Tag Archives: Fish Haul Creek Park

” On The Road”

With just over 2,700 miles driven, 91 different bird species seen, and with 4 of them being life birds, I’d have to say it certainly was a whirl-wind vacation. And with all good things, it must come to and end and reality rears it’s ugly head in the form up going back to work and all the stress that goes along with it. However I am glad to be home and sleeping in my own bed and not eating in restaurants every night.

Like I said it was a whirl-wind vacation where we visited family, friends, and places we’ve never seen before. And being a type of vacation where we’re not in one location for more than a few days at a time, birding proved to be a challenge. Knowing ahead of time where we were staying helped with locating the best places to bird watch, so planning ahead was really important. Making phone calls and studying web sites proved to be the biggest help.

Our first day of driving was going to be the longest as we drove south to Hattiesburg Mississippi. My 95 year old aunt and uncle live there plus a couple of cousins, so even though it was an exhausting drive I picked up some quality birds.

IMG_1304Boat-tailed Grackles were particularly common as they scavenged the rest stops throughout the south.

IMG_1298Being a rarity in the north, down south the Eurasian-collared Dove was quite common, especially along the Gulf Coast.

From there it was a short drive to Destin Florida where we stayed for another couple of days. It was here I picked up 2 life birds, Snowy Plover located at Gulf Islands National Seashore,


and Common Ground Dove, which I found at the Ft. Walton land fill north of town.

The location of the Snowy Plovers was furnished to me by a contact through the local chapter of the  Audubon Society. The bridge leading west out of Destin onto Okaloosa Island has a parking lot right where the bridge ends. She told me to walk the beach and keep my eyes open.

IMG_1328Royal Terns were a pretty common sight, as were


IMG_1334Immature Sandwich Tern

IMG_1336A Willet in the surf.

IMG_1373 Black Skimmers


IMG_1355As I made my way around the edge this is the scenery I was confronted with. Since the Snowy Plover breeds here, it’s off limits to all and is roped off to keep people out. Except for the waters edge, it was nothing but sand and scrubby grasses.

IMG_1367As I passed my way through to the ocean, I really started to pay attention to where I was walking. Except for a few people fishing back by the parking lot, I had this whole area to myself. As I moved about the beach looking for Snowies, something moved.


IMG_1382Notice that this particular bird is banded.

IMG_1389A closer looks at the bands they use.


IMG_1396Knowing how threatened these birds are I didn’t want to keep following them, so I took as many pictures as I could, then I left with another bird ticked off my life list.

After leaving Destin we made our way to Chipley Florida, which is 45 minutes north of Panama City. It was here Kathy’s cousin lived, and our next stop for a couple more days. So the morning of our first full day I drove the 45 minutes to St. Andrews State Park.

IMG_1415A view of one of the larger marshes at the park. One thing I noticed about the state parks in Florida that differ from state parks in Ohio, you have to pay to enter.

IMG_1418Common Gallinule

IMG_1421Trails through the park were well marked and maintained. Low trees and scrubs held a nice diversity of birds, particularly migrating warblers.


IMG_1442Snowy Egret

After our stay in Chipley was over it was onto our next stop, Hilton Head and one of my favorite places to bird, Fish Haul Creek Park. And as was the case on previous visits, as was now, the Piping Plovers were here. The pictures were terrible, so I apologize.


IMG_1458Piping Plover

The day was beautiful when I took these pictures, so why are they so bad? The sun was at a bad angle, and it was real windy, which made holding the camera still difficult while using the digital zoom on the camera. They are so small, and far away getting a good shot is difficult.

It was here that I got a hot tip about a good location for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers just an hour away. As much as I wanted to stay here, I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity like this. So i packed it up and drove they hour or so to Webb Wildlife Management Area in Garnet South Carolina.


The drive as you pulled in a long, gravel road with mature stands of pines with scrubby undergrowth. Perfect Red-cockaded habitat! Plus the nesting trees had white bands around the tree so you can identify them. All you had to do is find a tree, and look for the nesting hole, which is usually covered on the outside with sap.

IMG_1467Red-cockaded Woodpecker nesting hole.

Unfortunately it’s not nesting time, and the couple of hours spent along the road looking for them was in vain, except for the completely by surprise Bachman’s Sparrow that came into view. About as secretive as they come, I was able to “piss” this out into the open long enough for a good ID.

Now you would think finding yet another life bird I would be satisfied. No, I wanted to see this woodpecker. So I parked the car and made my way down a sand road that criss-crosses the wildlife area.

