A new boardwalk at the popular Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve near Hollywood in Charleston County will put visitors within good viewing range of a wood stork rookery just as the endangered birds are starting to nest.
The 300-foot boardwalk with an observation platform at the end extends across part of the preserve’s 320-acre swamp, allowing close up viewing of some of the nearly 150 pairs of wood storks which nest annually on the preserve.
The 5-foot-tall birds seem less disturbed by human activity than many other species, according to Seabrook Platt, Dungannon Heritage Preserve manager with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A dozen or more pairs may nest in the same tree, usually a cypress, in close proximity to each other.
“Wood storks seem focused on their eggs and chicks,” Platt said, “and are not near as skittish as many of the other water birds that nest here, including anhingas as well as several species of herons and egrets.”
Dungannon is about 17 miles south of Charleston on SC Highway 162, four miles from the turn-off from US Highway 17. Reaching the new boardwalk requires a hike of about 1.5 miles from the parking area. The well-marked trails and roads offer easy walking through open hardwood forest. No motorized vehicles are allowed, but bicycles are welcomed.
About 1,400 visitors enjoyed the preserve last year, with spring and fall the most popular seasons. The preserve is open seven days a week during daylight hours. Five miles of trails, along with another five miles of roads and fire breaks, wind through the wooded areas and along the edges of the extensive narrow swamp.
Dungannon Heritage Preserve offers excellent habitat for many migrating and breeding songbirds and a variety of native wildflowers including large stands of wild Easter lily and five species of orchids.
“We get visitors with a wide range of interests,” Platt said. “Most just want to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.”