18 November 2015

Tues 17 Nov 2015 survey: Lowcountry snow, coyote tracks, ducks returning, and a very special Piping Plover

Tues 17 Nov 2015

   Wil Christenson and Katy Nelligan, the new education intern from the Sewee Center, joined me today for the ongoing waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls. Wil and Coastal Expeditions (CEX) once again got us out to the island and back. [Check out CEX's upcoming Long-billed Curlew boat expedition scheduled for Sun 6 Dec at www.bullsislandferry.com!] Thanks, CEX! 

   Although this was Katy's first birding trip, she has extensive experience in many other naturalist fields and was quickly picking up new birds with almost every look. Though she has actually held baby alligators in her own hands for teaching (consider me envious), she'd never seen full-sized adult alligators, so she really enjoyed seeing some of Bulls' specimens, especially the ones that we walked past that were only 5 feet away and eyeing us closely! Wil and Katy both hail from Wisconsin so they had a great time reminiscing about homesteads way up there in the cold, cold north somewhere.

   The birding on Bulls has picked up from the fairly slow month of October. We tallied 26 species on the ferry, 40 species on the survey, proper, and 59 species on the island as a whole. Our eBird checklist from the island (thanks, Wil, for making, submitting, and sharing the eBird checklists today) is appended below, FYI. Waterfowl have begun to return to Bulls with many Gadwall and Green-winged Teal along with several other waterfowl species. Dunlin have returned in good numbers, and we had good looks at American Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Piping Plover, Reddish Egret, and Least Sandpipers today.

   On each of the last three surveys, including today's, we've seen one banded Piping Plover (PIPL) each time and in the same location on the North Beach. We've also seen a second banded PIPL also on the North Beach. I submitted a sighting report for both of those birds through the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory and received the following report back from Alice Van Zoeren of the Great Lakes Piping Plover Banding Program who banded those birds as hatchlings in the state of Michigan. The individual that we've now seen three times here was hatched and banded in 2015 in Muskegon, MI, so is a young one. The second PIPL is a bit more special to Alice as indicated in her email reply to me:

"I'm very glad to hear about the second plover you listed. I've been waiting to hear that he made it south!  BO:X,g is my very favorite. He's currently the oldest plover in the Great Lakes population at 13. He hatched in 2002 near the mouth of the Platte River in Benzie County, MI (not the Platte you've heard of) and returned to that area to breed in 2005. He's been there every summer since. I'll attach a photo I took of him last spring in breeding plumage for your enjoyment." 

   As it happens, I've seen and reported on this very same PIPL before from our survey on 19 Oct 2012. Here is Alice's picture of "BO:X,g Just back to Platte," taken 14 Apr 2015 showing his full alternate (breeding) plumage that she's allowed me to use.

   Non-avian sightings on the day included Lowcountry snow (the flowering Baccharis halimifolia, a.k.a. Groundsel, was shedding its seeds to the wind); white-tailed deer (the archers harvested only three deer over their recent hunt; the second seasonal hunt is scheduled for early December); fox squirrel; Monarch, Gulf fritillary, and yellow sulphur butterflies; numerous coyote tracks (following upon several recent and reliable sightings of an actual coyote); mosquitoes; several horseshoe crab carapaces;  and many American alligators. 

   Much of the island remains damp and many of the impoundments remain full. Jack's Creek has begun to drop again, but is a long way, I believe, from being drained enough to resume dike construction. And there is a dredge being set up (primarily laying several miles of pipe) to dredge out the boat slip and boat ramp passages at Garris Landing. 

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

Mon 30 Nov 2015 5.6 ft high tide forecast at 10:47 AM
Tues 1 Dec 2015 5.3 ft high tide forecast at 11:36 AM

Stay tuned for final plans.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Nov 17, 2015 9:17 AM - 3:43 PM
Protocol: Traveling
10.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island water/shorebird survey with David McLean and Katy Nelligan. Effort: 10.0 mi and 1 hr 30 min by truck plus 3.0 mi and 5 hr by foot. Weather: sunny, windy, and warm; temps 62 F to 70 F; AM winds NnE at 10 mph to 15 mph, PM winds NE at 15 mph to 20 mph; barometer steady at 30.06 in Hg. Tide was forecast 5.6 ft high at 11:38 AM;   Submitted from  BirdLog NA for Android v1.9.6
59 species

Gadwall  48
Mottled Duck  6
Blue-winged Teal  5
Northern Shoveler  7
Green-winged Teal  87
Lesser Scaup  46
Hooded Merganser  7
Pied-billed Grebe  12
Wood Stork  2
Double-crested Cormorant  172
Anhinga  2
Brown Pelican  4
Great Blue Heron  6
Great Egret  26
Snowy Egret  5
Little Blue Heron  4
Tricolored Heron  3
Reddish Egret  2     Scope views at oceanfront marsh at Jack's Creek in good light, red plumage back of head and upper neck, performing the typical REEG dance
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  27
Black Vulture  2
Turkey Vulture  6
Osprey  2
Northern Harrier  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Clapper Rail  1
Sora  1
Common Gallinule  12
American Coot  19
American Avocet  2
Grey Plover  6
Semipalmated Plover  11
Piping Plover  3     One Banded PIPL: Basic Plumage, Roosting in Wrack.  Bands: Upper Left - Orange, Lower Left Green, Upper Right - Metal, Lower Right Split Green/Orange/Green.
Two Unbanded PIPLs.  Basic Plumage, Roosting in Wrack.  All three on NE tip of the Island.
Greater Yellowlegs  6
Willet  19
Lesser Yellowlegs  1
Marbled Godwit  2
Ruddy Turnstone  23     A fairly accurate count, seen in several locations usually in mixed shorebird flocks, many in scope view, bright orange legs, distinct dark throat plumage, dark plumage on back.
Sanderling  91
Dunlin  627     five hundred in one flock on the on dune ridge along beach front marsh at high tide
Least Sandpiper  2
Short-billed Dowitcher  22
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  2
Caspian Tern  1
Royal Tern  2
Belted Kingfisher  7
Northern Flicker  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Marsh Wren  1
Carolina Wren  1
Grey Catbird  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
Song Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  34
Boat-tailed Grackle  5

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