19 June 2015

19 June 2015 Bulls Island birds in full summer mode

Fri 19 June 2015

   John Ptolemy joined me today for the Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. Wil Christenson had on his Captain's hat today operating the Coastal Expeditions (CEX) ferry along with first mate Nick Johnson. They graciously got us out to the island and back, but Wil was unable to join us on the survey. Many thanks to CEX for their generous and ongoing support. 

   As a brief (and frankly shameless) plug, check out CEX's Cape Romain Lighthouse tour scheduled for this Sunday 21 June 2015, Father's Day: http://www.bullsislandferry.com/index.php?page=Cape-Romain-Lighthouses-Tour. It is a special treat as they are allowed to have only four such lighthouse tours annually.

   Jack's Creek is about to completely dry up excepting the marginal ditches (most created during earlier dike construction, I believe) and the new ditches being dug to build the new dike. The two Mottled Ducks that we saw in Jack's were pathetically standing around on the drying mud rather than doing ducky things in any of the other impoundments that are holding high quality water. The intense heat and sun are undoubtedly causing rapid evaporation across the island, but all of the other impoundments not affected by dike failure (Pool 3) or let-down (Jack's) are still holding their water levels fairly well.

   It seems that the Bulls Island birds are in full summer mode, entirely appropriate since the summer solstice is in two days. Shorebird migration that was so great through May (peaking with 7572 surveyed individuals on 15 May 2015) has mostly finished (841 total survey individuals today). We had 51 species on the day's outing, 49 species on the island, and 35 species on the survey proper. We had few non-target species. Our eBird checklist from the island is appended, below, FYI. 

   Bird of the day was definitely the pair of American Avocets vigorously foraging in the very little water left in Jack's Creek. Other notable avian sightings included numerous juvenile Black-bellied Plovers (listed below as Grey Plover, a persistent quirk that eBird throws at me), White-rumped Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Red Knots, Sanderlings, Short-billed Dowitchers, Common Terns, and a Swallow-tailed Kite.

   Avian misses included Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Reddish Egret, Black Tern, and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. 

   Non-avian sightings included fox squirrels, horseshoe crab (just one, I suppose that egg laying is largely over for this season), bottle-nosed dolphin (including a large pod of well more than 6 seen at shark hole immediately behind Bulls; Wil suggested that such large pods usually indicate the offshore population uncharacteristically coming inshore), loggerhead turtles (seen from the ferry), various dragonflies and butterflies, and American alligators (all staying cool in the water).

   No plans yet for the next survey. I'll study the tidal calendars and send out a recruitment email later.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jun 19, 2015 9:37 AM - 3:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
13.899 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with John Ptolemy. Effort: 9.4 mi and 1 hr 30 min by truck plus 4.5 mi and 4 hr 15 min by foot. Weather: sunny and hot; temps 83 F to 86 F; winds S at 10 mph with gusts to 14 mph; barometer falling from 30.07 in Hg. High tide was forecast 4.65 ft at 10:37 AM.  <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3
49 species

Mottled Duck  2
Wood Stork  9
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Anhinga  9
Brown Pelican  56
Least Bittern  3
Great Egret  30
Snowy Egret  63
Tricolored Heron  9
Green Heron  3
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  7
Turkey Vulture  2
Osprey  1
Swallow-tailed Kite  1
Common Gallinule  6
Black-necked Stilt  24     A fairly accurate count.
American Avocet  2     Orange/brown head, recurved bill, black and white body plumage.
American Oystercatcher  4
Grey Plover  79     2 in full alternate plumage, 1 in partial alternate plumage, and 76 likely juveniles.
Wilson's Plover  7
Semipalmated Plover  45     A fairly accurate count.
Killdeer  2
Willet  11
Ruddy Turnstone  5     An accurate count.
Red Knot  3     Rusty breast, straight intermediate bill. An accurate count.
Sanderling  12     A fairly accurate count.
White-rumped Sandpiper  2     Scoped side-by-side with Semipalmated Sandpipers. WRSA were distinctly larger, with wing tips extending beyond tail, and  had slightly decurved bill tip.
Semipalmated Sandpiper  25
Short-billed Dowitcher  220     A fairly accurate count.
Laughing Gull  73
Gull-billed Tern  6
Caspian Tern  2     Larger than nearby Royal Terns, deep red bill.
Common Tern  6     Short legs, red and black bill, long primary extension. Scoped side-by-side with Royal Terns and near to Sandwich Terns for easy comparisons.
Forster's Tern  4
Royal Tern  109
Sandwich Tern  26
Black Skimmer  41
Mourning Dove  3
Great Crested Flycatcher  2
Barn Swallow  5
Marsh Wren  4
Northern Mockingbird  2
Northern Cardinal  3
Painted Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  30
Common Grackle  2
Boat-tailed Grackle  7
Orchard Oriole  4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (/content/iss)

05 June 2015

Fri 5 June 2015 waterfowl/shorebird survey, many fewer shorebirds plus a new species added to the survey list

Fri 5 June 2015

   Kathy Greider and Jack Rogers joined me today for the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. Coastal Expeditions (CEX) ferried us out and back on their regular ferry service; thanks, CEX!

