Yesterday Wil Christenson, formerly the Captain of the Coastal Expeditions (CEX) ferry, and Olivia Wilson, the current First Mate of the CEX ferry, joined me for the BullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. CEX owner Chris Crolley was at Garris Landing to give us a good send off with his long-ago Captain Al back at the helm (apologies, but I can't recall Al's last name) and Naturalist/Guide Gates Roll back from his recent wedding. CEX gave us their usual top-notch service in getting us out to Bulls and back.
We tallied 35 target species on the survey proper, 58 species overall; our eBird checklist on the whole day's outing is appended, below, FYI. Shorebird migration seems to be past peak and several of the usual summer resident birds appear to have left. Avian highlights include good numbers of Pied-billed Grebes, 6 Reddish Egrets, many Common Gallinules, American Coot, Sora, Common Tern, Roseate Spoonbill, American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon (one resting on the North Beach--strange how there were almost no small shorebirds within sight there ;-)) , Merlin (it was a terrific day for raptors!), Seaside Sparrow, and Bobolink.
Summer avian residents apparently now gone include Wilson's Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Least Tern, Gull-billed Tern, and Black Tern.
Non-avian sightings included at least 25 American alligators at the trunk connecting Jack's Creek and BullsBay, Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin, love bugs, and mosquitos.
The recent breach at the SW corner of Upper Summerhouse Pond (USP) has been repaired and a new drain (not a trunk but a metal drain pipe, ostensibly functioning as an overflow outlet from USP to the salt marsh) has been placed in the extreme SE corner of USP. The water level has risen a bit in USP due to, I suspect, recent rains. An impressive and quick repair given the tight budgets that the refuge has been working under!
I lead a Carolina Bird Club field trip out to BullsIsland today on a CEX charter. With 16 great birders in total and an exceptional CEX guide in Chris Crolley, we tallied 85 species on the day! I'm taking another CBC field trip out to Bulls tomorrow where we'll try for an even larger tally, so here's hoping that Chris dreams about sparrows again tonight.
Looking forward at the tide calendar and my own calendar suggests the following possible dates for our nextsurvey:
Monday 13 Oct 2014 high tide of 5.8 ft at 12:07 PM
Tuesday 14 Oct 2014 high tide of 5.5 ft at 12:59 PM
High tides on these dates are slightly later than we typically access, but I have other plans for the preceding several days that will prevent me from going until Monday or Tuesday. Stay tuned for final plans.
Cape Romain NWR--BullsIsland, Charleston, US-SC Sep 25, 2014 8:40 AM - 4:54 PM Protocol: Traveling 17.899 mile(s) Comments: Conducting the ongoingBullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. Effort: 4.15 mi (one way) and 1 hr by ferry plus 11.2 mi and 2 hr by vehicle plus 2.5 mi and 5 hr 15 min by foot. Weather: overcast, misty/foggy early, and cool; temps 67 F to 75 F; NW winds at 10 mph. High tide was forecast to be 5.7 ft at 9:04 AM. <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3 58 species Wood Duck 2 Pied-billed Grebe 22 Distinct profile, many locations. Double-crested Cormorant 12 A fairly accurate count. Anhinga 2 American White Pelican 40 Brown Pelican 72 Great Blue Heron 3 Great Egret 36 Snowy Egret 39 Little Blue Heron 1 Tricolored Heron 19 Reddish Egret 6 In the saltwater marsh oceanfront at Jack's Creek. An accurate count. Green Heron 3 Black-crowned Night-Heron 4 White Ibis 1 Glossy Ibis 1 Roseate Spoonbill 1 Turkey Vulture 6 Osprey 1 Bald Eagle 2 2 mature Red-shouldered Hawk 2 Red-tailed Hawk 1 Clapper Rail 14 Sora 1 Common Gallinule 61 All over theisland. American Coot 3 Black rail, white bill. Grey Plover 9 Semipalmated Plover 160 Likely underestimated from a large flock of uniformly sized and shaped shorebirds seen at distance on the wing where only about a quarter could be positively identified before the flock landed out of sight. Spotted Sandpiper 1 Greater Yellowlegs 2 Willet 204 Many lining a private dock along the Intracoastal Waterway at high tide. Marbled Godwit 3 Ruddy Turnstone 29 Most beachfront, a fairly accurate count. Sanderling 36 Most on the North Beach. Western Sandpiper 7 Laughing Gull 25 Herring Gull 1 Caspian Tern 3 Common Tern 4 Forster's Tern 34 Royal Tern 44 Sandwich Tern 3 Mourning Dove 5 Belted Kingfisher 10 Merlin 5 Peregrine Falcon 2 Blue Jay 1 Tree Swallow 1 Carolina Wren 1 Northern Mockingbird 2 Common Yellowthroat 2 American Redstart 1 Palm Warbler 4 Seaside Sparrow 1 Northern Cardinal 3 Bobolink 12 Red-winged Blackbird 24 Boat-tailed Grackle 4 View this checklist online athttp://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S19951688 This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)
Eliese Ronke joined me today for the ongoing BullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. Eliese recently arrived at the USF&WS Cape Romain offices as an SCA (Student Conservation Association?) volunteer intern. She'll be working at Cape Romain NWR through November and hopefully will be joining us again for the survey.
