By Aaron Given for The Island Connection
Temperatures were mild, ranging from the upper 60s to the lower 70s, for the ninth Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count Jan. 3. Participants had to deal with south winds ranging from 12 to 20 mph, which undoubtedly affected the birding. The strong winds kept some songbirds hunkered down and made the ocean rough, presenting a challenge to see seabirds. Along the coast, a dense fog rolled in around noon, but, fortunately, it did not last too long.
This year we had 17 participants in five parties on Kiawah Island; 12 participants in six parties on Seabrook Island; nine participants in four parties on Johns Island; seven participants in three parties on Wadmalaw Island; and two participants in one party on Deveaux Bank. In addition, there were 12 feeder watchers at nine locations on Kiawah; seven at six locations on Seabrook; and three at two locations on Johns Island.
The Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count team recorded 23,127 individual birds and 156 different species: 8,686 birds and 126 species on Kiawah; 4,636 birds and 115 species on Seabrook Island, including Freshfields; 4,329 birds and 103 species on Johns Island; 3,354 birds and 93 species on Wadmalaw Island; and 1,902 birds of 29 species on Deveaux Bank.
Two new species were added for this year’s count: A dickcissel was seen at Ambrose Farms on Wadmalaw Island by Dave Eslinger and Don Jones, and a pair of mottled ducks were spotted at the new Kiawah River development on Johns Island by Jim Jordan, Chris Davies and Matt Hill.
Each island reported unique species for this year’s count.
Kiawah was the only island with a surf scoter, white-winged scoter, sora, American coot, parasitic jaeger, great black-backed gull, northern gannet, American bittern, prairie warbler, saltmarsh sparrow and seaside sparrow.
Seabrook recorded a ruddy duck, Eurasian collard-dove, ruby-throated hummingbird, American woodcock, barred owl and rusty blackbird. Johns Island had a mottled duck, cattle egret, roseate spoonbill, house sparrow and Baltimore oriole. On Wadmalaw Island, green-winged teal, redheaded woodpecker, merlin, white-breasted nuthatch and dickcissel were spotted.
Deveaux Bank recorded the only Wilson’s plovers and American white pelicans.
Notable misses included dabbling ducks, green herons, peregrine falcons, golden-crowned kinglets and Nelson’s sparrows.
I want to thank all the participants and volunteers for continuing to make this event a success. Not only is the bird count fun and educational for participants, but it also contributes valuable scientific data to aid in bird conservation across the country. Looking ahead to next year, the count will most likely occur on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5.