I lot of good migrants have been seen in the months of March and April. I trip to South Carolina yielded several good birds as well as ventures into new areas around the state. I am on track to reach my goal of observing 245+ species of birds, having 197 in the state currently. Unfortunately the only “guaranteed” bird I have left is the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (seems to be a little late this year).
Today, I ventured to a somewhat hidden gem in Pine Bluff. This is an area that features open wetlands, flooded fields, scrubby lots, swampy cypress bayous, acres of bottomland hardwood, and agricultural fields. On an outing around this time last year we got 75 species. Today was not that diverse but still a good outing.
I started out driving through some of the wetlands. While driving under a pair of I-530 overpasses, I watched 50-60 swallows carrying on. Most were Cliff Swallows but there was also a handful of Barn and one or two Northern Rough-winged. I moved on from there and slowly scanned the reedy ditches for signs of an American Bittern which had been reported by others, previously. No Bitterns, but several Green Herons, Great Egrets, singing Lincoln Sparrows, and a handful of singing Marsh Wrens. In the black willows around the ditch were several Yellow Warblers, Warbling Vireos, a Tennessee Warbler, and a singing Orchard Oriole. In the main body of water were scattered Great Egrets, American Coots, and a cooperative muskrat.
The wetlands transitioned into flooded fields with exposed mudflats. On the water were several shorebirds. The nearest ones were Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral, and Least Sandpipers. In the distance were several more but the only ones I could obtain a definite ID on were Greater Yellowlegs and Black-necked Stilts. A pair of Blue-winged Teal foraged around the wading shorebirds.
Moving into the farmland, I began to hear the song of the Dickcissel. The male does little else but sing and today was no exception with 5-10 being heard at any given time. A possible nesting pair of Lark Sparrows were squabbling in a tree. Indigo Buntings sang from the power lines while an Eastern Phoebe hunted from mail boxes. Several remaining Savannah Sparrows still littered the fields and roadside ditches.
The farmland and scrubby fields were close together and many of the birds seen in one also utilized habitat from the other. Yellow-breasted Chats sang frequently from semi-even aged stand of mostly young water oak. An occasional Eastern Towhee and Prairie Warbler song could be heard coming from the depths of this short forest. A male Blue Grosbeak would pop out of the trees occasionally chasing a female.
The next habitat was the swamp and bottomland hardwood. Prothonotary Warblers sang among the cypress while a slow vireo song could be heard from the canopy; a possible Blue-headed but never verified. A Black-and-white Warbler and Eastern Wood-Pewee also could be heard from this area.