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)

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