We didn’t start with a specific number in mind. Just go see birds. So we left home at around 0500 for our first stop, the Edisto Nature Trail in Jacksonboro SC. Our wish list for this spot included the Swainson’s, Prothonotary, Kentucky, and Hooded Warblers. They did not disappoint us. We spent time with each of them, watching them singing their unique songs. And although they tried, the mosquitos did not carry us away. (Swainson’s Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, nymph lubber grasshopper (Romalea Microptera), Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica).
Next stop, south on Rt. 17 to Bear Island Wildlife Management Area. On Bennetts Point Road approaching the WMA two young male turkeys appeared on the verge. We stopped to let them pass, and added them to our day list. At the WMA the water level was higher than we expected, and parts of the area were closed. Nevertheless, we added a nice diversity of waders and shorebirds to the list, including American Avocets, Black Necked Stilts, and a Black-bellied (aka Grey) Plover who was getting quite into summer plumage.
Now mid-day, we decided to go to Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It wasn’t originally on our list, but we were sure glad we went! Before we even got started on the loop we walked around the large Live Oak trees and checked the field behind them. To our surprise there was a large “chain” of Bobolinks! Never have either of us seen so many, and so relatively close. We tucked our pants into our socks, sprayed down, and waded into the tall grass for a better look, chiggers be damned!
The drive around the loop proved equally filled with nice surprises. Not one, not two, but four Purple Gallinules. All walking on lily pads right out in the open. Six Black-bellied Whistling Ducks amused us for quite some time. A Least Tern made a brief appearance, and Nighthawks circled over the refuge throughout our visit, making their distinctive buzzy pent call. I learned from our friend Tom that they are called Bull Bats here in the South. They do have that skittery sort of flight, but with long pointed wings crossed near the tip with a white bar, these are not bats. Bobolinks continued to make their presence known all along the loop. (Bobolinks, Alligator – can’t visit SNWR w/o seeing one – , Purple Gallinule, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks)
Luck was with us for our last stop – Fish Haul Creek on Hilton Head Island. The tide was low, making it possible to walk along the marsh to the Port Royal Sound. This is a favorite spot for the birds, and people who don’t mind walking. On the way to the water we had good looks at a stunning Painted Bunting, the Crayola Crayon bird. As exotic as any tropical bird we’ve ever seen. It was at this point we realized we were within grasp of 100 species. Happy to have a spotting scope we put it to good use. We were able to get good looks at Whimbrels (love their long down-turned bill) and Piping Plovers and the usual array of shorebirds. Gary spotted a distant Brown Pelican, and then I spotted a flock of small birds bobbing on the waves. After some debate and closer examination, we identified them as Black Scoters – birds that would typically be farther north by now. But they were young and I guess the party scene at HHI kept them in town 😉
Species 101 was a trio of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. In full summer plumage with a dazzling red eye, these birds were stunning. A perfect way to end the day.