Waterbird Count, April 13

The day started on a good note with a vibrant sunrise, slow wind coming from the southeast, and an abundance of waterbirds.  The Long-tailed Ducks were moving through and loafing in the hundreds, but the White-winged Scoters were moving through in unusually high counts and densities.  Groups of ten or more were common, and several groups passed through within the first four hours.  However, it wasn’t until around 10:00 AM that the show began.  As I was doing my routine starting scan for loafing birds, I found the usual Red-breasted Mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks, but then, as if from nowhere, the water started to run black over by St. Helena Island.  Upon closer examination I realized they were scoters, and surmised that they were most likely all White-winged Scoters, but at their distance and loafing it was too difficult to tell.  Five minutes later I was wrapping up my preliminary scan for loafing birds, when the scoters started to move again, along with the Long-tailed Ducks.  As I looked back towards St. Helena Island, I could see that a passing ship had come close enough to start stirring up the birds like bugs in a bush.  The water and sky became peppered with the White-winged Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks as they scattered around the passing freighter.  It was quite unfortunate that Steve Baker- who came to visit me about forty-five minutes later- missed this record-breaking natural phenomenon.  The raptor activity and migrating loons were about the only birds that had a noteworthy drop in numbers for today, and it wasn’t until after midday that I started seeing Bald Eagles.  Other birds worth mentioning at McGulpin Point include an adult female Belted Kingfisher, half a dozen Northern Flickers flying about, and even a small group of Wild Turkey that came to forage down at the lakeside no more than fifteen yards from me.  It was a fantastic day to be an all-day birder at McGulpin Point; the weather was gorgeous, the birds were out in force, and there is hope that things will only continue to improve.

Canada Goose – 23
Mute Swan – 4
swan sp. – 1
Mallard – 2
Greater Scaup – 5
Aythya sp. – 2
White-winged Scoter – 625
Long-tailed Duck – 493
Common Goldeneye – 4
Common Merganser – 21
Red-breasted Merganser – 185
Common Loon – 4
Horned Grebe – 1
Double-crested Cormorant – 22
duck sp. – 9

Other Species:
Turkey Vulture – 25
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 2
Accipiter sp. – 1
Northern Harrier – 1
Bald Eagle – 5
Red-tailed Hawk – 24
Sandhill Crane – 3
Merlin – 1