Tuesday 21 Feb 2017
I made it out to Bulls twice late last week, once for the ongoing waterfowl/shorebird survey on Thursday 16 Feb (thanks to Olivia Hirst-Wilson for helping with the survey) and once leading a Charleston Natural History Society/Audubon field trip on Saturday 18 Feb. The absolute highlight was seeing Old Man Plover, aka BO:X,g, walking on the North Beach on Saturday. This was the first time that I had seen him since early December 2016. Everyone of the 27 folks on our field trip got scope views of him. I was able to capture a brief, 5 s video of him walking.
Even though both the waterfowl and shorebirds are fewer in number than they were in late January 2017 there were a few other highlights. Over the two trips I tallied 89 avian species. Of particular note were White-winged Scoter, Wilson's Plover, and Peregrine Falcon.
Friday 3 Mar 2017
Chris Snook was able to join me yesterday for the ongoing waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls. We had the great good fortune to have our own F&WS boat for the day that allowed us unhurried access to the island. We tallied 78 species on the day's outing; our eBird checklist from the island is available online at: http://ebird.org/ebird/iss/view/checklist/S34934566.
Construction of the new dike across Jack's Creek has resumed even as the water levels have just begun to drop. That construction effort certainly kept the ducks away from the big shovel, but I don't think that it really affected the waterfowl across most of Jack's Creek. With that proviso, there has been a recent decline in waterfowl number that I personally attribute to the record-setting warm winter season. The most numerous ducks this winter have been Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and Gadwall. While Buffleheads remain numerous, Ruddy Ducks and Gadwall were greatly reduced in number yesterday. Additionally one of the most numerous ducks in prior winters was Lesser Scaup which have been very few in number this winter.
The North Beach has become almost completely devoid of shorebirds or, indeed, any birds, at least over our most recent surveys. We saw 1 Sanderling and 1 Piping Plover there yesterday. That was it for shorebirds on the North Beach. There were good numbers of shorebirds in the saltwater marsh oceanfront at Jack's, mostly Dunlin and Semipalmated Plovers, that included 10 Wilson's Plovers and 5 Piping Plovers (including two that were banded/flagged).
About the same time that the red maple began budding on the island at the end of January the yellow jessamine also began blooming and, almost as quickly, dropping blooms. All over the island are carpets of dropped blooms shining like rays of sunlight reaching deeply into the shadowy understory of the maritime forest showing exactly where the vines have climbed shrubs and trees.
A few non-avian species that we encountered included Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, fox squirrel (Old Fort Road), mosquitoes (continuing hoards hanging out in the lee of the wind), sulfur butterflies, American alligators, and pretty good shelling opportunities on the North Beach.
Looking ahead at the tidal calendar suggests the following dates to consider for our next survey:
Wed 15 Mar 2017 5.0 ft high tide forecast at 10:24 AM
Thurs 16 Mar 2017 4.8 ft high tide forecast at 11:01 AM