Friday, July 15, 2016

Botany Bay Beach- Always a Great Getaway!

Still another Charleston-area diamond in the rough is the State Wildlife Management Area (WMA) property called Botany Bay Plantation, which became part of the state system in 2008.

It features hiking trails and a driving tour, but the neatest thing about Botany Bay is its barrier island. A half-mile walk on a well-maintained boardwalk is required to reach the shell-filled boneyard beach. That lengthy walk, plus the remoteness of the the wildlife refuge located off Highway 174 approaching Edisto Island, keeps the crowds down. So when you go to Botany Bay you can be assured plenty of room to relax, explore or both, without the influx of people common at the Charleston area's more popular beaches.

From Highway 174, it's still a few miles of dirt road driving to the Botany Bay entrance. Along the way you will be treated to a beautiful avenue of (live) oak trees.

Botany Bay, I should mention, is in coastal South Carolina's ACE Basin, a vast protected preserve of former rice plantations, rivers, islands and waterways.

Earlier this month I posted pictures from another ACE Basin wildlife area, Bear Island.

But before we hit the beach, let me back track a little. Driving along the lightly traveled Highway 174 toward Edisto Island I spotted an occupied Osprey nest at the top of a utility pole. Being in no particular hurry to reach the beach, I found a safe place to park and got out of my car, fetching my camera and monopod.

I proceeded to take a number of photographs of the Osprey pair that tended to their big nest. I wasn't able to see or hear any young'uns, so I'm not sure if the family had expanded at this point.

But I was content to capture the unique (though not uncommon) nesting spot.

It was a neat thing to see, especially when the second Osprey, the male perhaps, returned to the nest every few or several minutes, returning from hunting/fishing expeditions, no doubt.

This would be my favorite photo from this day's outing. What brilliant, sharp eyes has the Osprey!

The Fish Hawk, as this bird is also called, needs superb vision for plucking fish and the other water-based creatures that it craves.

Fiercely elegant is the Osprey!

This Great Egret also caught by attention- so tall, erect and graceful in the marsh a few hundred yards away.

I would make another stop on the way to Botany Bay. I have always been curious about Steamboat Landing, which is also way out in the country off Highway 174. There is some history to this place, so I wanted to try to learn and see more.

So on this day, I satisfied my curiosity by making the left turn to see what there is to see at Steamboat Landing.

This link gives a concise history of what I learned was, back in the day, an important Edisto River transportation hub for the popular and lucrative Sea Island Cotton grown by none other than William Seabrook, a major 19th century Lowcountry planter for whom Seabrook Island would be named.

He built a large plantation house down Steamboat Landing Road. The big house seen to the left may or may not be Seabrook's plantation house. But it certainly looked the part.

The house, as seen from Steamboat Landing Road, across a wide salt marsh.

Zooming in reveals a prototypical Lowcountry plantation house with wrapped verandas on both floors.

The boat landing, while absent of steamboats, is very well-maintained. And, even better, it is public. So nice that there is such a quality dock open to all boaters, fishers and in the case of the photo below, crabbers.

A little more historical research revealed that in the 1890s Steamboat Landing was busy with hauling the phosphate mined from the region's river banks. This became an important post-Civil War industry in the Lowcountry.

Steamboat Landing is itself quite a find- and yet another reason I need to get a boat someday!

But the camera will do- seeing and capturing such images are satisfying in so many ways too.

I mentioned in my Bear Island (also in the ACE Basin) post a few weeks ago about how I always look for birds on power lines.

Well, near the parking area for the boardwalk going to Botany Bay beach I saw a few small birds on power lines. I was really struck by the blue coat of this Eastern Bluebird. It almost looks acrylic. Just very glossy and the grey/black head and piercing eye. Glad I got this shot!

I needed some bird identification forum help for this next "fellow." I thought it was a Dove, but didn't think it was the Mourning Dove I see all the time in my backyard and elsewhere.

I was right. This is a Common Ground Dove.
OK, but not so common in my neck of the woods. This may even be a "lifer" bird for me- at least photography-wise- because I cannot recall ever photographing this type of Dove before.

A large sunflower field stood (somewhat) in the hot sun near the beach parking area.

The sunflowers were in different stage of development.
What a big expressive flower this is- or can be at least when in full glory.

Finally, after that half mile boardwalk trek, the Atlantic Ocean comes into view!

Welcome to Botany Bay beach- an amazing example of a "boneyard beach" that has earned the name due to severe beach erosion.

Yes, a bad thing environmentally can produce something so interesting and unusual.

There are trees all over the place- in the water, on the beach, and fallen over on the beach.

Massive uprooted trees are everywhere along the miles of Botany Bay. In the Lowcountry, Bull Island north of McClellanville has scenes like this. You have to take a ferry (or your own boat) to Bull Island. Botany is much more accessible.

Botany Bay, to me, is well worth the long drive and boardwalk "stroll" because it is such a raw, rugged, quiet and remote strip of beachfront splendor. Nature has taken its course here, no question.

Along with the trees, there are lots of shells on the beach. But gathering them and taking them home- that's a no-no! Signs and Botany volunteer staffers at the beach entrance keep an eye on smugglers. You can't take driftwood either- I found that out firsthand years ago.

But the good news is, you can take as many photographs as you want!

And Botany Bay offers a rich palette of attractive, unusual shapes and shadows.

Oh, and the water is very nice too.
On this day the temperature was perfect and the ocean floor was smooth where I went in to swim and cool down.

Almost human-like shadows in this image.

From the beach entrance, the best "boneyard" scenery is to the left or up the coast. The tree graveyard starts right at the entrance so you don't have to walk far to see images like I am sharing here.

The tide was out on this day, so there were lots of sand and shadows to play around with shot composition and framing.

The inland clouds gave a nice backdrop in this shot.

An offbeat setting like this is a good opportunity to try different camera settings, such as monochrome (or black and white)...

...or my Canon camera's "toy camera" setting, which gives that dark border look. The "cheap" camera look looks kind of cool to me!

Overhead, a steady stream of Brown Pelican squadrons (or pods or scoops, according to drifted by.

They will fly just feet above the water too, looking for meals.

Yes, quite a cool place is this Botany Bay beach.

All of these photographs, memories and a suntan (or maybe a sunburn) to take home!

Bonus points on this outing for the Osprey nest on the way and the Steamboat Landing side trip.

Once or twice each summer, I have to get to Botany Bay beach. I think you can see why!
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