Birding at the Beach with Bill Angell

Eagle in flight by Bill Angell
Photographer Bill Angell, Courtney Pearre & Carolyn
Photographer Bill Angell, Courtney & Carolyn Pearre

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.

Varieties of birds at Huntington Beach State Park, SC
Do birds really flock together?

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.

Pelican hovering at Huntington Beach State Park, Bill Angell Photographer
Brown pelican with reflection, Bill Angell Photography

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.

Birds gathering at Huntington Beach State Park, SC
Yes, we’ll gather by the river . . .

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.

Bill Angell, photographer at Huntington Beach State Park
Bill Angell, Photographer, at Huntington Beach State Park, SC
Brown pelican in flight, Bill Angell Photography

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.

Osprey at Huntington Beach State Park, Bill Angell Photography
Osprey in flight, Bill Angell Photography

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.

Pelican in flight, Huntington Beach State Park, Bill Angell photo
Brown pelican with widespread wings by Bill Angell, Photographer

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.

Great Blue Heron, Huntington Beach State Park, SC
Pelican in flight, Huntington State park, SC
White heron landing, Huntington Beach State park, SC
Heron landing, Huntington Beach State Park, SC
Pelican landing on water, Huntington Beach State Park, SC

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.

Gray heron, Huntington Beach State Park, SC
A little personal grooming at Huntington Beach State Park

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.

Bill & Janice Angell with Bert and Rusha Sams at Huntington Beach State Park
Bill and Janice Angell with Bert and Rusha

Travel with your eyes to the skies,

Rusha & Bert

For more information on Bill Angell’s photography, check out these sites:

Photographs on SmugMug:

A 2020 Lookback on YouTube:

Bill Angell Photography on Facebook:

For more information on Huntington Beach State Park:

Photo at top: An osprey catching a fish by Bill Angell

26 thoughts on “Birding at the Beach with Bill Angell

  1. ponzoblogs

    Sadly because Covid I can’t Travel anymore for my blog that I just started. Feels really sad that I have to wait before planning a new travel journey 😦

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      You might try writing about your surroundings — your treasures, special places in your home or yard, your memories. Remember that people don’t know you yet, so give them something that is uniquely you.

  2. Pingback: 36 – Beaches v1 – Beach Walk Reflections: Thoughts from thinking while walking

  3. Toonsarah

    Bill’s photos are excellent but you should be very pleased with your efforts too – you have some really good captures. I would love to do this if ever in the area – I enjoy trying my hand at bird photography although I’m not expert and don’t have fancy big lenses!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      It’s just fun to be out there watching the birds! I can see why people buy annual passes. Thanks for the compliment on my photos. I keep trying, but I may be at a plateau. I’m not buying more equipment, so I’m trying to be satisfied with what I’m getting on my trusty old camera! Happy New Year!

  4. Green Global Trek

    Ohh what a magnificent slice of paradise and the photographs both his and yours are all truly magnificent. We are birdwatching neophytes but oh we do love to see any wildlife in their natural habitat and how inspiring it is when there are such a variety of types of birds to see. Wonderful.


  5. Anonymous

    I’m impressed, Rusha. Bill’s photos were magnificent, as expected, But so were yours. Great shots! Thanks. –Curt

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      I’m working on photography, but I’ll never be great. Sometimes I just love the act of focusing and paying close attention to what’s in front of me. That’s the beauty of travel photography for me. And I remember details better, too. Happy New Year!!

  6. Neal Atherton

    What stunning shots. We have a nature reserve for bird watching within walking distance with plenty of birds but not quite so exotic. We have an egret there – just one, but it does stay most of the year. Hope you manage to find ‘Places to see’ next year once more – maybe. 😊😷

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      I am thinking that same thought. But I may have to be content with a bit of fuzziness. I just can’t carry something that big around with me all the time. Some people do, though. I’ve seen a lot of these big lenses at national parks. Happy New Year to you!

  7. Anonymous

    It was our pleasure to share the morning with you. This is a wonderful article and we thank you for doing it. We look forward to the spring when we can do it again!

  8. Carolyn Pearre

    Rusha, we love your post about Bill & Janice and our time with them in December! What a great site for bird lovers. Well done, my friend. Is it too early to make plans for the spring trip? Plans will help get us through these next months. LOL

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Glad you like the post. It was fun sifting through all those photos, but it took a while. I had fun just snapping away. I’d love to plan for our spring trip, but actually I’d love to go in January, February or March, if we could swing it. Wanna go?

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