07 February 2017

Overnight stay on Bulls allows for new explorations and good yard birds


Mon 6 Feb 2017

   It was an extra-special treat to be on Bulls Island for four days and three nights last week. The annual Volunteer Appreciation Day for the Cape Romain volunteers was Sunday 29 Jan. My wife, Nan, joined me on Saturday 28 Jan to help a few others set up for the next day's big event; we set up and decorated tables, harvested clams and oysters, and shared a great evening meal before staying overnight. After the big day on Sunday Chris Snook and I stayed overnight in the Dominick House (DH) and took early advantage for a two-day waterfowl/shorebird survey on Monday and Tuesday. I was treated to the great camaraderie of the set-up crew overnight Saturday, the bustle of more than 50 fellow volunteers on Sunday, a terrific and generous pot luck dinner, beach combing time with my wife, and the quiet solitude of birding and exploring the island with a good friend from Sunday evening through Tuesday afternoon. 

   Even after several decades of birding on Bulls there remain sections of the island that I haven't yet seen, though after Monday's exploration that number decidedly decreased. After we completed our Monday survey effort, Chris and I went down several side paths off of Old Fort Road, none of which I had ever explored. One ended in the forest, one ended on the edge of the saltwater marsh, a couple ended in mown fields, and one ended at the long back edge of Pool 1. Add to those discoveries two early mornings' birding effort around the picnic grounds and lawn at the DH and this has become a very memorable outing for me. (I honestly have extremely few "favorites" of anything. This used to confound and perplex my daughter who often would ask what my favorite [fill in the blank] was; I'd repeat that I just didn't have favorites. But one rare favorite birding location of mine is early morning birding around the picnic grounds and lawn on Bulls.)

   Each night on the island we watched the new crescent moon set immediately behind the sun. That, combined with clear skies overnight, lead to terrific star gazing views to be found simply for walking out the front door of the DH. Chris also brought his moth collecting gear to do a little study on the micro moths of the island. For two nights he set up a battery-powered, low wattage UV lamp behind a white sheet and photographed the micro moths that showed up. This afforded perfect conditions to do a little owling while waiting for the moths to show up; I was rewarded with my first Eastern Screech-owl in more than a year! 

   Over three days of birding on Bulls (I didn't keep a checklist on Saturday because I was too busy with the setup effort), I tallied 92 species. My summary checklist is appended below. From the survey proper our best sighting was 6 Piping Plovers, all together in one scope view, on the beach near the oceanfront saltwater marsh at Jack's Creek. Two of those were banded ("KK" and "O,Yb:X,G"), each seen several times this winter.

   We did not see Old Man Plover, aka "BO:X,g," though the news on him from Melissa Bimbi is decidedly mixed. On Thursday 26 Jan 2017 Melissa photographed BO:X,g on the North Beach; the photographs clearly show that he has lost his left foot, very likely from the impediment that had been lodged beneath his leg bands in early December (see blog posts from 19 Nov 2017 and 5 Dec 2016). Melissa indicated that, except for the obvious, BO:X,g seemed to be doing OK; he was still mobile and feeding himself. My thanks to Melissa for sharing her photographs.



   Other survey findings showed no Lesser Scaup in the survey areas (we did count a few in the ocean at Beach Road); I mention this because LESC used to be among the most numerous ducks on the survey; this winter their numbers are down. Gadwalls, Ruddy Ducks, and Buffleheads remain the predominant waterfowl species in Jack's this winter. Pied-billed Grebes were also present in high numbers.

   The extra time on the island allowed us to bird areas and times usually missed on the survey. At sunset on Monday we were serenaded by a Great Horned Owl hooting from the antenna on top of the fire tower behind the DH. The next night we heard an Eastern Screech-owl. Myrtle Warblers were present in the best numbers that I've seen in several years anywhere along the S.C. coastal plain. I had a couple of Orange-crowned Warblers, numerous American Robins, numerous Cedar Waxwings, several Yellow-shafted Flickers, a Merlin, several Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Bald Eagles (always a welcome sight), Blue-headed Vireos, and a few Pine Warblers.

   Non-avian wildlife included fox squirrels, bottle-nose dolphin, a bobcat flushed in front of the truck, thick clouds of mosquitoes (that thankfully seemed more interested in the white truck than our own sweet blood), many tracks left behind by resident deer, bobcat, and coyote, and piles of feathers left by some predator dotting Turkey Walk Trail between the two Summerhouse Ponds. Chris patiently studied and photographed several micro moths (meaning, literally, small moths…typically defined as less than or equal to a centimeter but not a proper taxonomic grouping by itself). Apparently these are notoriously difficult to identify beyond family group, at least without dissection to determine internal anatomy.

