I was fortunate today to be joined by three great birders for the waterfowl/shorebirdsurvey on Bulls Island: Wil Christenson, Cathy Miller, and Carl Miller. Carl's original plans changed late thus allowing him to make his own reservation with Coastal Expeditions for the ferry and, thus, join us for the day.
As I had silently predicted, there were many folks showing signs of cabin fever between the holidays, extended families present, and the recent rains; a terrific cure for such ills is a trip to Bulls Island on the CEX ferry. There were about 70 people who showed up for the ferry, including us. Captain Wil, currently on sabbatical from CEX, was conscripted back into service to pilot a second boat over to Bulls and back. Thanks, CEX, for your continued enthusiastic services in hauling us out to Bulls and back.
Our time on Bulls was more restricted than usual because I had forgotten that CEX's winter schedule departs at 10:00 AM (not 9:00 AM) and returns at 3:00 PM (not 4:00 PM). Nonetheless, on our foreshortened survey we tallied 45 species on the survey proper and 84 on the whole day's outing. Cathy graciously and conscientiously kept then shared eBird lists on the day; our shared checklist for the island is appended below, FYI. There were no particularly outstanding sightings, but birds of some interest included good numbers of Gadwall, Ruddy Duck, Dunlin, American White Pelicans, Red-breasted Merganser, Redhead, and Peregrine Falcon along with small numbers of Sora, Piping Plover, and Least Sandpiper. In smaller-than-expected numbers were Lesser Scaup, Black Duck, American Wigeon, and Green-winged Teal.
Upper Summerhouse Pond was, again, very ducky with about 700 waterfowl. The water level there has risen, I assume due to the recent rains, and as a possible result there were fewer shorebirds there than seen recently. I'm sure that when they put in a new trunk to replace the one lost they will also put in a new water level gauge. The salinity there was 29 ppt--not too bad since it was fully tidal for some weeks back in the early fall. Jack's Creek, however, remains particularly salty at 35 ppt (full seawater is 35 ppt).
Non avian sightings were limited to the expected American alligators, a few Monarch butterflies, and deer tracks.
Looking ahead at the tide calendar suggests the following dates to consider for our next survey:
Th 8 Jan 2015 high tide 5.1 ft at 9:27 AM
Fri 9 Jan 2015 high tide 4.9 ft at 10:03 AM
Sat 10 Jan 2015 high tide 4.7 ft at 10:40 AM
Mon 12 Jan 2015 high tide 4.3 ft at 12:05 PM
Stay tuned for further plans.
Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, US-SC Dec 27, 2014 10:43 AM - 4:13 PM Protocol: Traveling 19.999 mile(s) Comments: Participants: David McLean, Wil Christenson, Carl Miller & myself. This was part of theshorebird/waterfowlsurveythat David McLean conducts for the Fish & Wildlife Service. This list represents birds sent from boat to & from Bulls Island as well as birds seen on island in & near Jack s Creek and near & on Upper Summerhouse Pond. Submitted from BirdLog NA for Android v1.9.6 77 species Gadwall 540 American Wigeon 8 American Black Duck 2 Northern Shoveler 42 Green-winged Teal 25 Redhead 64 Lesser Scaup 53 Bufflehead 70 Hooded Merganser 7 Red-breasted Merganser 10 Ruddy Duck 300 Common Loon 3 Pied-billed Grebe 27 Horned Grebe 11 Wood Stork 1 Northern Gannet 2 Double-crested Cormorant 83 Anhinga 1 American White Pelican 50 Brown Pelican 7 Great Blue Heron 10 Great Egret 12 Snowy Egret 37 Little Blue Heron 9 Tricolored Heron 11 Black-crowned Night-Heron 19 White Ibis 28 Black Vulture 4 Turkey Vulture 4 Osprey 1 Northern Harrier 2 Red-shouldered Hawk 1 Red-tailed Hawk 1 Clapper Rail 3 Sora 2 Common Gallinule 15 American Coot 420 American Oystercatcher 48 Grey Plover 23 Semipalmated Plover 110 