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A Western Surprise at Fort Moultrie

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

I had about an hour to bird so I decided to explore my favorite birding hotspot Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island, SC and look for Sparrows. The morning temperature was in the mid 50's with a light wind, it felt very cool. The bird activity started out very slow with little to no sparrow activity. I walked down the main path to the beach which has tall grasses and vegetation perfect for sparrows. I first heard some excited chit calls from a nearby House Wren followed by some contact calls from several Song Sparrows. I continued down the path when a friendly Eastern Phoebe perched atop a nearby shrub. As I made it to the end of the pathway I heard several high pitched calls from a group of Savannah Sparrows. So far all of the Sparrows remained low in the brush and not very photogenic. I proceeded around the field and walked along Battery Jasper, hearing more calls from Savannah and Song Sparrows. A couple of Swamp Sparrows and a White-throated Sparrow briefly revealed themselves in the lower brush. Across the field a massive flock of more than 400 Tree Swallows appeared above the trees!, they circled for a bit then moved out of sight. As I got to the end of this pathway I noticed some bird activity in the brush, another House Wren, a Common Yellowthroat and a Palm Warbler provided brief looks. By now I had been birding for more than 45 minutes and it was almost time to end the trip. I then noticed some birds foraging on the ground near a chain link fence. I watched several Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a couple Palm Warblers in the low cut grass. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed a large flycatcher with a yellow belly perched atop the fence. I quickly snapped several photographs and then reviewed the bird through my binoculars, the bird had a pale gray color on its head and breast with a dark eye-line, a bright yellow belly, and a dark tail. The bird was a Western Kingbird! This bird is a rare visitor to the Eastern US, its typical location is throughout the Western US. What a great finish to a short birding trip!

Happy Birding! -Charles

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