23 May 2015

Fri 22 May 2015 waterfowl/shorebird survey with many migrating shorebirds feeding on horseshoe crab eggs

Sat 23 May 2015

   Yesterday was sunny, windy, and merely warm on Bulls Island for the ongoing waterfowl/shorebird survey. Wil Christenson and I had a wonderful day exploring places and vistas that neither of us had ever explored before. Our ever-gracious sponsor Coastal Expeditions (CEX) got us out to the island and back on our own time schedule. Thanks, CEX, for your continuing support.

   We tallied 47 species on the survey proper, 60 species on the day's outing. Our combined eBird checklists for the Bulls Island Ferry and the Cape Romain NWR--Bull Island eBird hotspots is appended below, FYI. 

   With shorebird migration apparently continuing we focused primarily on the very drawn down Jack's Creek by walking well out into the exposed flats on both the ocean side and bay side of Jack's where we found thousands of shorebirds in a large mixed flock. 

   And since the horseshoe crabs are continuing to come ashore to lay eggs, and thus induce a feeding scrum of shorebirds, we walked along the North Beach well around to the back side of Bulls; there we saw another large (est. 1000) mixed flock of birds apparently taking great advantage of the horseshoe crab eggs. This flock would fly down to the water's edge, walk up the beach to the supralittoral zone (immediately above the spring high tide line) exploring for horseshoe eggs, then fly back to the water's edge to repeat the exercise. Fascinating to watch. In service to the horseshoe crabs, Wil and I returned three or four dozen stranded horseshoe crabs back to the water where most appeared to make it back into the drink. In doing so, we also, apparently, came close to a Wilson's Plover nest; both the male and female were doing their broken-wing dance to distract us from their nest (that we never saw). Pretty cool.

   Late spring shorebird migration appears to be continuing on Bulls. There were high numbers of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, and Dunlin. Small numbers of winter shorebird holdovers included Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, and even a Piping Plover. Waterfowl were represented only by summer resident Wood Duck (a.k.a. Summer Duck), Mottled Duck, and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. 

   Summer resident gulls, terns, and skimmers are picking up; we spied our first-of-year Black Terns. This is the second summer now with sightings of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks recorded on Bulls Island (look in Upper Summerhouse Pond along Turkey Walk Trail, especially on the seaward edge against the forest). Reddish Egret, seen in recent summers, have not yet arrived. 

   Non-avian sightings of note included loggerhead sea turtle, Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin, bonnethead shark, fox squirrel (eight of them!), American alligator (one of which raised its head to bellow), and many horseshoe crabs.

   Looking ahead at the tidal calendar suggests the following dates for our next survey:

Fri 5 June 2015 4.8 ft high tide predicted 10:18 AM
Sat 6 June 2015 4.8 ft high tide predicted 11:09 AM
Sun 7 June 2015 4.9 ft high tide predicted 12:04 PM


BirdLog Checklist Summary for: Friday, May 22 2015
Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Wil Christenson.

Number of Checklists: 2
Number of Species: 63

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Bull's Island Ferry
Date: May 22, 2015, 8:30
(2): Cape Romain NWR--Bull Island
Date: May 22, 2015, 9:10

