GOS Winter Meeting Part 1-Savannah Spoil Site

The amber sunlight punctures the gray cumulus clouds. As we step out of the car for the first time, we are greeted by the “check” calls of Red-winged Blackbirds. Groups of Northern Shovelers, Green-winged Teal and White Ibis fly overhead to welcome us to their home. A pair of Redheads searches for food in the narrow pockets of water formed by the extensive plant-covered mudflats. A group of Long-billed Dowhitchers looks like saws as they use their long bills to jut in and out of the sand. Common Ground-Doves dart in and out of the protective brush along the edge of the water. Its short appearance is followed closely by a Sharp-shinned Hawk, which maneuvers its way through the thin spaces in the grass with great proficiency. A massive flock of egrets preforms an aerial display of complex choreography  Black-crowned Night-Herons swoop over the reeds until they plunge into the veil of reeds. Among a collection of Ruddy Ducks and Pied-billed Grebes drifts a lone Eared Grebe. Four American Avocets glide in to the scene, land on their lanky, coal-black legs and use their unique upturned bills to scythe for critters lurking in the shallows. A flotilla of hundreds of Lesser Scaup sits on the water’s surface with a solitary Mottled Duck in the background. Off in the distance, American White Pelicans stick out like bat eyes in the night. Northern Harriers scour the landscape for any sign of an unwary animal to satisfy its hunger. A Barn Owl is flushed by one of the birders, only visible through the backlit branches of the trees. Finally, we see clusters of Savannah Sparrows shuffle through the vegetation.

            This all happened on the Saturday field trip that my Dad and I did as part of the Georgia Ornithological Society winter meeting. We saw 60 species total and I got six lifers!!! I had such a blast and I can’t describe how thankful I am that I got special access to a normally restricted facility. Stay tuned for the next blog post about my second field trip to Harris Neck NWR.

Birds (60 species, 6 lifers): 
Gadwall 38
*Mottled Duck 8
Northern Shoveler 110
Green-winged Teal 80
*Redhead 6
Lesser Scaup 450
Bufflehead 3
Hooded Merganser 12
Ruddy Duck 90
Pied-billed Grebe 25
*Eared Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 12
American White Pelican 9
Brown Pelican 4
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 30
Snowy Egret 110
Little Blue Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 5
White Ibis 5
Black Vulture 10
Turkey Vulture 6
Northern Harrier 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 5
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Eastern Red-tailed Hawk 4
American Coot 194
Killdeer 5
*American Avocet 33
Greater Yellowlegs 10
Lesser Yellowlegs 3
Least Sandpiper 22
Dunlin 16
Long-billed Dowhitcher 10
Wilson’s Snipe 5
Bonaparte’s Gull 8
Ring-billed Gull 65
Forster’s Tern 14
Royal Tern 1
*Common Ground-Dove 5
*Barn Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 2
American Kestrel 2
Eastern Phoebe 8
Loggerhead Shrike 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Northern Mockingbird 6
European Starling 30
American Pipit 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 12
Savannah Sparrow (Eastern) 45
Song Sparrow 6
Swamp Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Eastern Meadowlark 8
Boat-tailed Grackle 36
American Goldfinch 2

Trees (4 species, 1 lifer):
Southern Magnolia
Eastern Red Cedar
Cabbage Palmetto

Shrubs (1 species, 0 lifers):
Saw Palmetto

Mammals (1 species, 0 lifers):
North American Raccoon

Lepidoptera (2 species, 0 lifers):
Red Admiral
Cabbage White
Sulphur spp.

Reptiles (1 species, 0 lifers):
American Alligator

Rocks, Minerals and Fossils (2 specimens, 2 lifers):
*Fossilized Coral

The sun poking through the clouds in the early morning
Black Vulture