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)

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