30 October 2015

Halloween survey...trick of the tides and treats reported by others on the island

Fri 30 Oct 2015

   What a beautiful day we had on Bulls Island today for the ongoing waterfowl/shorebird survey. The Spartina alterniflora, aka saltmarsh cordgrass, glows golden in the early morning and late afternoon sunlight that is slanting closer to the horizon. Large numbers of American Oystercatchers have begun arriving to their winter home in the refuge. A few late shorebird migrants are still passing through and many of the winter resident shorebirds are beginning to arrive in number. Waterfowl were very scarce, but I don't really expect them to arrive in appreciable numbers for about a month.

   Cherrie Sneed joined me for today's survey. Coastal Expeditions' Captain Richard Stuhr and First Mate Nick Johnson gave us a great ride out to the island with prolonged views of hundreds of shorebirds massing on the first few private docks north of Garris Landing and great views of bottle-nosed dolphin on the return trip. Thanks, CEX, for the continued support of our survey efforts. 

   Do check out CEX's early December excursion for Long-billed Curlews. Similar trips in previous years filled up, so go ahead and sign up soon to reserve your seat. See their web site at: http://www.bullsislandferry.com/

   We tallied 72 species on the day's outing, 63 species on the island, and 34 target species for the survey proper. Our eBird checklist for the island is appended, below, FYI. We found 6 Piping Plovers on the North Beach, two of which sported colored leg bands. And among the estimated 250 Dunlin on the North Beach, two had leg flags! I've never seen flagged Dunlin before, so I was keen to record that data. I was able to read one of the two flags before the flock flushed. I'll report these sightings to the USGS Banded Bird Lab. Other birds of interest included a few late season Semipalmated Sandpipers, Reddish Egrets, American Coot (FOS), Bald Eagles, and American Avocet. Similar to our mid-October survey findings, Jack's Creek was once again nearly devoid of birds; we saw only 35 individuals of 7 avian species in Jack's. The other impoundments were similarly showing very few birds.

   We didn't see the bird of the day, however…it  was one reported to us by Tony and Denise Hargrove of Asheville, NC, whom we met on the ferry. They found and photographed a White-winged Dove! Their eBird checklist should come out in a couple of day's, so look for their report.

   We also missed the best overall sighting of the day. The USF&WS maintenance guys Greg Geathers and Al each saw a coyote on Bulls today. We've been anticipating their arrival for many months. I don't know what, if any, control measures the office will endorse regarding coyotes. Maybe the coyotes will take some of the top predator role once played by the placed red wolves. Maybe they'll not hang around at all. Should be interesting to learn. 

   Different beachfronts along the island have been affected differently by the almost relentless high (king) tides, ocean winds, and deluges. The North Beach was minimally affected while much of the Boneyard Beach and front beach have been significantly eroded both vertically and horizontally. Jack's Creek remains very full of water; I suspect that the dike construction has been placed on hold until the water levels drop again. 

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

Mon 16 Nov 2015 predicted 5.6 ft high tide at 10:22 AM
Tues 17 Nov 2015 predicted 5.5 ft high tide at 11:13 AM

Stay tuned for final plans.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Oct 30, 2015 9:43 AM - 3:44 PM
Protocol: Traveling
13.999 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Cherrie Sneed. Effort: 11.5 mi and 1 hr 30 min by truck plus 2.5 mi and 4 hr by foot. Weather: sunny, 67 F to 73 F, NNW winds at 10 mph to 15 mph, barometer 30.00 in Hg and rising. Tide was forecast 6.5 ft high at 10:33 AM; Charleston harbor tide peaked at 6.8 ft at 10:30 AM.  <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3
63 species (+1 other taxa)

Gadwall  1     1 female.
Pied-billed Grebe  12
Wood Stork  2
Double-crested Cormorant  103     Counted some, estimated most.
Anhinga  2
American White Pelican  2
Brown Pelican  76
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  7
Snowy Egret  4
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  4
Reddish Egret  4
Black Vulture  4
Turkey Vulture  7
Osprey  2
Northern Harrier  2
Bald Eagle  3     2 mature plus 1 immature.
Clapper Rail  2
Common Gallinule  4
American Coot  27
American Avocet  2
Grey Plover  12
Semipalmated Plover  43
Piping Plover  6     Two birds with leg bands. First: Green, orange, Aluminum numbered, green with orange stripe on lower L, upper L, upper R, lower R leg, respectively. 2nd bird: blue over orange, NO BAND, Aluminum numbered, pale green on lower L, upper L, upper R, and lower R, respectively.
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet  2
Ruddy Turnstone  3
Sanderling  130     A fairly accurate estimate.
Dunlin  380     Two birds with flags. First: Flagged L leg, green flag, yellow code 'NNX' and Aluminum numbered band in upper R leg.  2nd bird: L leg, green flag with yellow code, unable to read code before this bird flushed.
Semipalmated Sandpiper  5     Seen on North Beach with Dunlin, Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover, and other shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Peep sandpiper, dark legs, short bill with slightly bulbous tip, obviously not a long decurved bill.
Western Sandpiper  8
peep sp.  10     Unable to ID to species at distance.
Short-billed Dowitcher  2
Laughing Gull  20
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  10
Caspian Tern  9
Royal Tern  87     A fairly accurate count.
Sandwich Tern  5
Mourning Dove  5
Belted Kingfisher  2
Eastern Phoebe  7
Blue Jay  1
Tree Swallow  30
Carolina Chickadee  2
House Wren  1
Carolina Wren  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Hermit Thrush  1
Grey Catbird  4
Northern Mockingbird  4
Common Yellowthroat  1
Palm Warbler  6
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  4
Seaside Sparrow  4
Chipping Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
Swamp Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  5
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Eastern Meadowlark  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  6

