|View of former rice field -- now an impoundment managed for wildlife -- ACE Basin -- January 1, 2012|
I last posted about birding in the ACE with a 2-part series in November entitled, Donnelly WMA -- A Favorite Birding Site: Part One and Part Two. In Part One, I described the ACE Basin as such:
The ACE Basin, the watershed area of the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers, represents one of the largest estuaries of largely undeveloped land on the East Coast. The conservation of this area results from a coalition among several government agencies and conservation groups working with private land owners to preserve the rural character of the area and thereby to conserve large tracts of land for wildlife and outdoor recreation.
Because the ACE is a large area that encompasses both private and public land holdings, many of us were assigned to bird on private land. The ACE Basin CBC group has been accorded special permission by several property owners to count birds on their land. As such, our team (composed of Ann Shahid -- our leader, Andy Harrison and myself) was given two such properties to bird -- both of which are former plantations. Because these properties are not open to the public and because I do not have the owners' permissions to blog about or to post representative photos of them, I will not reveal the names of these properties or publish identifying photos. Instead, I will blog about the experience of the day in general terms and will show a few photos of the birds and birding activity. The birds that we found on these properties are not unique to these particular properties. They can be found on many of the public lands that are open to visitors in the ACE Basin. The public sites are:
- ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
- Bear Island
- Caw Caw
- Great Swamps
- Donnelley Wildlife Management Area
- Dungannon Heritage Preserve
- Edisto Beach State Park
- Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve / Wildlife Management Area
- St. Helena Sound Heritage Preserve
The day began early, and a bit chilly -- 36F -- Brrrr!, with a 7 am rendez-vous in Jacksonboro. After receiving our assignments, maps and instructions as to where to find particular birds, we set off for the first property. This is an area that I have birded in the past so I was familiar with it. We experienced an intense quietness when we arrived at our first stop -- a swamp of cypress and tulepo trees. Gradually, we began to hear a few birds here and there chirping. But as the sun began to rise and the light began to filter down the bare tree trucks, the swamp and adjoining field came to life with multiple species of birds. They were suddenly EVERYWHERE -- chirping and flitting about with a spunky energy! It was birdy to an extreme! I had difficulty focusing on any one bird because others would flit by and distract me. "There's another Ruby-Throated Kinglet -- no maybe I already counted that one." We found in that one spot Pileated Woodpeckers, Downies, 6 Blue-Headed Vireos (more in one location than I have ever seen!), American Goldfinches, Carolina Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Golden-Crowned Kinglets, Eastern Bluebirds, Hermit Thrush, some Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers and the list continues. Wow! Now that was quite a start! Eventually, the lively flock of birds moved on and we left that area for another.
We came to a field that had been so very birdy last year with many Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows and others. By contrast, this year, we heard some light chip notes but we could only occasionally flush a bird from the grasses. These birds were simply not coming out. I doubt that there were nearly as many birds seeking cover as the year before.
|Andy phishing for sparrows -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 2012|
|Ann phishing for sparrows -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 2012|
We did get a few Eastern Meadowlarks in the fields and we had a Bald Eagle and later a Merlin fly over. We continued through a stable area and here I found several Chipping Sparrows, Bluebirds and a Pine Warbler. We were also beginning to see some Turkey Vultures, a few small flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds, and a few Northern Mockingbirds. We also began to spot more Downies and Northern Flickers. The American Crows were beginning to raucously call as well.
|Turkey Vultures -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 2012|
|Ruby-Crowned Kinglet -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 2012|
After leaving that area, we birded some fields where we found an American Kestrel. We had hoped for some Wilson Snipe and more Eastern Meadowlarks in that area but they were absent.
|American Kestrel -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 2012|
This sunny morning had warmed up nicely and we could remove layers. Next we found a place to eat lunch overlooking a marsh. While eating, we saw a couple of Northern Harriers and a couple of Bald Eagles and more Black Vultures and a few Turkey Vultures. In the marsh, I was able to phish up some Song Sparrows. After lunch, we continue to another low-lying wooded area where we found an Eastern Phoebe, several White-Throated Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Yellow-Rumped Warblers (of course), and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker among others. We continued up a hill to an area that was mixed agricultural fields, hardwoods, pine and burned woodland. There we had a surplus of White-Throated Sparrows and some Chipping Sparrows as well as a few Mourning Doves.
Realizing that we had yet another property to visit, we decided to leave this property and head out to the other. None of us were familiar with this nest property. Following directions received from the compilers of the count, we took a shortcut across Donnelly WMA -- not part of our bird count territory, to reach the other property. In Donnelly, in the fields approaching the utility sheds, I spied this resident American Kestrel (he is nearly always there), who is probably more used to gawking photographers trying to take his picture, and so he did not fly away when I drove past and posed quite nicely for his photo shoot!
|American Kestrel -- Donnelly WMA -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 2012|
|Bufflehead -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 1012|
|Bufflehead at sunset -- ACE Basin CBC -- January 1, 2012|
My personal tally for the day was 65 birds and I know that our territory count was a bit higher as I did not see all the birds that Andy and Ann saw. Those two are great birding partners and we worked well together to find the birds. The properties were beautiful and the birds fascinating. I look forward to birding with Ann and Andy again and to my next opportunity to return to the ACE! What a great way this was to start the New Year!