Date: 10/2/19 4:13 pm
From: Nate Dias (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: 10 Reddish Egrets, 450+ Marbled Godwits, White Pelicans, Red Knots, Merlin - Cape Romain NWR
John Cox and I enjoyed some good birding around an extremely high tide
in the northern half of Cape Romain NWR this past Sunday. The morning
high tide had been forecast a 6.9 in Charleston Harbor, which is very
high in the first place. But tides had been running a foot above
normal all week. As a result, roosting real estate was in short
supply in most of the usual locations.

This was the first time I had been out on the cape since Hurricane
Dorian and I hoped the damage was not too bad. John had described
things to me from a couple of visits he had made but we both wanted to
check some things closely like new sandbar locations and whether
certain creeks' headwaters were still navigable. As it turned out, a
lot of sand was lost, Lighthouse Inlet reopened, a lot of dunes got
washed away and Raccoon Key was breached in several places. I doubt
it will be walkable for its entire length by CBC time - not enough
time for sand to re-accrete. Poor Old Cape Island (especially the
forest) gets whittled down every time I see it.

On the way to Marsh Island, we passed a group of Marbled Godwits and
Willet roosting on a dock with some pelicans and gulls. Out at Marsh
Island, several species of shorebirds were roosting on floating mats
of dead marsh grass (wrack) that had collected in the tops of the
mostly-submerged marsh grass. Even species as large as Black-bellied
Plovers, Willet and Short-billed Dowitchers were roosting on the
floating wrack. Some of the Black-bellieds chased each other around.
Some of the shorebirds were so comfortable they put their heads under
their wings and went to sleep.

The south end of Marsh Island had a total of 10 Reddish Egrets! Not
long after we got there, half of them flew up the the highest grassy
mounds in the middle of the island. Also on the south end were White
and Brown Pelicans, more Marbled Godwits, Whimbrel, Red Knots, Willet,
Short-billed Dowitchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Spotted Sandpiper,
Sanderling, and American Oystercatcher.

On the north shore (such as it is after Dorian) there were over 450
Marbled Godwits and almost that many American Oystercatchers jammed in
with Laughing Gulls and a handful of Willet. At the highest peak of
high tide, the shore was under water and the birds were standing on
tiptoes as spent waves washed over their feet. Clearly the ragged
edge of sea level rise and hurricane damage.

Unfortunately some surf fishermen were on the beach around the middle
of the tiny island and kept scaring birds desperate for a sliver of
land on an extreme high tide.

Here is a photo of the Godwit mob scene (shows around 40% of the

I have some Reddish Egrets and other photos on my main Flickr page -
though I could only get a maximum four Reddish Egrets in the same

Other highlights of the morning included a Merlin, a couple of hundred
Red Knots (none flagged that we could see), many Spotted Sandpipers,
Clapper Rails, Seaside Sparrows, tern and skimmer flocks, growing
numbers of swallows (Tree and Barn), Bottlenose Dolphin and multiple
Tarpon chasing baitfish and breaking the surface in Cape Harbor.
There were decent numbers of shorebirds and skimmers+terns around
Lighthouse Inlet and the new cut in the southern end of Cape Island.

Nathan Dias - Charleston, SC

We looked hard for a Black-tailed or Bar-tailed Godwit among the
masses of Marbled Godwits and Willet but did not spot one.
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