by Keya Jackson
SCDNR Diversity Outreach Specialist
I have lived in South Carolina for most of my life, but did not fully recognize the natural beauty of this state until I started working for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources as a Diversity Outreach Specialist. In this role, I explore a number of outdoor recreational activities available in South Carolina and seek to share such experiences with other African Americans as well. So, when Carolina Panorama newspaper invited me to join their boat tour of Lake Murray, I had to say “Yes!”
We boarded The Osprey tour boat an hour or so before sunset. You might imagine us melting in the 90 degree heat of the South Carolina summer, but temperatures tend to feel much cooler on the water than on land. Masks were not required on the boat because we were in an open-air vessel with good air circulation. At a time when many of us are isolated inside due to COVID-19, feeling the rush of air against my skin and occasional splashes from the side of the boat felt refreshing. Everyone seemed content as we chatted, laughed and swayed with the boat to reggae music. Along the way, the boat captain told us various stories such as the origins of Lake Murray and gave us some details on the wildlife in the area.
As the engine softened, we started noticing one… three… then five birds zipping by, which meant we were nearing Bomb Island. Boats were clustered around the island, but all the action was happening in the air. Swarms of birds moved together in unison, performing aerial acrobatics above the trees and over the water. These birds that the boats anchored to see are Purple Martins. Despite their name, Purple Martins have a dark-blue tint, though they move so fast through the air, you could hardly tell the difference. Millions of Purple Martins can be seen around Bomb Island from the first week of July to the end of August around sunset. This uninhabited island is the largest Purple Martin sanctuary in North America.
They rest on this island before migrating to South America for the winter. As the birds gracefully flew by from various directions, everyone was either up on their feet or turning in their seats to catch the spectacular air-performance.
After the sun set beyond the horizon, we started heading back to the dock. The light of day was replaced by green and blue party lights and music. The night ended with a series of line dances, including the Wobble, Cha-Cha Slide, and K-Wang Wit It. Many thanks to “The Osprey Tour Boat & Party Barge” for hosting such a wonderful evening.
The SCDNR Diversity Outreach Program strives to provide opportunities for everyone in South Carolina to live life outdoors, and they support the SCDNR in its mission to serve as an advocate for and steward of South Carolina’s natural resources.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.