19 March 2017

Fewer ducks and fewer shorebirds balanced by good woodland birding

Fri 17 Mar 2017

Irvin Pitts joined me for yesterday's waterfowl/shorebird survey that started out very cold (temperatures on Bulls Island Road into Garris Landing dipped to 19 °F) and sunny. We were bundled up for our boat ride out and were not in any hurry to set a speed record in that Yamaha wind. Our birding started out on a terrific note with a very early sighting of a Bald Eagle.

We tallied 75 species on the day, 72 on the island, and 39 on the survey proper. Our eBird checklist from the island is available at: https://ebird.org/ebird/iss/view/checklist/S35231199 and is appended below. Many of the winter waterfowl appear to have left on migration. While Ruddy Ducks were one of the most numerous ducks over this winter, we saw none yesterday. Buffleheads continue as the most numerous duck, and we got nice, bright views of several other species including American Wigeon, Mottled Duck, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, and Hooded Merganser. 

The shorebirds seemed reduced in number, too. The North Beach continues to have very few birds, though we did see two Piping Plovers there to add to the seven we spotted in the saltwater marsh oceanfront at Jack's Creek. We did not see Old Man Plover. Interestingly we had high counts of Ruddy Turnstones, Wilson Plovers, American Oystercatchers, and Sanderlings to offset our low counts of Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers, and no Western Sandpipers.

We also had fairly good woodland birding on the island. Among the warbler species we had Black-and-white Warbler, Pine Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, and Palm Warbler. We also had Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Marsh Wren, and two Sharp-shinned Hawks. 

The yellow jessamine that had been so prominent recently on the island (see pictures on my previous blog post) was still blooming but was greatly reduced in its presence. Both of the inlets draining the saltwater marshes oceanfront at Jack's Creek have greatly filled in, one reduced to a trickle and one completely filled in; perhaps the tides simply haven't been high enough to flood those marshes recently. The new dike construction continues slowly; perhaps they're waiting for the water level to drop more.

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

Thurs 30 Mar 2017 5.4 ft high tide forecast at 10:18 AM
Fri 31 Mar 2017 5.2 ft high tide forecast at 11:08 AM


Cape Romain NWR--Bulls Island, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Mar 16, 2017 9:48 AM - 5:03 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.3 mile(s)
Comments:     Conducting the ongoing waterfowl/ shorebird survey with Irvin Pitts. Effort: 10.3 mi and 1 hr 30 min by truck plus 2.0 mi and 5 hr 10 min by foot. Weather: sunny and cold; temps 32 F to 50 F; winds NW at 10 mph; 30.40 in Hg barometer. Tide was forecast 4.8 ft high at 11:01 AM.
72 species (+1 other taxa)

Gadwall  20
American Wigeon  3
Mottled Duck  14
American Black/Mottled Duck  3     Too distant to ID to species.
Blue-winged Teal  28
Northern Shoveler  44
Green-winged Teal  4
Lesser Scaup  32
Bufflehead  91     A fairly accurate count.
Hooded Merganser  19
Pied-billed Grebe  43
Northern Gannet  1
Double-crested Cormorant  18
Anhinga  6
Brown Pelican  10
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  15
Snowy Egret  24
Little Blue Heron  12
Tricolored Heron  25     A fairly accurate count.
White Ibis  30
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  7
Osprey  3
Sharp-shinned Hawk  2
Cooper's Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  2
Clapper Rail  1
Sora  1
Common Gallinule  29
American Coot  71
American Oystercatcher  4
Grey Plover  7
Wilson's Plover  4
Semipalmated Plover  141
Piping Plover  9
Killdeer  4
Ruddy Turnstone  50
Sanderling  152
Dunlin  120
Least Sandpiper  3
Short-billed Dowitcher  1
Willet  10
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  1
Forster's Tern  14
Mourning Dove  16
Belted Kingfisher  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Eastern Phoebe  5
Blue Jay  1
Tree Swallow  500
Carolina Chickadee  1
Marsh Wren  5
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  5
Grey Catbird  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Cedar Waxwing  9
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Palm Warbler  1
Pine Warbler  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  65
White-throated Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  2
Swamp Sparrow  6
Eastern Towhee  1
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  8
Common Grackle  16
Boat-tailed Grackle  70

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


  1. This is a very impressive post about "Old Man Plover." I am amazed at his tenacity to do what his instincts dictate regardless of his health. I look forward to hearing more about him. Any records of other PIPL that have lived more years?
    Ann Shahid

  2. I hear from Craig Watson (of the USF&WS, Charleston office) that there is at least one banded PIPL known that is older than Old Man Plover, by about two years if I recall correctly.