Chatham County 12/27/15

Over winter break, I went birding quite a bit on the Georgia Coast. My first big trip was with Diana Churchill two days after Christmas. In the morning, we stopped at Tybee North Beach. On the beach itself, we scanned through the massive flocks of Dunlin, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstone. Our reward for this hard work was two Western Sandpipers and a whopping five Purple Sandpipers! Purple Sandpipers, while only purple in the subtlest sense of the word, are a sweet winter treat in Georgia and to have five of them in plain sight is quite amazing. The activity for the day had only just begun. We then walked back to a pond just off the shore and in the brush by the pond, we found a slew of sparrows – White-throated, Swamp, Song and Field – the last one being fairly uncommon for Chatham County. A Sedge Wren also joined two House Wrens in this grouping of plants. On the pond itself sat a flotilla of Bufflehead, shortly joined by a squadron of Wood Storks, swooping in one-by-one, deploying their landing gear and sticking the finish on the pond’s edge.

Next, we stopped by Diana’s house for lunch and picked up a few more species in the tidal creek behind her house. Floating in the creek was a Horned Grebe and some Red-breasted Mergansers. A couple of clapper rails also called from the marsh.

To start the afternoon, we visited the Solomon Tract, which is part of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge that is in Georgia. The birding was slow there, but we picked up Pileated Woodpecker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-headed Vireo and some other new species for the day. The real highlight of the Solomon Tract is that it is isolated and has beautiful habitat. The dirt road runs through a forest of Bald Cypress trees , whose buttresses and knees poke out of a swamp coated with duckweed.

Finally, we visited Hutchinson Island. There, we found two Western Kingbirds, which have been reported there for several years now, seven Vesper Sparrows, one American Kestrel and

All in all, we had 68 species for the day with a few surprises along the way!

Birds (68 species, 0 lifers):

Red-breasted Merganser 4

Horned Grebe 1

Bufflehead 25

Hooded Merganser 1 – female

Wood Stork 15

Double-crested Cormorant 14

Brown Pelican 13

Great Egret 2

Snowy Egret 4

Little Blue Heron 1

Great Blue Heron 1

White Ibis 3

Turkey Vulture 3

Red-tailed Hawk 1

Red-shouldered Hawk 1

Northern Harrier 2

Osprey 1

Clapper Rail 2

Killdeer 3

Ruddy Turnstone 36

Sanderling 124

Dunlin 140

Purple Sandpiper 5

Western Sandpiper 2

Laughing Gull 23

Ring-billed Gull 150

Herring Gull 9

Forster’s Tern 1

Royal Tern 5

Mourning Dove 45

Belted Kingfisher 2

Red-bellied Woodpecker 5

Northern Flicker 4

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4

Pileated Woodpecker 1

American Kestrel 1

Western Kingbird 2

Loggerhead Shrike 1

Eastern Phoebe 2

Blue Jay 6

American Crow 6

Carolina Chickadee 2

Tufted Titmouse 2

House Wren 2

Sedge Wren 1

Carolina Wren 6

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1

Cedar Waxwing 8

Gray Catbird 5

Brown Thrasher 1

Northern Mockingbird 4

Yellow-rumped Warbler 101

Blue-headed Vireo 2

Field Sparrow 2

White-throated Sparrow 2

Song Sparrow 9

Swamp Sparrow 5

Vesper Sparrow 7

Savannah Sparrow 2

Eastern Towhee 8

Northern Cardinal 7

European Starling 14

Red-winged Blackbird 300

Eastern Meadowlark 8

Boat-tailed Grackle 11

American Goldfinch 4

House Finch 3

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Forster’s Tern – a regular visitor to the coast in the winter

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A view of the swamp at the Solomon Tract

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Some of the “knees” of the Bald Cypress trees

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Vesper (front) and Savannah Sparrows – a good head-on comparison: Savannah lacks an eyering, Vesper lacks yellow lores (feathers between base of bill and eye)

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Vesper Sparrow – notice white eyering, rusty cheek patch, lack of noticeable dark spot on breast like Song Sparrow (above picture)

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