Our visit to Beidler Forest only took up half of the day, and we were ready to see more wildlife. Therefore, we cut across the country down toward the ACE Basin and the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area. Donnelley is only one small section of the ACE Basin. To the east is the Ernest Hollings National Wildlife Refuge. However, we prefer Donnelly because it’s a bit easier access, and it tends to be a bit quieter.
We entered from Bennett’s Point Road and immediately got turned around. We were taking a different direction, but eventually wound up where we wanted – at the old farm house that serves as a landmark for the rice field hiking trails.
From the old farm house one walks on along a raised area between two large rice fields. Usually there are lots of wading birds and even a few alligators. There didn’t seem to be much activity today, though.
From the rice fields we got back in the car and drove along to the south end of the fields. The dirt road runs along another raised area between marshland and the fields, and in the past we’ve spotted lots and lots of alligators along with even more birds. As with the previous stop, things seemed fairly quiet. There were a few birds out, and we counted about five alligators.
Since things were quiet at our usual birding spots, we decided to explore a bit more. We turned onto Wiggins Road and headed toward Field Point Landing. Along the way we passed elaborate gates, and wondered what large plantation homes must lurk beyond the long driveways. Eventually, we reached the point. A nice breeze was blowing from the Combahee River. We spotted a couple of dolphin in the water, and enjoy the refreshing change from the day’s heat.
From Field Point we backtracked through Donnelly and crossed back to Bennett’s Point Road. We then turned back toward the coast and the point itself. There were more long driveways with elaborate entrances. We stopped at one overlook on Bear Island along the way and looked out at the salt marshes at a very low tide.
We eventually reached Bennett’s Point, where we found quite the party going on. There were lots of trucks with boat trailers, and it looked like a large meal was being prepared at a local seafood place. We guess that it was a fishing tournament of some kind.
Heading back we stopped at the Bear Island WMA for a bit. This is a big fishing area, and there are lots of trails leading off into former rice fields and marshes. Laura and I stopped at one trail and walked out toward the marsh, where we saw more birds than we had at any previous stop.
All in all, it was a great day. First Beidler Forest, then ACE Basin. Worn out from our explorations, we headed towards Charleston to find a place to crash for the evening.