Monday, August 26, 2013

Late July at Bear Island WMA: Part 2: The Target Bird!

Snowy and Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Black Skimmers and others -- Pecan Trees Road impoundments -- Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) -- July 24, 2013

          Our hot July days this year here in coastal SC simply were not all so hot, humid or buggy.  As such, when I heard from fellow birders that large flocks of shorebirds and wading birds had arrived en masse to the lowered impoundments at the Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA), I did not hesitate to go see them for myself.  In addition to the large flocks, I was quite interested in adding a year bird to my list -- the Black Tern -- and hopefully, to also see the Wilson's Phalarope -- which would be a new life bird for me!  In Part 1 of this two-part post series, I recounted the very special day of my solo excursion with remarkable and wonderful close wildlife encounters.  If you have not yet read it, I recommend that you check it out.  I included videos of those close encounters!  Those moments when you become an accepted part of the animal's immediate environment are precious indeed.  On that first visit, the Wilson's Phalarope had eluded me.  Thus, I pledged that if  others continued to report it, I would return.  And indeed, that evening, when I checked the eBird reports, someone had seen this bird after I had left.  This second post will now recount the quest for this target bird, the Wilson's Phalarope!

        In the previous post, you learned that I visited Bear Island on a Wednesday and spent most of the day there.  Then, Wednesday evening, I learned that that others who visited late in the afternoon got the bird.  So I gathered more information about this bird's behavior and specific impoundment as well as additional photos from birding buddy, Keith McCullough.  Everyone had said that this bird seemed to move erratically.  But specifically, I learned that this species spins and runs in circles on the ground and in water while it forages.  This bird covers a lot of ground -- never staying in one area long.  Thus, Carl and I were well-prepared with much information when we set out for Bear Island WMA that Friday after work. 

        The weather was delightful -- yet another unusually comfortable July evening!  The skies were mostly sunny with a cool breeze and the position of the sun allowed for well-lit identification of shorebirds -- even without a scope.  I was stunned though in the changes wrought in two days time.  One impoundment that had been nearly completely dry was covered with water and the other two impoundments had a good bit more water as well.   The number of terns, shorebirds and wading birds had diminished significantly in all three impoundments.  The grass on which the bunny had fed had been mowed and the dike with the thigh high grass had been mowed.  I was a little disappointed for Carl that he was not going to see the great numbers of birds that I had witnessed 2 days earlier.  Still, with the much improved light, we were presented with very good photographic opportunities.  Carl was quite thrilled with what he was seeing. 

Young Common Gallinule -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

Roseate Spoonbill -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013
Black Tern -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

Black Skimmer -- July 26, 2013

A very early American Coot -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

Black-necked Stilt -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

Greater Yellowlegs -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

           This time, I focused on scanning the mudflats for our target bird, the Wilson's Phalarope.  I had read that he was often hidden from view behind clumps of marsh grasses.  We knew from the outset that this would be a sort of "cat and mouse" search.  Carl and I split up to increase our chances.  As he often does, Carl went through the tall marshes to sit down at the water's edge.  Due to the number of gators known to this area, this is not something I myself will readily do.  Thus, I was moving down one dike, while Carl was scanning the numerous shorebirds from his position low in the marsh on the other dike.  Thankfully, we had visual contact with each other and cell phone service!  We both spotted the little whirling devil -- our Wilson's Phalarope -- at about the same time!  I was too far away though to be sure initially that this was the bird.  What stood out to me from my perspective were his behavior, his light coloration and upright position and long thin neck.  Carl was closer though and a little more certain that he was on the bird.  He called me and we agreed that we were looking at the same bird.  I headed over to where Carl was -- keeping my eyes on the bird as long as I could.  I had to traverse the tall, thick marsh grasses and join Carl at the edge of the water.  By this time, I figured that Carl had already frightened off the gators that might have lurked there.  I was just following in his footsteps -- not trying to find a new opening in the grass.  Ah yes, the view of our new life bird -- this whirling, dashing dervish -- the Wilson's Phalarope was sweet indeed!  Though I was now close enough to get some rather decent ID photos....

Wilson's Phalarope -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013
 Carl was closer still and he takes top prize for best photos of the Wilson's.  See below!

Wilson's Phalarope with Least Sandpiper -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

Wilson's Phalarope with Least Sandpiper -- Bear Island WMA -- July 26, 2013

        Success!  We did it!  We found our gorgeous, stand-out target bird together!  OK, some may not think him to be so beautiful -- but to me, he was quite the lovely character.  Carl and I enjoyed watching him as he darted about the impoundment. 

       Thus concludes this two part series on Late July Birding at Bear Island Wildlife Management Area.  Special wildlife moments can be had there for the soloist adventurer or for the whole group -- even in July!  First, the patient, quiet, solo observer can experience momentous connections with nature via close wildlife encounters  -- such as mine from that Wednesday with the large flocks, the Marsh Rabbit and the Least Bittern (see Post One).  Then, Bear Island WMA is also a place where life birds can be sought and then found, and shared and celebrated with a fellow birder.  For me, it was particularly sweet to share and celebrate my hard-sought life bird with Carl!            

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!! Some of the best photos the 2 of you have ever done! STUNNING and weren't you the lucky ones to see & photograph the Wilsons P. !!!! g