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)

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