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

17 October 2015

16 Oct 2015 A slow day's birding survey after the recent deluge, but a few good sightings

Fri 16 Oct 2015

   Jill Midgett and Justin Johnson joined me today for the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. Coastal Expeditions (CEX), specifically Captain Richard Stuhr and First Mate Nick Johnson, treated us well in hauling us out to the island. Unfortunately, both Justin and I had to leave the island at the end of the day while Jill stayed. As a matter of fact, Jill is staying the whole weekend there on one of CEX's 3-day 2-night outings to Bulls. Sigh! Book your overnight outings early, very early. And check out CEX's very popular Long-billed Curlew excursion out of McClellenville scheduled for Sun 6 Dec 2015 (http://www.bullsislandferry.com/).

   Even after the recent heavy rains (1 Oct 2015 through 5 Oct 2015; 18 inches to 20 inches, maybe more), I find it amazing that Jack's Creek is COMPLETELY FULL of water again after several months of draw-down for the new dike construction, but it is. I suspect that the new dike construction will be postponed until the water levels can again be drawn down. It took months before. But…the island was in very good shape today given the record rainfall. Only the usual damp spots in the roads were still damp. The beaches received differing amounts of erosion that was greatest on the front beach (the largest front dunes almost completely eroded) and Boneyard Beach (about 10 yards of erosion) and least on the North Beach (only a small cut in the dunes). The maintenance crew, assisted by some of the CEX staff, have really worked hard and long repairing roads, inspecting dikes, repairing the docks, and cutting the grass.

   The birding on Bulls today was slow. We tallied 24 species on the ferry, 55 species on the island (our eBird checklist is appended below, FYI), 59 species on the day's outing, and only 30 target species on the survey proper. Our only waterfowl were two Blue-winged Teal (although several of the CEX folks reported seeing three Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at the Dominick House). We tallied only 9 total individuals of only 4 species in Jack's Creek! Upper Summerhouse Pond was similarly nearly devoid of birds. We saw only a few birds on the North Beach, but that did include 3 Piping Plovers (one of which sported leg bands). There were many birds on the sand bar offshore of the North Beach. We did have our first-of-season Dunlin and 8 Reddish Egrets. Other notable birds included a Peregrine Falcon, several Bald Eagles, and good numbers of Royal Terns.

   Our non-avian sightings included high numbers of butterflies (Monarch, gulf fritillary, zebra longwing, sulphur, buckeye, and others), a bobcat, and Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin. I also photographed two putative canine tracks in the dunes of the North Beach. 

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

Fri 30 Oct 2015 6.5 ft high tide forecast at 10:33 AM
Sat 31 Oct 2015 6.2 ft high tide forecast at 11:26 AM

Stay tune for updated plans.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Oct 16, 2015 9:56 AM - 2:56 PM
Protocol: Traveling
13.999 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Jill Midgett and Justin Johnson. Effort: 11.0 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 3.0 mi and 3 hr 30 min by foot. Weather: clear, sunny, light winds; temps 68 F to 81 F; winds W to SW at <= 4 mph; barometer 30.10 in Hg and steady. High tide was forecast 5.6 ft at 11:22 AM; Charleston harbor tide was 6.0 ft at 11:00 AM.  <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3
55 species

Blue-winged Teal  2
Pied-billed Grebe  4
Double-crested Cormorant  159     Total of some accurate counts plus some reasonable guesstimates.
American White Pelican  8
Brown Pelican  50
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  3
Snowy Egret  1
Little Blue Heron  1     1 immature.
Tricolored Heron  2
Reddish Egret  8     7 In the oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek, one on sandbar off North Beach.
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
White Ibis  8
Turkey Vulture  4
Osprey  2
Cooper's Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  3     3 mature.
Clapper Rail  2
Common Gallinule  24
American Avocet  2
Grey Plover  4
Semipalmated Plover  40
Piping Plover  3     One banded as follows: green, orange with a blue-green spot, Aluminum, and green with orange stripe for lower L, upper L, upper R, and lower R, respectively.
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Willet  21
Marbled Godwit  37     On sandbar off North Beach. A fairly accurate count.
Ruddy Turnstone  3
Sanderling  12
Dunlin  15     First of the season.
Semipalmated Sandpiper  2     Seen among numerous Western Sandpipers. Short straight bills.
Western Sandpiper  100
Short-billed Dowitcher  80
Laughing Gull  70
Herring Gull  4
Royal Tern  200     Estimate. Most flushed before a count could be attempted.
Sandwich Tern  3
Mourning Dove  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  6
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  2
Peregrine Falcon  1     1 immature.
Eastern Phoebe  8
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  800
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher  1
Grey Catbird  2
Brown Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
Palm Warbler  2
Seaside Sparrow  2
Savannah Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  20
Boat-tailed Grackle  3

