GOS Fall Meeting Part 1 – Altamaha Sound Boat Trip 10/12/13

This weekend, my Dad and I went to Jekyll Island this weekend for the Georgia Ornithological Society 2013 fall meeting. Saturday morning we went on a boat trip with about 32 other birders down the Altamaha River to its mouth. At first, we stopped the boat at Brett’s Island and walked down a path next to dike for about 2 hours. Then, we got back on the boat and went for 3 hours to Little Egg Island, which is closed off to the public year round but we gained access because our guide works for the DNR.

When we arrived at Brett’s Island, we were met by some Tricolored Herons and Glossy Ibis. Soon, we saw the splotched gray bodies of Mottled Ducks dart out of the marsh and fly far off in the distance. Then, we spotted a Marsh Wren flitting around between the blades of Spartina cynosuroides. A Northern Harrier blared its prominent white rump patch at us as it swooped low over the marsh, diving, missing, trying again.  Finally, a Least Bittern popped out from hiding to afford us a split second look at its distinctive wing pattern before ducking back under cover.

At Little Egg Island, Reddish Egrets pranced and danced through the shallows, flinging their wings all over the place in hot pursuit of a fresh fish filet. A massive and diverse mélange of shorebirds coated the shoreline. A Long-billed Curlew stood tall and proud among 40 of the more patterned Marbled Godwits. Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings, Red Knots, Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Willets, Piping Plovers, Wilson’s Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, Dunlin and American Oystercatchers dotted the sand, dwarfed by the lone American White Pelican looming in the background. This was the greatest diversity of shorebirds I have seen at a time – a total of 16 species! This array offered quite a variation in bill sizes, shapes and colors: the long, hook bill of the Long-billed Curlew; the two-toned, long, up-curved bill of the Marbled Godwit; the long and straight bills of the Willet, American Oystercatcher and Short-billed Dowitcher; the medium-length, straight bills of the Sanderling, Red Knot and Semipalmated Sandpiper; the medium-length, slightly-drooping bills of the Dunlin, Least Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper; the small, straight bills of the Wilson’s Plover, Black-bellied Plover and Ruddy Turnstone; and the stub bills of the Piping and Semipalmated Plovers. Close to the end of the walk, a Peregrine Falcon flew by the island. flapping with strong strokes to fly in a straight line.

Birds (55 species, 3 lifers):

Mottled Duck 5

Double-crested Cormorant 13

American White Pelican 1

Brown Pelican 75

*Least Bittern 1

Great Blue Heron 6

Great Egret 6

Little Blue Heron 11

Tricolored Heron 6

Reddish Egret 3

White Ibis 2

Glossy Ibis 4

Roseate Spoonbill 1

Turkey Vulture 1

Osprey 1

Northern Harrier 1

Bald Eagle 3

Common Gallinule 6

Black-bellied Plover 20

*Wilson’s Plover 30

Semipalmated Plover 75

Piping Plover 30

American Oystercatcher 70

Willet 2

Long-billed Curlew 2

Marbled Godwit 40

Ruddy Turnstone 1

Red Knot 5

Sanderling 245

Semipalmated Sandpiper 4

Western Sandpiper 5

Least Sandpiper 13

Dunlin 20

Short-billed Dowitcher 15

Herring Gull 1

Lesser Black-backed Gull 5

Great Black-backed Gull 3

*Gull-billed Tern 2 (300th Life-bird!!!)

Caspian Tern 2

Royal Tern 80

Sandwich Tern  3

Black Skimmer 30

Belted Kingfisher 1

Downy Woodpecker 1

Northern Flicker 1

Peregrine Falcon 1

Marsh Wren 1

Northern Mockingbird 1

Yellow Warbler 1

Palm Warbler 1

Eastern Towhee 1

Savannah Sparrow 1

Northern Cardinal 2

Red-winged Blackbird 11

Boat-tailed Grackle 4

Butterflies (2 species, 0 lifers):

Long-tailed Skipper

Gulf Fritillary

Dragonflies (1 specie, 0 lifers):

Common Green Darner

Trees (2 species, 1 lifer):

Eastern Redcedar

*Yaupon Holly

Grasses (1 species, 1 lifer):

*Big Cordgrass

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Reddish Egret

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Wilson’s Plover

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Piping Plover

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American Alligator

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Long-tailed Skipper

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