20 September 2016

Zugunrhuefest and regular survey finds Reddish Egrets, many ducks, and some "common" birds of the day

Tues 20 Sept 2016

The Zugunruhefest Birding Festival, the migratory birding festival sponsored by The Center for Birds of Prey, was last weekend. By invitation from Captain Chris Crolley of Coastal Expeditions (CEX) I birded Bulls Bay and Bulls Island to help co-lead a birding trip for Zugunruhefest. If you really want to experience the best birding in Cape Romain go on a birding-specific outing with CEX and Captain Chris. We chased down Clapper Rails, Seaside Sparrows, American Oystercatchers, night herons, and many different shorebirds by boating right up to shorebird-festooned private docks, shell rakes peppered with oystercatchers, Spartina grasses hiding rails, sparrows, and herons, and slowly drifting through high tide creeks normally too shallow to motor through. We took our time getting to Bulls and then Captain Chris dropped several of us off on the North Beach for a one-way walk back to the dock. This is a great way to bird Bulls on foot because you get to the best birding locations without having to walk both out and back.

And then I got back out to Bulls today for our regular survey. CEX's Captain Wil Christenson and Pat Campbell joined me for today's survey. A summary eBird checklist covering the 70 species from both the Zugunruhefest and today's regular survey is appended below, FYI. Though the tide was particularly high this morning the birding was somewhat slower than usual with just 34 species on the survey proper, 53 species on the island, and 57 species on the day. On Friday's Zugunruhefest ferry ride we tallied 34 species compared to today's regular ferry ride with 25 species showing the value of specific birding efforts between docks compared to a regular ferry ride. If you want the best birding in Cape Romain go birding with CEX, but I've already said that.

Avian species of note included a family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (2 parents plus 9 duckling juveniles), many Mallards, many Mottled Ducks, many Blue-winged Teal, many Brown Pelicans, many Reddish Egrets, many American Oystercatchers, Piping Plovers, Marbled Gowit, Red Knot, Great Black-backed Gull, Merlin, Seaside Sparrow, and Orchard Oriole. The best birds on today's survey were paradoxically common species, specifically Common Tern and Common Ground-Dove. 

Non-avian wildlife included estuarine and oceanic pods of Atlantic bottle-nose dolphins (including a very young one), numerous butterflies (particularly Gulf fritillaries), a brief look at what we concluded was a coyote (larger than a bobcat, distinctly long and bushy tail), American alligators (no surprises there), and enough mosquitoes today to drive one to distraction. 

On the ferry ride back to Garris today a couple from Wisconsin spending the first day of their Lowcountry vacation on Bulls Island asked why Night Herons (Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned) were named "night." I had to research this and discovered that night herons are primarily known to be active, specifically feeding, at night. I've rarely had trouble finding them in daylight, but now I think I'll have to go out looking for them some evening.

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

Tues 4 Oct 2016 5.5 ft high tide forecast at 10:33 AM
Wed 5 Oct 2016 5.4 ft high tide forecast at 11:10 AM
Thurs 6 Oct 2016 5.3 ft high tide forecast at 11:50 AM


eBird Checklist Summary for: Sep 16, 2016, 07:00 to Sep 20, 2016, 17:09

Number of Checklists: 4
Number of Taxa: 70

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Bull's Island Ferry
Date: Sep 16, 2016, 07:47
(2): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Sep 16, 2016, 10:25
(3): Bull's Island Ferry
Date: Sep 20, 2016, 08:51
(4): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Sep 20, 2016, 09:38

