30 January 2016

First for the survey Eurasian Wigeon plus thousands of shorebirds

Sat 30 Jan 2016

   I had so much terrific help on yesterday's survey! Thanks to Ford Mauney (F&WS) for hauling some of us out to Bulls. Counting with me were Wil Christenson, Chris Snook, Kathy Greider, Grant Greider, and Trisha Midgett. 

   Both waterfowl and shorebirds were present in good numbers. We tallied 80 species on the island (see our eBird checklist, below, FYI). First sighting for the survey, I believe, was a male Eurasian Wigeon scoped in Jack's Creek. It was still present in almost the exact same location today according to Wil who chased it down again. Also of note was a female Long-tailed Duck in Upper Summerhouse Pond that, like the EUWI, was present again today in almost the exact same location as yesterday. 

   Chris Snook, known to many of you as a Brit, said of the Eurasian Wigeon for my field notes, "it quacked with a funny accent." The EUWI was, I believe, a state list species for Chris and a life list species for Trisha, Kathy, and Grant. 

   The water level in Jack's is noticeably higher than it has been for some weeks, but both ducks and shorebirds still abound there. (I think they are digging drainage ditches and still draining sections of Pool 1 into Jack's through the failed dike along Alligator Alley.) Nonetheless Jack's is still attracting good numbers of dabbling ducks, although many fewer Gadwall than recent. 

   The oceanfront saltwater marsh at Jack's Creek had a conservatively estimated 2000 shorebirds today, mostly Dunlin and Semipalmated Plover. We also tallied 7 Piping Plovers for the ISS Piping Plover survey.

   A few other sightings of note include Least Sandpiper, Great Horned Owl, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon.

   I'll be back on Bulls tomorrow, Sunday 31 Jan 2016, for the Cape Romain NWR annual volunteer appreciation day, so I'll try to relocate both the Eurasian Wigeon and Long-tailed Duck. To all my fellow volunteers, Thank You for your time and service to help with the ongoing survey!


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jan 29, 2016 9:50 AM - 4:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
11.5 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Wil Christenson, Chris Snook, Trisha Midgett, Grant Greider, and Kathy Greider. Effort: 9.1 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 2.4 mi and 4 hr 40 min by foot. Weather: cool and sunny; temps 36 °F to 64 °F; winds WWS at 5.5 kt to 8.5 kt. Tide was forecast 4.6 ft high at 10:59 AM.
80 species

Gadwall  30
Eurasian Wigeon  1     Likely the first sighting for survey. Scope views by all at 400 m to 500 m. Field notes: distinctly red head, whiter/more white on side of body than AMWI, white mohawk pattern; seen with AMWI fem. and male; field sketch made. Chris Snook assured me that "it quacked with a funny accent." ;-)
American Wigeon  84
American Black Duck  2
Mottled Duck  8
Blue-winged Teal  9
Northern Shoveler  110     A fairly accurate count.
Green-winged Teal  134
Redhead  14     A fairly accurate count.
Lesser Scaup  161
Black Scoter  12
Long-tailed Duck  1     Upper Summerhouse Pond.
Bufflehead  166     A fairly accurate count.
Hooded Merganser  19
Ruddy Duck  23
Red-throated Loon  2
Pied-billed Grebe  15
Northern Gannet  5
Double-crested Cormorant  116
Anhinga  5
American White Pelican  15
Brown Pelican  8
Great Blue Heron  19
Great Egret  14
Snowy Egret  6
Little Blue Heron  3
Tricolored Heron  6
Green Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  6
White Ibis  1
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  4
Osprey  2
Bald Eagle  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Clapper Rail  9
Sora  2
Common Gallinule  15
American Coot  62
American Oystercatcher  1
Grey Plover  9
Semipalmated Plover  508     Estimated by counting subsets.
Piping Plover  7     1 Flagged on North Beach: upper L metal, upper R black flag "KK" in white, both lower L and lower R blank. This PIPL was seen before on 31 Dec 2015 and on 14 Jan 2016 and was banded in Quebec per email from Cheri Gratto-Trevor 12 Jan 2016. "David- this is one of our eastern Canada birds – band 93917, banded as an adult female on 10 June 2014, at Fatima Beach, Magdalen Islands, Quebec."
Killdeer  4
Greater Yellowlegs  4
Willet  13
Lesser Yellowlegs  1
Marbled Godwit  2
Ruddy Turnstone  37     A fairly accurate count.
Sanderling  43     A fairly accurate count.
Dunlin  1830     Estimated by counting subsets.
Least Sandpiper  6
Western Sandpiper  130     Estimated count.
Short-billed Dowitcher  115     A fairly accurate count.
Ring-billed Gull  10
Forster's Tern  2
Great Horned Owl  2
Belted Kingfisher  4
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Merlin  2
Peregrine Falcon  2
Eastern Phoebe  3
Tree Swallow  2
Carolina Chickadee  1
Carolina Wren  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Grey Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
Pine Warbler  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2
Savannah Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  1
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Common Grackle  20

