CBC Members Enjoy a Great Bonus Trip to Huntington Beach S.P.
Sixteen members of the Club enjoyed a birdy weekend exploring the marshes, beaches, and maritime forests of South Carolina's Grand Strand during the Huntington Beach State Park Bonus Trip December 5th and 6th, 2009. An unfavorable weather forecast for Saturday resulted in the trip being run twice, once on Saturday for those who could not change plans, and again on Sunday for those who chose to wait for better weather. As it turned out, the heavy rains forecast for Saturday occurred during the night, leaving a cloudy, but much drier than expected day.
Highlights on Saturday included an excellent chance to study the “maritime sparrows”, with Seaside Sparrow, Nelson's Sparrow (both interior and coastal breeders) and Saltmarsh Sparrow courteously sitting in plain view for minutes at a time. At one point nearly two dozen assorted sparrows were visible at once! For those who have spent hours skulking around marsh edges hoping for fleeting glimpses of a marsh sparrow, you can imagine the delight of the group!
Later in the morning Cave Swallows and a White-winged Scoter in “Mallard Pond” were well seen by all participants as we viewed from the carriage path. The Cave Swallows were either a “life bird” or “state bird” for most in attendance. On the ocean, point blank looks at loons, a fly-by Common Eider, and the sight of hundreds of birds swirling around a shrimper in the inlet punctuated a day where more than 90 species were seen.
The Sunday group enjoyed sunnier, if not slightly windy, conditions. Maritime sparrows resorted to playing hide and seek, and the Cave Swallows disappeared, but the group enjoyed two Common Eiders at the jetty, Purple Sandpiper on the rocks, and witnessed some very interesting behaviors of more commonly seen species.
The first of these encounters occurred at the end of the salt marsh boardwalk while the group was sparrow searching. A pair of Ring-billed Gulls sitting on the railing began vocalizing, head bobbing, and locking bills. The gulls eventually tumbled off the railing and into the water below. Undeterred, the birds continued to struggle for the upper hand, with one pushing the other under water several times, until, several hundred digital pictures later, the gulls separated and swan serenely side by side as if nothing had happened.
The Sunday group also enjoyed entertainment during lunch as we watched a Barred Owl “fishing” in a broad rain puddle formed during Friday night's deluge. After observing the owl fly in to a Live Oak near the picnic tables, we watched in awe as the bird dropped from its perch, glided across the water, and reminiscent of an Osprey or Bald Eagle, threw talons forward, plucked something from the water, and then proceeded to a convenient perch to consume the prey. Over the next half-hour, the owl made several more sorties, usually to the water's edge, returning to a perch with some morsel of food. Cut worms, insects? No one could tell exactly what was being consumed, but the owl appeared to be quite successfully foraging.
The group ended up with 102 species for the weekend, but enjoying the outdoors at one of South Carolina's finest coastal birding locations was likely the highlight for most. (although those “life birds” were pretty nice too!)
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Herring Gull (American)
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
Cave Swallow (Texas)
Nelson's Sparrow (Interior)
Nelson's Sparrow (Atlantic Coast)