2 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck -- (2)
7 Wood Duck -- (2)
62 Mottled Duck -- (2)
6 Black Scoter -- (2)
6 Double-crested Cormorant -- (1),(2)
1 Anhinga -- (2)
25 Brown Pelican -- (1),(2)
1 Least Bittern -- (2)
2 Great Blue Heron -- (2)
24 Great Egret -- (1),(2)
67 Snowy Egret -- (1),(2)
7 Tricolored Heron -- (1),(2)
9 Green Heron -- (2)
25 White Ibis -- (1),(2)
6 Glossy Ibis -- (1),(2)
1 Black Vulture -- (2)
6 Turkey Vulture -- (2)
1 Osprey -- (1)
4 Clapper Rail -- (2)
22 Common Gallinule -- (2)
52 Black-necked Stilt -- (2)
7 American Oystercatcher -- (1),(2)
50 Black-bellied Plover -- (1),(2)
7 Wilson's Plover -- (2)
785 Semipalmated Plover -- (1),(2)
1 Piping Plover -- (2)
2 Killdeer -- (2)
10 Spotted Sandpiper -- (1),(2)
1 Solitary Sandpiper -- (2)
2 Greater Yellowlegs -- (2)
4 Willet -- (2)
2 Lesser Yellowlegs -- (2)
4 Whimbrel -- (1),(2)
429 Ruddy Turnstone -- (1),(2)
539 Red Knot -- (2)
5 Sanderling -- (2)
779 Dunlin -- (1),(2)
12 Least Sandpiper -- (2)
1890 Semipalmated Sandpiper -- (2)
2350 peep sp. -- (2)
102 Short-billed Dowitcher -- (2)
24 Laughing Gull -- (1),(2)
7 Least Tern -- (2)
4 Gull-billed Tern -- (2)
3 Black Tern -- (2)
5 Common Tern -- (2)
8 Forster's Tern -- (1),(2)
116 Royal Tern -- (1),(2)
29 Sandwich Tern -- (2)
143 Black Skimmer -- (1),(2)
2 Yellow-billed Cuckoo -- (2)
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker -- (2)
2 Great Crested Flycatcher -- (2)
1 Eastern Kingbird -- (2)
4 Barn Swallow -- (2)
2 Marsh Wren -- (1)
1 Northern Parula -- (1)
3 Northern Cardinal -- (2)
1 Painted Bunting -- (2)
24 Red-winged Blackbird -- (1),(2)
12 Boat-tailed Grackle -- (2)
1 Brown-headed Cowbird -- (2)
2 Orchard Oriole -- (2)

This trip summary was created using the BirdLog app for iPhone and iPad.
See BirdLog for more information.

David C. McLean, Jr.

16 May 2015

Sat 16 May 2015 Bulls Bay Nature Festival birding and nature walk on Bulls Island

Sat 16 May 2015

   Wil Christenson and I co-lead today's birding and nature walk on Bulls Island for the 3rd Annual Bulls Bay Nature Festival. As one of the key sponsors of the Festival, Coastal Expeditions (CEX) got us out to the island and back with our group of 16 other birders. Bulls was busy today with overnight customers, a FULL 9 AM ferry of regular customers, plus two groups of Festival participants touring Bulls. (The other, larger group took a driving tour of the island with Bob Raynor.)

   We walked on our tour today through the picnic grounds, out Turkey Walk Trail, to the beachfront, and back along Beach Road. Upper Summerhouse Pond (USP) had the best birds of the day for us. We had brief scope views of a near Least Bittern, long scope views of a nearby Anhinga, good scope views of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (4) flying in and then floating at distance, good scope views of a male and female pair of Wood Ducks out in the middle of USP, and a quick flyover flock of Red Knots. 

   Other notable avian species included Gull-billed Terns, Caspian Tern, Whimbrel, Orchard Oriole, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and several Painted Buntings.

   Non avian sightings of note included Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin and fox squirrel. 


13 May 2015

12 May 2015 A first-on-Bulls (for me) species plus excellent learning opportunities (again, for me)

Wed 13 May 2015

   Yesterday Wil Christenson and I guided 10 U.S. Forest Service employees meeting an annual birding training benchmark. Fred Alsop, Ph.D, from East Tennessee State University was their leader. The Cape Romain NWR and the US Fish & Wildlife Service hosted the foresters for their training, and Wil and I lead them through Bulls Bay and Bulls Island looking for anything with feathers. 

   Following Wil's lead, we were able to walk well out into Jack's Creek across the drying, exposed bed that proved surprisingly supportive with little, if any, mud hampering our walk. I'll be much more adventuresome in going out into Jack's, now that it is so drawn down, rather than simply looking from the diked edges. This allowed us to get much closer to many of the shorebirds, and a few ducks, that are taking apparent great advantage of the drawn-down Jack's Creek. We also walked the North Beach well around the northern elbow and onto the back, bay side of the island where we bumped into a pair of College of Charleston students studying interactions between horseshoe crab egg laying and shorebirds. It happened to be mid-tide rising, and we saw several live horseshoe crabs on the beach literally walking around in circles. Several of these we carried back to the edge of the water to get them out of the sun and heat and to wet their gills. Figured if they still had any on-shore business they could simply come right on up again. Hope they completed their business and made it back to the ocean.