12 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck -- (2),(4)
10 Mallard -- (2)
211 Mottled Duck -- (2),(4)
74 Blue-winged Teal -- (2),(4)
10 Pied-billed Grebe -- (4)
4 Wood Stork -- (1),(3),(4)
11 Double-crested Cormorant -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
1 Anhinga -- (4)
191 Brown Pelican -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
10 Great Blue Heron -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
47 Great Egret -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
39 Snowy Egret -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
3 Little Blue Heron -- (2),(3),(4)
12 Tricolored Heron -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
13 Reddish Egret -- (2),(4)
9 Green Heron -- (1),(4)
1 Black-crowned Night-Heron -- (1)
3 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron -- (1),(3),(4)
9 White Ibis -- (1),(3),(4)
15 Turkey Vulture -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
11 Osprey -- (1),(2),(4)
1 Cooper's Hawk -- (2)
1 Bald Eagle -- (4)
3 Red-shouldered Hawk -- (2),(4)
16 Clapper Rail -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
53 Common Gallinule -- (2),(4)
117 American Oystercatcher -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
37 Black-bellied Plover -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
99 Semipalmated Plover -- (1),(2),(4)
3 Piping Plover -- (2)
12 Marbled Godwit -- (1),(3)
17 Ruddy Turnstone -- (1),(2),(4)
3 Red Knot -- (2)
70 Sanderling -- (2),(4)
1 Least Sandpiper -- (4)
20 Semipalmated Sandpiper -- (1)
418 Short-billed Dowitcher -- (1),(3)
7 Spotted Sandpiper -- (1),(3),(4)
6 Greater Yellowlegs -- (4)
122 Willet -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
2 Lesser Yellowlegs -- (1)
359 Laughing Gull -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
1 Herring Gull -- (4)
3 Great Black-backed Gull -- (2),(4)
13 Caspian Tern -- (2),(4)
1 Common Tern -- (4)
12 Forster's Tern -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
694 Royal Tern -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
53 Sandwich Tern -- (1),(2),(4)
149 Black Skimmer -- (2),(4)
1 Common Ground-Dove -- (4)
1 Mourning Dove -- (2)
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird -- (4)
6 Belted Kingfisher -- (2),(4)
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker -- (2)
1 Merlin -- (3)
8 Eastern Kingbird -- (2),(4)
1 Blue Jay -- (2)
6 Barn Swallow -- (1),(2)
1 Carolina Wren -- (2)
8 Northern Mockingbird -- (1),(2),(4)
3 Common Yellowthroat -- (1),(2),(4)
1 American Redstart -- (4)
1 Yellow-throated Warbler -- (4)
1 Prairie Warbler -- (2)
10 Seaside Sparrow -- (1),(3),(4)
8 Northern Cardinal -- (2),(4)
32 Red-winged Blackbird -- (1),(2),(3)
27 Boat-tailed Grackle -- (1),(2),(3),(4)
1 Orchard Oriole -- (4)

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

09 September 2016

A record number of Reddish Egrets and a good look at a Common Ground-Dove

Fri 9 Sept 2016

   I had great help from Chris Snook and Jeff Kline on Tuesday's waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls Island. T.S. Hermine blew through the area late last week  leaving the island littered with leaves and twigs and with a resculpted dune line beachfront at Jack's Creek (see my blog from Sat 3 Sept 2016 for a more detailed report). Tuesday dawned cool (temperature along Bulls Island Road leading to Garris Landing was 59 °F) and sunny. Coastal Expeditions' Captain Wil Christenson and First Mate Nick Johnson graciously got us out to the island and back. Coastal Expeditions continues to provide superlative ferry service in support of the ongoing survey efforts. I am grateful for their service and dedication.

   We tallied 30 species on the ferry ride, 46 species on the survey proper, and 62 species on the island. Our eBird checklist from the island is appended below, FYI. Notable sightings included high numbers of Mottled Ducks, Brown Pelicans, Reddish Egret, Great Black-backed Gulls, and Caspian Terns. Other good sightings included Mallard, Piping Plover (banded), Marbled Godwit, Common Ground-Dove, and Yellow Warbler. 

   The Piping Plover was banded with plastic, colored bands above each ankle, nothing below either ankle, and no apparent metal band. We studied this one bird carefully and discussed the apparent discrepancies from expected banding practises, especially the apparent lack of a metal band. Hopefully I'll have something to report back once I hear from some of the Piping Plover banding folks. We also got very good, brief views of the Common Ground-Dove that we flushed from the dune line along the North Beach. And our count of 10 Reddish Egrets, all in the oceanfront saltwater marsh at Jack's Creek, sets a new (for me) record number of those birds seen on Bulls on one day. 

   Non-avian sightings of interest included Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin, fox squirrel, and Monarch and Gulf fritillary butterflies. 

