in the open air on a walk through Historic Downtown Summerville. Birders and art lovers appreciate the chance to catch a glimpse of some of the region’s most recognizable birds in still form at stations throughout town.

Born as a public art initiative to get people searching and discovering downtown Summerville, the collection includes: Barred Owl, Mourning Dove, Nuthatch, Chickadees, Bluebirds, Geese, Cardinal, Mississippi Kite and more.

In the world of real estate, success comes from location, location, location. The same can be said of Summerville’s avian tourism push. Much of the town’s activity links to its proximity to a world-class bird habitat, The National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest.

Recently named the No. 5 birding destination in the country by USA Today’s 10Best, the forest’s Four Holes Swamp is one of only 1,890 sites worldwide to receive global recognition as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

The undisputed headliner of this old-growth cypress-tupelo swamp is the Prothonotary Warbler, a brilliant yellow-orange swamp dweller. Other species sightings reported at the 16,000-acre environment – which is threaded through with a 1.75-mile boardwalk – include: the Great Blue Heron, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Woodpecker, Mississippi Kike, Hooded Merganser, White Ibis, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Painted Bunting, and Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, among many others. (There have been some reported sightings of the elusive Swainson’s Warbler.)

The park provides a free boardwalk-specific app for iPhones to help guide your adventure at

Warbler Blend Coffee
This coffee from local Coastal Coffee Roasters is exclusively sold at Francis Beidler Forest. Grab a bag before embarking on the boardwalk. Warbler Blend is made from beans on trees where Prothonotary Warblers nest in Colombia, before returning stateside. The blend is Rainforest Alliance-approved, and meets the rigorous environmental and social standards of the alliance. All proceeds benefit Project PROTHO, a program that recruits citizen scientists to help Beidler learn more about the warblers’ breeding biology.

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Emily Nicastro
Visit Summerville
since: 09/2011
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