Bear Island is a big back yard

Audabon’s Great Backyard Birdcount didn’t officially begin until Friday February 16, but 10 Seabrook Island Birders started the long holiday weekend early with a visit to a very large ( 12,000 acre) backyard of the Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and then Donnelly WMA (another 8,000 acre).  Both of these WMA are closed from the end of October through February 10 for duck hunting.  It was hoped that a lot of ducks would still be there when the group visited shortly after the season reopened.

The group met while still dark with hopes to reach Bear Island before the Tundra Swans left for the day.  The weather forecast was promising and the group had an indication it may be a good birding day when a gas stop in Jacksonboro was the first massive sighting of the day.  A conservative estimate of 25 Black Vultures and 15 Fish Crows were hovering in and around a tree behind the station.  On to Bear Island for some ducks!

Tundra Swan – Charley Moore
American Avocet – Charley Moore

David Gardner (our fearless leader) recommended we make our first stop at Bennetts Point, just outside the gate to Bear Island.  He had seen reports a Eurasion Wigeon was a recurring resident of that pond.  Shortly after setting up his spotting scope, he saw the red head of the Eurasion Wideon among the 540 American Wigeon.  While counting the ducks, a flock of Tundra Swans gracefully flew in from Bear Island and glided in to the same pond.  Not to be outdone, our first flock of American Avocets also flew in to the area.  In less than a half hour, 26 species were seen.  As we left the area to turn in to Bear Island, a Bald Eagle was seen perched in a tree, as if to assure us we’d only just begun a great day.

The rest of the morning was spent going from impoundment to impoundment of old rice fields along dirt roads.  Minimal walking was required to see the 68 species.  The number of ducks became almost overwhelming with over a dozen species being seen with many in high quantities.  Ducks obviously were not the only species seen with White Pelicans providing an arial show as well as Northern Harrier.  The beautiful American Avocets were seen again in greater numbers.

The final stop of the day was at Donnelly WMA which is between Bear Island and Highway 17.  A good view of Eastern Meadowlarks and Vesper Sparrows may have been the highlight of this stop after seeing so many ducks earlier.  Purple Martins surprised us by going in to their boxes (It’s breeding season already?).

Brown-headed Nuthatch – Charley Moore

A Rusty Blackbird, 4 White-breasted Nuthatch and 7 Brown-headed Nuthatch were also seen.

The final specie sighting of the day were Rock Pigeons on a wire along Highway 17, between CawCaw and the turn on Main Road.  The tired birders were pleased with their day and looking forward to participating in the Great Backyard BirdCount on the weekend.


Jacksonboro Gas Station – 2 species

Black Vulture 25
Fish Crow 15

Bennetts Point – 26 species

Tundra Swan 25
Gadwall 40
Eurasian Wigeon 1
American Wigeon 540
Mallard 4
American Black Duck
Mottled Duck 6
Pied-billed Grebe 6
Tricolored Heron 16
Bald Eagle 1
American Avocet 12
Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Mourning Dove 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 3
Tree Swallow 2
Carolina Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
Northern Mockingbird 1
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 11
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 2
Boat-tailed Grackle 1

Bear Island WMA – 68 species

Tundra Swan 31
Blue-winged Teal 4
Northern Shoveler 65
Gadwall 380
American Wigeon 180
Mallard 13
American Black Duck
Mottled Duck 8
Mallard/Mottled Duck 3
Northern Pintail 1
Green-winged Teal 136
Bufflehead 1
Hooded Merganser 7
Pied-billed Grebe 15
Wood Stork 2
Double-crested Cormorant 6
American White Pelican 3
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 11
Snowy Egret 5
Little Blue Heron 5
Tricolored Heron 16
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
White Ibis 3
Glossy Ibis 2
Black Vulture 6
Turkey Vulture 5
Northern Harrier 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Common Gallinule 5
American Avocet
Killdeer 2
Wilson’s Snipe 6
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Caspian Tern 3
Forster’s Tern 1
Mourning Dove 4
Belted Kingfisher 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 2
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay 10
American Crow 3
Tree Swallow 115
Carolina Chickadee 5
Tufted Titmouse 3
Carolina Wren 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 12
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 2
Northern Mockingbird 2
Pine Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 7
Savannah Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 2
Northern Cardinal 7
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Red-winged Blackbird 120
Common Grackle 80

Donnelly WMA – 58 species

Blue-winged Teal 4
Gadwall 6
Ruddy Duck 1
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 3
Little Blue Heron 2
Tricolored Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
White Ibis 1
Black Vulture 2
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Clapper Rail 1
Sora 1
Common Gallinule 12
American Coot 1
Killdeer 25
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Mourning Dove 3
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 2
Pileated Woodpecker 2
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 12
American Crow 6
Purple Martin 2
Tree Swallow 10
Carolina Chickadee 7
Tufted Titmouse 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
Brown-headed Nuthatch 7
Marsh Wren 1
Carolina Wren 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Eastern Bluebird 22
American Robin 9
Northern Mockingbird 1
Pine Warbler 11
Yellow-rumped Warbler 7
Chipping Sparrow 28
White-throated Sparrow 1
Vesper Sparrow 30
Swamp Sparrow 4
Eastern Towhee 6
Northern Cardinal 8
Eastern Meadowlark 120
Red-winged Blackbird 47
Rusty Blackbird 1
Common Grackle 2

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Photos by: Charley Moore

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