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

Mon 19 Sept 2016 6.4 ft high tide forecast at 10:14 AM
Tues 20 Sept 2016 6.4 ft high tide forecast at 11:08 AM
Wed 21 Sept 2016 6.2 ft high tide forecast at 12:06 PM


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Sep 6, 2016 9:58 AM - 3:20 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.6 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Chris Snook and Jeff Kline. Effort: 9.8 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 2.75 mi and 4 hr 05 min by foot. Weather: sunny, clear, and warm; temps 71 °F to 86 °F; winds W at 5 mph; barometer steady at 30.23 in Hg. Tide was forecast 5.2 ft high at 11:51 AM.  <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.2.6 Build 75
62 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  9
Mallard  2
Mottled Duck  59     A fairly accurate count.
Blue-winged Teal  5
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Wood Stork  6
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Anhinga  1
Brown Pelican  152     A fairly accurate count.
Least Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  6
Great Egret  13
Snowy Egret  23
Little Blue Heron  2
Tricolored Heron  8
Reddish Egret  10     An accurate count.
Green Heron  3
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  16
Glossy Ibis  9
Turkey Vulture  3
Osprey  4
Cooper's Hawk  1
Common Gallinule  16
American Oystercatcher  2
Grey Plover  36
Semipalmated Plover  122     A fairly accurate count.
Piping Plover  1     Banded: Blue over light blue UL; Green over yellow UR. No bands or flags at all below ankles. No metal band observed.
Marbled Godwit  2
Ruddy Turnstone  9
Red Knot  2
Sanderling  72     A fairly accurate count.
Least Sandpiper  2
Semipalmated Sandpiper  125     A fairly accurate count.
Western Sandpiper  62
Short-billed Dowitcher  16
Spotted Sandpiper  8
Willet  5
Lesser Yellowlegs  3
Laughing Gull  7
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  2
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Least Tern  7
Caspian Tern  9
Black Tern  4
Royal Tern  50
Sandwich Tern  6
Black Skimmer  104     A fairly accurate count.
Common Ground-Dove  1     Flushed from the dunes at North Beach. Small dove; short, stubby tail; rounded wings.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Belted Kingfisher  6
American Kestrel  1
Eastern Kingbird  5
Barn Swallow  12
Northern Mockingbird  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  6

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

04 September 2016

T.S. Hermine Report

Sun 4 Sept 2016

   Tropical Storm Hermine passed over S.C. last Thursday and Friday. Saturday dawned with clear skies, calm seas, and pleasant temperatures. In other words, it was a terrific day to check out the island for possible storm damage and possible storm birds. And I wasn't the only one wanting to get out to the island on a holiday weekend Saturday as the Coastal Expeditions (CEX) 9:00 AM ferry was filled nearly to capacity; as a matter of fact  CEX hauled out so many people they needed to add an extra 5:00 PM departure just to get everyone off of the island. CEX's Captain Wil Christenson and First Mate Nick Johnson joined me for the morning's survey before their midday ferry service.

   The passing tropical weather system dropped 4.30 in of rain on Bulls Island and littered the island with leaves, twigs with leaves, occasional small branches, and plenty of palmetto fronds. With only occasional blockages from fallen branches, all easily cleared, the roads and dikes survived fully intact. There was electrical power at the Dominick House, but I don't know if there had been any service disruptions. The North Beach, front beach at Beach Road, and Price's Inlet beaches all appeared essentially unaffected by the event. However Boneyard Beach appeared to suffer additional erosion into the forest, not severe but noticeable; the beach affronting Jack's Creek appeared to suffer wave washers that further flattened the few dunes that used to be there and largely filling in the two inlets draining the oceanfront saltwater marshes bordering the dike at Jack's Creek. Each of those two inlets was reduced to a trickle drainage. The large metal objects that have long littered the Boneyard Beach at the end of the road near New Pond were completely covered with sand and thus not visible.

   The rainfall was sufficient to significantly expand the minuscule area of water that had been in Jack's Creek. Most of the expansive mudflats were covered with water, admittedly very shallow water but covered nonetheless. Shelling was better than usual but not spectacular; sizable cockle shells were, as typical, the primary shells that the storm washed up.