IMG_1468It was along this road where I’d walk 20 yards and stop and scan. walk another 20 yards and repeat. Over and over again.

Then I spooked a woodpecker off a tree. Flying away from me with black nap and tail, and a ladder back, about the size of a Hairy Woodpecker was my Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Time for the Happy Dance! Life was good.

The drive back was euphoric as was the next day as we walked the beach while Brown Pelicans flew past,


IMG_1518Laughing Gulls looked for scraps to eat,

IMG_1536and a lone Osprey hunted overhead.

However sometimes when you least expect it a really nice bird presents itself at the most unusual of times. We were shopping and just outside the store was a Palmetto Tree, where a Brown-headed Nuthatch flew into. Having my camera at the time, which is surprise in unto itself, I snapped several pictures of this southern specialty.

IMG_1561Brown-headed Nuthatch

IMG_1569The house we were staying at had a patio, where in the morning several palm Warblers were grabbing up all the worms.

But before this trip was over we had just one more stops to make. And boy was it worth every penny and then some.


As for the birds, here’s my total trip list:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Wild Turkey (seen through the kitchen window at Biltmore)
  3. Eastern Bluebird
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Red-shouldered Hawk
  6. Northern Harrier
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Osprey
  9. Peregrine Falcon
  10. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  11. Cooper’s Hawk
  12. Bald Eagle
  13. Turkey Vulture
  14. Black Vulture
  15. Mourning Dove
  16. Eurasian-collared Dove
  17. Common Ground Dove
  18. Pigeon
  19. Northern Mockingbird
  20. Brown Thrasher
  21. Common Crow
  22. Fish Crow
  23. Blue Jay
  24. Carolina Chickadee
  25. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  26. Boat-tailed Grackle
  27. Hooded Warbler
  28. American Redstart
  29. Palm Warbler
  30. Magnolia Warbler
  31. Black and White Warbler
  32. Yellow-throated Warbler
  33. Pine Warbler
  34. Scarlet Tanager
  35. Canada Goose
  36. Blue-winged Teal
  37. Carolina Wren
  38. House Wren
  39. Eastern Towhee
  40. White-eyed Vireo
  41. Red-eyed Vireo
  42. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  43. Northern Flicker
  44. Pileated Woodpecker
  45. Downy Woodpecker
  46. Red-headed Woodpecker
  47. Red-cockaded Woodpecker
  48. White-breasted Nuthatch
  49. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  50. Northern cardinal
  51. Tufted Titmouse
  52. Gray Catbird
  53. Barn Swallow
  54. Killdeer
  55. Snowy Plover
  56. Piping Plover
  57. Black-bellied Plover
  58. Brown Pelican
  59. Ring-billed Gull
  60. Laughing Gull
  61. Sanderling
  62. Least Sandpiper
  63. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  64. Ruddy Turnstone
  65. Royal Tern
  66. Caspian Tern
  67. Sandwich Tern
  68. Common Tern
  69. Willet
  70. Black Skimmer
  71. American Oystercatcher
  72. Double-creasted Cormorant
  73. Snowy Egret
  74. Great Egret
  75. Great Blue Heron
  76. Tri-colored Egret
  77. Cattle Egret
  78. Little Blue Heron (white and blue phase)
  79. Coot
  80. Common Gallinule
  81. Pied Billed Grebe
  82. Ruby Throated Hummingbird
  83. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  84. Eastern Phoebe
  85. Belted Kingfisher
  86. White Ibis
  87. Clapper Rail
  88. Bachman’s Sparrow
  89. Red-winged Black Bird
  90. House Finch
  91. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

“On The Road”

Smokey Mountains & Hilton Head Island

As with all good things this vacation must come to an end. It was an excellent time overall with some great birding, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Even in the Smokey Mountains where the weather can be pretty nasty, it was super as well.

Now on with the birds. Other than the Painted Buntings I had no other “Life Bird”. All the birds seen I’ve seen before up here in Ohio or while on my previous visit to Hilton Head. Overall I ticked off 70 birds.

Here’s a list of the birds seen.