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

15 January 2016

Bottlenose dolphin, fox squirrels (7!), bobcat, and, oh yeah, hundreds of ducks and thousands of shorebirds.

Fri 15 Jan 2016

   Yesterday Wil Christenson, Ford Mauney, and John Ptolomy joined me for the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. The day started cold and clear and ended the same way. The dredging at Garris Landing has been completed; the only thing left for the dredge company to do is dismantle the 5 miles of pipe, pack up, and go, something that may take them a while to complete. But there's now a channel 6 ft deep and 30 ft wide and 6 ft of water in the basin---all at low tide. A great and positive improvement!

   Bulls is packed with many hundreds of ducks and several thousand shorebirds, especially in Jack's Creek where the water level is low enough to barely float a duck yet allow small shorebirds to wade easily. We tallied 49 species on the survey proper, 24 species from the boat ride, 72 species on the island, and 75 species on the day's outing. Our eBird checklist from the island is appended, below, FYI.

   Even given the clear, cold weather it was somewhat disappointing to have heat waves interfering with shorebird species identification of those birds well out in the middle of Jack's Creek. But that was mostly OK because we had more than enough to identify and count from the margins including 17 duck species and 12 shorebird species on the day. Notable  ducks, either for species or count, were: American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Ring-neck Duck, and Lesser Scaup. Similarly notable among shorebirds were Piping Plover and Western Sandpiper.

   In particular, we found a flagged Piping Plover (PIPL) that we had seen on our last survey New Year's Eve. It wears a black flag above its R ankle with "KK" in white letters. With the help of Melissa Bimbi (USF&WS Piping Plover biologist) we found that this particular bird was banded in Quebec, Canada. Here is an excerpt from an email I received from the bander, Dr. Cheri Gratto-Trevor (used with permission):

   "David- this is one of our eastern Canada birds – band 93917, banded as an adult female on 10 June 2014, at Fatima Beach, Magdalen Islands, Quebec.  She was back in the area last summer.  Last winter she also was on Bull Is – terrific to know she is still alive and wintering in the same area.

"Thanks for sending it in!!


"Dr. C. L. Gratto-Trevor
Research Scientist Shorebirds, Wildlife Research Division
Science and Technology Branch
Environment and Climate Change Canada / Government of Canada"

   Non-avian observations included bottlenose dolphins impact feeding, fox squirrels (seven of 'em!), Monarch butterflies, and a bobcat (stalked and photographed by Wil, scoped by everyone else) at Upper Summerhouse Pond. I never knew that their "bob" tail was so compressed, i.e., flattened, vertically. Thanks, Wil, for allowing me to post your terrific photo. I wonder if the bobcat and coyote will "play nice" together on the island or if they will have issues with each other.

