26 June 2016

Shorebirds braving a hot day on the island

Sun 26 June 2016

Pam Ford joined me for yesterday's waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls Island. It was very sunny and hot with temperatures peaking at 98.5 °F. I drank all of my water and spent the whole evening back home trying to rehydrate. Nonetheless we had a great day's birding seeing typical species like gulls and terns, a few unexpected numbers of shorebirds, and missing a few hoped-for species. (Sounds like a typical birding effort, doesn't it?) Coastal Expeditions' Captain Wil Christenson and First Mate Nick Johnson treated us as pampered guests and might have joined us for a couple of hours' birding except they needed to meet up with the boss. 

The Spartina alterniflora, aka saltmarsh cordgrass, is finally fully green. It always seems to take until mid to late June for that to happen. The marsh grasses are beautifully green, especially when you look with the sun at your back. Jack's Creek is nearly dry again and the new dike construction proceeds rapidly, at least to my eye. 

We tallied 38 species on the survey proper, 58 species on the island, and 62 species on the whole day's outing. See our eBird checklist from the island appended below. Notable sightings included Common Loon (seen from the ferry), Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (quickly becoming an expected species on Bulls but first seen on the island only in May 2014), Pied-billed Grebe (apparently juvenile birds showing residual chevron plumage patterns on head and cheek), Sharp-shinned Hawk, Clapper Rail (fairly uncommon on the survey proper), American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Common Tern. Misses included Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Black Tern, and Spotted Sandpiper. 

Most of these shorebird species are "supposed to be" way up north in their breeding range now, typically northern Canada, yet here they are. All of the Black-bellied Plovers that I saw were in basic (winter) plumage suggesting to me that these might be immature birds not yet molted to mature plumage. Maybe I should look closer at these birds to see if they show any of the yellowish feather margins typical of juvenile BBPL plumage. I also suppose that there are any number of reasons why any one shorebird, or any multiple number, might not actually migrate all the way to their typical breeding range. Such reasons might include injury, illness, age (either too young or too old), or nutrition (either poor or too-good-to-leave-behind). I wouldn't really consider that any bird would exhibit free will or conscious decision to simply not breed therefore why bother migrating, but what do I know? Yes, these over-summering birds are unexpected, but why shouldn't we expect some such "aberrant" sightings? 

Other than the birds, wildlife sightings were relatively few. We had a few butterflies and dragonflies, a couple of fox squirrels, a few American alligators (all either in the water or in the shade), but no dolphin, turtles, or bobcat. Perhaps many of those animals were sensibly avoiding the extreme heat and intense sunshine that we humans blithely and actively seek out because we have sufficient technology to overcome the heat stresses that follow.

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

Wed 6 July 2016 5.0 ft high tide forecast at 10:01 AM
Th 7 July 2016 4.9 ft high tide forecast at 10:51 AM
Fri 8 July 2016 4.8 ft high tide forecast at 11:41 AM
Sat 9 July 2016 4.8 ft high tide forecast at 12:30 PM


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jun 25, 2016 9:45 AM - 3:38 PM
Protocol: Traveling
13.999 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Pam Ford. Effort: 10.5 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 3.5 mi and 4 hr 20 min by foot. Weather: sunny and hot; temps 87 F to 98 F; W winds at 5 mph to 10 mph; 39.05 in Hg barometric pressure. Tide was forecast 4.8 ft high at 11:58 AM.  <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.2.2 Build 70
58 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  5
Mottled Duck  5
Pied-billed Grebe  2     Apparently juveniles showing residual chevron plumage patterns on head and cheek.
Double-crested Cormorant  16     A fairly accurate count.
Anhinga  7
Brown Pelican  24
Least Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  11
Snowy Egret  34
Tricolored Heron  6
Green Heron  18
White Ibis  1
Glossy Ibis  8
Turkey Vulture  5
Osprey  2
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Clapper Rail  6
Common Gallinule  13
American Coot  1     Rail with dark plumage and white bill. Scope view.
Black-necked Stilt  12
American Oystercatcher  4
Grey Plover  85     A fairly accurate count.
Wilson's Plover  10
Semipalmated Plover  58     A fairly accurate count.
Killdeer  4
Willet  8
Marbled Godwit  22     An accurate count.
Ruddy Turnstone  4     An accurate count.
Sanderling  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  7     An accurate count.
Short-billed Dowitcher  41     A fairly accurate count.
Laughing Gull  28
Ring-billed Gull  1
Least Tern  30
Gull-billed Tern  34     A fairly accurate count.
Common Tern  4     An accurate count. Small terns, black crown, white forehead, black bill, dark legs, dark carpel bar, long wing tip projection.
Forster's Tern  1
Royal Tern  83
Sandwich Tern  31
Black Skimmer  72
Mourning Dove  4
Common Nighthawk  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
Purple Martin  4
Barn Swallow  34
Carolina Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  1
Marsh Wren  2
Carolina Wren  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Painted Bunting  6
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Boat-tailed Grackle  15
Orchard Oriole  4

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

09 June 2016

T.S. Colin leaves little more than gentle rain and gentle winds.