Piping Plover 2 Spotted Sandpiper 2 Greater Yellowlegs 3 Willet 31 Ruddy Turnstone 13 Sanderling 30 Dunlin 1150 Least Sandpiper 2 Western Sandpiper 4 Short-billed Dowitcher 40 Ring-billed Gull 10 Herring Gull 6 Forster's Tern 16 Belted Kingfisher 7 Red-bellied Woodpecker 3 Northern Flicker 2 Merlin 1 Peregrine Falcon 2 Eastern Phoebe 3 Blue Jay 8 Tree Swallow 24 Carolina Chickadee 3 Tufted Titmouse 1 Marsh Wren 1 Carolina Wren 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5 Eastern Bluebird 3 Northern Mockingbird 5 Pine Warbler 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler 20 Eastern Towhee 8 Savannah Sparrow 3 Song Sparrow 1 White-throated Sparrow 1 Northern Cardinal 1 Red-winged Blackbird 25 Boat-tailed Grackle 20 View this checklist online athttp://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21050371 This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)
I was joined today by Wil Christenson and Steve Moore for the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. We joined the USF&WS maintenance crew, Greg and Alex, for a quick ride over to the island. There was ice on the deck of the boat as we climbed aboard for a bracing ride through the marshes. Once on the island we quickly warmed up and enjoyed beautiful, cool, sunny weather with light winds. The fall archery hunts for deer have concluded and the Coastal Expeditions Ferry is running regular service on Saturdays only, so Bulls Island in full refuge mode now. It was a pleasure being there knowing that so few other people were about.
We tallied 47 species on the survey proper and 80 species on the day's outing. Our eBird checklist is appended, below, FYI. Upper Summerhouse Pond (USP) continues to impress. We estimated about 1300 waterfowl there with Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, and Ruddy Ducks making up the bulk. Across the island White Ibis, Ruddy Duck, and Hooded Merganser species were in high counts. One large flight of Dunlin in the oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek was estimated to be 1370 individuals. We also saw a pair of putative Norther Pintails, but never got an absolutely confirmatory look. Other avian sightings that we enjoyed included American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, a Worthington's form (subspecies, type, race?) Marsh Wren, and first-of-season (for me) Cedar Waxwings (sorry you missed those, Wil, they flew over Garris just after you drove off).
While we were scoping the waterfowl on USP a Cooper's Hawk flew over at the same time that many of the ducks flushed. That left us wondering if a Cooper's Hawk would ever attempt to take waterfowl, i.e., did the waterfowl have reason to be wary of a Cooper's Hawk? Sprunt and Chamberlain (South Carolina Bird Life) relate incidents of Cooper's Hawks going after a Green Heron, a Ring-necked Duck on the wing (i.e., the duck on the wing), and a Clapper Rail…all incidents reported from Bulls Island. So I suppose those ducks were well justified to be wary.
Notable misses included Laughing Gull (really!) and Bald Eagle. Other species in low numbers included Western Sandpipers and Lesser Scaup. The North Beach was very quiet, bird wise, today; there have been few shorebirds there this entire calendar year in strong contrast to the previous two years when the shorebirds, gulls, and terns would gather there by the thousands. At least the shelling was pretty good on the North Beach.
Non avian sightings include a few alligators (including "Gatorzilla"), a few bobcat tracks in the sand dunes, and two Fox Squirrels. After last week's deer hunt, we were pleased merely to see a few deer tracks.
Looking ahead at the tide calendar suggests the following date for our next survey:
Sat 27 Dec 2014 high tide 5.4 ft at 11:53 AM
Stay tuned for final plans.
Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, US-SC Dec 11, 2014 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Protocol: Traveling 14.5 mile(s) Comments: Conducting the ongoing Bulls Islandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurveywith Wil Christenson and Steve Moore. Effort: 4.15 mi and 15 min by boat plus 9.1 mi and 2 hr by truck plus 1.25 mi and 4 hr 45 min by foot. Weather: very early high thin clouds (a 'mackerel sky') quickly clearing to fully sunny and cool; temps 28 F to 51 F; early winds NE shifting about 10 AM to NW then shifting about 12:30 to E, all <= 5 mph; barometer steady at 30.05 in Hg. Tide was forecast 5.1 ft high at 10:37 AM. <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3 80 species Gadwall 518 Most on Upper Summerhouse Pond. Estimate. Excellent scope views of most in ideal light. American Wigeon 400 American Black Duck 7 Mottled Duck 4 Northern Shoveler 158 Most on Upper Summerhouse Pond. Excellent scope views in ideal light. Green-winged Teal 35 Redhead 6 Lesser Scaup 20 Bufflehead 56 Widely scattered across the island. Hooded Merganser 277 Mostly in several tight braces numbering 40 to 50. Red-breasted Merganser 4 Ruddy Duck 299 A fairly accurate count. Common Loon 1 Pied-billed Grebe 82 Widely scattered all over the island. Horned Grebe 6 Wood Stork 7 Northern Gannet 2 Double-crested Cormorant 112 Anhinga 5 American White Pelican 37 Brown Pelican 18 American Bittern 1 Great Blue Heron 13 Great Egret 32 Snowy Egret 70 Most grouped in congregations along with Great Egrets, White Ibis, and other wading birds. Little Blue Heron 3 Tricolored Heron 7 Black-crowned Night-Heron 25 White Ibis 178 One large congregation plus many widely dispersed individuals. Glossy Ibis 2 Turkey Vulture 4 Osprey 3 Northern Harrier 2 Cooper's Hawk 2 One of these may have flushed manywaterfowlunder scope view. Clapper Rail 5 Common Gallinule 23 American Coot 182 American Oystercatcher 1 Grey Plover 33 Semipalmated Plover 220 Piping Plover 1 No apparent leg bands or flags. Spotted Sandpiper 1 Greater Yellowlegs 14 Willet 29 Marbled Godwit 1 Ruddy Turnstone 70 A fairly accurate count. Sanderling 64 A fairly accurate estimate. Dunlin 1373 All but 3 individuals in one resting flight. I counted individuals in one scope view then multiplied by the number of scope fields that the flight filled. Western Sandpiper 3 Short-billed Dowitcher 13 Wilson's Snipe 1 Bonaparte's Gull 3 Ring-billed Gull 14 Herring Gull 10 Forster's Tern 29 Mourning Dove 25 Belted Kingfisher 5 Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 2 American Kestrel 1 1 male. Peregrine Falcon 1 Eastern Phoebe 3 Tufted Titmouse 1 Marsh Wren 1 1 Worthington's. Carolina Wren 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 American Robin 6 Grey Catbird 2 Northern Mockingbird 3 Cedar Waxwing 15 Palm Warbler 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 20 Swamp Sparrow 2 Northern Cardinal 5 Red-winged Blackbird 6 Eastern Meadowlark 1 Common Grackle 8 Boat-tailed Grackle 10 American Goldfinch 4 View this checklist online athttp://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S20864852 This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)
We had planned on conducting the BullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey this past Tuesday, but the thunder and lightening at 7:30 AM Tuesday morning quickly changed our plans. So instead I got out there today to take advantage of the beautiful but cold weather. Coastal Expeditions, specifically Captain Gates Roll and First Mate/Naturalist Rachel Jones, graciously allowed me to hitch a ferry ride out to the island along with many other folks also doing their best alternative Black Friday excursion. [Coastal Expeditions will be running one of their Long-billed Curlew excursions out of McClellanville this Sunday 30 Nov 2014; check out their announcement at: http://www.bullsislandferry.com/index.php?page=CurlewTour.]
I tallied 47 species on the survey proper, 81 species on the day's outing. See my eBird checklist, below, for a full accounting. Waterfowl have returned to BullsIsland in pretty good numbers, and it's still early in the season.
Upper Summerhouse Pond (USP) was spectacular today as I counted 13 species of waterfowl and over 1000 individual waterfowl from one vantage point! [No typo there: over 1,000.] Most numerous were Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Gadwall, Hooded Merganser, and Ruddy Duck. Also at USP were Redhead, Canvasback, and Northern Pintail along with a scattering of shorebirds and wading birds. I don't remember USP having this many waterfowl since the 1970s when I first started going to Bulls with my father and Calvin Clyde (both from Florence County, both recently deceased) for Christmas Counts. I offer my apologies for my thoughts of doom and gloom for USP after the dike broke in August and was repaired in September.
