26 May 2016

Shorebird migration peaked and passed

Th 26 May 2016

I was grateful to have both Wil Christenson and Nick Johnson, Captain and First Mate of the Coastal Expeditions (CEX) ferry, respectively, help me with today's waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls, even though they had to return to the dock for the noon ferry departure. CEX has been a steadfast and joyous supporter of this ongoing survey and I am grateful for their support.

Jack's Creek is almost completely dry excepting the ditches adjacent to the dikes and the remnant of the original creek, and that's about to dry up too. I'm hoping to find time to really hike out and through Jack's to fully explore areas usually completely inaccessible. That effort will require an entire day separate from the survey I suspect. In the little water remaining near the Old Fort, the American alligators massed there put on a vigorous feeding show when a few wading egrets flushed many sizable fish through a very narrow channel. Pretty cool to watch the fish flapping about, swimming through, and literally bouncing off the backs of snapping gators.

Shorebird migration has definitely peaked and passed on Bulls. Back on 10 May we tallied 3648 individuals of 20 shorebird species; today we tallied 277 individuals of 16 shorebird species. It was humbling to have to study up on Sanderlings in the field guide to make sure that I was accurately identifying them; they have a spectacularly warm and colorful plumage for a species with basic plumage so reminiscent of dry sand on a cold winter beach. A few Red Knots and good numbers of Least Sandpipers were the other shorebird species of note. Waterfowl were restricted to summer residents Wood Duck, Mottled Duck (one proud parent being followed very closely by one duckling), and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. Our full eBird checklist is appended, below, FYI.

Misses included Purple Gallinule (seen and photographed by others this past Saturday off of Beach Road in Lower Summerhouse Pond), Reddish Egret (I really thought they'd be here in modest number by now), Wood Stork, Whimbrel (recently seen in high numbers), Sandwich Tern, and Black Tern.

Non-avian sightings of note included several fox squirrels, a presumptive loggerhead turtle crawl (tracks) on the North Beach that likely lead to a new nest, and Atlantic bottlenose dolphin spy hopping (momentarily holding their heads well above the water surface and looking directly at us) right beyond the ferry's gunnels.

Tangential to the survey, I was prompted by a nature-writing workshop to produce a little haiku. See if you can identify the species described in the following haiku. (Answer below.)

black and white attire
raucous calling on the wing
pink legs up to thar

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

Tues 7 June 2016 5.1 ft high tide forecast at 10:23 AM
Wed 8 June 2016 4.9 ft high tide forecast at 11:16 AM
Thurs 9 June 2016 4.8 ft high tide forecast at 12:10 PM

I'll try to plan this next one a little earlier.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
May 26, 2016 9:37 AM - 3:41 PM
Protocol: Traveling
22.999 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Wil Christenson and Nick Johnson (at least until they had to return to run the noon ferry). Effort: 17.7 mi and 2 hr by vehicle plus 5.25 mi and 3 hr 30 min by foot. Weather: sunny and warm; temps 81 F to 83 F; SE winds at 5 mph with gusts to 12 mph; barometer steady at 30.23 in Hg. Tide was forecast 4.5 ft high at 11:23 AM.  <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.2.1 Build 65
55 species (+1 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  8
Wood Duck  5
Mottled Duck  6
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Anhinga  15
Brown Pelican  49
Least Bittern  5
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  15
Snowy Egret  15
Tricolored Heron  8
Green Heron  10
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  46
Glossy Ibis  3
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  6
Osprey  4     All 4 tending one of two nests.
Bald Eagle  1     1 mature
Common Gallinule  12
Black-necked Stilt  20
American Oystercatcher  1
Grey Plover  1
Wilson's Plover  5
Semipalmated Plover  20
Killdeer  1
Spotted Sandpiper  3
Willet  4
Ruddy Turnstone  15     A fairly accurate count.
Red Knot  3
Sanderling  18
Dunlin  3
Least Sandpiper  65
Semipalmated Sandpiper  97
peep sp.  10     Seen in a quick drive by Moccasin Pond; didn't stop to scope.
Short-billed Dowitcher  11
Laughing Gull  38
Ring-billed Gull  2
Least Tern  6
Gull-billed Tern  20     A fairly accurate count.
Forster's Tern  3
Royal Tern  31
Black Skimmer  8
Mourning Dove  2
Common Nighthawk  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Blue Jay  1
Barn Swallow  7
Marsh Wren  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Pine Warbler  1
Northern Cardinal  10
Painted Bunting  6
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Boat-tailed Grackle  21

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

The haiku was describing Black-necked Stilts. Was I successful? Should I try more haiku? (I kinda like haiku, don't you?)

10 May 2016

Shorebird migration is still going strong on Bulls Island, most ducks have left for the summer, and many summer resident species have arrived.

Tues 10 May 2016

Shorebird migration is still going strong on Bulls Island, most ducks have left for the summer, and many summer resident species have arrived. David Gardner brought two of his naturalists from Camp St. Christopher, Scott Warner and Sydney Rogers, to join me today for the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey. Coastal Expeditions (CEX) sponsored our boat ride out to the island and back. Captain Wil Christenson and First Mate Nick Johnson were, as usual, exceptionally gracious and accommodating in their efforts to get us out to Bulls. Thanks, CEX.

