Friday, January 17, 2014

Birding My Way Into January -- New Year's Day!

         Indeed, I have been birding my way into January.  How I love this time of year!  The Lowcountry is at its birdiest with all of our winter-vacationing species.  Christmas Bird Counts continue up to January 5!  And over the Christmas holidays, my 2 weeks of vacation stretch over into January!  Knowing that I had to return to work on the 6th, I decided to "bird on" (borrowing a phrase from my friend, Pam) those first 5 days of the year.  This short post focuses on our New Year's Day's forays into the rain for the birds!

         My regular readers may recall the post script from my last post in which I wondered if the Great Horned Owl that I was hearing at 11:40 pm on New Year's Eve --- my last bird of 2013 --- would be my first bird of 2014.  If that owl was hooting just past midnight, I would never had heard him due to the loud, continuous booms, crackles and pops of the fireworks.  If I had been that owl, I would have flown as far away as I could.  As it turns out, when my "helpful" cat woke me up at 5 am, the owl was hooting again!  And thus, my last bird of 2013 was my first bird of 2014 -- the Great Horned Owl.

         The weather forecast for January 1 proved to be accurate -- dreary and drizzling with heavier rains predicted for the afternoon.  But at midnight, I had seen my year eBird list count tick over to ZERO.  The challenge was on.  I needed to put some birds down for the New Year!  Of course, with a birdy yard, I can get a decent set of species just looking out my windows.  Looking at the forecast and considering that I had another Christmas Bird count coming up on Sunday, I actually considered staying in.  But Carl had an errand to run -- transporting a kayak stored at my family home on Schooner Creek (James Island) to a friend in West Ashley -- and he needed my assistance.  This West Ashley location is rather close to Magnolia Gardens.  Last year, we had birded there on another gloomy (weather-wise) January 1.  It really is a great place to start a New Year's list (we are talking birds, not resolutions)!  We could and would bird there after the kayak delivery.  Thus, we loaded the car with binocs, cameras and rain gear and set forth.

        Birding from the dock at my family home proved to be very productive -- Bald Eagles, Brown Pelicans, American Oystercatchers, Cedar Waxwings, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Clapper Rails, Willets, Double-Crested Cormorants, Little Blue Heron, Ring-billed Gulls, etc.   It was all quite good!  After the kayak delivery, we continued to Magnolia Gardens.  The rain was just an intermittent, light drizzle but we knew more was coming so we limited our visit to the Audubon Swamp.  As we came in the entrance, we drove by the Audubon Swamp.  We noted a white bird in among the Canada Geese.  I thought it was probably just domestic hybrid duck that had found its way into the swamp.  But we stopped and checked.  It had all the features of a Snow Goose!  So we continued to the entrance, checked in and returned to the swamp to confirm our ID.  YES!  A Snow Goose had come to the Audubon Swamp to hang out with the Canada Geese!

Snow Goose -- Audubon Swamp at Magnolia Gardens -- Charleston, SC -- January 1, 2014

          We continued to bird around the busy swamp.  The birds were quite active before the heavier rains began.  We accumulated a variety of passerines for our New Year's Day list with my favorites being the Black and White Warbler and the Hermit Thrush.  We noted that a couple of pairs of Great Blue Herons were already nest building!  We worked our way towards the far end of the swamp to find more ducks.  We had already noted both Blue-Winged and Green-Winged Teal.  We found a strong flock of Gadwall and  with a solo American Wigeon.  Of course, the entertaining Pied-Billed Grebes had mixed in as well!

          We soon needed to leave as the drizzle had turned into a downpour and it was close to 5 pm.  We had spent quite a nice day birding together!  No longer would my eBird list read ZERO -- I had saw 61 species for the day.  My favorite birds of the day were the Great Horned Owl and the Snow Goose!  I felt pretty darn good about how I starting my year -- Birding!   Happy Birdy New Year's Day!

Snow Goose -- Audubon Swamp -- Magnolia Plantation and Gardens -- January 1, 2014


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