Bird watching

The winter weather hit with a vengeance this month with cold fronts reaching down into the Ragged Islands.  The intensity and duration of the latest front was annoying coming in at 35-40 knots of wind and steady 25 knots for 10 days. The initial winds were out of the north without too many places to hide, so we took it in the teeth for 24 hrs until we could move into the lee of Hog Cay after a wind shift for the extended blow.  There was not much to do during this time but cook and read, but at least I could go on walks in the protection of the island.

It is migration season and I’ve been happy to find some new classes of bird down here.  Many have a breeding range in North America and winter down here in the south.  I have seen plenty of warblers and some waterfowl on my walks and can usually get in a set of photos before my camera lens (& sunglasses) get coated in a layer of sea spray! 

The elusive clapper rail that was spotted previously has all of a sudden become an extrovert.  There are dry mud flats around an inland salt pond that must be teaming with tiny crustaceans and these guys are loving it.  

It was then that I realized that there are quite a few around the island; I saw two to three at any given time and was able to get fairly close with a slow approach.

They stare at the ground and all of a sudden, stretch their neck out and take three or four quick steps to pounce on their prey.

The high winds were still whipping inland and when the clapper rails turned downwind on their intent hunt, their little round wings would blow up in the air.

The ruddy turnstones still live around the salt pond feeding at the water’s edge.  

They flush easily and fly away if I get within 10 yards or so.

The bananquits own the beach-front feeding on the bay cedar blooms.

The king of this island inland is the palm warbler who are everywhere, flitting around the ground collecting insects.  They can be found easily by listening to their repeated cheeping.  

The palm warblers are fast-moving, but not as fast as this American redstart.  I noticed a speedy bird on the ground that was a different color than the other warblers and I saw her flicking her colorful tail.  Apparently this serves to startle insects to make an easy meal out of them.

On the edge of the salt pond I came across another new (to me) bird, the lesser yellowlegs.  It is in the sandpiper family and very intent on bobbing its head underwater to feed on tiny fish or crustaceans.  

During a walk on the northern beach with Mara, we came across a lovely great blue heron.   

At low tide Mara had previously discovered a small zone containing zebra nerite snails amongst the checkered, four-tooth and bleeding tooth nerites, chitons, and interrupted and beaded periwinkles.  The zebra nerites are fairly small at 1/2 inch and beautifully striped.  There were also tons of even smaller brown nerites at 1/4 inch scattered about.

This bay is windblown, deep and scenic. 

© M&M 2016