   After seeing a few Least Sandpipers and many Seimpalmated Sandpipers, I spied an obviously larger sandpiper that was heavily streaked on its throat and upper breast; had a long, decurved bill (very reminiscent of a Western Sandpiper); an elongated, slim look to its body due to a projection of wing primaries beyond tail retrices; and exhibiting a white rump with dark tail retrices when it flew. Scope views of very close birds with good binocular view in flight. A first-on-Bulls (for me) White-rumped Sandpiper, two of them, actually. 

   We also had excellent views of Common Terns (COTE), one on the North Beach and at least a dozen in Jack's Creek. The North Beach COTE was resting in a mixed flock of Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, and a Caspian Tern. A mature-plumaged COTE, its bill was a dark red-black color as were its short legs; it had a black cap and dark primary feathers folded over its tail. Overall it was a darker, duskier tern than a Forester's Tern. When scanning resting terns in Jack's later, numerous Common Terns were immediately evident to my eye due, primarily, to the dark primary feathers folded over the tail.

   Other interesting sightings on the day included a Bonaparte's Gull still in winter plumage in Jack's Creek, an American White Pelican (first since February this year), and a Saltmarsh Sparrow in Bulls Bay that Wil's boat identified and that my boat and passengers just missed.

   Not yet arrived but looking for any day now on Bulls: Black Tern and Reddish Egret.


11 May 2015

Sat 9 May 2015 foreshortened waterfowl/shorebird survey under tropical storm watch conditions. MANY shorebirds continue in Jack's Creek.

Mon 11 May 2015

   Pam Ford was able to join me this past Saturday 9 May 2015 for the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. Coastal Expeditions (CEX), gracious as always, got us out to Bulls and back. Given Tropical Storm Ana blowing offshore, a tropical storm watch for the S.C. coastline from Edisto Beach north, and rapidly changing forecasts, CEX made the only, and best, decision that they could to reschedule the last ferry leaving Bulls at 1:30 PM rather than the usual 4:00 PM. 

   New dike construction continues in Jack's Creek. We had a minor traffic jam with one of the contractor's trucks along one of the dikes. I took advantage of the encounter to have a brief discussion of the construction plans with him. He's built many of the dikes on Bulls through the years, including the dike where our traffic jam occurred. From his previous construction efforts he was expecting similar, sandy substrate to build this new dike. Unfortunately the sand that he's finding so far is much deeper than expected. The mud that he is finding is a much poorer substrate for dike construction; it drains very slowly and takes much longer to settle. They may be working on the new dike longer than originally planned.

   Taking advantage of the low water levels and new construction, we were able to walk well into one margin of Jack's Creek to scope the MANY shorebirds that continue to hang out there. Thanks, Wil, for that suggestion. 

   Given our foreshortened survey time we focused exclusively on Jack's Creek and the oceanfront marsh at Jack's. Nonetheless we tallied 47 species on the survey proper and 68 species on the day's outing. Our eBird checklists from both the ferry and Bulls are combined and appended, below, FYI. Avian species of note include Merlin (flyover at Garris Landing), Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Whimbrel, Red Knot, Sanderling, all three peep sandpipers (Western, Semipalmated, and Least), Long-billed Dowitcher, Bonaparte's Gull, and MANY Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, and Black Skimmers.

   Non-avian sightings of note include fox squirrel, raccoon, American alligator, and Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin. Given the windy conditions, mosquitoes were quick to take advantage of any lee side positions that we sought to reduce the wind vibrations on our scopes. 

   Looking ahead at the tidal calendar suggests the following dates for the next survey:

Wed 20 May 2015 tide forecast 5.0 ft high at 10:15 AM
Thurs 21 May 2015 tide forecast 4.8 ft high at 11:04 AM
Fri 22 May 2015 tide forecast 4.6 ft high at 11:53 AM
Sat 23 May 2015 tide forecast 4.5 ft high at 12:44 PM


BirdLog Checklist Summary for: Saturday, May 09 2015

Number of Checklists: 2
Number of Species: 68

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Cape Romain NWR--Bull Island
Date: May 9, 2015, 9:40
(2): Bull's Island Ferry
Date: May 9, 2015, 8:40

