14 March 2016

A month is a long time to be away from Bulls

Mon 14 Mar 2016

It had been a month since I last made it out to Bulls, and much had changed. Kristina Wheeler and Irvin Pitts joined me for Saturday's waterfowl/shorebird survey, and, after exchanging a reluctant F&WS boat for one eager to go (many thanks to both Al and Poppa Mo), we left the saltwater midges in the Spartina alterniflora cordgrass and made it to the island. With the warm, beautiful weather, Coastal Expeditions had a banner day with a sunrise cruise out to Bulls plus two ferries leaving Garris at the standard 9 AM departure time. Even with about 100 ferry folks plus SC DNR shorebird researchers staying on the island, we only passed 4 folks in our island tour. Amazing to get out there with so many other people yet still feel like you've got the island to yourself.

I cancelled the regular survey about two weeks ago as all hands were on deck to shore up a failing dike surrounding the trunk at Old Fort; I didn't feel comfortable going out and possibly hindering to their 12-straight-day repair effort. That has now been repaired and the previously failed dike along Alligator Alley between Jack's Creek and Pool 1 has also been repaired. 

There were fewer target species for the survey and many fewer individual birds than I had casually expected (warm weather? disturbance caused by the dike repair efforts? simply time to migrate away?). We tallied 35 species for the survey and 72 species for the island as a whole. Our eBird checklist is appended, below, FYI. A few waterfowl, primarily Norther Shoveler, remain on Bulls. Shorebirds were almost absent from their usually crowed saltwater marsh oceanfront at Jack's; there were some shorebirds in Jack's, but all but a few remained unidentified due to the  extreme heat waves and significant distance. They are still trying to lower the water in Jack's, a process that took an hiatus during their emergency dike repairs.

We did have one particularly good shorebird tally of 9 Piping Plovers on the North Beach, 4 of whom sported bands. In specific, both "BO:X,g," a.k.a. "Old Man Plover," and "KK" were seen; I've previously seen and reported each of these two PIPL on Bulls. We also scoped two new-to-the-island (I think) banded PIPLs. All will be reported to the PIPL banding community and the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory. 

Other avian sightings of note included FOS Wilson's Plover (2), Marbled Godwit, very few Dunlin, very few Short-billed Dowitcher, and a Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich).

Both Kristina and Irvin are excellent lepidopterists and readily called out the butterflies and damselflies that were our constant companions. Their list included bluets (one of the damselflies), and red admiral, yellow sulfur, and mourning cloak butterflies. Other species noted included bottlenose dolphin (many); fox squirrel (5); a fat, squeaky rodent (perhaps a marsh rat); and Carolina anole. Also the yellow jessamine was in full bloom spraying out in large foliage banks.

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

Fri 25 Mar 2016 4.9 ft high tide at 9:42 AM
Sat 26 Mar 2016 4.8 ft high tide at 10:16 AM
Mon 28 Mar 2016 4.4 ft high tide at 11:26 AM
Tues 29 Mar 216 4.3 ft high tide at 12:07 PM


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Mar 12, 2016 10:05 AM - 3:50 PM
Protocol: Traveling
13.599 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Kristina Wheeler and Irvin Pitts. Effort: 10.4 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 3.2 mi and 4 hr 15 min by foot. Weather: sunny and warm, a few clouds; 64 F to 76 F; ESE winds at 5 mph; 30.25 in Hg barometer falling to 30.16 in Hg. Tide was forecast 5.5 ft high at 10:15 AM.  <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.1.5 Build 44
67 species (+1 other taxa)

Wood Duck  1
Gadwall  10
American Wigeon  6
Mottled Duck  10
Blue-winged Teal  15
Northern Shoveler  164     A fairly accurate count.
Hooded Merganser  1
Ruddy Duck  4
Pied-billed Grebe  4
Double-crested Cormorant  14
Anhinga  1
Brown Pelican  33
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  7
Snowy Egret  2
Little Blue Heron  3
Tricolored Heron  15
Green Heron  1
White Ibis  93
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  3
Bald Eagle  1     1 mature
Common Gallinule  11
American Coot  20
American Oystercatcher  6
Grey Plover  10
Wilson's Plover  2
Piping Plover  9     FOUR were banded. Bird 1: 'BO:X,g' or Old Man Plover. Blue over orange LL leg: metal UR leg, light green LR leg. Bird 2: 'KK' Metal UL leg: black flag with white 'KK' on UR leg. Bird 3: Metal UL leg, light blue LL leg: orange flag UR leg (unable to see or read any code), light blue over dark blue OR light blue over black LR leg. Bird 4: orange UL leg, green LL leg: metal UR leg, light green LR leg.
Greater Yellowlegs  5
Willet  25
Marbled Godwit  2
Ruddy Turnstone  14
Sanderling  5
Dunlin  10
Short-billed Dowitcher  10
Laughing Gull  2
Ring-billed Gull  4
Herring Gull  1     1 immature
Great Black-backed Gull  1     1 immature
Royal Tern  3
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  1
Tree Swallow  4
Marsh Wren  4
Carolina Wren  1
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher  4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2     1 singing
Grey Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  5
Cedar Waxwing  3
Common Yellowthroat  3
Palm Warbler  1
Pine Warbler  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  6
Savannah Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich)  1
Song Sparrow  5
Swamp Sparrow  7
Eastern Towhee  1
Northern Cardinal  7
Red-winged Blackbird  12
Boat-tailed Grackle  70

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

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