13 April 2016

A shorebird spectacular in Jack's Creek.

Wed 13 Apr 2016

   David Gardner, Cortney Weatherby, and Selimah Harmon from Camp St. Christopher joined me on Monday for the ongoing waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls. Greg and Al from the F&WS graciously piloted us out to the island and back. The weather was terrific and the shorebirding was absolutely outstanding.

   First an update on the island. Bulls has been wet, very wet since the October 2015 rains. They've been dropping the water levels in Jack's to restart the new dike construction, but with a wet winter, a series of dike failures and near-failures, and relentless water levels in adjacent ponds, it has become a huge effort to drain Jack's. After significant and sustained efforts by the F&WS and the private wetlands construction crew, dikes seem to be in good repair, flooding water levels in adjacent ponds have been tamed a bit, and the weather has cooperated such that Jack's is now about as low as it was early last summer (May to June 2015), so low, in fact, that we were able to walk well out into Jack's to get much better scope views of all the shorebirds present on Monday.

   And what a count of shorebirds it was. We tallied over 5600 birds just in Jack's, mostly shorebirds though a few wading birds and waterfowl were present. (See our eBird checklist for the island, below.) The predominant shorebird species counted were Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin, and Semipalmated Plovers. All three peep sandpiper species (Western, Semipalmated, and Least) were seen as were small numbers of other uncommon-for-Jack's species like Red Knot and Sanderling. Many of these shorebirds were well into pre-alternate molt (i.e., showing early breeding plumage) and were thus much brighter and more colorful than SC's typical shorebird basic (winter) plumage. And the shorebird migration ought to continue for several more weeks. What you must appreciate is that with more typical water levels, Jack's rarely has any shorebirds beyond a Spotted Sandpiper along the edge, a couple of Willets, and a good scattering of summer-resident Black-necked Stilts. 

   Other than in Jack's, we tallied an impressively high number of Wilson's Plovers (mostly in the oceanfront saltwater marsh at Jack's), Piping Plovers (3, including "KK" who has been on Bulls all winter), Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, and Sanderling. (eBird continues to rename my reports of "Black-bellied Plover" as "Grey Plover," and I don't know why; in North America they're called Black-bellied Plover whereas elsewhere they're called Grey Plover, and they are distributed along all continental coastlines excepting Antarctica.) 

   Most waterfowl appear to have left the island, but a few species continue to linger including Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Black Scoter, and small numbers of a few other ducks. It's become almost comical to watch ducks fly in, land on the water in Jack's, then immediately stand up because it is so shallow. 

   It will be interesting to watch the shorebirds during this low water event through spring shorebird migration, through the summer, and through next fall's shorebird migration. It's not the long-term or seasonal management plan to drop Jack's to expose such extensive mudflats, but the shorebirds are making the best of it right now for sure. If you like shorebirds, go to Bulls. The best option on foot from the island's dock is to walk Sheepshead Ridge Road all the way to the terminus at the observation tower. Take your spotting scope.

   Of course I'm always looking for fellow volunteers. I'm looking at the following dates for the next survey:

Mon 25 Apr 2016 4.5 ft high tide forecast at 10:23 AM
Tues 26 Apr 2016 4.5 ft high tide forecast at 11:00 AM
Wed 27 Apr 2016 4.4 ft high tide forecast at 11:41 AM


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Apr 11, 2016 9:10 AM - 3:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.1 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with David Gardner, Selimah Harmon, and Cortney Weatherby. Effort: 8.1 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 4.0 mi and 5 hr 05 min by foot. Weather: clear, sunny, and pleasant; temps 66 F to 71 F; winds ESE at 6 mph to 8 mph; 30.34 in Hg barometer falling to 30.27 in Hg. Tide was forecast 5.1 ft high at 11:54 AM.  <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.1.5 Build 44
76 species (+1 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling Duck  2
Wood Duck  1
Gadwall  1
American Wigeon  2
Mottled Duck  20
Blue-winged Teal  93
Northern Shoveler  3
Green-winged Teal  9     An accurate count. Scope view in Jack's Creek.
Lesser Scaup  1
Black Scoter  15     A fairly accurate count. Scope view off the North Beach.
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Double-crested Cormorant  31
Anhinga  4
Brown Pelican  2
Great Egret  40
Snowy Egret  24
Little Blue Heron  4
Tricolored Heron  10
Green Heron  1
White Ibis  25
Turkey Vulture  10
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  1     1 female
Bald Eagle  1     1 mature
Sora  2
Common Gallinule  14
American Coot  3
Black-necked Stilt  25     A fairly accurate estimate.
American Oystercatcher  3
Grey Plover  44
Wilson's Plover  22     Most in the oceanfront salt water marsh at Jack's Creek.
Semipalmated Plover  320     Estimate.
Piping Plover  3     Two were banded. I was able to fully read all bands on one PIPL: metal band upper L, black flag with white 'KK' label upper R.
Killdeer  3
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  10
Willet  18
Lesser Yellowlegs  10
Marbled Godwit  2
Ruddy Turnstone  62     A fairly accurate count.
Red Knot  2
Sanderling  105     A fairly accurate count.
Dunlin  2083     A fairly accurate estimate based upon counting all shorebirds in one scope view, multiplying by the number of scope views, then estimating percentage of total for this species.
Least Sandpiper  132     Combined count and estimate.
Semipalmated Sandpiper  20
Western Sandpiper  11
peep sp.  100     Unable to ID to species due to distance. All three likely peep species were positively IDed.
Short-billed Dowitcher  2967     A fairly accurate estimate based upon counting all shorebirds in one scope view, multiplying by the number of scope views, then estimating percentage of total for this species.
Laughing Gull  18
Ring-billed Gull  3
Herring Gull  2
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Gull-billed Tern  1
Caspian Tern  3
Forster's Tern  5
Royal Tern  10
Mourning Dove  9
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Eastern Kingbird  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  3
Tree Swallow  20
Barn Swallow  8
Carolina Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  7
Marsh Wren  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  2
Savannah Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  10
Red-winged Blackbird  30
Boat-tailed Grackle  40

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

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