Daily Archives: October 29, 2011

“On The Road”

Hilton Head Island/ Pickney Island N.W.R./Savannah N.W.R.

A much needed family vacation with a lot of birding mixed in. That’s what the doctor ordered, and who am I to argue with a doctor.

Leaving at 4 am this will be the farthest I’ve traveled for an official “on the road” bird trip, and I’m so looking forward to it. The drive was uneventful as it took 12 hours to make it despite stopping for lunch, gas, and the regular pit-stops. The scenery through the mountains was nothing but spectacular as they were in their full Autumn splendor. The stretch from Knoxville to Ashville to Spartanburg S.C. was a curvy, mountainous treat for the eyes.

After arriving we had the customary unloading of the car, looking through our condo for the week (which was awesome) then paying our respects and saying hello to our host for the week, the Atlantic Ocean.

Fish Haul Creek Park was my first destination for the week. At the northern point of the island, this combination of coastal forest and salt marsh, borders the ocean.

A gazebo was built out into the vast saltwater marsh.

A nice wide trail meanders through the woods from a large parking lot, which includes restrooms and has security cameras mounted throughout the lot. This trail finally ends at the ocean, more or less, depending on the tides.

At high tide all of the sand in the distance would be covered.


A Great Blue Heron with some flat fish he just caught.

There were birds everywhere! As the tide recedes, there area just opens up with exposed sand bars that attract birds from all over. And only 20 minutes from my condo. I found more life birds in this one area than I’ve ever found in anyplace else. That’s why I returned 2 more times after my initial visit. If you ever visit Hilton head, you have to do some birding here. I really recommend a spotting scope. At times it was difficult to get close to the birds, so using my scope was the best choice.

Marbled Godwit wading as the tide goes out.

With the sun behind my back I was able to catch this Great Blue Heron.

An American Oystercatcher snoozing.

There were plenty of Snowy Egrets.

White Ibis

Immature White Ibis

A Snowy Egret fishing in the surf.

Tri-color Egret

A variety of Gulls, Terns, Black Skimmers, and Marbled Godwits in the foreground.

On one of my visits a dozen Western Sandpipers strolled by feeding.

My best picture of a Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwits resting. At one time there were at least 30 Godwits here.


A Willet and a Ruddy Turnstone.

Notice the Black Skimmer to the left of the brown Pelican. Instead of flying while it skims the water for food, it stood in one place and caught food while the tide moved the water through it’s bill.

An American Oystercatcher, Un-identifiable Gull, and a Black Skimmer

However the best bird I found at Fish Haul Creek Park was a Piping Plover. Rich, a birder I meet while down there had told me he saw one a week ago. So on my second visit there I was able to spot just one. However on my third visit I was able to see 4 of these small plovers. These pictures might not be the best, but the orange legs are a sure give-away.

There’s 3 of them. See how well they blend into the color of the sand.

Zoomed in and heavily cropped, as are the next 2 photos.

On my third visit to Fish Haul Creek I called Rich to let him know of my discovery of 4 Piping Plovers. As it turned out he was with a friend at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge doing some birding. Then he teased me by telling me that he’s spotted Glossy Ibis’s. So off I went for an hour drive to someplace I had no where it was, other than we passed the turn-off to the visitors center on our way to visit Savannah just the day before. However today Rich was at another part which you were able to drive. Being in a hurry makes the drive take so much longer than it really is, however I was able to find my way and find Rich as well.

The sign at the beginning of the auto tour. Being strapped for time I couldn’t give this place justice. Which was a shame, because this place is vast with plenty of bird activity. The auto tour stretched for several miles and I know I probably exceeded the speed limit in my haste to find Rich.

A pretty poor picture of a Glossy Ibis, but a new lifer for me. I also pick up a Purple Gallinule on my drive out, but he didn’t want his picture taken.

This is my only shot of how the landscape looks for most of the refuge. These were once rice fields. At 29,00 acres, this place is immense.On my drive out I couldn’t help but notice that there’s more than just birds at this refuge.