My father-in-law would have said "Pretty kitty!"

   Our next survey is scheduled for Fri 29 Jan 2015. Until then go work on improving international relations…go birding.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jan 14, 2016 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
14.1 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Wil Christenson, Ford Mauney, and John Ptolomy. Effort: 11.8 mi and 2 hr by vehicle plus 2.3 mi and 5 hr by foot. Weather: sunny and cool, approx. 10 % cloud cover; temps 38 *F to 64 *F; AM winds W at < 5 kt, PM winds S at < 5 kt; barometer at 1015 kPa and falling slightly.
72 species (+1 other taxa)

Wood Duck  2
Gadwall  527     A conservative estimate.
American Wigeon  270
American Black Duck  5
Mallard  3
Mottled Duck  31
Blue-winged Teal  38
Northern Shoveler  89
Northern Pintail  5
Green-winged Teal  100
Redhead  2
Ring-necked Duck  5
Lesser Scaup  8
Black Scoter  1
Bufflehead  346     A conservative estimate.
Hooded Merganser  35
Ruddy Duck  7
duck sp.  50
Red-throated Loon  1
Pied-billed Grebe  10
Double-crested Cormorant  75
American White Pelican  10
Brown Pelican  6
Great Blue Heron  24
Great Egret  19
Snowy Egret  20
Little Blue Heron  11
Tricolored Heron  7
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
White Ibis  56
Black Vulture  3
Turkey Vulture  2
Osprey  3
Northern Harrier  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  2
Sora  1
Common Gallinule  54     A conservative estimate.
American Coot  137
Grey Plover  18
Semipalmated Plover  84
Piping Plover  3     N.B. 1 Flagged in Marsh: upper L metal, upper R black flag "KK" in white, both lower L and lower R blank. This PIPL was seen before on 31 Dec 2015 and was banded in Quebec. See email from Cheri Gratto-Trevor 12 Jan 2016. "David- this is one of our eastern Canada birds – band 93917, banded as an adult female on 10 June 2014, at Fatima Beach, Magdalen Islands, Quebec."
Killdeer  1
Greater Yellowlegs  28
Willet  15
Marbled Godwit  2
Ruddy Turnstone  1
Sanderling  34     An accurate count.
Dunlin  390     A  very conservative estimate.
Western Sandpiper  1100     A conservative estimate.
Short-billed Dowitcher  205     A conservative estimate.
Laughing Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  4
Forster's Tern  1
Mourning Dove  4
Belted Kingfisher  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  3
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  3
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Tree Swallow  100
Carolina Chickadee  2
Marsh Wren  1
Grey Catbird  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  6
Prairie Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Common Grackle  16
Boat-tailed Grackle  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  4

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

10 January 2016

Bald Eagles and waterfowl in good numbers in the Cape Romain NWR

Sat 9 Jan 2016

   Yesterday's Lowountry weather was stereotypically rainy and cold, so of course we went out birding. The USF&WS has annual mid-winter Bald Eagle surveys and waterfowl surveys. Two routes cover the Cape Romain NWR, one along the length of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICWW) from Garris Landing to Cape Island north of the Cape Romain lighthouse, and the second from Garris Landing across the Bay and through Bulls Island. Each route does double duty surveying for both eagles and ducks.

   I joined Ford Mauney, biologist with the refuge, Jerry Tupacz, Wildlife Refuge Specialist for the refuge, and Wil Christenson for a nice boat ride up the ICWW in the rain. After about 40 miles up and back the ICWW we then went out to Bulls to bird the rest of the day there. 

   The Bald Eagles were present and relatively numerous. We had 6 eagles along the ICWW (5 mature plus 1 immature) and 3 on Bulls (2 mature and 1 immature). I enjoy quoting a good friend of mine who says that any day you see a Bald Eagle is a good day's birding. We almost made it into double digits on this count, so I'd consider it a great day's birding. Our two eBird checklists are appended, below, FYI.

