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.