CurentsEditorsVer2 Image 2Photograph by Leah Sparks

It won’t be long before the action begins in Magnolia Plantation and Gardens’ Audubon Swamp Garden. As early as February, all kinds of birds—herons, great egrets, snowy egrets and more—get down to the often raucous business of mating, building nests and raising their young. And with the birds come the photographers, many of whom compete in the Gardens’ annual photography contest, which runs March 1 to May 31.

A $25 fee gains participants entry into the swamp for those three months, says Doug Delong, a member of the Lowcountry Photographic Club and contest organizer.

The Audubon Swamp, 60 acres of black-water cypress and tupelo named in honor of the French-American naturalist and artist John James Audubon, was once an area that supported rice cultivation. Today, elevated boardwalks, bridges and dikes make it an ideal place to view—and photograph—wildlife.

Avid nature photographers like Delong will tell you that although spring is a favorite time to visit, there’s plenty to see in the winter months. Perry Nugent has been leading the Gardens’ Sunday morning bird walks since 1988. He notes that blue herons start nesting as early as December. And small birds, like the little migratory ducks Delong loves to track, are easier to spot when there’s less foliage.

So, for a little early spring fun, check out the Audubon Swamp Garden. Take in the plantation’s magnificent collection of camellias, then head out to the boardwalk and catch the action!