   Most waterfowl species have returned to Bulls in pretty good numbers, even compared to our most recent waterfowl/shorebird survey on 31 Dec 2015. Jack's Creek somehow seems to be staying in a sweet spot regarding water levels, i.e., just enough to float a duck but shallow enough to attract many, many shorebirds. We watched a sizable raccoon casually walking across the width of Jack's and he wasn't getting his belly wet.

   We had high numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers, Horned Grebes, and Double-crested Cormorants along the ICWW. On Bulls we had 16 species of ducks including high numbers of Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Mottled Duck, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, and Hooded Merganser. Additionally we had great views of Norther Pintail, Redhead, and Ring-necked Duck. 

   Being slightly pressed for time we really didn't study on the shorebirds or other species, but we did see a few other species of interest including Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Avocet, and Marbled Godwit. 

   Misses and near misses included Short-billed Dowitcher (they could have easily been there but simply overlooked with our tight focus on waterfowl) and Lesser Scaup (we saw 1, not the hundreds that have been on Bulls in past winters). 

   Non-avian species seen included many bottlenose dolphin, fox squirrel, white-tailed deer, and a prissy raccoon letting only its feet get wet in the middle of Jack's Creek.


Cape Romain NWR, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jan 8, 2016 8:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Protocol: Traveling
29.25 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the USF&WS annual mid-winter Bald Eagle survey and waterfowl survey with Wil Christenson, Ford Mauney, and Jerry. Survey route 16. Effort: all time and distance by boat along the Intracoastal Waterway from Garris Landing north to Cape Island (north of the Cape Romain Lighthouse). Weather: overcast, cold, light rain; 46 °F to 49 °F; winds NNE at < 5 mph; barometer 30.05 in Hg and steady. Tide forecast: 5.45 ft high at 6:19 AM, -0.32 ft low at 12:32 PM.
24 species

Black Scoter  1
Bufflehead  35
Red-breasted Merganser  36
Common Loon  5
Horned Grebe  23     A fairly accurate count.
Double-crested Cormorant  1190     Estimates from several large flights plus numerous smaller flights. Quite numerous and quite obvious along the ICWW.
American White Pelican  13
Brown Pelican  26
Great Blue Heron  12
Great Egret  2
Tricolored Heron  2
Northern Harrier  3
Bald Eagle  6
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Oystercatcher  8
Sanderling  1
Dunlin  3
Ring-billed Gull  20
Herring Gull  15
Forster's Tern  5
Royal Tern  1
Belted Kingfisher  5
Peregrine Falcon  2
Cedar Waxwing  45

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

Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jan 8, 2016 11:30 AM - 4:25 PM
Protocol: Traveling
19.45 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the USF&WS annual mid-winter Bald Eagle survey and waterfowl survey with Wil Christenson, Ford Mauney, and Jerry. Survey route 16A. Effort: 4.15 mi and 20 min by boat (Garris to Bulls) plus 14.2 mi and 1 hr 45 min by vehicle plus 1.1 mi and 2 hr 50 min by foot. Weather: overcast, cold; 49 °F to 54 °F; winds NNE at < 5 mph; barometer 30.05 in Hg falling to 30.00 in Hg. Tide was forecast -0.32 ft low at 12:32 PM.
66 species