Of particular note from Jack's Creek were two Horned Grebes (normally seen in good numbers in the marshes of BullsBay but not in any of the Bulls impoundments) and a Wilson's Snipe. Overall shorebird numbers were down as both the North Beach was practically devoid of shorebirds and the oceanfront marsh at Jack's had precious few shorebirds other than a flight of about 800 Dunlin.
Non avian wildlife sightings were somewhat limited today to the expected American alligator and Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. More horseshoe crab carapaces were left along the high tide line on the North Beach than I ever recall, especially small ones 4 in to 5 in across, and shelling was fairly good, too.
Looking ahead at the tide calendar suggests the following dates to consider for our next survey:
Thursday 11 Dec 2014 high tide 5.1 ft at 10:37 AM
Friday 12 Dec 2014 high tide 4.9 ft at 11:19 AM
Stay tuned for final plans.
Cape Romain NWR--BullsIsland, Charleston, US-SC Nov 28, 2014 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM Protocol: Traveling 17.449 mile(s) Comments: Conducting the ongoingBullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. Effort: 4.15 mi (one way) and 1 hr by ferry plus 11.1 mi and 2 hr by truck plus 2.2 mi and 5 hr 30 min by foot. Weather: clear, sunny, and cold; temps 34 F to 45 F; AM winds NNE at 10 mph to 12 mph, PM winds NW at 5 mph; barometer 30.39 in Hg rising to 30.41 in Hg [by 11:15 AM] then falling to 30.32 in Hg. Tide was forecast high at 5.6 ft at 12:10 PM; Charleston harbor tide hit 6.42 ft at 12:48 PM. <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3 81 species (+1 other taxa) Gadwall 261 Scope views of most. A moderately reasonable estimate/count. American Wigeon 32 American Black Duck 2 Mottled Duck 4 Blue-winged Teal 80 Northern Shoveler 200 A possible under estimate/count. Northern Pintail 1 Green-winged Teal 155 Canvasback 4 Redhead 26 A fairly accurate count. Scope views. Lesser Scaup 56 Bufflehead 146 An estimate. Hooded Merganser 92 A conservative estimate. Red-breasted Merganser 1 Ruddy Duck 254 Jsck's Creek and Upper Summerhouse Pond. Scope views of most. Common Loon 2 Pied-billed Grebe 79 Highly abundant throughout theisland. Horned Grebe 12 2 actually on Jack's Creek, the rest in the tidal salt marsh. Wood Stork 1 Northern Gannet 18 Double-crested Cormorant 119 Anhinga 2 American White Pelican 21 Brown Pelican 43 Great Blue Heron 12 Great Egret 18 Snowy Egret 56 Both widely scattered and a few large congregations. Little Blue Heron 8 Tricolored Heron 23 Widely dispersed. Black-crowned Night-Heron 8 White Ibis 56 Glossy Ibis 1 Turkey Vulture 6 Northern Harrier 1 Cooper's Hawk 1 Bald Eagle 1 Red-tailed Hawk 1 Clapper Rail 8 Common Gallinule 34 American Coot 86 American Oystercatcher 13 Grey Plover 5 Semipalmated Plover 60 Piping Plover 1 No apparent leg bands or flags. Killdeer 2 Greater Yellowlegs 15 Willet 28 Ruddy Turnstone 12 Sanderling 24 A surprisingly low count. Dunlin 808 A reasonably accurate count. Western Sandpiper 2 Short-billed Dowitcher 6 Wilson's Snipe 1 Laughing Gull 63 Ring-billed Gull 9 Herring Gull 1 Forster's Tern 15 Royal Tern 1 Great Horned Owl 2 Hooting at Garris Landing as the sun set. Belted Kingfisher 10 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 2 Eastern Phoebe 3 Blue Jay 8 American Crow 2 crow sp. 8 Tree Swallow 3 Carolina Wren 1 Grey Catbird 2 Brown Thrasher 1 Northern Mockingbird 5 Common Yellowthroat 2 Palm Warbler 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 19 Eastern Towhee 1 Chipping Sparrow 5 Savannah Sparrow 5 Song Sparrow 2 Swamp Sparrow 1 White-throated Sparrow 1 Northern Cardinal 2 Red-winged Blackbird 30 Boat-tailed Grackle 13 View this checklist online athttp://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S20713363 This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)