Wed 31 May 2017
Pam Ford and Ed Blitch joined me for Monday's waterfowl/shorebird survey on Bulls, and we really took good advantage of having our own F&WS boat and, thus, our own time schedule. Except for some of the turtle volunteers and three kayakers who landed on the North Beach, I believe that we had the island to ourselves. It was a great way to spend Memorial Day.
While we did see some good birds, it was the very young that really got our attention. On the North Beach we watched a mother Wilson's Plover (WIPL) protect her chick from an aggressive Ruddy Turnstone. This family was really checking out a horseshoe crab, one of the very few that I've seen this year. I recall one recent May when the North Beach was so littered with horseshoe crabs that Wil Christenson and I returned 72 crabs to the ocean in less than one hour. Horseshoe crabs this year have been greatly reduced in number on local beaches making me wonder what annual cyclic variations in horseshoe crab spawning may be at work. Anyway, this one WIPL chick had found this dead horseshoe crab to be an appropriate home base from which to explore the beach.
Wilson's Plover, mother and chick. Photo by Pam Ford
We saw 4 Killdeer chicks exploring the sandy edges of Jack's Creek under the supervision of their parents. One KILL pair was taking turns apparently incubating an egg in their "nest" immediately on the shoulder of the dike.
Killdeer on nest. Photo by Ed Blitch
And the annual nesting of Barn Swallows at the emergency shelter at the picnic grounds also vied for our attention.
Barn Swallow chicks. Photo by Ed Blitch
But the best family show for the day came from the large pod of at least 14 Atlantic bottlenose dolphin that we slipped through when we left the island. One adult repeatedly slapped its tail on the surface of the water, another fully breached out of the water, and several young calves displayed their best synchronized swimming with momma dolphin. I've never seen such a large pod, nor had I ever witnessed the tail slapping behavior. That pod was the brightest moment in a jewel of a day on the island.
But about the birds, we tallied 23 species from the boat, 62 species on the island, and 63 species on the day. I also had Cattle Egrets in the Hwy 17 median (used to be a common sighting many years ago but not recently), Wild Turkeys on Bulls Island Road going into and leaving Garris Landing, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos at Garris that didn't make it onto an eBird checklist. Other notable species included Piping Plovers, Red Knots, Least Bitterns, American Coot, and White-rumped Sandpiper (that was a life-list species for Ed). Our eBird checklist for the island, filled with wonderful pictures thanks to both Pam and Ed, is available at: https://ebird.org/ebird/iss/view/checklist/S37290704.
White-rumped Sandpiper. Photo by Pam Ford
Looking ahead at the tidal calendar suggests the following dates to consider for our next survey:
Mon 12 June 2017 4.3 ft high tide forecast at 10:15 AM
Tues 13 June 2017 4.3 ft high tide forecast at 10:54 AM
Wed 14 June 2017 4.3 ft high tide forecast at 11:35 AM