Coastal Expeditions (CEX) once again graciously gave us their best services in getting us out to the islandand back. Many thanks to both Captain Dan and First Mate/Naturalist Olivia Wilson. Their new Carolina Skiff is a really nice ride! CEX has a very busy weekend ahead of themselves with a sunrise beach drop to BullsIslandtomorrow morning, their usual Saturday BullsIsland ferry runs, and their quarterly Cape Island lighthouse charter from McClellanville to the Cape Romain lighthouse on Sunday. All this will be going on while one of their own gets married Saturday! Congratulations, Gates Roll!
We tallied 47 target species on today's survey and 59 species overall. Our eBird checklist is appended, below. Avian highlights include: 1 American Bittern, 3 Reddish Egrets, 7 Piping Plovers (none with apparent leg bands or flags), 268 Marbled Godwits (I sure hope that I didn't miss Long-billed Curlews resting in plain sight but with their bills tucked on their backs, but I looked as closely as I could at each.), 2 Pectoral Sandpipers, all three peeps (We actually had 1 Western Sandpiper plus 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper plus 1 Least Sandpiper in one, close, scope view in excellent light.), 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 40 Caspian Terns, 102 Common Terns, 1 Bonaparte's Gull, and 13 Roseate Spoonbills.
Avian misses (and near-misses) include: Double-crested Cormorant (2), Least Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Mottled Duck, Black-necked Stilt (1), and Least Tern (1).
Non-avian sightings included: Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin; American alligator (no surprise there); one small, unidentified snake; and butterflies and dragonflies. The mosquitoes and deer flies were the most numerous I've had this summer, though I still abstained from using repellent on my exposed skin. We missed seeing any fox squirrels.
We spoke briefly with two SC DNR law enforcement officers who, along with colleagues flying low and wide over Bulls Bay, were on the lookout for shrimp baiters out before today's noon starting time of the shrimp baiting season.
Much to my great and pleasant surprise, the breached dike at Upper Summerhouse Pond (USP) has been repaired! They've removed the damaged trunk and completely filled in the breached site. I understand from CEX's Olivia that they are installing a new trunk further out and around Summerhouse Road (that I didn't actually see today). The residual water in USP is, from two or three weeks of tidal influence, undoubtedly saline and remains very low. I don't know if there is any current salt water influence at the site of the new trunk going in, but likely not much if any. I don't know what their plan (or hope?) for restoring a brackish (or fresh?) water salinity in the impoundment is, but they've really surprised and impressed me with their repair efforts so far, especially with both low funding and so few employees. I was so convinced that USP would be under tidal influence for months, but they showed me otherwise!