Wood Duck  6
Gadwall  814     Estimated. Numerous.
American Wigeon  160
American Black Duck  15     A fairly accurate count. Good scope views along with Mottled Ducks.
Mottled Duck  57     A fairly accurate count. Good scope views along with American Black Ducks.
Blue-winged Teal  32
Northern Shoveler  59
Northern Pintail  4
Green-winged Teal  50
Redhead  1
Ring-necked Duck  1
Lesser Scaup  1
Black Scoter  60
Bufflehead  250     Widespread. Estimate.
Hooded Merganser  47     Widespread. A fairly accurate count.
Ruddy Duck  20
Red-throated Loon  2
Common Loon  3
Pied-billed Grebe  14
Horned Grebe  3
Double-crested Cormorant  47
Anhinga  1
American White Pelican  14
Brown Pelican  1
Great Blue Heron  7
Great Egret  13
Snowy Egret  23
Little Blue Heron  4
Tricolored Heron  8
Green Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
White Ibis  11
Black Vulture  5
Turkey Vulture  8
Cooper's Hawk  5
Bald Eagle  3
Clapper Rail  2
Common Gallinule  19
American Coot  216
American Avocet  2
American Oystercatcher  2
Grey Plover  8
Semipalmated Plover  60
Greater Yellowlegs  8
Willet  11
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Marbled Godwit  1
Sanderling  3
Dunlin  44
Western Sandpiper  95
Ring-billed Gull  13
Forster's Tern  1
Mourning Dove  2
Belted Kingfisher  3
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  2
Merlin  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  2
Tree Swallow  59
Marsh Wren  2
Carolina Wren  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  5
Song Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  16

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

03 January 2016

Christmas CBC on Bulls brings good numbers of Myrtle Warblers and a Western Grebe

Sun 3 Jan 2016

   Finally a little cool weather settled in today for the Charleston CBC. Felicia Sanders graciously hauled three of us, including Starr Hazard and Wil Christenson, out to Bulls Island. Felicia and Wil counted the northern section of Bulls while Starr and I counted the southern section.

   One of my all time favorite birding locations is the picnic grounds on Bulls, and Starr and I got to spend about an hour and a half birding there this morning. This was a treat for me as I routinely drive right through those grounds when conducting the waterfowl/shorebird surveys. Our best species of these picnic grounds was Yellow-rumped Warbler, aka Myrtle Warbler (MYWA). We tallied 125 MYWA, mostly in the picnic grounds, for the best MYWA tally that I've had on any CBC over the last three years. Ten to fifteen years ago we were reporting multiple hundreds, even thousands, of MYWA from Bulls, but they've been in very low numbers along the S.C. coast for several years in my observation. Maybe I should look deeper into eBird numbers to confirm my anecdotal observations.

   We soon enough made it to the end of Beach Road and the main beach front on the island for lunch but became immediately distracted by the birding. As I began a systematic scope scan of the calm ocean Starr did a quicker binoculars scan and almost immediately called out a Western Grebe. Thinking it was most likely a Horned Grebe, I nonetheless thought it prudent and respectful to scope his bird to confirm. Right in front of us, calmly floating just beyond the breakers, was a Western Grebe. 

   We each took quick scope glances before I began attempting to take a digiscope picture of it by hand-holding my iPod to my scope, not an easy thing to do as it happens. A quick call to Wil and Felicia brought both of them from Jack's Creek. I think it turned out to be a life bird for us gents and a state bird for Felicia. 

   Further down the beach at our next stop we saw a poor, immature Herring Gull with what appeared to be on of those 6-pack plastic rings tight around it's throat and deeply pulled into the gape of it's bill. Thinking that the bird might be weak enough for us to capture it and cut if free of it's encumbrance, we tried to corral it but succeeded only in flushing it to wing. I'm afraid that poor bird is not long for this world. Please, always completely cut those 6-pack rings so that no loops remain, even if otherwise properly disposing of that trash item. Just think of how many gulls, terns, and raptors forage in waste disposal sites; every 6-pack plastic rings matters.

   The shelling on that section of the beach turned out to be spectacular. I was able to easily and quickly pick up several beautiful, large, and fully intact moon snail shells and lettered olive shells. I could have easily filled up a bucket with choice shells but felt satisfied with a nice handful. 

