On a crisp Monday morning in mid-December, a band of volunteers gathered starting at 6:00am to conduct the tenth Four Holes Swamp Christmas Bird Count.
The 46 Christmas Bird Count volunteers who participated—the most ever to participate in the Four Holes count—were treated to delightful weather conditions for this year’s census, with afternoon temperatures reaching the low-60s and mostly clear skies during the second half of the day. In addition to the pleasant weather, participants noticed particularly high water levels across the entire count circle, most notably in Four Holes Swamp itself. This rendered many areas inaccessible, and perhaps led to a few low counts as detailed below.
The count concluded with a respectable 102 species, tying our third-highest species total over the last decade. There were also two species firsts for the count: Common Goldeneye and Baltimore Oriole.
Counters also spotted a few species seldom found on the count, including Canvasback, King Rail, Tree Swallow, and Bachman’s Sparrow. In addition, there were several irruptive species (birds that are only found in our area during certain winters) represented as well, including Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin and Purple Finch.
High counts this year included 14 Bufflehead, a significant increase from the previous high of two; 57 Ruddy Duck, a respectable increase from the previous high of 41; and six Orange-crowned Warbler, a tie with the previous high count.
Despite the solid diversity of birds represented, the number of overall individuals was low, with the 7,900 individuals reported clocking in a few thousand birds shy of the previous low of 10,184 in 2016.
Notable low counts included Ring-billed Gull, which was down to two from a previous low of 380; Red-headed Woodpecker, tied with the previous low of one; and White-throated Sparrow down to 53 from a previous low of 74.
We also had a few notable misses this year, with no sightings of Lesser Scaup, Sandhill Crane, Wilson’s Snipe, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren or Vesper’s Sparrow.
Regardless of the day’s tallies, the Christmas Bird Count is always a day that we at Audubon South Carolina savor – it’s our chance to spend a day outside with friends, adding to a tradition that dates back over 100 years. So, on behalf of all of us with Audubon South Carolina, thank you so much to all who participated in the Four Holes Swamp Christmas Bird Count, and in Christmas Bird Count efforts across the state. We simply could not do this important work without you! And for anyone who is interested in participating in our next Four Holes Swamp Christmas Bird Count, we hope you’ll join us on Monday, December 16, 2019 when we get together again!