Twenty-six counts were conducted in South Carolina during the 2019-20 Christmas Bird Count period. Hilton Head Island had the largest number of field participants (266) and feeder watchers (80). Sun City-Okatie had 197 participants while the Low Country Count had 85. Sea Isand had 49. Litchfield-Pawleys Island 47. Congaree Swamp National Park included 40 and Charleston 38. Six counts had 21-40 participants while six had 11-20. There were six counts with fewer than 10 counters, an increase of two over last year and a trend in the wrong direction. Eighty-five percent of counts did some owling while 50% had feeder watchers. The 2019-20 season was characterized by mild weather and there were fewer winter avian visitors and winter finches. Waterfowl and Golden-crowned Kinglet numbers were especially low. As with last year, Roseate Spoonbill numbers continue to increase on coastal counts, found on 44% of them. McClellanville had the highest coastal count with 170 species. Santee N.W.R. had the highest Coastal Plains-Sandhill count with 129 and the top Piedmont-Mountain count was Clemson with 95 species.
There were nine coastal counts. The ACE Basin (141) CBC experienced day-long rain. Remarkable was a new species for the count, a White-face Ibis. This is a 1st SC CBC record and I believe only the 2nd South Carolina record. There were 10 new lows but three new highs: four Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, 45 Rock Pigeons, and an amazing 12 Bachman's Sparrows. Also of interest were a Least Bittern, seven Wild Turkeys, and four Northern Bobwhites. Charleston (143) had a record 33 Anhingas and only the 2nd occurrence of a Western Grebe. There were no Sharp-shinned Hawks and among the 15 new lows on the count were declining species: American Black Duck (1), Brown Thrasher (1), Field Sparrow (1), and Rusty Blackbird (1). Hilton Head Island (130) had an encouraging 29 Piping Plovers. There were four new highs there including 46 Red-shouldered Hawks and 138 Downy Woodpeckers; there were six new lows including one Loggerhead Shrike and 18 Brown Thrashers. The Litchfield-Pawleys Island (154) count was hampered by fog and light rain in the morning. There were 12 new lows, mainly of regular winter visitors. Redhead (81), Downy Woodpecker (70), and Pine Warbler (113) reached record highs. Eleven Ospreys was a notable number. Also significant were two Ipswich race Savannah Sparrows and one Northern Bobwhite. Discouraging were only two Piping Plovers. Increased effort on the Low Country CBC resulted in one new species, Nelson's Sparrow, and 25 new highs versus only six new lows. Five American Kestrels and 40 Piping Plovers were especially noteworthy. There were no Sharp-shinned Hawks. McClellanville was again the high count for South Carolina with 170 species, one less than last year. New for the count was the continuing male Cinnamon Teal at the Santee Coastal Reserve. There were 15 new lows including declining species: Eastern Screech-Owl (1), American Kestrel (1), and winter visitors like Dark-eyed Junco. Only two Golden-crowned Kinglets and two Sharp-shinned Hawks were recorded. Of interest was a Short-eared Owl. Remarkable there were two Gull-billed Terns. There were three new highs including one Baltimore Oriole and five Green Herons. Remarkable were 23 Roseate Spoonbills, 33 Nelson's Sparrows, and 384 American Avocets, all new highs. Mottled Duck and Dickcissel were new on the Sea Island (156) CBC. There were 19 new lows including some wintering waterfowl and declining species like Sharp-shinned Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl and Rusty Blackbird. There were no Golden-crowned Kinglets. A Parasitic Jaeger, 20 Piping Plovers, and five Wilson's Plovers were of interest. Among the 23 new highs were 62 Bald Eagles, 252 Red Knots, 1228 Cedar Waxwings, 10 Field Sparrows, and seven Vesper Sparrows. A well documented male Bullock's Oriole was new for the Sun City-Okatie CBC. There were 12 new lows there including Wild Turkey, Red-throated Loon, Green Heron, Willet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Brown Thrasher. Amoung the eight new highs were a remarkable 275 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, 77 Wood Storks, 559 Double-crested Cormorants, 138 Snowy Egrets, and 19 Gray Catbirds. An Ash-throated Flycatcher, part of a mini-invasion into South Carolina, was new for the Winyah Bay (162) count, as was a Northern Waterthrush. Also of interest there was a Brant. There were 22 new lows including some waterfowl, herons, Laughing Gulls, and Dark-eyed Juncos. There were no Red-throated Loons. Only 22 American Oystercatchers were seen and only four Lesser Yellowlegs. Ten new highs included 8313 Gadwall, 1022 Northern Pintail, 305 Ruddy Ducks, and 235 American Crows.
