It was an comparatively slow morning at Santee NWR but we still enjoyed good birding.
At the Bluff Unit, we had a flock of Swainson's Thrushes and warblers at the Visitor's Center. And an early Peregrine Falcon flying back in forth right in front of us at Fort Watson in pursuit of a Belted Kingfisher. We picked at the warblers at the big vine tangle and Ft. Watson and on the service road we had regular Scarlet Tanager sightings among scattered migrants. At one point we had a flock of 5 Scarlet Tanagers in the same tree. Other highlights at the Bluff Unit included Painted Bunting, a Bald Eagle chasing an Osprey back and forth, a kettle of 20+ Anhinga, good looks at multiple Magnolia Warblers and Black-and-white Warblers and other common birds. We had multiple UFO empids.
At Pine Island, we had great looks at a close Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in decent light that obligingly flipped back and forth on its perch to give us front and back views. It was a small green-backed empid with a large head (rounded not peaked), complete eye ring that seemed fairly uniform, pale yellow wingbars, moderate primary projection and very short tail The bill was large in proportion to the bird's size, uniformly orange below, with no dark tip, and rounded edges. The bird had a yellowish wash underneath from the vent to the bill, including throat and CHIN. There was a dirty grayish wash overlaid on the yellow breast.
We judged it to be a fall juvenile from the fresh, not faded, plumage. We had a couple of more UFO empids - one was likely an Acadian Flycatcher.
Steve Rhodes' friend Ben from New York was visiting, and we got him his target Brown-headed Nuthatches. We also had a Brown Creeper that only a few of us got on before it flew and we lost track of it. More common warblers like Prairie and Magnolia lined the edge of the field complex and we enjoyed non-bird sightings of Rough Green Snake, Ground Skink and Zebra Heliconian butterfly. When he parted with us before Pine Island, Dennis Forsythe said we would see good birds and leps and he was right.
The next Santee NWR bird walk is on Saturday October 14 - meet at the Visitor's Center at 7:30am.