37 Mottled Duck -- (1)
2 Blue-winged Teal -- (1)
6 Northern Shoveler -- (1)
4 Lesser Scaup -- (1)
4 Red-breasted Merganser -- (1)
78 Double-crested Cormorant -- (1),(2)
1 Anhinga -- (1)
27 Brown Pelican -- (1),(2)
1 Least Bittern -- (1)
5 Great Blue Heron -- (1)
18 Great Egret -- (1),(2)
12 Snowy Egret -- (1)
1 Little Blue Heron -- (2)
10 Tricolored Heron -- (1),(2)
1 Green Heron -- (1)
1 Black-crowned Night-Heron -- (1)
1 Glossy Ibis -- (1)
8 Turkey Vulture -- (1),(2)
1 Black Vulture -- (1)
2 Osprey -- (1),(2)
1 Red-tailed Hawk -- (2)
1 Clapper Rail -- (1)
7 Common Gallinule -- (1)
1 American Coot -- (1)
10 Black-necked Stilt -- (1)
4 American Oystercatcher -- (1),(2)
21 Black-bellied Plover -- (1)
1510 Semipalmated Plover -- (1),(2)
9 Spotted Sandpiper -- (1),(2)
8 Willet -- (1)
32 Lesser Yellowlegs -- (1)
4 Whimbrel -- (1),(2)
26 Ruddy Turnstone -- (1),(2)
90 Red Knot -- (1)
1 Sanderling -- (1)
1016 Dunlin -- (1),(2)
39 Least Sandpiper -- (1)
305 Semipalmated Sandpiper -- (1)
9 Western Sandpiper -- (1)
400 peep sp. -- (1)
755 Short-billed Dowitcher -- (1),(2)
1 Long-billed Dowitcher -- (1)
2 Bonaparte's Gull -- (1)
61 Laughing Gull -- (1),(2)
3 Ring-billed Gull -- (1)
35 Least Tern -- (1),(2)
4 Gull-billed Tern -- (1)
1 Caspian Tern -- (1)
32 Forster's Tern -- (1),(2)
12 Royal Tern -- (1),(2)
9 Sandwich Tern -- (1)
327 Black Skimmer -- (1),(2)
2 Mourning Dove -- (1)
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo -- (1)
1 Merlin -- (2)
1 Great Crested Flycatcher -- (1)
1 White-eyed Vireo -- (2)
1 American Crow -- (2)
4 Tree Swallow -- (1),(2)
10 Barn Swallow -- (1),(2)
4 Marsh Wren -- (1)
1 Carolina Wren -- (2)
1 Northern Parula -- (2)
2 Northern Cardinal -- (1)
6 Painted Bunting -- (1),(2)
6 Red-winged Blackbird -- (1),(2)
4 Boat-tailed Grackle -- (1)
1 Orchard Oriole -- (1)

This trip summary was created using the BirdLog app for iPhone and iPad.
See BirdLog for more information.

David C. McLean, Jr.
Sent from my iPod

06 May 2015

Sun 3 May 2015. Charleston Spring Bird Count: Least Bitterns, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Surf Scoter, and Black Rail

Tues 5 May 2015

   On Sunday 3 May 2015 Wil Christenson and Starr Hazard joined me on Bulls Island to participate in the Charleston Spring Bird Count. As they have so wonderfully done before, Coastal Expeditions (CEX) was our boating sponsor, enabling us to set our own schedule over and back to Bulls. And the Cape Romain NWR/US Fish & Wildlife Service sponsored our truck transportation on the island. Many thanks, CEX and CRNWR/USF&WS!

   Sunday's effort was different from the waterfowl/shorebird surveys that I routinely conduct on Bulls. Using the same 15 mile diameter circle on the map as the Charleston Christmas Bird Count, the Charleston Spring Count surveys the same circle, including Bulls Island, and is scheduled in early May to target the peak spring migration through the S.C. Lowcountry. 

   Specifically for Bulls Island, the island is divided into North and South sections, each with it's own group of counters. The South section includes the landing dock on Bulls, the picnic grounds at the Dominick House, Beach Road out to the beach, and all areas south of that line; everything north of this Beach Road line from the landing out to the beach is the North section. I lead the group through the South section, and Mary Catherine Martin lead a group of three over the North section. That meant that we had six counters covering the two Bulls Island sections for the count. My report, here, covers the South section where we tallied 78 species on the day's outing (including the ferry ride between Garris Landing and Bulls Island). Our eBird checklists for both the Bulls Island Ferry and our South section of Bulls Island are appended, below, FYI. 