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Bald eagle
  4. Osprey
  5. Red-shouldered Hawk
  6. Cooper’s Hawk
  7. Pileated Woodpecker
  8. Hairy Woodpecker
  9. Downy Woodpecker
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  11. Northern Flicker
  12. Common Crow
  13. Fish Crow
  14. Blue Jay
  15. Brown Thrasher
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. American Robin
  18. Northern Cardinal
  19. Yellow-throated Vireo
  20. Red-eyed Vireo
  21. Black-throated Green Warbler
  22. Common Yellowthroat
  23. Blackburnian Warbler
  24. Magnolia Warbler
  25. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  26. Rose=breasted Grosbeak
  27. Tufted Titmouse
  28. Carolina Chickadee
  29. Carolina Wren
  30. Cedar Waxwing
  31. Eastern Towhee
  32. Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
  33. Swainson’s Thrush
  34. Veery
  35. Scarlet Tanager
  36. Gray Catbird
  37. Red-winged Blackbird
  38. Boat-tailed Grackle
  39. Painted Bunting
  40. Barred Owl
  41. Anhinga
  42. Clapper Rail
  43. Belted Kingfisher
  44. Brown Pelican
  45. Double-creasted Cormorant
  46. Great Blue Heron
  47. Great Egret
  48. Snowy Egret
  49. Tri-colored Egret
  50. Little Blue Heron
  51. Willet
  52. White Ibis
  53. Least Sandpiper
  54. Semipalmated sandpiper
  55. Piping Plover
  56. Semipalmated Plover
  57. Black-bellied Plover
  58. Marbled Godwit
  59. Black Skimmer
  60. Sanderling
  61. Caspian Tern
  62. Royal Tern
  63. Common Tern
  64. Sandwich Tern
  65. Forsters Tern
  66. Least Tern
  67. Laughing Gull
  68. Herring Gull
  69. Ring-billed Gull
  70. Bonaparte’s Gull

IMG_3060Fish Haul Creek with the tide going out. Looking Southeast

IMG_3151Looking Northwest

IMG_3046There was a small flock of 20 to 25 Marbled Godwits feeding just far enough away where you couldn’t get any closeup pictures.

IMG_3058During high tide small slips of sand became jammed with hundreds of birds. Sorting through this many, and picking out each species was a challenge. The larger birds would block all the smaller birds that were feeding so picking them out of the crowd proved difficult.

IMG_3034Female Painted Bunting

IMG_3901There was this one Anhinga that would always hang out in the lagoon that was located at the hotel we stayed at.

IMG_3084Osprey was the most common Raptor. I really had to sneak up on this one.

IMG_3036Semipalmated Plover

IMG_3200Black-bellied Plover


IMG_3126I followed this Little Blue Heron for about an hour trying to get the best shot with the sun behind my back.

IMG_3211The bird finally moved out to open water where I was able to get this pretty good photo.

IMG_3121Piping Plover

IMG_3191A little further away, but a touch clearer.

IMG_3918Laughing Gull

IMG_3152These pictures of the Saltmarsh Sparrows are heavily cropped, so the quality is pretty bad however you are able to pick out the field markings that ID’d these birds. There was a total of 3 Saltmarsh Sparrows and I was able to get 2 in one shot.

IMG_3153Note the heavier streaking and the buffy color on the breast. In this picture you can see the dark malar stripes that border the white throat.


IMG_3159I stumbled upon these birds completely by accident. I was trying to get myself into better position as the tide was going out. I wanted to get a closer look at a large group of birds on this sand bar when the Sparrows flushed. Moving to get a better look I started to sink in the muck that makes up a Saltwater Marsh. I was sinking, my scope was sinking, and I was trying to “pish” these birds out into the open to get any kind of documented photograph. Trying to fine focus was the last thing on my mind at the time.

Already we’re talking about the next time we go down to Hilton Head. Maybe in the Spring in a few years. But in the mean time this was another memorable trip and I hope  you enjoyed my posts.


“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

Notes From The Field #296-#302

Greeting from sunny Hilton Head, South Carolina. As you can probably tell I’ve been a busy birder this last day and a half. I’ve been very anxious about this trip and the possibility to get skunked and not reaching my 300th bird was ever present in my mind. However that was squelched on my first day. Just doing a little birding around the condo and the walkway to the beach netted me 2 new life birds, Brown-headed Nuthatch and the Clapper Rail. That is a total of 4 Rails this year alone.

This morning I traveled over to Fish Haul Creek Park, from what I understand, is a prime hotspot on the island. A beautiful park with coastal woods, a vast expanse of wetlands, and the ocean with some nice beach vegetation, and at low tide some great sandbars. The birding was spectacular!  The highlights from this trip was of course my new life birds, which include Royal Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. What a great day, mucking over the wet sand an scanning the sandbars with my tripod sinking into the sand.

Tomorrow takes me to Pickney National Wildlife Refuge with the Sun City Bird Club. So stay tuned for more birding excitement.