Coastal Areas of Charleston, SC 12/31/14 - 1/3/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

The Pitt Street Causeway proved to be an excellent location for birding, except that there were lots of people there when the weather was nice. I had read in advance that low tide was the best time to see birds there. However, my primary target bird there was a Saltmarsh Sparrow, and this species is usually seen during high tide, but high tide was at dawn and dusk while I was there, so I missed seeing my target species. During low tide, there were lots of shore and water birds to see.


Tricolored Heron, Snowy Egret, and Hooded Mergansers


Snowy Egret


Tricolored Heron


Tricolored Heron


Hooded Mergansers


Hooded Mergansers


Hooded Merganser


American Oystercatcher


American Oystercatcher


American Oystercatchers


American Oystercatchers


Black-crowned Night-Herons


Brown Pelican


Double-crested Cormorant


Great Egret


Juvenile Little Blue Heron


White Ibis


White Ibis


White Ibis


Wood Stork


Willets and Short-billed Dowitchers


Horned Grebe


Horned Grebe


Horned Grebes


Horned Grebes

It was neat to see five Marbled Godwits there.


Marbled Godwits, Willets, and Dunlins


Marbled Godwit


Marbled Godwits


Marbled Godwit


Marbled Godwit


Marbled Godwits


Marbled Godwits

Gulls, terns, and raptors were there as well.


Osprey


Red-tailed Hawk


Northern Harrier


Forster's Tern


Immature Ring-billed Gull

A pair of dolphins swam into the inlet the last day I was there, and splashed around in the shallow water for quite a while.


Dolphins


Dolphin

There were quite a few birds on the causeway. Boat-tailed Grackles and Savannah Sparrows were all along the causeway.


Boat-tailed Grackle


Boat-tailed Grackle


Boat-tailed Grackle


Savannah Sparrow


Belted Kingfisher


Belted Kingfisher

I heard the rapid grunts of Clapper Rails on both sides of the causeway, and got a quick glimpse of one of them.


Clapper Rail

There were only a few birds on Folly Beach, so I didn't spend much time there. I had met another birder on the Pitt Street Causeway the first morning I was there, and he told me that there was a dirt road that went into the marsh at the end of one of the paved streets on Sullivan's Island. I found the dirt road at the end of Station 26 Street, parked my car, and walked into the marsh. I heard slow-paced grunts of at least five rails there. The grunts were not as rapid as those I heard made by Clapper Rails along the causeway. A few birds flew by and landed in the marsh.


Little Blue Heron


Little Blue Heron

I waited a while to see if any of the rails would venture out into one of the small clearings. I got lucky - one of them poked its head out, and then hid back in the vegetation. It looked smaller than the Clapper Rails I have seen, and its reddish bill and reddish legs made me think Virginia Rail. But its back was fairly drab, more like a Clapper Rail.


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?

A few minutes later, another (the same?) small rail came out of the vegetation.


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?


Virginia Rail?

These rails were clearly getting muddy from foraging, and perhaps the drab coloring was just from all of the mud, or perhaps they were immature birds?? I don't have a lot of experience seeing rails, but their small size, reddish coloring, and slow and steady grunts makes me think that Virginia Rail is more likely than Clapper. I would appreciate hearing opinions from other birders who have more experience with rails. I made a quick stop on Isle of Palms where I heard the song/chat call of a Sedge Wren, but did not see it.

Coastal birds seen on this trip (41 species):

Horned Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Wood Stork
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Osprey
Clapper Rail
Virginia Rail
Black-bellied Plover
American Oystercatcher
Willet
Marbled Godwit
Dunlin
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Carolina Wren
Sedge Wren
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Boat-tailed Grackle


Click here for my Magnolia Gardens wildlife trip report and photos

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