Bulls has finally dried nicely after many months of exceptionally wet weather. The roads are firm and in good shape, most of the impoundments are holding high water levels while Jack's Creek is nearly dry excepting very shallow puddles out in the middle and the ditches adjacent to the dikes, the dike construction across Jack's Creek has begun again (first work on the dikes since the early October rains), and the bugs haven't really come out in full force yet. There were many, many shrimp boats offshore; I hope that bodes well for a good harvest season. I wonder how many were local shrimpers and how many were from out-of-state? [The fresh shrimp that I've recently purchased from B&B Seafood at the end of Bennetts Point Road down on the St. Helena Sound in the ACE Basin are terrific! Go out and eat some local shrimp! It won't disappoint.]

We tallied 48 species on the survey proper, 69 species on Bulls, and 70 species on the day's outing. Our combined eBird checklist from both the Bulls Island Ferry and the Bulls island eBird hotspots is appended, below, FYI. Notable species include Black-bellied Whistling Duck (first in many months), Black Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Northern Gannet, Reddish Egret, Bald Eagle (a good friend opines that any day you see a Bald Eagle is a good day's birding), American Avocet (unexpectedly on the North Beach), Whimbrel (many), Red Knot (uncommon on Bulls…I don't know why), Black Tern (FOS), and Common Tern. Also seen in high numbers were Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpiper. 

Non-avian sightings included fox squirrels (10, more than I ever recall having seen before), loggerhead sea turtles, bottlenose dolphin, numerous different dragonflies, black racer (snake), and horseshoe crabs.

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

Wed 25 May 2016 4.5 ft high tide forecast at 10:39 AM
Thurs 26 May 2016 4.5 ft high tide forecast at 11:22 AM
Fri 27 May 2016 4.5 ft high tide forecast at 12:12 PM

In the meantime, I'll be co-leading a bird walk on Bulls for the upcoming Bulls Bay Nature Festival on Saturday 21 May 2016. Come on out and see what the Festival has to offer. They're online at http://bullsbaynaturefestival.org/ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bullsbaynaturefestival. All actives are FREE OF CHARGE but many require advance registration due to seating limitations, e.g. This could be your opportunity for a FREE tour of Bulls Island or any of several other local attractions. I'd actually like to tour both the Battery Warren Civil War Site and the Hampton Plantation State Historic Site among others; perhaps another time for me.


eBird Checklist Summary for: May 10, 2016

Number of Checklists: 2
Number of Taxa: 70

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Bull's Island Ferry
Date: May 10, 2016, 09:00
(2): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: May 10, 2016, 09:40

5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck -- (2)
8 Mottled Duck -- (2)
4 Black Scoter -- (2)
1 Red-breasted Merganser -- (1)
1 Northern Gannet -- (2)
12 Double-crested Cormorant -- (2)
23 Anhinga -- (2)
32 Brown Pelican -- (1),(2)
6 Least Bittern -- (2)
2 Great Blue Heron -- (2)
14 Great Egret -- (1),(2)
21 Snowy Egret -- (2)
10 Tricolored Heron -- (2)
1 Reddish Egret -- (2)
6 Green Heron -- (1),(2)
1 Black-crowned Night-Heron -- (2)
2 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron -- (2)
11 White Ibis -- (2)
1 Glossy Ibis -- (2)
4 Turkey Vulture -- (1),(2)
3 Osprey -- (2)
1 Bald Eagle -- (2)
5 Common Gallinule -- (2)
13 Black-necked Stilt -- (2)
1 American Avocet -- (2)
3 American Oystercatcher -- (1),(2)
31 Black-bellied Plover -- (1),(2)
11 Wilson's Plover -- (2)
515 Semipalmated Plover -- (1),(2)
1 Killdeer -- (2)
35 Spotted Sandpiper -- (1),(2)
1 Solitary Sandpiper -- (2)
2 Greater Yellowlegs -- (2)
9 Willet -- (1),(2)
4 Lesser Yellowlegs -- (2)
53 Whimbrel -- (1),(2)
20 Ruddy Turnstone -- (1),(2)
6 Red Knot -- (2)
1225 Dunlin -- (2)
66 Least Sandpiper -- (2)
1694 Semipalmated Sandpiper -- (2)
1 Western Sandpiper -- (2)
58 Short-billed Dowitcher -- (1),(2)
36 Laughing Gull -- (1),(2)
2 Ring-billed Gull -- (2)
15 Least Tern -- (2)
30 Gull-billed Tern -- (1),(2)
2 Black Tern -- (2)
2 Common Tern -- (2)
10 Forster's Tern -- (1),(2)
91 Royal Tern -- (1),(2)
2 Sandwich Tern -- (2)
253 Black Skimmer -- (2)
7 Mourning Dove -- (2)
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo -- (2)
2 Common Nighthawk -- (2)
1 Belted Kingfisher -- (2)
4 Great Crested Flycatcher -- (2)
1 Eastern Kingbird -- (2)
7 Barn Swallow -- (2)
1 Marsh Wren -- (2)
1 Northern Mockingbird -- (2)
1 Common Yellowthroat -- (2)
2 Summer Tanager -- (2)
8 Northern Cardinal -- (2)
1 Blue Grosbeak -- (2)
2 Painted Bunting -- (2)
12 Bobolink -- (2)
21 Red-winged Blackbird -- (1),(2)
5 Boat-tailed Grackle -- (1),(2)

This trip summary was created using the eBird app for iPhone and iPad.