   We tallied 65 species on the day's outing, 59 species on Bulls Island, and 40 species on the survey proper. Our eBird checklist for the island is appended below, FYI. Where we had large (3000 to 6600) mixed flocks of shorebirds in the mudflats of Jack's Creek since late March we tallied fewer than 100 birds in all of Jack's Creek today, mostly the expected summer residents. The North Beach had good numbers of the usual summer resident species plus it offered a special treat for all of us. 

   We added a new species to the survey today, one that was a life list species for me. While on the North Beach Jack noticed and called out a tern flying over our shoulder over the dunes…a Sooty Tern. We all had good binocular views of that elegant tern before I watched it disappear from my scope over Bulls Bay in the direction of the large sand bar. See the checklist below for the details that we recorded for this sighting. (And thanks to Nate Dias for helping with this ID. We initially thought Bridled Tern, Jack posted the sighting on a pelagic bird listserv, and Nate replied that Sooty Tern was more likely. Two strikingly similar species, but our very-dark-(almost-black)-backed bird did fit Sooty Tern much better than it did a dark-gray-backed Bridled Tern.)

   Other notable avian sightings on the day included a persistently calling King Rail (just outside of the survey in the saltmarsh edge of Bulls Bay) [With thanks to Aaron Given, who noted that some King Rail calls and some Clapper Rail calls are very similar, the King Rail entry on eBird has been changed to "large rail sp. Rallus sp." Correction added Mon 8 June 2015.], Black-bellied Whistling Duck,  Black Scoter, first-of-season (FOS) Reddish Egret, Piping Plover (reported to us by the day's turtle patrol volunteer, Melissa Bimbi), Sanderling, Short-billed Dowithcher, Marbled Godwit, and Great Black-backed Gull (immature). 

   Notable avian misses included Black Tern, Least Tern, and Spotted Sandpiper.

   Non-avian sightings of interest included fox squirrel, black racer (snake), bobcat scat, horseshoe crabs (several of which we flipped over to facilitate their return to the ocean), and bottle-nosed dolphin (one of which performed a full breach jump out of the water--eat your heart out, Sea World!). Oh, and American alligators, so many alligators. And the turtle patrol folks reported five nests yesterday and four today.

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

Fri 19 June 2015, 4.7 ft high tide forecast at 10:37 AM
Sat 20 June 2015, 4.6 ft high tide forecast at 11:24 AM
Sun 21 June 2015, 4.5 ft high tide forecast at 12:10 PM



Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jun 5, 2015 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.199 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Kathy Greider and Jack Rogers. Effort: 8.7 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 3.5 mi and 4 hr 30 min by foot. Weather: heavy overcast very early with trace of rain but quickly clearing to mostly sunny and warm; temps 70 F to 79 F; N winds at 8 mph with gusts to 13 mph; barometer 29.90 in Hg. Tide was forecast 4.76 ft high at 10:18 AM.  <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3
59 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Mottled Duck  20
Black Scoter  8     Scope view of all Black Sea ducks, some on beach and some swimming beyond the breakers.
Double-crested Cormorant  6
Anhinga  8
Brown Pelican  49
Least Bittern  4
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  3
Snowy Egret  22
Tricolored Heron  8
Reddish Egret  1
Green Heron  6
Black-crowned Night-Heron  5
White Ibis  13
Glossy Ibis  1
Black Vulture  2
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  4
King Rail  1     Heard repeatedly calling from salt water marsh.
Clapper Rail  3
Common Gallinule  9
Black-necked Stilt  19
American Oystercatcher  12
Grey Plover  6     All showing nonbreeding plumage.
Wilson's Plover  8
Semipalmated Plover  115     A fairly accurate count.
Killdeer  2
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet  10
Lesser Yellowlegs  1     Scope view, seen side-by-side with a Greater Yellowlegs.
Marbled Godwit  1
Ruddy Turnstone  15     A fairly accurate count.
Sanderling  20     Breeding plumage, fly-by on North Beach.
Semipalmated Sandpiper  50
Short-billed Dowitcher  84     Good scope views both on wing and resting on the sand. Also heard.
Laughing Gull  253
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Sooty Tern  1     Flyover. Dark gray almost black upperside, slim and elegant shape, deeply forked tail, white underside with dark gray wing tips beneath, black streak through eye, white forehead, very strongly contrasted between dorsal and ventral sides.
Gull-billed Tern  4
Forster's Tern  2
Royal Tern  223     Some observed mating.
Sandwich Tern  22
Black Skimmer  27
Mourning Dove  12
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  3
Common Nighthawk  7     Heard in several different locations across the island, saw at least 4.
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  5
Purple Martin  7
Barn Swallow  20
Marsh Wren  3
Northern Mockingbird  4     One heard mimicking both a Brown-headed Nuthatch and an Eastern Whip-poor-will.
Pine Warbler  1
Northern Cardinal  7
Painted Bunting  8
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Boat-tailed Grackle  6
Orchard Oriole  10

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (/content/iss)