By Chris Hauff
RAVENEL, S.C. (WCIV) – It's more than birds for Perry Nugent, a naturalist at the Caw Caw Nature and History Interpretive Center. It's a way of life.
For more than a half century, Nugent has devoted his life to studying, watching and teaching people about birds.
Every week, Wednesday and Saturday mornings are set aside for an early-morning bird walk, where he meets both friends and strangers for a leisurely stroll through miles of some of the most diverse bird habitats around the Lowcountry.
"Moore hens, coots and sometimes ducks, of course we get mocking birds," Nugent told his group this past Saturday as they prepared to start the walk.
Nugent, wrapped in his gear from head-to-toe, answered questions and joked with a variety of people who all share the same interest – getting outside.
It was no more than a few steps down the first trail when Nugent spotted his first bird -- a Carolina chickadee perched on one of the oak tree limbs near a feeder.
"You do a lot of it by hearing, we learn that, and I'm hoping that people that come will gradually learn that too," Nugent said.
After taking a few minutes to soak in the first sighting of the day, Nugent pushed the group along with promises to see hundreds of other birds.
The group usually sees somewhere between 40 and 60 different species of birds per walk. They keep up with the data by logging in an orderly checklist.
Pam Ford, a member of the group, has been keeping track with that list for about two-and-a-half years.
"The birds are amazing because each season you have an influx of birds and you try to identify and find them," she said. "There's always something new to learn as they change."
After about three and half miles of trekking through different winding trails, the group discussed what they saw, and it was way more than they thought. With a morning that started out below freezing, expectations hadn't been high.
A few of the species spotted included the double crested cormorant, tufted titmouse, chipping sparrow, orange crowned warbler and a yellow bellied sapsucker.
The group was also excited about spotting a bald eagle, both on the nest and midflight.
"It's just so much fun," Ford said. "I picked up birding when the kids left home, the empty nest syndrome."
Following the trek, the group, which gradually shrunk as the morning past, sat down to fill out the checklist. It's a task that normally takes just a few minutes. However, with a story here, and a joke there, it took more than a half hour – time well wasted the group said.
About Caw Caw Nature & History Interpretive Center
Caw Caw features over six miles of trails with trailside exhibits that include elevated boardwalks through wetlands.
There are also interpretive exhibits, displays and programs.
Caw Caw also plays host to former 18th and 19th century rice fields and one of the important sites of the Stono Rebellion.
For more information on Caw Caw or to schedule a walking tour, call (843) 889-8898 or