Date: 10/3/19 1:42 pm
From: Nate Dias (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...>
Subject: Re: 10 Reddish Egrets, 450 Marbled Godwits, White Pelicans, Red Knots, Merlin - Cape Romain NWR
A couple of people have emailed me to ask "isn't Marsh Island closed
to public access for seabird + shorebird nesting?"

Yes, it is seasonally - but according to the posted signs on the
island, access is allowed after September 1.

Nathan Dias - Charleston, SC


"These days I prefer to hunt with a camera. A good photograph demands
more skill from the hunter, better nerves and more patience than the
rifle shot." -- Bror Blixen

On Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 7:12 PM Nate Dias <offshorebirder...> wrote:
> 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
> flock):
> 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
> frame.
> 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.
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