Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 S.C. Birding Trip

This year was one of a couple of firsts. We got two very new birds. We visited some new places. We arrived on the heels of Hurricane Joaquin. There was plenty of standing water in the ditches and yards and a few bridges out but we pretty much got what we came for.

We found 109 species which is not the best but hardly the worse. At one point there were 13 of us, too!

The two species that just never got before were great-horned owl and screech owl. We have both easily here in east Tennessee but we never bird at night on these trips.

We visited the Orangeburg Fish Hatchery for the late evening look at anhinga and heron. The St. Johns Island County park where we found rail and savannah sparrow. We tried to visit Bear Island but it was closed due to all the flooding. The drive out and back was more than worthwhile so don’t give up. The picture in the upper left is at a pull out on the road to Bear Island. A good place by itself.

We revisited Donnelly WMA (upper right picture) which we checked out in August. With the water up, the birds were gone except for a painted bunting and a black-crowned night heron.

We found our way to the Bear’s Bluff Hatchery but it was closed. This is the saltwater counterpart to Orangeburg and is located literally at the end of the road. Great possibilities.

However, Beachwalker County Park (but not in a county named “Beachwalker”) was wonderful. The day was cloudy, the surf down, the shore birds posing for photographs, and dolphins, too! That afternoon and evening we went to Roxbury County Park to find the owls and turkey tail fungi.

On the trip back home we stopped again at Orangeburg but at the SuperSod Farm instead. This is a reliable standby place to bird. Check in at the office. Got our horned larks but no harrier. At the industrial park, however, we added sandpipers. By this time the water in the yards will have receded and the shorebird populations will have moved on.

Sadly, we never made it to Congaree National Park, just below Columbia. Too many road were out and we kept getting thrown into detours but not closer to the park so we gave up. 

Perhaps of note: American black duck, dozens of bald eagle, coot, moorhen, sora, piping plover, pectoral sandpiper, and an immature red-headed woodpecker.

We did eat in one place we never have before which was at the Hardees’ in Ravenel. It was about 8:00 or 8:30 on the way back from Roxbury Park. There just wasn’t anyplace else and gas stations and restaurants are hard to find in the part of the county. There are a lot of towns on the South Carolina map but many are a post office and railroad crossing. We learned on our first trip to not count there being a town where the map says there is a town.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fall Count, September 2015

Another fall count in the record books. The forty-sixth consecutive fall count in the upper five counties of east Tennessee.

It was a crummy day. We had rain and coolish weather and still do as I write this as Hurricane Joaquin is entrenched off the east coast.

Reece Jamerson and I tried our best to cover Boone Lake area. I griped all day long and Reece did his best to remind me this was not a contest. It was supposed to be fun and it was in many respects. We had one of two merlin on the count (Old Muddy Creek Road) and two kestrel. I hadn’t seen kestrel since early summer.

But the waterfowl results for us were atrocious. Most people do not know that TVA Boone Lake has been lowered to its lowest levels ever since completion. There is a leak in the earthen part of Boone Dam. We have very little lake and more river than before. The shorelines are now stretched out in many places and of course access to the lake is always limited. The shore brush has grown up over the summer but our access to the lakeside has not moved closer to the shore. It just gets harder to find places where the shore and the road get together enough to have some good birding. We found a couple of spots that we hadn’t tried before and got a bit lucky. We thought getting a couple of cormorant, the merlin, and the kestrel were pretty nice. Not one mallard and few Canada geese. It will interesting to see if the gulls come in this year. They like some of the sand bars out in the middle of the lake near the TVA overlook so they ought to be happy with the lake all that much lowered.

One of the best places for birding as always been then the Boone Lake overlook at the swimming area near the dam. That is closed off as construction work is done on the earthen side which is what you would drive over to get to the overlook.

The waterfowl are still abundant on South Holston and Osceola Island and at Musick’s Campground on the upper end of South Holston Lake.

There were 37 observers in 9 parties and 129 species. The thirty-year average is 129 species. Rick Knight noted the all-time high was in 1993 with 137 species.  I borrowed Rick’s list with the intent to highlight some of the count’s findings, including as he notes, 21 species of warblers:

Canada Goose 1182, Ruffed Grouse 1, Black-cr. Night-Heron 4, Osprey 19, N. Harrier 1, Bald Eagle 8, Sora 4, Spotted Sandpiper 3, Solitary Sandpiper 5, Willet 1, Sanderling 2, Least Sandpiper 1, Am. Woodcock 1, Ring-billed Gull 4, Forster’s Tern 1, Black-billed Cuckoo 1, Pileated Woodpecker 28, Am. Kestrel 24, Merlin 2, Peregrine Falcon 1, N. Rough-wing. Swallow 1, Tree Swallow 231, Cliff Swallow 2, House sparrow 56, Towhee 59, and WARBLERS (21 species):

Ovenbird 2, Worm-eating 1, N. Waterthrush 1, Black-and-white 6, Tennessee 12, Nashville 1, Com.,, Yellowthroat 25, Hooded 4, Am. Redstart 51, Cape May 8, N. Parula 2, Magnolia 24, Bay-br. 8, Blackburnian 7. Chestnut-sd. 7, Black-thr. Blue 2., Palm 54, Pine 2, Yellow-thr. 1, Black-thr. Green 4, Yellow-br. Chat 1