Th 9 June 2016

This past Tuesday dawned with cloud bands interspersed with sunshine and nearly calm waters after Tropical Storm Colin passed by overnight. Colin, formed in the Gulf of Mexico, very quickly crossed Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina overnight before speeding out into the North Atlantic leaving tropical storm warnings along the coast but little else. Relatively gentle WNW winds were the only remnant other than 1.76 inches of rain left on the island. However with two named tropical storms since our last waterfowl/shorebird survey (T.S. Bonnie, 28 May 2016 through 31 May 2016 and T.S. Colin, 6 June 2016), the rain has partially refilled Jack's Creek that had been nearly dry at the last survey. Fortunately, there appears to be no noticeable North Beach erosion from this pair of named storms. Surprisingly the dike construction crew has made appreciable progress on the new dike since our last visit.

Cathy Miller and Nike Pappas joined me for Tuesday's survey. Coastal Expeditions (CEX) once again graciously got us out to the island and brought us back at the end of the day. CEX's Captain Wil Christenson even joined us for about an hour at the beginning of our survey and helped us look for for a recently reported Purple Gallinule, which we failed to locate. We were rewarded with a beautiful day of sunny skies, warm temperatures, consistent winds, and modest humidity. We did keep our eyes open for any possible avian vagrants that may have been blown in by the passing Colin, but saw none. We tallied 65 species on the island, 41 species on the survey proper. Our eBird checklist for the island is appended, below, FYI.

Though the birds are now in full-on summer mode on Bulls, there were a few interesting sightings. We had Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (a life list sighting for Nike), a female Black Scoter, our FOS sighting of a Reddish Egret (another life list species for Nike), a pair of Osprey juveniles (hatchlings not yet fledged from the nest) being tended to by both parents, Black-bellied Plovers (listed below as Grey Plover), Sanderlings, Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and my first ever up-close and perched (i.e., not on the wing) Common Nighthawk. CEX's First Mate Nick Johnson also found us a Common Loon still in basic (non-breeding) plumage swimming in the salt water marsh. 

Non-avian sightings of interest included fox squirrel, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, alligators, and numerous butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies. 

Looking ahead at the tidal calendar and my personal calendar suggests the following date to consider for our next survey:

Sat 25 June 2016 4.8 ft high tide forecast at 11:58 AM


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Jun 7, 2016 9:45 AM - 3:39 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.399 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Cathy Miller and Nike Pappas. Effort: 9.2 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 3.25 mi and 4 hr 30 min by foot. Weather: T.S.Colin overnight passed from the Gulf of Mexico across FL, GA, and SC then quickly offshore into the Atlantic leaving cloud bands interspersed with sunshine that quickly cleared to sunny skies with only modest humidity; temps 75 F to 87 F; AM winds WNW at 15 mph to 20 mph, PM winds WNW at 10 mph to 13 mph; waters were surprisingly calm though there were appreciable waves where Bulls Bay met the Atlantic Ocean; barometer rose from 29.66 in Hg to 29.70 in Hg. Tide was forecast 5.0 ft high at 10:23 AM.  <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.2.1 Build 65
65 species (+1 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  3
Wood Duck  2
Mottled Duck  12
Black Scoter  1     In small breakers off North Beach. Scope view of 1 female.
Wood Stork  1
Double-crested Cormorant  6
Anhinga  14
Brown Pelican  108     A fairly accurate count.
Least Bittern  7
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  9
Snowy Egret  30
Tricolored Heron  6
Reddish Egret  1
Green Heron  17
Black-crowned Night-Heron  5
White Ibis  16
Glossy Ibis  1
Black Vulture  4
Turkey Vulture  7
Osprey  5     3 mature plus 2 nestlings
Clapper Rail  1
Common Gallinule  15
Black-necked Stilt  12
American Oystercatcher  3
Grey Plover  8     An accurate count. None appeared to show alternate plumage, all showed basic plumage.
Wilson's Plover  9
Semipalmated Plover  22     A fairly accurate count.
Killdeer  2
Willet  9
Ruddy Turnstone  8     A fairly accurate count.
Sanderling  41     A fairly accurate count.
Semipalmated Sandpiper  58     A fairly accurate count.
Western Sandpiper  2     Scope views in good light at modest distance. Both showed moderately long, slightly decurved bills.
peep sp.  16     Too distant to ID beyond 'peep' spp.
Short-billed Dowitcher  52     An accurate count.
Laughing Gull  61
Herring Gull  1
Least Tern  4
Gull-billed Tern  23     A fairly accurate count.
Caspian Tern  1     Red bill, dark primary wing tips below on wings.
Forster's Tern  5
Royal Tern  72
Sandwich Tern  10
Black Skimmer  3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  3
Common Nighthawk  5
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Barn Swallow  8
Carolina Chickadee  4
Marsh Wren  4
Carolina Wren  3
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher  1
Northern Mockingbird  12
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  3
Summer Tanager  4
Northern Cardinal  10
Indigo Bunting  1
Painted Bunting  3
Red-winged Blackbird  29
Common Grackle  4
Boat-tailed Grackle  10
Brown-headed Cowbird  4
Orchard Oriole  3

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