Bird Watching

BIRDWATCH: A little too early for spring migration on Pawleys Island

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In early March, my wife, Pat, and I were invited by friends to visit a beach house on Pawleys Island, South Carolina. The island is a barrier reef known for its sand dunes and beaches, and is separated from the mainland by a salt marsh on one side and the ocean on the other. This creates good diversity for wildlife.

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The earliest known inhabitants of Pawleys Island were the indigenous Waccamaw and Winyah tribes who lived primarily off the sea and local wildlife. In the 1700s, European settlers arrived and established trading markets with these tribes. Unfortunately, conflicts arose which eventually led to the elimination of these tribes. In 1791, George Washington visited this region and the local plantations. The island became the summer retreat of George Pawley whose name the island bears. Eventually the estate was divided into parcels and a variety of cabins and inns were established. In 1989 Hurricane Hazel destroyed many cabins; many have been rebuilt and some of the old inns have survived. Today it remains a non-commercial area with beach inns, cabins and private residences.

When we arrived at Pawleys Island, we were quickly disappointed to learn that spring migration had yet to occur in the area. This meant that we would be limited to locating winter birds common to this region. Bruce Dilabio, a well-known birder in the area, once told me that if you stayed in one place long enough, you would eventually encounter most of the birds in that area. It turned out he was right. From the area of ​​the beach houses, we were able to locate 32 species of birds.

As we were mostly surrounded by water, the main birds seen were waterfowl, shorebirds, waders, gulls and songbirds.

Out on the ocean, we saw brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, goldeneye ducks, common loons, and surprisingly two common eiders that were forced to land on the beach one stormy day.

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Although not quite spring migration, there were a few shorebirds on the beaches. This included Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Semi-palmated Plovers and Dunlins. I was disappointed that we didn’t find red nodes common to this region.

Wading birds were well represented and included both great snowy egrets and tricolor herons.

There were three types of gulls located. These included the Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull and Bonaparte Gull. A few terns were seen but we were unable to identify them due to their remoteness at sea.

Some of the other highlights included Boat-tailed Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, Bald Eagle, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, and Ravenfish.

There were also many familiar birds like tree swallows, cedar waxwings, mourning doves, nuthatches, red-headed vultures, yellow-rumped warblers, house finches, and song and house sparrows.

Although somewhat disappointed that the spring migration has yet to occur, we were pleased with the local winter birds we found. During our stay in South Carolina, we also visited a few other birding areas, but that will be another article!

On the local scene, Pembroke area field naturalists are slowly beginning to reopen programs as COVID conditions improve. In February, members were invited to a Zoom lecture on gypsy moth and an introduction to using the “I Naturalist” app.

Around March 5, the club organized a Snowy Owl excursion. Five people participated in the event and were lucky enough to find two snowy owls and a northern shrike. Three of the participants had the pleasure of observing their very first sighting of a snowy owl. The club thanks Christian Renault for hosting this event.

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A few days ago the naturalists at Pembroke Field held their annual barred owl hunt and I am awaiting the results of that excursion.

Over the past few weeks, the area has been inundated with Pine Siskins and Redpolls as they slowly move north. Spring migration was slow but resumed around mid-March with the arrival of Common Grackle, Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Canada Goose, Sandhill Crane, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull, Mallard , Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, Song Sparrows, Great Blue Herons and Red-headed Vultures. Expect more spring migrants with the arrival of Eastern Bluebird, American Woodcock, Hen Harrier, Early Tree Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark and a few others.

On March 15, Margaret Cavanaugh of Thrasher Lane and Rob Cunningham reported the first sighting of red-winged blackbirds in the area.

On March 17, Berndt Krueger of Golden Lake reported sightings of wood ducks, ring-billed gulls, red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures.

On that same date, Bev Moses of Beachburg observed American Robins in the village and the following day, Wade Lumax of Beachburg observed Canada geese flying over the village and heard sandhill cranes.

On March 18, Donna Ferguson of Barr Line had a large flock of red-winged blackbirds at her feeder.

Three days later, Grant Radley-Walters of Cotnam Island observed Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards and Canada Geese in the waters in front of his home.

Finally, around March 25, Allan Mills of Pembroke observed the arena’s first Song Sparrow in his yard and Chantal Eggert Smith photographed a Great Blue Heron on Ross Road.

Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430 or email me at [email protected] For more information on upcoming events and nature, simply check the Pembroke Area Naturalists website on Google or like us on Facebook.

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