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)
Wil Christenson, Eliese Ronke, and Olivia Wilson joined me today for the BullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. Coastal Expeditions' (CEX) Captain Richard Stuhr and First Mate Olivia Wilson graciously got us out to the island and back. CEX's Captain Chris Crolley gave us a sendoff and a great heads-up on where to look for the returning waterfowl. As always I am very grateful for CEX's expertise, interest, and service.
We had a sneaky good tally of 44 target species on the survey proper and 82 species on the whole day's outing. Our eBird checklist for the day is appended, below, FYI. Waterfowl have begun returning to BullsIsland and winteringshorebird species are increasing. (Maybe they've sensed that major cold front barreling down from Canada and moved ahead of that weather. Who knows?)
We all had excellent scope views of an American Bittern that flushed across a narrow ditch and perched high in the grasses of Jack's Creek. The most unexpected sighting was a White-winged Scoter in Upper Summerhouse Pond. Other sightings of note included either first-of-season (FOS) or first high counts of wintering species including: Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Bufflehead, American Black Duck, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Dunlin, Northern Shoveler, Bonaparte's Gull, Horned Grebe, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, and Common Loon.
Upper Summerhouse Pond (USP) continues to impress with a wide variety of shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, and passerines. There is an ongoing algal bloom in parts of USP leaving me wondering whether is is a salt water (likely) or fresh water (much less likely) bloom. I really need to get a refractometer so that I can read salinities in the impoundments. There was a large mixed flock of shorebirds in the oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek that was flushed by a Peregrine Falcon before we got a scope on them; after that flush, the marsh was all but empty of shorebirds and was as quiet (bird wise) as I ever remember.
Non avian sightings included long-tailed skippers, Monarch butterflies, Gulf fritillaries, yellow sulfur butterflies, carpenter bees, a fox squirrel, baby American alligators (count of 23), many adult gators (Wil had to literally kick one gator's tail out of the way so that the truck could just squeeze by), a pair of shrews (likely--heard only), and a relatively fresh marine mammal stranding on the North Beach--an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin.
Looking ahead at the tide calendar suggests the following dates for our next survey:
Tues 25 Nov high tide 6.1 ft at 9:24 AM
Wed 26 Nov high tide 5.9 ft at 10:15 AM
Fri 28 Nov high tide 5.6 ft at 12:10 PM
Stay tuned for final plans.
Cape Romain NWR--BullsIsland, Charleston, US-SC Nov 11, 2014 8:50 AM - 4:11 PM Protocol: Traveling 16.0 mile(s) Comments: Conducting the ongoingBullsIslandwaterfowl/shorebirdsurvey. Effort: 4.15 mi (one way) and 35 min by ferry plus 9.9 mi and 2 hr by truck plus 2.0 mi and 4 hr 46 min by foot. Weather: mostly overcast with brief full sunlight; temps 58 F to 76 F; winds N at <= 5 mph; barometer at 29.85 in Hg and steady. High tide was forecast forecast to be 5.6 ft at 10:30 AM. Observed tides (in Charleston harbor) ran to 6.7 ft at 11:06 AM. <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3 82 species American Wigeon 2 American Black Duck 8 Mottled Duck 1 Blue-winged Teal 3 Northern Shoveler 60 Green-winged Teal 130 Redhead 5 Lesser Scaup 8 White-winged Scoter 1 Bufflehead 33 A fairly accurate count. Red-breasted Merganser 4 Ruddy Duck 33 A fairly accurate count. Common Loon 1 Pied-billed Grebe 70 Spread over several impoundments. Horned Grebe 1 Wood Stork 3 Double-crested Cormorant 95 Anhinga 2 Brown Pelican 51 American Bittern 1 Great Blue Heron 10 Great Egret 10 Snowy Egret 11 Little Blue Heron 12 Tricolored Heron 31 A fairly accurate count. Black-crowned Night-Heron 1 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1 White Ibis 29 Turkey Vulture 15 Osprey 1 Northern Harrier 3 Cooper's Hawk 1 Bald Eagle 4 2 mature, 2 immature Red-tailed Hawk 1 Clapper Rail 6 Common Gallinule 33 American Coot 52 American Oystercatcher 200 One large parcel resting on an oyster shell rake across from Garris Landing. The same whole parcel took to the wing twice allowing a better estimate than the resting parcel. Grey Plover 2 Semipalmated Plover 200 Piping Plover 5 None appeared to have leg bands or flags. Killdeer 1 Spotted Sandpiper 1 Greater Yellowlegs 43 Willet 50 Lesser Yellowlegs 10 Ruddy Turnstone 13 Sanderling 26 Most on the North Beach. A fairly accurate count. Dunlin 980 Most on the North Beach. An estimate. Western Sandpiper 12 Short-billed Dowitcher 24 Bonaparte's Gull 2 Laughing Gull 38 Ring-billed Gull 1 Herring Gull 10 Forster's Tern 3 Mourning Dove 1 Belted Kingfisher 7 Red-bellied Woodpecker 1 Peregrine Falcon 1 Eastern Phoebe 8 Blue Jay 1 Fish Crow 4 Tree Swallow 40 Carolina Chickadee 1 House Wren 1 Sedge Wren 1 Carolina Wren 1 Blue-grey Gnatcatcher 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 Grey Catbird 2 Northern Mockingbird 6 Orange-crowned Warbler 1 Common Yellowthroat 1 Palm Warbler 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 26 Chipping Sparrow 1 Savannah Sparrow 4 Seaside Sparrow 23 Swamp Sparrow 5 Red-winged Blackbird 70 Boat-tailed Grackle 6 View this checklist online athttp://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S20520672 This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)