   Oh, and about the birds…. We didn't see any specific storm birds (oceanic species that often fly within the calm storm eye thus being carried ashore before being dropped to the ground). The storm eye, very intact at landfall on the Florida panhandle, had long since vanished. Check out the story from the Washington Post at: 

   We did see other species of particular interest, at least to us. We three had been looking all year for Roseate Spoonbills; Nick was the first to spot a pink pair flying over Jack's. Also in Jack's we saw Blue-winged Teal, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Cooper's Hawk. In the oceanfront marsh at Jack's we found Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plover, Reddish Egret, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Prairie Warbler, and Bald Eagle. The bird of the day I got at my usual lunch spot on the beach after dropping off Wil and Nick; while eating lunch I dropped my sandwich to grab my bins as a pair of Long-billed Curlews flew by over the breakers. Our eBird checklist is at:

   I'm looking forward to Tuesday's survey.


Great birding for late August

Wed 24 Aug 2016

   Irvin Pitts and Nolan Schillerstrom joined me for Monday's waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls Island. Irvin, as he often does, arrived early at Garris Landing and began finding Painted Buntings, Yellow Warblers, Prairie Warblers, Summer Tanagers, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Northern Waterthrush among others. All that before we got into the F&WS boat for our ride over to Bulls!

   Between that great start at Garris Landing (47 species), the boat ride over (25 species), the survey proper (44 species), and the whole island (65 species), we tallied 87 species on the day. That made for a terrific August day's birding. Our eBird checklist from the island is appended below, FYI.

   Notable spices included Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (specifically including 7 juveniles…evidence that the species is breeding on the island), Piping Plover (interestingly seen on the mud/sand flats in Jack's Creek and not on the beaches proper), Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Prairie Warbler, and the largest kettle of Barn Swallows that I've likely ever seen (very conservatively estimated at 200 flying all over the Spartina alterniflora marsh immediately behind the island). We each added to personal lists whether year, county, or life lists. With this great mix of summer resident species and fall migrants (both shorebird and passerine), the birding was good.

   The next survey has been scheduled for Tuesday 6 Sept 2016; all seats for that survey are taken.


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Aug 22, 2016 9:56 AM - 4:20 PM
Protocol: Traveling
13.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing Bulls Island waterfowl/shorebird survey with Irvin Pitts and Nolan Schillerstrom. Effort: 9.8 mi and 1 hr 30 min by vehicle plus 3.2 mi (estimated as pedometer needed fresh battery) and 4 hr 30 min by foot. Weather: clear, sunny, warm, and humid; temps 83 F to 88 F; AM winds N at steady 5 mph to 8 mph, PM winds E at steady 10 mph to 12 mph; barometer 30.07 in Hg rising to 30.09 in Hg. Tide was forecast 5.8 ft high at 11:26 AM.  <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.2.6 Build 75
65 species (+1 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  14     7 mature plus 7 juveniles.
Blue-winged Teal  24     A fairly accurate count.
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Anhinga  1
Brown Pelican  75
Least Bittern  2
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  148     A fairly accurate count.
Snowy Egret  96
Little Blue Heron  1
Tricolored Heron  5
Green Heron  6
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  2
White Ibis  29
Glossy Ibis  3
Turkey Vulture  10
Osprey  2
Mississippi Kite  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Clapper Rail  1
Common Gallinule  13
Black-necked Stilt  4
American Oystercatcher  4
Grey Plover  97     A fairly accurate count.
Wilson's Plover  2
Semipalmated Plover  231     A fairly accurate count.
Piping Plover  1     No leg flags or bands seen.
Ruddy Turnstone  45     A fairly accurate count.
Red Knot  125     A fairly accurate count.
Stilt Sandpiper  2
Sanderling  71     A fairly accurate count.
Pectoral Sandpiper  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  25
Western Sandpiper  16
peep sp.  135     Peeps too distant to ID to species.
Short-billed Dowitcher  88
Spotted Sandpiper  10
Willet  20
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Laughing Gull  102
Herring Gull  2
Least Tern  109     A fairly accurate count.
Caspian Tern  10
Black Tern  42
Common Tern  4
Forster's Tern  230     A fairly accurate count.
Royal Tern  206     A fairly accurate count.
Sandwich Tern  47
Black Skimmer  106     A fairly accurate count.
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  1
Barn Swallow  100
Marsh Wren  1
Carolina Wren  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
American Redstart  1
Prairie Warbler  3
Northern Cardinal  2
Painted Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  30
Boat-tailed Grackle  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1

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