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