January 22, 2020
Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count 2019-2020
By Aaron Given, Town Biologist
The 9th Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count occurred on January 3, 2020. Temperatures were mild this year, ranging from the upper 60’s to the lower 70’s all day long. Participants had to deal with south winds ranging from 12-20 mph, which undoubtedly, affected the birding. The strong winds kept some songbirds hunkered down and made the ocean very rough, making it challenging to see seabirds. Along the coast, a dense fog rolled in around noon but fortunately, it did not last too long.
This year we had 17 participants in five parties on Kiawah Island, 12 participants in six parties on Seabrook Island, nine participants in four parties on Johns Island, seven participants in three parties on Wadmalaw Island, and two participants in one party on Deveaux Bank. In addition to field parties, we had good participation with feeder watchers too. There were 12 participants at nine locations on Kiawah, seven participants at six locations on Seabrook, three participants at two locations on Johns Island. We did not have any feeder watchers on Wadmalaw this year.
The Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count team recorded 23,127 individual birds and 156 different species. Kiawah Island recorded 8,686 birds of the 126 species. Seabrook Island (including the Freshfields territory) reported 4,636 birds of 115 species. Johns Island documented 4,329 birds of 103 species, Wadmalaw Island had 3,354 birds of 93 species, and Deveaux Bank noted 1,902 birds of 29 species.
Two new species for the count were added this year! A Dickcissel was seen at Ambrose Farms on Wadmalaw Island by Dave Eslinger and Don Jones. A pair of Mottled Ducks were seen at the new Kiawah River development on Johns Island by Jim Jordan, Chris Davies, and Matt Hill.
Each island reported unique species for this year’s count. Kiawah was the only island that had Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Sora, American Coot, Parasitic Jaeger, Great Black-backed Gull, Northern Gannet, American Bittern, Prairie Warbler, Saltmarsh Sparrow, and Seaside Sparrow. Seabrook recorded Ruddy Duck, Eurasian Collard-Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, American Woodcock, Barred Owl, and Rusty Blackbird. Johns Island had Mottled Duck, Cattle Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, House Sparrow, and Baltimore Oriole. Wadmalaw Island got Green-winged Teal, Red-headed Woodpecker, Merlin, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Dickcissel. Deveaux Bank recorded the only Wilson’s Plovers and American White Pelicans.
New species for the count: Mottled Duck and Dickcissel
Species Highlights: Parasitic Jaeger, American Woodcock, Prairie Warbler, American Pipit, Roseate Spoonbill, Merlin, Winter Wren, Vesper Sparrow, Common Ground Dove
Notable misses: Most dabbling ducks, Green Heron, Peregrine Falcon, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Nelson’s Sparrow.
I want to thank all the participants and volunteers for continuing to make this event a success. Not only is the bird count fun and educational for participants, but it also contributes valuable scientific data to aid in bird conservation across the country. Looking ahead to next year, the count will most likely occur on January 4 and 5, 2021.