Looking ahead at both the tidal calendar and my own calendar suggests the following dates for our nextsurvey:
Thursday 25 Sept 2014 high tide forecast 5.7 ft at 9:04 AM
Monday 29 Sept 2014 high tide forecast 5.7 ft at 11:39 AM
I'll be leading field trips out to BullsIsland on both Friday and Saturday 26 and 27 Sept 2014 for the Carolina Bird Club's fall meeting in Charleston, so I'll not be able to complete the survey either of those two days. Furthermore, I'm completely disinclined to ask anyone to haul me out there on any Sunday. Though the tide on Thursday will be somewhat earlier in the day than usual for our survey, that seems the most likely date, but stay tuned.
I'm cross posting this to Carolinabirds for those CBCers coming to Bulls in two weeks. Looking forward to those outings!
Cape Romain NWR--BullsIsland, Charleston, US-SC Sep 12, 2014 8:35 AM - 4:35 PM Protocol: Traveling 16.499 mile(s) Comments: Conducting the ongoingBullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. Effort: 4.15 mi (one way) and 1 hr by ferry plus 10.1 mi and 2 hr by vehicle plus 2.75 mi and 5 hr by foot. Weather: sunny and very warm to hot, humid; temps 79 F to 91 F; AM winds SW <5 mph, PM winds shifting to S at <10 mph. High tide was forecast to be 6.2 ft at 10:57 AM. The breached dike at Upper Summerhouse Pond from approximately 3 weeks ago has been repaired but without a trunk; a new trunk is being installed further out Summerhouse Road. <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3 59 species (+1 other taxa) Wood Duck 1 Blue-winged Teal 1 Pied-billed Grebe 5 Wood Stork 4 Double-crested Cormorant 2 Anhinga 4 American White Pelican 40 Brown Pelican 195 Many onBullsBay sand bar off North Beach, many on front beach at Jack's Creek, and scattered others. American Bittern 1 Large bittern seen on wing. Distinctly too large and lacking cinnamon-colored back to be Least Bittern. Elongated/pointy neck-and-bill. Flushed from beside dike, flew short distance into grass and disappeared. Great Blue Heron 5 Great Egret 21 Snowy Egret 42 Little Blue Heron 1 Tricolored Heron 7 Reddish Egret 3 Green Heron 3 Black-crowned Night-Heron 10 White Ibis 7 Roseate Spoonbill 13 Accurate count. 5 in oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek plus 8 in Upper Summerhouse Pond. All distinctly PINK and with spoon-shaped bills. Turkey Vulture 8 Osprey 2 Clapper Rail (Atlantic Coast) 6 Saw 1, heard the others. Common Gallinule 28 American Coot 2 Rail, white bill. Black-necked Stilt 1 American Oystercatcher 2 Grey Plover 38 Semipalmated Plover 315 Estimated 30 on North Beach, fairly accurate count of 285 in oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek. Piping Plover 7 No apparent leg bands or flags. Spotted Sandpiper 2 Greater Yellowlegs 3 Willet 83 Most resting on private dock just North of the dock at Garris Landing. Marbled Godwit 268 A fairly accurate count. Many resting with bill tucked onto back; all showing bill were scrutinized for possible Long-billed Curlew, but no LBCU seen. Ruddy Turnstone 11 Sanderling 16 Least Sandpiper 1 Pectoral Sandpiper 2 Semipalmated Sandpiper 1 Western Sandpiper 12 peep sp. 40 Either WESA or SESA but too distant to be more specific. . Short-billed Dowitcher 75 Bonaparte's Gull 1 Small gull (compared directly to very nearby Laughing Gulls), white head plumage, dark plumage spot behind eye, light back plumage, dark primaries folded over equal-length tail, dark legs. Laughing Gull 120 Great Black-backed Gull 1 Least Tern 1 Caspian Tern 40 Black Tern 300 Most in the oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek. Common Tern 102 Good scope views of both resting and flying COTE. Dark primaries easily seen on folded wings and in flight; most resting showed dark carpel smudge. Forster's Tern 37 Royal Tern 133 Sandwich Tern 8 Black Skimmer 100 Mourning Dove 2 Belted Kingfisher 2 Carolina Chickadee 1 Northern Mockingbird 1 Northern Cardinal 4 Bobolink 1 Red-winged Blackbird 2 Boat-tailed Grackle 30 View this checklist online athttp://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S19813437 This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)