29-31 January 2004
Installment #208--Visitor #

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Interested in hummingbirds?
Want to help collect observational data and submit it as part of Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project?
We're having a Training Workshop in Fort Mill SC on 7 Feb.
Teachers and other hummingbird enthusiasts are invited
See you there?

NOTE: Counts four hours toward North Carolina environmental education certification.


On 31 January we had the privilege of traveling to Beaufort SC to address the annual meeting of the Carolina Bird Club, a bi-state organization made up of professional ornithologists, first-time bird watchers, and just about everything in between. The Carolina Bird Club--abbreviated hereafter as CBC (but not to be confused with the Christmas Bird Count)--is open to folks interested in the study and conservation of wildlife, especially birds. Hilton Pond Center has supported the efforts of the CBC for many years; we're proud, for example, to be life members, to publish papers in The Chat (the CBC's quarterly journal), and to contribute occasional reports through the group's Rare Bird Alert. The CBC gathers thrice a year for a meeting that includes lectures such as ours about "Hummingbirds and Hamburgers: the Tropical Connection," but the real fun of a CBC conclave comes when nearly 200 participants from the Carolinas and elsewhere fan out for two full days of field trips and bird finding.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

One reason for holding a CBC meeting and its excursions in Beaufort is the great diversity of local habitats--saltwater marshes and estuaries, freshwater impoundments, coastal woodland, agricultural fields, barrier islands, and the ocean itself, just to name a few. Diverse habitats are bound to produce a variety of bird species, and the recent weekend was no exception. Following our Saturday night hummingbird lecture, CBC past president and meeting organizer Van Atkins asked Robin Carter--one of the Southeast's preeminent birders and author of Where to Find Birds in South Carolina--to read down a "Checklist of Birds" as participants called out whether or not each species had been seen.

Double-crested Cormorants on a Fripp island SC sandbar. Adults are completely dark. A single Brown Pelican and an unidentified gull also appear in this photo.

Amazingly, during two days the 186 bird enthusiasts collectively spotted 183 species--almost one for each person at the CBC meeting! (See unofficial, undocumented list at bottom of page.) In Robin Carter's words, the group saw just about every species of bird that might reasonably be expected in the area around Beaufort during winter, but there were also a few surprises. If the reported California Gull was indeed that--rather than something like a still relatively uncommon juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull--then it would have to be the most unusual species seen. After all, California Gulls hail from the state that gives them their name and are seldom seen in the eastern U.S. In fact, they do not even appear on the official checklist of South Carolina birds. In subsequent days, local birders from Beaufort may try to relocate the bird in question to photograph it and try to verify the species for the state record books.

Aside from the possible California Gull, Robin Carter said he thought the most surprising local finds for the end of January might have been Yellow Warbler and American Redstart. These two Neotropical migrants typically winter from Mexico south to Peru and return each spring beginning in April. Although they have been reported out-of-season in the Carolinas, the two insect-eating warblers are still quite rare during colder months this far north.

Some of the more common birds spotted during the weekend include species illustrated on this page, all of which actually were photographed in heavy overcast light on Fripp Island early on the morning of 1 February. The bird above left is a Great Egret, identifiable by its white plumage, long yellow bill, and black legs and feet. (Interestingly, one of the CBC field trips out of Beaufort saw and photographed what appeared to be a Great White Heron, a white morph of the common Great Blue Heron that is typically restricted to Florida.) The single bird on the sand bar (above right) is an adult Herring Gull, which has a large red spot near the tip of its lower bill.

For information on joining the Carolina Bird Club and participating in its many activities, please visit the organization's Web site. Annual membership includes a subscription to The Chat and the bimonthly CBC Newsletter, plus opportunities to learn from bird experts with many years of field experience. Dues also go to support the conservation activities of the CBC. The club administers a research grant program in avian biology for up to four undergrad or graduate students each year.

A small raft of Hooded Mergansers on a creek at Fripp Island SC. The male has a crest that, when erected, reveals a large white ear patch. The female's crest is solid and light reddish-brown.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(Hampton, Colleton, Beaufort & Jasper Counties in SC)
30-31 January 2003

Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Northern Gannet
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Wood Stork
Tundra Swan
Greater White-fronted Goose
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal
American Black Duck
Mottled Duck
Northern Pintail
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
Black Scoter
Surf Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Clapper Rail
King Rail
Virginia Rail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
American Oystercatcher
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Laughing Gull
Franklin's Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Barn Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Short-eared Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Loggerhead Shrike
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Boat-tailed Grackle
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

NOTE: Be sure to scroll down for an account of all birds banded or recaptured during the week, as well as some other interesting nature notes.

This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

You may wish to consult our Index of all nature topics covered since February 2000. You can also use the on-line Search Engine at the bottom of this page.

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Please report
your sightings of
Vagrant & Winter

29-31 January 2004

Purple Finch--38
House Finch--1

* = New species for 2004

2 species
39 individuals

13 species
500 individuals

(since 28 June 1982)
123 species
43,803 individuals

This Week at Hilton Pond
is part of the

(with original banding date, sex, and current age)
None this week

--The small raft of Ring-necked Ducks that has moved in on Hilton Pond has grown from three to six birds, only one of which is a female.

None this week

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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In 2004, informative and entertaining hummingbird banding presentations are already scheduled for North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan & Kentucky/Tennessee.
(Click on the logo at left for details.)
If your group would like to host Hummingbird Mornings anywhere in the U.S. or Canada in 2004 or later, contact
Bill Hilton Jr.

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.