A morning at Huntington Beach State Park, (short drive from the beach at Pawleys Island, SC) became the highlight of a recent winter stay — thanks to the watchful eyes of photographer Bill Angell and his supportive wife Janice. The two of them met us at Huntington on a morning unusual even by Bill’s standards for the number and variety of native birds. The morning appointment with Bill was the idea of housemates Courtney and Carolyn Pearre from Nashville who wanted to link up with this master photographer known by many (including us) via the “I Love Pawleys Island” Facebook page.
On that site, Bill (almost daily) treats his followers to exquisite shots of the birds of Huntington Beach — egrets, cormorants, mergansers, pelicans and yes, even eagles — as he shows up early, snaps away and later adds his magic touch, producing shots to envy and love. And we wanted to see how he does it.
Huntington Beach is known for its camping spots, nature trails, a new boardwalk over the marsh, and Atalaya, the 1930s Moorish-style castle that was home to the Huntingtons who owned the land. But on that morning with Bill, we were interested only in finding birds. And the marsh did not disappoint! We landed squarely in bird heaven, the wetlands known for nature of all kinds — from alligators to sea turtles and, of course, birds — who obviously flock together.
Even Bill was amazed at the larger-than-usual number of birds and many species at Huntington that day, and he wasted no time in lifting his camera (no small feat!) and capturing waterfowl: birds resting on still waters, birds nesting, birds in flight, and birds skidding to a stop where, no doubt, breakfast was waiting below.
As you can see, his photos are superb — clear shots, rich details, and authentic color. For a budding photographer like myself, it was like watching a master in action.
Often, he would stop us mid-sentence, if he saw a bird taking flight or coming in for a landing. Then, intensely focused and clicking away, Bill took one shot after another with speed and accuracy. Afterwards, he would turn his attention back to us and apologize for interrupting our conversation, but we got it: he loves what he does and does what he wants to capture the best at Huntington Beach.
Mostly, the four of us just stood and stared both at the birds and at Bill. But I wanted to try my luck at photographing a few feathered friends myself. I’m nowhere near Bill in terms of skill, but I can see how I could get addicted to frequent trips to Huntington (yes, they sell annual passes) and early-morning visits to the marsh. Like the old saying goes: “To get the handsome prince, you have to kiss a lot of frogs.”
I put my camera on burst mode and fired away, hoping at least one of every 30 or so would be a good one.
If you’re visiting Georgetown County, South Carolina, put Huntington Beach State Park on your itinerary. You’ll want to spend a day or two there, especially if you’re like we were with Bill — glued to the bird sanctuary for hours! You may also be in the market for something else — a bird identification book — if you’re a true novice, as I am, at telling an egret from a heron and anything in between.
Our thanks to Bill Angell and his wife Janice for their passion, insight, and inspiration on a winter’s day at Huntington Beach. And we hope you, too, will visit the birding haven, eyes wide open.
Travel with your eyes to the skies,
Rusha & Bert
For more information on Bill Angell’s photography, check out these sites:
Photographs on SmugMug: https://billangell.smugmug.com/
A 2020 Lookback on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I8xEoTlumY
Bill Angell Photography on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/billangellphotography/
For more information on Huntington Beach State Park: https://southcarolinaparks.com/huntington-beach
Photo at top: An osprey catching a fish by Bill Angell