   We were especially grateful for an opportunity to bird sections of the island that we rarely are able to cover comprehensively on the waterfowl/shorebird surveys. In particular we very much enjoyed birding the picnic grounds at the Dominick House, one of my absolute favorite locations to bird along the entire S.C. coast. When you go birding on Bulls, make time (year-round!) to include the picnic grounds in your efforts (and the earlier in the AM the better, so begin your day's birding by spending quality time at the picnic grounds).

   Avian highlights on the day included Least Bittern (14 of 'em--our "trash bird" of the day!), Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Surf Scoter, Sandwich Tern, Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, Red-breasted Merganser, and Black Rail. 

   Non-avian sightings on the day included black racer (snake), fox squirrel, Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphin, loggerhead sea turtle, bobcat scat, butterflies, Carolina saddlebags and other dragonflies, damsel flies, and various and numerous amphibians taking great advantage of the generally well-hydrated island.



Bull's Island Ferry, Charleston, US-SC
May 3, 2015 8:30 AM - 8:56 AM
Protocol: Traveling
4.15 mile(s)
Comments:     With Wil Christenson and Starr Hazard. Weather: sunny and warm; 66 F; winds NW at 3 mph. Tide was forecast 4.8 ft high at 7:56 AM. <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3
19 species

Red-breasted Merganser  1
Wood Stork  1
Double-crested Cormorant  18
Brown Pelican  1
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  6
American Oystercatcher  2
Semipalmated Plover  18
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Willet  16
Whimbrel  10
Dunlin  10
Short-billed Dowitcher  60
Laughing Gull  15
Gull-billed Tern  4
Forster's Tern  19
Barn Swallow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, US-SC
May 3, 2015 9:19 AM - 3:33 PM
Protocol: Traveling
7.75 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the Spring Bird Count with David McLean and Star Hazard. Effort: One hour and 5.5 miles by car and 5 hours and  2.25  miles on foot. Weather: clear, sunny, and warm; temps 62 F to 76 F; winds S to SW at 5-10 mph; barometer 30.20 in Hg. Tide was forecast 4.8 ft high at 7:56 AM, 0.0 ft low at 1:59 PM.
 Submitted from  BirdLog NA for Android v1.9.6
70 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  7
Wood Duck  4
Mottled Duck  14
Blue-winged Teal  14
Surf Scoter  1     Black bird with yellow bill. sharply defined white patch on lower head and neck. white spot was taller than wide.   whitish trim at base of bill.  bird was also observed diving several times.  Pictures: <iframe src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/33478772@N05/17365246772/in/photostream/player/" width="640" height="426" frameborder="0"></iframe>
<iframe src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/33478772@N05/17179621910/in/photostream/player/" width="640" height="426" frameborder="0"></iframe>
<iframe src="https://www.flickr.com/photos/33478772@N05/16746915693/in/photostream/player/" width="640" height="426" frameborder="0"></iframe>
Black Scoter  150     Black birds with orange base on black bill.  Observed in large raft on ocean front. Good Views in Scope.  Too far for photos.
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Double-crested Cormorant  9
Anhinga  9
Brown Pelican  13
American Bittern  1
Least Bittern  14
Great Egret  8
Snowy Egret  3
Tricolored Heron  1
Cattle Egret  1
Green Heron  6
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
White Ibis  55
Glossy Ibis  3
Black Vulture  2
Turkey Vulture  6
Osprey  3
Bald Eagle  1
Black Rail  1     very smaill, dark rail. Smaller than Sora and chunky. Quick run across mud flat on salt marshs ide of impoundmemt followed by fast wingbeat , thirty yard flight to edge of spartina grass.
Common Gallinule  13
American Coot  4
Grey Plover  2
Spotted Sandpiper  5
Solitary Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Willet  4
Lesser Yellowlegs  1
Whimbrel  4
Sanderling  12
Laughing Gull  18
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  1
Least Tern  1
Forster's Tern  3
Royal Tern  1
Sandwich Tern  6
Black Skimmer  50     a conservative estimate.  On the sandbar at Price Inlet.
Mourning Dove  1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Red-headed Woodpecker  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  5
Great Crested Flycatcher  6
Eastern Kingbird  2
Blue Jay  5
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  12
Carolina Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  9
Carolina Wren  1
Brown Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
Common Yellowthroat  3
Northern Parula  7
Chipping Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  6
Blue Grosbeak  3
Indigo Bunting  3
Painted Bunting  6
Red-winged Blackbird  75
Common Grackle  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)