There were nine counts held in the Coastal Plains-Sandhill regions. Aiken (73) had a count week Red-cockaded Woodpecker. There were nine new lows there including: Sharp-shinned Hawk (1), Eastern Screech-Owl (1), and Rusty Blackbird (1). A total of 13 Loggerhead Shrikes was significant. Because of a lack of participants the Carolina Sandhills N.W.R. count had a reduced number of field parties and only had 67 species as opposed to 74 last season. A Great Egret and a Bachman's Sparrow were new there. A new high of 22 Red-headed Woodpeckers was exceptional. There were nine new lows including Barred Owl, Loggerhead Shrike, House Wren, Winter Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, and Fox Sparrow. A single Brown-headed Cowbird was encouraging. Only one Pine Siskin reflected that this was a non-irruptive year for winter finches. Columbia had a good count with 80 species. There were new highs of Anhingas (3) and Black-and-white Warblers (3). There were 10 new lows. Bald Eagle was particularly disappointing there as was Rusty Blackbird. Moderate flooding in the Congaree and Wateree river flood plains prevented flood plain parties from covering their entire territories on the Congaree N.P. CBC (92). A well described Ash-throated Flycatcher was new and the 2nd one found on a South Carolina CBC this year. Also new was a Peregrine Falcon. Of the five new highs 25 Great Horned Owls and 28 Brown Thrashers were significant. The high of three Henslow's Sparrows was noteworthy. Forty-six Barred Owls was within two individuals from the all-time high of 48. There were seven new lows all with one individual; Bald Eagle, Eastern Screech-Owl, and House Sparrow were most significant as they are species with a declining trend in South Carolina. There were seven new lows on the Lower Saluda CBC (86), including only one Bald Eagle. The low of two Eurasian Collared-Doves reflected their decline with increased predation by Cooper's Hawks. There were only two American Kestrels, another declining species. Eight Dark-eyed Juncos were probably because of the mild winter. There were nine new highs with some remarkable numbers like 18,224 Ring-billed Gulls, 307 Double-crested Cormorants, 163 Mallards, and 86 Common Loons. There was a count week Yellow-throated Warbler and a count week Ovenbird. The PeeDee count had a respectable 87 species considering high water prevented access to several areas. Least Sandpiper was a new species probably made possible by the wet conditions. There were three new lows: Mallard (1), Brown Creeper (1), and Common Yellowthroat (1). Three new highs included an encouraging six Bald Eagles, 22 Black Vultures, and three White-eyed Vireos. Pee Dee was one of only three counts to have Northern Bobwhite. Again the Santee N.W.R. CBC was the highest of the Coastal Plains-Sandhills counts with 129 species. New for this count were a remarkable pair of Black Scoters and one Royal Tern. Among the 11 new lows were declining species such as Sharp-shinned Hawk and Loggerhead Shrike. There were six new highs among which were an incredible 82 Sandhill Cranes, 1341 Gadwalls, and 1168 Northern Shovlers. Black (248) and Turkey (410) vultures also were new highs. The count also had the 2nd record of a Painted Bunting. Notable were 75 Rusty Blackbirds and 32 Brewer's Blackbirds. I would like to honor Mark Vukovich, the long-time compiler of the Savannah River Site CBC who moved out of state this year. Raymund Geroso has taken over as compiler. Best wishes to him for continuing this count. The Savannah River Site had a respectable 97 species considering they experienced heavy rain and most parties finished around 2 p.m. because of the weather. Not surprising there were no new species and no new highs but there were 10 new lows, mainly winter visitors like Redhead, Hooded Merganser, and White-throated Sparrow.
The Clemson CBC with 95 species was the top of the nine Piedmont-Mountain counts. Two Merlins were a new high count as were four Double-crested Cormorants, seven Great Egrets, and three Orange-crowned Warblers. There were nine new lows including Ring-necked and Ruddy ducks, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, and Barred and Great Horned owls. Notable were 29 Rusty and 24 Brewer's blackbirds. A good sighting was 11 Eurasian Collared-Doves. While most counts missed Golden-crowned Kinglets, Clemson had 21. Thirteen Vesper Sparrows were noteworthy as was the 2nd occurrence of an Osprey. The Keowee Count tallied a respectable 85 species with three new species: Wilson Snipe plus Black-and-white and Orange-crowned warblers. There were a remarkable 20 new highs and only nine new lows. Interesting sightings among the new highs include a unique Common Raven. Seven Bald Eagles, 14 Brown Thrashers, 86 Field Sparrows, and 10 Rusty Blackbirds were encouraging numbers for these troubled species. Keowee had two Red-breasted Nuthatches and eight Pine Siskins. Of interest on the Lake Wateree (84) count were 13 Bald Eagles (1 less than the record high of 14), and two Eurasian Collared-Doves. New there were 11 Least Sandpipers. Of the 10 new highs, 556 Black Vultures, nine Red-headed Woodpeckers, and 84 House Sparrows were significant. Among the 10 new lows were declining species; Rock Pigeon (1) and Eastern Screech-Owl (1). A low of 14 Golden-crowned Kinglets continues this mild winter trend. There were no Sharp-shinned Hawks. A high of four Bald Eagles was significant for the Long Cane (66) count. There were 10 new lows including the declining species Sharp-shinned Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl, and Loggerhead Shrike. A Pine Warbler was new for the North Greenville (78) count. There were four new highs there; Ruddy Duck, Killdeer, two Fish Crows, and a remarkable 12 American Woodcock. There were nine new lows including winter visitors such as Redhead, White-crowned and White-throated sparrows, and declining species including Sharp-shinned Hawk and American Kestrel. There were two Pine Siskins. There were only five participants on the Rocky River (63) CBC. A remarkable two Sandhill Cranes were new for the count. There were three new highs: Turkey Vulture, three Bald Eagles, and sadly 113 Brown-headed Cowbirds. There were nine new lows including winter visitors Northern Flicker, Field, Fox and Savannah sparrows, and Dark-eyed Junco. New for the Spartanburg (77) count were Great Egret, Osprey, and a remarkable Painted Bunting. Baltimore Oriole reached a new low of one. Ruddy Duck, Winter Wren, Chipping Sparrow, and Northern Cardinal reached new highs. There were two Sharp-shinned Hawks, two Purple Finches, and count week Northern Bobwhite and Red-breasted Nuthatch. The York-Rock Hill CBC only had four participants as Bill Hilton and another long-time counter were unable to participate, hence the below average count of 54 species. A remarkable 5580 Red-winged Blackbirds was a new high. Three new lows included Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Hairy Woodpecker. A Loggerhead Shrike was a good sighting there.