The 122nd Christmas Bird Count in South Carolina

I want to thank Dr Chris Marsh for taking over as compiler of the Sun City-Okatie count at the very last minute. South Carolina had 27 counts for the 2021-2022 Christmas Bird Count season. Although next year there might be 29 Counts as there were two trial counts this season: Conway-Lewis Ocean Bay CBC and James Island CBC.  There were nine coastal 10 coastal plains and sand hills, and nine Piedmont and mountains counts. As always Hilton Head had the most field participants, a remarkable 231 which was close to its pre-covid level.  Sun City-Okatie which usually has 150+ participants reported only 70 but I suspect this this was an error and a under count as the long time compiler left during the count and his replacement did not have all the data.  The Low Country CBC had 89 participants while the Sea Island Count had 60.  Congree Swamp had 46, Litchfield-Pawley's Island 40, Keowee 38, and Charleston 30.  There were 13 counts with 29 to 15 field participants about the usual amount.  Six counts had 9-5 field participants, a return to the normal number after last year’s COVID elevated eight.  Forty-four percent of counts had feeder watchers.  Hilton Head had a remarkable 93, while Sea Island had 23 feeder watchers, Spartanburg had 20, and Keowee had 12.  All other CBC which had feeder watchers had between five and one.  Eighty-one percent of counts did some owling, similar to per-COVID efforts.  Seven counts experienced some rain with Litchfield-Pawleys Island having light AM and Heavy PM rain.  Keowee experienced heavy AM rain.

McCllenville CBC had the highest species count with 166.  This was significantly fewer than the 178 species last year.  The compiler blames this decrease on the mild winter weather which greatly reduced the number of winter visitors.  Winyah Bay had 162 species this season versus 170 last year.  Sea Island had 158 and Litchfield-Pawleys Island, 153.  As usual, Santee NWR CBC had the highest Coastal Plains species count of 135. Four-hole Swamp had 104. Clemson had the highest Piedmont and Mountains species count with 97 species. 

This was not an irruptive year for winter finches.  Only 30 % of counts had Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches.  Only 22 % had Pine Siskins.  There were 17 species found on only one count including three waterfowl: A Greater White-fronted Goose at Santee NWR, a well described Ross's Goose on the Northern Greenville Count, and a Common Goldeneye on the McClellanville count.  The Savannah River Site had the only Golden Eagle; they have a program  putting  our DOR deer and hogs to feed eagles.  Three Limpkins were seen on the Sun City-Okatie count, a species which may increase in South Carolina in the future. During the count period there was a godwit trifecta!  Not only where there the regular Marbled Godwits (108 individuals at 4 coastal counts: Charleston, Hilton Head, Low Country, and Sea Island) but also there where two other unusual species: a European race Bar-tailed Godwit at Kiawah Island and a Hudsonian Godwit at Litchfield Beach. The Litchfield-Pawleys Island count had three other unique sightings: Purple Sandpiper, Parasitic Jagger, and Heermann’s Gull, probably the same one which had been seen  along the Southeastern Coastal all season.  Pinewood had a well described Yellow-throated Vireo. Keowee had the only Common Raven.   There were two warblers seen: a Northern Waterthrush at Litchfield-Pawleys Is and a Northern Parula on the ACE Basin count.  Formerly considered a wood warbler, a Yellow-breasted Chat was found on the Sea Island CBC.  Clemson had a well-described Lincoln's Sparrow, and a Western Tanager was visiting a feeder on the Sea Island count.  Also visiting a feeder but during count week was a male Bullock's Oriole returning for the 3rd year to the Sun City-Okatie Christmas Count.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks continue to increase in South Carolina.  Last year there were 184 on three coastal counts.  This year there were 307on four counts with a count week observation on a 5th count.  Roseate Spoonbills continue to expand with 191 seen on nine counts; ACE Basin had a record count of 127.  Very encouraging were 991 Rusty Blackbirds on 20 counts, with Spartanburg having a remarkable 490.  While some species are increasing in South Carolina sadly others are decreasing.  Northern Bobwhite had more individuals this year (37) than last (26) but they were found on fewer count s (3) compared to last year (6).  The endangered Piping Plover had 53 individuals on six counts. Last year there were 56 individuals on seven counts. Common Gound-Doves were found on three counts in both years but there were only 10 this year but 19 last year. Vesper Sparrows continue to decline, with 29 individuals on nine counts; while last year 42 individuals on seven counts.


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