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Bird Watching on the edge of Hurricane Nicole

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

I headed out to Sullivan's Island, SC on this rainy and windy morning to look for any shorebirds and gulls seeking refuge from the large Hurricane moving across Florida. As I walked toward the beach on the south side of Sullivan's Island I quickly realized that there was No beach! The surge from the Hurricane, high tide and moon phase combined to make the highest ocean water level I have seen at this location! I decided to try further up the island to find any exposed area of beach to look for birds. I tried station 16 and was able to walk adjacent with the dunes to an area with a large group of gulls foraging on the breaking waves. Most of the gulls were Laughing Gulls with some Ring-billed Gulls mixed in, I did find a couple of Bonaparte Gulls, a Forster's Tern and a Royal Tern. As I got closer to the gulls I finally found some exposed beach! There were Sanderlings everywhere. Several gulls were resting on the beach and as I crept closer to get pictures I flushed two small plovers. I crouched down and watched the plovers circle back to a nearby spot, they turned out to be Piping Plovers! One Plover was tagged so I reported the sighting following the FWS guide. The banding project informed me that this Plover hatched in 2022 on North Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan. (A picture of plover taken by Alice Van Zoeren in July is in the Blog Gallery) So this little plover made it from Lake Michigan all the way to the South Carolina coast on its first Fall migration, about 900 miles! After I took some pictures of the Plovers I focused on the resting gulls. There were 2 Herring Gulls and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls! I watched the gulls for about 15 minutes and then decided to head back as the rain continued to fall. As I walked between the dunes and the rising ocean a small flock of ducks approached along the shoreline. I snapped some pictures and then pulled out the binoculars, they turned out to be 8 Mottled Ducks! The last bird of the day was a Northern Harrier working the field at Fort Moultrie. The trip was an adventure and I was rewarded with some great birds!

Happy Birding! -Charles

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