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

02 October 2015

1 Oct 2015 survey a wet affair between king tides and persistent rains

Fri 2 Oct 2015

   Jeff Kline braved the weather forecast yesterday and joined me for the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. The temperature peaked at 77 °F at noon and began drooping to 71 °F with steady rain. I've been birding Bulls for many years and have had the great fortune to stay dry through most of that. Yesterday's rain was the most I've ever faced on the island, so I count my lucky stars that we had a vehicle to shield us from most of the rain. Coastal Expeditions (CEX), in particular Captain Wil Christenson and First Mate Nick Johnson, hauled us out to the island and back. We were fortunate to have Nick join us for the morning's birding effort before returning him to the dock for the noon ferry runs. Thanks, CEX.

   Still experiencing king tides due to last Sunday's super moon (a full moon at perigee, nominally the Harvest Moon, aka a blood moon due to the total lunar eclipse) and under steady north winds, yesterday's Charleston harbor tides were running 0.73 ft above prediction. Fortunately the North Beach seems to have weathered the recent king tides well showing no obvious erosion. We did see waves washing over the high high tide line and filling up the high tide pool there, and the waves were rolling directly into the oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek almost filling that marsh to the low dune line. Most of the birds typically at both of these locations were absent. Prior rains have added much water to Jack's Creek, enough to negatively affect the dike construction. With the weekend's very wet forecast, I believe that the folks building the dike will be taking a few days off.

   Birding was somewhat slow, no big surprise given the persistent rain. We tallied 28 species on the survey proper, 34 species on the island, and 18 species on the ferry. Our eBird checklist for the island is appended, below. The best sighting was a Peregrine Falcon apparently diving after a White Ibis. The falcon missed that catch but left us wondering why it would be chasing such a large bird. We also tallied 5 Reddish Egrets in Jack's Creek, two Bald Eagles perched together treetop, 100 Caspian Terns that formed the majority of a mixed flock of shorebirds/gulls/terns resting in Jack's, and a couple of Seaside Sparrows behind the island docks.

   Non avian sightings of interest were limited to a few butterflies that we saw before the rains began in earnest. Mosquitoes were about but mostly knocked down by the steady winds.

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

Th 15 Oct 2015 5.7 ft high tide forecast at 9:49 AM
Fri 16 Oct 2015 5.6 ft high tide forecast at 10:22 AM
Sat 17 Oct 2015 5.5 ft high tide forecast at 10:59 AM

Stay tuned for final plans.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Oct 1, 2015 9:30 AM - 2:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
13.999 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Jeff Kline. Effort: 1 hr 30 min and 12 mi by vehicle plus 3.0 hr and 2.0 mi by foot. Weather: heavy overcast, trace of rain in AM, rain beginning at noon; temps 75 F to 77 F at noon dropping to 71 F by 3:00 PM; winds N at 5 mph to 10 mph in AM increasing to 10 mph to 12 mph after noon; barometer steady at 29.77 in Hg. Tide was forecast 6.54 ft high at 10:56 AM, actual tide (Charleston harbor) 7.61 ft at 11:18 AM (flood stage is 7 ft).  <br />Submitted from BirdLog NA for iOS, version 1.6.3
34 species (+1 other taxa)

Mottled Duck  18
Blue-winged Teal  35
Wood Stork  6
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Brown Pelican  45
Great Blue Heron  6
Great Egret  19
Snowy Egret  25
Tricolored Heron  2
Reddish Egret  5
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
White Ibis  33
Osprey  3
Bald Eagle  2     2 mature
Grey Plover  2
Semipalmated Plover  55
Greater Yellowlegs  13
Willet  16
Ruddy Turnstone  2
Sanderling  2
Western Sandpiper  3
peep sp.  60     Western Sandpiper or Semipalmated Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher  3
Laughing Gull  31
Herring Gull  5
Caspian Tern  101     Most in a mixed flock with shorebirds, Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, Sandwich Tern, and Mottled Ducks.
Forster's Tern  9
Royal Tern  30
Sandwich Tern  1
Black Skimmer  35
Belted Kingfisher  4
Peregrine Falcon  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
Seaside Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  3

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