Fri 14 July 2017
And just like that summer is over and fall begins. On my last posting I recounted the arrival of summer with the full-on summertime green in the Spartina alterniflora saltmarsh grasses. On Wednesday's waterfowl/shorebird survey I saw early fall Western Sandpiper migrants. Last year I reported Western Sandpipers (50) and a banded Piping Plover from the 8 July 2016 survey, so there may be a developing consistency of early migration dates.
Rob Dillon and Madison Stelljes joined me for Wednesday's waterfowl/shorebird survey. Rob is a freshwater malacologist so enjoyed wading into several of the impoundments looking for freshwater snails. Rob "looks down" for snails and says that I "look up" for birds; he's fond of classifying things whether species or behavior. Nonetheless he did point out, without using binoculars, the one Marbled Godwit that we found on the day and numerous other birds. Rob also has recently posted on his blog (http://fwgna.blogspot.com/) a fascinating account of numerous freshwater snails found among the breast feathers of an Indigo Bunting; scroll down to the Friday 26 May 2017 posting to read about this unexpected snail/bird connection. Madison joined me on the 13 June 2017 survey and apparently enjoyed it enough that she came back for more. Her birding skills have improved greatly over the past month. My thanks to both for their help with the survey.
Beyond the early Western Sandpiper migrants we also tallied other birds of interest including high counts of Black Terns, Gull-billed Terns, and Spotted Sandpipers as well as Black Scoter, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a juvenile Reddish Egret, and a Common Nighthawk. We had many fewer Least Terns than on recent surveys and no Mottled Ducks. Our eBird checklist for the island is at: https://ebird.org/ebird/iss/view/checklist/S38127403. We tallied 18 species on the boat ride, 55 species on the island, and 58 species on the day's outing.
We also had a few non-avian sightings including fox squirrels, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, butterflies, damselflies, deer flies, and one horse fly. The North Beach dune line continues to grow (the sea oats are growing gangbusters!), and the construction crew is installing new culvert pipes beneath the new dike.
It was a hot and humid day on the island, but the real heat came from a fire burning off of Alligator Alley close to Old Fort Road. Trisha Midgett, the volunteer coordinator for the Cape Romain NWR, was leading a group of orphaned boys around the island, smelled and saw smoke, and called me to track down the location of the fire. (Trisha and her group made their discovery just as they were leaving the island so had no time to locate it specifically.) In almost no time at all the maintenance crew, including the refuge manager, had bulldozed a fire line around the small fire (about the footprint of small house) and was preparing a tank of water to douse the flames and quench the embers. A lightening strike is presumed to have been the cause; fortunately the resulting fire was low, slow, and smoldering rather than fast and ravenous. Good recent rainfall also has kept the island rather moist, so that helped also.
Looking ahead at the tidal calendar suggests the following dates to consider for our next survey:
Tues 25 July 2017 5.3 ft high tide forecast at 10:06 AM
Wed 26 July 2017 5.3 ft high tide forecast at 10:59 AM
Thurs 27 July 2017 5.2 ft high tide forecast at 11:51 AM