Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 17, 2015 Huntington Beach State Park. 2-6 PM Sunny 30C

A day when strong winds were in a birder's favour. The Wilson's Plover was sitting on Asphalt, warming itself, and really didn't want to move. The Seaside/Nelsons/Saltmarsh Sparrows were still uncooperative notwithstanding pishing and squeaking. The Ipswich was in the same location....and was quite happy hopping onto the boulders which make up the long jetty.  Strangely, the male Common Yellowthroat was also hunting amongst these large boulders. NO tree or shrub within half a kilometre! In the last few days, migrants (including Ontarians escaping winter) are showing up in numbers.
 This tall channel marker announces the opening of the channel to one of the few harbours on this part of the Carolina coast, Murrells Inlet.  Double Crested Cormorants find this an excellent resting place.  The jetties protect the channel, and also create a fine biological island, filled with life, especially on the tides.  Large schools of small fish, and their planktonic prey, occupy the channel with many diving birds, dolphins, and some larger fish.  The jetties also form the northern boundary to Huntington Beach State Park.  The southernmost jetty is in the park, and is topped with asphalt.
 An eager fisher admitted it was a bit early to catch anything in this cold water (the Gulf Stream is still miles offshore), but he had to get fishing in this unseasonably warm weather.
 The Wilson's Plover, below, felt the same, as it flew onto the warm asphalt while I sat.  This is the very first Wilson's Plover I have seen. This rare bird (only 10,000 remain) nests here and along the beaches of the Carolinas. It winters in south Florida, the Caribbean and northern South America.  This one had just arrived from the southern wintering area.
 And below (2 photos) is the Ipswich form of the Savannah Sparrow.  This light form is eastern, and less common than the darker form.  I went looking again for the rarer sparrows of the salt marshes just beyond the jetty: Salt Marsh, Henslow, Seaside and Nelson's.  These shy and "hard-to-see" sparrows are difficult to photograph, a real challenge. So far, I have only managed to find their much more common and less shy Savannah Sparrow cousins. Another rare sparrow occurs inland here in the Longleaf Pines: Bachman's Sparrow.  I am intending to visit Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in the next few days to see if any Bachman's and Swallow-tailed Kites are there.

 The brackish pools hosted a few Red-breasted Mergansers, taking a warm, sunny break from fishing.