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)

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