   We ended our count with the 56 species listed below in the appended eBird checklist. I'll try to combine our two sectional checklists from Bulls for a total species count.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jan 3, 2016 9:10 AM - 4:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
9.9 mile(s)
Comments:     Counting Bulls Island South section for the Charleston CBC with Starr Hazard. Effort: 3.7 mi and 1 hr by vehicle plus 6.2 mi and 5 hr 50 min by foot. Weather: bright overcast, cool, calm seas with curling waves; temps 46 °F to 55 °F; winds very light to calm; barometer 30.10 in Hg falling to 30.00 in Hg in PM. Tide was forecast 0.85 ft low at 8:18 AM and 4.22 ft high at 2:12 PM.
56 species

Wood Duck  3
Gadwall  4
Blue-winged Teal  8
Northern Shoveler  1
Black Scoter  4
Bufflehead  18
Hooded Merganser  10
Red-throated Loon  47     A fairly accurate count.
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Western Grebe  1     Western Grebe, Bulls Is Charleston CBC Jan 3, 2016 12:14
Field notes made during observation: scope views for nearly an hour on calm seas and digiscope pics. A large, long-necked grebe; tall, elegant neck; black crown and back of neck sharply contrasting with white neck; bill obviously longer than Horned Grebe, held horizontal, a darkish yellow color of bill; red eye set within the black head plumage; body plumage relatively uniform dark gray. Scope view on calm ocean under bright overcast light and on calm seas. Identification called immediately by Starr Hazard using only binoculars. Others observing included Wil Christenson and Felicia Sanders.
Wood Stork  2
Northern Gannet  10
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Anhinga  1
Brown Pelican  10
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  4
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  14     A fairly accurate count.
White Ibis  37
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  8
Osprey  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Common Gallinule  35
American Coot  275
Sanderling  100     A fairly accurate count of two beachfront flocks.
Ring-billed Gull  35
Herring Gull  1
Forster's Tern  9
Mourning Dove  12
Belted Kingfisher  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  5
Eastern Phoebe  4
Blue Jay  3
Tree Swallow  67
Carolina Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  3
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  7
Grey Catbird  4
Northern Mockingbird  5
Cedar Waxwing  15
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  125
Chipping Sparrow  4
White-throated Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  2
Northern Cardinal  15
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Boat-tailed Grackle  2

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

01 January 2016

A warm New Year's Eve and Jack's Creek hosts hundreds of ducks and thousands of shorebirds

Th 31 Dec 2015

   What a terrific way to end 2015! Wil Christenson joined me today for the Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. At Garris Landing we met a gentleman from Ohio who was solo-birding the NC and SC coasts. We offered him a chance to bird Bulls with us, but he had other birding plans on the day, so we went on without him. We met him again when we returned to Garris where we compared our checklists. It seems that he makes similar trips to the SC coast annually, so we hope we can entice him to join us next year when he travels back through.

   Coastal Expeditions (CEX) once again graciously provided us with boating transportation out to the island and back. We couldn't perform these surveys without such wonderful support, and I am grateful beyond measure for CEX's continuing support.

   There has been another dike failure on Bulls, this time at the Alligator Ally trunk between Pool 1 and Jack's Creek. This is the third dike failure in about 15 months, all under similar (to my curious but untrained eye) circumstances. That meant that the water in Pool 1 drained into Jack's further complicating the draw down needed to resume the dike construction across Jack's. However both the ducks and shorebirds seem to be loving Jack's right now with sufficient water to float a dabbling duck yet shallow enough to attract shorebirds by the thousands.

   Clearly we've not yet had any cold weather, i.e., "not cold enough to bring in the ducks," but there are many ducks, mostly dabblers, on Bulls right now. Gadwall and Bufflehead together account for 70 % of the waterfowl on Bulls today with 516 out of 739 ducks counted. Green-winged Teal were also particularly abundant today. Lesser Scaup, usually a very abundant species, were notable mostly for their low numbers; maybe they're waiting for a polar vortex to blow them in, or maybe Jack's is too shallow for diving ducks like them.

   Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlin, and Western Sandpipers each presented in high numbers. Other notable shorebird species included American Avocet and Piping Plovers. One banded PIPL that we were able to ID was the "old man plover" from the Great Lakes population, "BO:X,g" whom we've observed several times before. Read more about him and see his picture in my posting from 17 Nov 2015.

   We tallied 68 species on Bulls today (see our eBird checklist, below), including 44 target species, plus 22 species on the ferry ride for a total of 75 species on the day. Other avian species of interest included a Peregrine Falcon that flushed the shorebirds we were scoping on the North Beach (thanks a bunch!), Bald Eagles, Reddish Egret, Wood Stork, and Sora. We also found a dead Common Loon that had washed up on the North Beach.

   Non-avian sightings that caught our attention included relatively few American alligators, fox squirrels, and a couple of bottlenose dolphins feeding in the shallows before leaping through our wake.

   I'll be back on Bulls this Sunday for the annual Charleston Christmas Bird Count; that will be my seventh of eight CBCs this year. It's what I do during the Christmas season. The next survey is planned for Thursday 14 Jan 2016 with some of the USF&WS staff. I will also be helping with the upcoming mid-winter Bald Eagle surveys both on the Santee River and through Cape Romain. I may post blog reports on those efforts.

   Happy New Year! Now get out there and go birding, folks!


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Dec 31, 2015 9:00 AM - 3:50 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.8 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Wil Christenson. Effort: 10.3 mi and 1 hr 30 min by truck plus 2.5 mi and 5 hr 20 min by foot. Weather: overcast and warm; temps 70 °F to 73 °F; SW winds < 5 mph; barometer 30.05 in Hg. Tide was forecast 4.7 ft high at 11:39 AM.
68 species

Gadwall  224     Scope views. Many Gadwall.
American Wigeon  11
Mallard  2
Mottled Duck  30
Blue-winged Teal  11
Northern Shoveler  36
Green-winged Teal  119
Lesser Scaup  15
Black Scoter  1
Bufflehead  292     Quite numerous. Multiple rafts of 20 to 30 plus many widely dispersed individuals.
Hooded Merganser  5
Red-breasted Merganser  2
Ruddy Duck  1
Pied-billed Grebe  4
Double-crested Cormorant  60
American White Pelican  7
Brown Pelican  69     Estimate.
Great Blue Heron  10
Great Egret  6
Snowy Egret  10
Little Blue Heron  10
Tricolored Heron  7
Reddish Egret  1     Slate blue egret, reddish plumage on head and neck, bicolored bill, dancing around the shallows.
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  8
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Sora  1
Common Gallinule  21
American Coot  47
American Avocet  2
Grey Plover  15
Semipalmated Plover  650     All in the oceanfront marsh at Jack's.
Piping Plover  7     Two were banded, one was flagged. Banded PIPL #1: BOXg. Banded PIPL #2 flew before we were able to read the bands. Flagged PIPL: upper L metal, upper R black flag "KK" in white, lower L no bands, lower R no bands.
Killdeer  5
Greater Yellowlegs  14
Willet  34
Lesser Yellowlegs  3
Marbled Godwit  1
Ruddy Turnstone  77     A fairly accurate estimate by counting over several different locations.
Sanderling  53     Counted some, estimated other widely dispersed from a very large mixed flock of shorebirds.
Dunlin  1885     Very numerous in both Jack's and in the oceanfront marsh at Jack's.
Western Sandpiper  610     Very numerous in both Jack's and in the oceanfront marsh at Jack's.
Short-billed Dowitcher  202     Most in Jack's Creek. Scope views.
Ring-billed Gull  14
Forster's Tern  8
Mourning Dove  19
Belted Kingfisher  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  2
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Tree Swallow  6
Carolina Chickadee  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Grey Catbird  4
Northern Mockingbird  3
Pine Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  25
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
Eastern Towhee  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  30
Common Grackle  6

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