   I will be leading a field trip for the Charleston Natural History Society, the local Audubon chapter, to and through Bulls Island on Saturday 18 February 2017. We have chartered Coastal Expeditions to ferry us out to the island with a beach drop and pick up on the North Beach. CEX is also handling reservations through the following link: bookeo.com/coastalexpeditions 

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

Tu 14 Feb 2017 5.1 ft high tide forecast at 9:56 AM
Wed 15 Feb 2017 4.8 ft high tide forecast at 10:36 AM
Thurs 16 Feb 2017 4.5 ft high tide forecast at 11:17 AM
Fri 17 Feb 2017 4.3 ft high tide forest at 112:02 PM

David


eBird Checklist Summary for: Jan 28, 2017, 05:00 to Jan 31, 2017, 20:09

Number of Checklists: 6
Number of Taxa: 92

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Jan 29, 2017, 07:37
(2): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Jan 30, 2017, 07:35
(3): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Jan 30, 2017, 14:52
(4): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Jan 30, 2017, 20:20
(5): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Jan 31, 2017, 07:05
(6): Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island
Date: Jan 31, 2017, 08:44

3 Wood Duck -- (3)
392 Gadwall -- (2),(3),(6)
6 American Wigeon -- (2)
8 American Black Duck -- (2),(6)
8 Mottled Duck -- (2),(6)
2 American Black/Mottled Duck -- (2)
5 Blue-winged Teal -- (6)
49 Northern Shoveler -- (2)
3 Green-winged Teal -- (2)
60 Lesser Scaup -- (6)
100 Black Scoter -- (6)
162 Bufflehead -- (2),(6)
18 Hooded Merganser -- (2),(6)
73 Ruddy Duck -- (2)
16 duck sp. -- (2)
2 Red-throated Loon -- (6)
83 Pied-billed Grebe -- (2),(6)
23 Northern Gannet -- (6)
77 Double-crested Cormorant -- (1),(2),(5),(6)
71 Brown Pelican -- (2),(3),(5),(6)
9 Great Blue Heron -- (2),(3),(6)
20 Great Egret -- (2),(3),(6)
28 Snowy Egret -- (2),(3),(6)
6 Little Blue Heron -- (2),(6)
11 Tricolored Heron -- (2),(6)
1 Black-crowned Night-Heron -- (6)
38 White Ibis -- (2),(6)
2 Black Vulture -- (6)
32 Turkey Vulture -- (1),(2),(3),(6)
1 Osprey -- (2)
1 Sharp-shinned/Cooper's Hawk -- (2)
5 Bald Eagle -- (2),(3),(6)
5 Red-shouldered Hawk -- (2),(3),(5),(6)
2 Red-tailed Hawk -- (1),(5)
1 Sora -- (6)
54 Common Gallinule -- (2),(3),(6)
180 American Coot -- (2),(3),(6)
12 Black-bellied Plover -- (2),(6)
232 Semipalmated Plover -- (2)
7 Piping Plover -- (2)
3 Killdeer -- (2)
14 Ruddy Turnstone -- (2)
36 Sanderling -- (2)
1200 Dunlin -- (2)
9 Least Sandpiper -- (2)
85 Western Sandpiper -- (2)
1 Short-billed Dowitcher -- (2)
1 Spotted Sandpiper -- (2)
3 Greater Yellowlegs -- (2)
17 Willet -- (2)
1 Bonaparte's Gull -- (2)
29 Laughing Gull -- (2)
117 Ring-billed Gull -- (2),(6)
5 Herring Gull -- (2),(6)
22 Forster's Tern -- (2)
14 Mourning Dove -- (1),(2),(3),(5)
1 Eastern Screech-Owl -- (4)
1 Great Horned Owl -- (3)
6 Belted Kingfisher -- (2),(6)
5 Red-bellied Woodpecker -- (3),(6)
6 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker -- (5),(6)
1 Downy Woodpecker -- (5)
10 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) -- (1),(2),(3),(5)
1 Merlin -- (2)
10 Eastern Phoebe -- (1),(2),(3),(5),(6)
2 Blue-headed Vireo -- (1),(5)
7 Blue Jay -- (1),(5)
96 Tree Swallow -- (2),(3),(5),(6)
2 Carolina Chickadee -- (3)
6 Tufted Titmouse -- (1),(5)
2 Marsh Wren -- (2),(6)
7 Carolina Wren -- (1),(3),(5),(6)
14 Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- (1),(2),(3),(5),(6)
60 American Robin -- (1),(3),(5)
2 Gray Catbird -- (5)
6 Northern Mockingbird -- (1),(2),(3),(5)
30 European Starling -- (6)
63 Cedar Waxwing -- (1),(5)
2 Orange-crowned Warbler -- (1),(6)
2 Common Yellowthroat -- (2)
3 Pine Warbler -- (5),(6)
310 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) -- (1),(2),(3),(5),(6)
2 White-throated Sparrow -- (5),(6)
4 Song Sparrow -- (5)
7 Swamp Sparrow -- (1),(3),(5)
8 Eastern Towhee -- (1),(5)
1 Eastern Towhee (Red-eyed) -- (1)
11 Northern Cardinal -- (1),(3),(5)
248 Red-winged Blackbird -- (1),(2),(3),(5),(6)
40 Common Grackle -- (5),(6)
26 Boat-tailed Grackle -- (2)
6 American Goldfinch -- (5)

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

1 comment:

  1. Wow productive birding :D
    Visit my blog freeasbird.blogspot.com if you pleased

    Regards from Indonesia

    ReplyDelete