|Yellow Warbler -- the first bird encountered at the Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
Apparently, after the deluge last weekend which dumped trillions of gallons of rain on our state, we experienced a "deluge" of another kind -- a fallout of migrating birds! The rain ended thankfully, but due to the effects of the flooding, I was off from work Monday and Tuesday. Feeling the effects of cabin fever, I made my escape Tuesday out to Folly Beach's east end -- the Heritage Lighthouse Preserve. Carl and I had tried to get there Sunday but the roads were impassable. The radar, Tuesday morning, showed significant bird activity early in the morning. I had also heard multiple chip notes at 5:30 am. This is something that is not usually perceived at my house due to traffic noises. But with enough birds and very little traffic, I heard plenty and was quite hopeful for a bounty of birds.
Indeed, I was dumbfounded by the quantity of birds be-bopping around, foraging in the wooded & brushy edges of the entrance road to the preserve. I came to a relative standstill, entranced, as I birded a 50 yard stretch along this entrance road, back and forth, for more than 3 hours! The warblers were constantly popping into view everywhere in all directions. Thankfully, another pair of birders, a delightful couple from Rock Hill -- Tom and Raquel, came along and joined me. With three pairs of eyes to look in different directions, we were all able to see and identify even more birds!
|American Redstart -- the 2nd bird of the day! -- likely a hatch-year male -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
Blown away by the density of the birds, I texted my friend, Aaron Given, master bird bander, at the Kiawah Island Banding Station (KIBS). I was curious as to what they were experiencing on Captain Sam's Spit. I also wanted to let my friend Chris Snook, also a master bird bander, who is helping Aaron at KIBS and who used to band birds at this site on Folly, what I was seeing. Aaron texted back (at 11 am) to say that they were experiencing a record-smashing day and he estimated that they would band more than 300 birds! But I am not going to steal their thunder. You should read about the final "EPIC" tally of the day at KIBS here on their blog. Pretty darn amazing! Yes, I think this can be called a fallout!
So how is a fallout defined? I found this definition on the About Birding website:
A fallout is an extraordinary event when birds literally "fall out" of the sky in unusually high numbers and in extreme diversity. Fallouts most typically happen during migration when large number of birds are already on the move, and are often caused by a combination of unique geography and difficult weather that concentrates birds into a small, specific area, where birders can then enjoy the spectacle.
The birds then forage frantically at the earliest opportunity to replenish their energy, and they may remain in the area for just a few hours or for a few days, depending on the location and the severity of the weather that caused the fallout.
Basically birds pile up because conditions are not suitable for them to fly. My husband challenged me when I described my birding experience last Tuesday as a fallout. I will agree that my experience was not of the proportions as we have seen in photos such as these documenting a fallout on Machias Seal Island in the Gulf of Maine taken by Ralph Eldridge. Nonetheless, I stick by my premise that this was a fallout.
|Another look at my first warbler of the day -- Yellow Warbler -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
So how did I fare bird-wise? I tallied 13 warbler species as well as a few other special migrants! I cannot recall ever seeing 13 warbler species in one day -- except maybe when I have helped out at KIBS. And I managed to photograph 10 of the 13 species! And so, I present to you my photo collection from the day with the warblers first.
The numerous American Redstarts fascinated us by fanning tails their tails and by chasing flying insects.
|American Redstarts -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
The many Common Yellowthroats were skulking down low in the brambles occasionally coming up to check out my phishing.
|Common Yellowthroats -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
I always enjoy watching the Black-and-white Warblers. I enjoyed watching a pair of them hunt for food together following each other on the same trunk.
|Black-and-White Warblers -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
I was thrilled to sight a Chestnut-sided Warbler. It is rare that I get to see them in their winter plumage and I am always amazed at how different they are in appearance -- gone all of the bright chestnut and yellow markings! It doesn't even look like the same species.
|Chestnut-sided Warbler -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
This Cape May Warbler posed most cooperatively!
|Cape May Warbler -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
Northern Parulas were not in short supply.
|Northern Parula -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
Prairie Warblers were everywhere also.
|Prairie Warbler (female) -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
One of my favorite birds to watch was this Magnolia Warbler! They also change quite a bit from breeding to basic plumage and yet, they are still quite boldly marked! I just love that tail!
|Magnolia Warbler -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
Finally, my thirteenth warbler of the day, I spotted on my way out of the preserve -- a Tennessee Warbler!
|Tennessee Warbler -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
The three warbler species that I saw but was unable to photograph were the Palm Warbler (Western), an Ovenbird, and three Black-throated Blue Warblers!
Another favorite migrant was this Scarlet Tanager who had nearly completely molted into his Fall plumage. He still retained though a trace of his scarlet feathers which were most notable when he flew.
|Scarlet Tanager -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
A number of Red-eyed vireos showed themselves and a couple of White-eyed vireos also made their presence known.
|Red-eyed vireo -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
|White-eyed vireo -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
We did manage to tear ourselves away from warbler city to go to the beach. There was not much beach available though since it was high tide by the time we got there. On our way, we were treated to some flyovers by a couple of merlins and we also watched a Peregrine attack a Red-tailed Hawk! Then we found about 40 Semi-palmated Plovers resting in the wrack on the beach.
|Semi-palmated plovers -- Lighthouse Heritage Preserve -- Folly Beach, SC -- October 6, 2015|
What a thrilling experience! And how great it was to meet 2 fellow birders -- Tom and Raquel from Rock Hill -- and to share these jewels (my nickname for warblers) with them. Thank you Tom and Raquel! I hope to see more birds with you out in the field somewhere again soon. This is one of those birding occasions that I am not likely to forget anytime soon -- our Folly Beach Fallout!