One of the places I was looking forward to visiting was Pickney Island National Wildlife Refuge. On the bridge that connects the main land to Hilton Head, it’s just a left hand turn as you approach the island.

It was here that I meet up with my new friend, Rich Methany and some members of the Sun City Bird Club for a morning of some low country birding.

Sun rise over Pickney Island.

The group meet in the parking lot, then headed out on foot towards Ibis Pond.

This is what surrounded the island.

Tidal pool

As we made our way towards Ibis Pond, we shared stories and experiences while picking up some good birds for the day. Yellow-rumped Warblers had arrived in full force with hundreds of them all along our hike. We also picked up a Nashville Warbler and a Northern Parula. Arriving at Ibis Pond we were greeted with Moorhens calling real loud. Besides the adults, there were young as well making such a racket you could hear it from a long ways away.

Immature Moorhen a.k.a. Common Gallinule

They weren’t keen on posing for pictures, so this is the best I could do for a Moorhen.

Male and female Wood Duck

An immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron who liked having his picture taken.

I left Pickney Island with more life birds and some great memories, as well as some new friends who I’m sure to meet again. To sum up this trip in just a few words wouldn’t do it any justice. And the pictures I posted are just a few of all the pictures of birds I took. I will post all bird pictures on my “flickr” page. I had a great time and plans are in the works for a return visit.

Notable birds for the week include:

  1. Clapper Rail-Lifer
  2. Brown Pelican
  3. Bonaparte’s Gull
  4. Ring-billed Gull
  5. Laughing Gull
  6. Caspian Tern
  7. Royal Tern-Lifer
  8. Gull-billed Tern-Lifer
  9. Sandwich Tern
  10. Common Tern
  11. Forester’s Tern
  12. Black Skimmer
  13. American Oystercatcher
  14. Great Blue Heron
  15. Yellow-crowned Night Heron
  16. Little Blue Heron
  17. Great Egret
  18. Snowy Egret
  19. Tri-color Egret
  20. Reddish Egret-Lifer
  21. White Ibis
  22. Glossy Ibis-Lifer
  23. Double-crested Cormorant
  24. Osprey
  25. Bald Eagle
  26. Mississippi Kite
  27. Northern Harrier
  28. Red-shouldered Hawk
  29. Red-tailed Hawk
  30. Black Vulture
  31. Turkey Vulture
  32. Pied-bill Grebe
  33. Northern Shoveler
  34. Green-winged Teal
  35. Blue-winged Teal
  36. American Coot
  37. Common Gallinule
  38. Purple Gallinule-Lifer
  39. Sanderling
  40. Lesser Yellowleg
  41. Wilson’s Snipe
  42. Short-billed Dowitcher
  43. Willet
  44. Marbled Godwit-Lifer
  45. Least Sandpiper
  46. Western Sandpiper
  47. Ruddy Turnstone-Lifer
  48. Red Knot-Lifer
  49. Black-bellied Plover
  50. Semipalmated Plover
  51. Piping Plover-Lifer
  52. Downy Woodpecker
  53. Hairy Woodpecker
  54. Pileated Woodpecker
  55. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  56. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  57. Red-eyed Vireo
  58. American Crow
  59. Fish Crow
  60. Carolina Chickadee
  61. Brown-headed Nuthatch-Lifer
  62. Gray Catbird
  63. Northern Mockingbird
  64. Common Yellowthroat
  65. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  66. Nashville Warbler
  67. Northern Parula
  68. Northern Cardinal
  69. Belted Kingfisher
  70. Yellow-crowned Kinglet
  71. Eastern Bluebird
  72. Eastern Phoebe
  73. Seaside Sparrow-Lifer
  74. Salt Marsh Short-tailed Sparrow-Lifer
  75. Blue Jay
  76. Tree Swallow
  77. Song Sparrow
  78. Swamp Sparrow
  79. Indigo Bunting
  80. Red-winged Blackbird
  81. House Finch
  82.  Brown Thrasher
  83. Boat-tailed Grackle
  84. Mourning Dove
  85. Marsh Wren