Southern Atlantic

Southern Atlantic

Davis, Ricky

This spring’s weather was characterized by generally below-average precipitation (Georgia experienced one of its driest springs on record) and slightly above-average temperatures. This weather pattern produced few notable fronts, so the migration flowed through the season with no noteworthy events. Groundings due to weather systems were almost nonexistent. Predictably, then, most observers called the migration very poor, although for the birds, it was probably quite successful! As usual, there were a few rarities, most notably a first for the western North Atlantic Ocean on one of the North Carolina pelagic trips.

Abbreviations: C. Halt. (Cape Hatteras, NC); E.L.H. (E.L. Huie Land Application Facility, claytort, GA); H.B.S.P (Huntington Beach S.E, SC); Hoop. (Hooper Lane, Henderson, NC); K. Mt. (Kennesaw Mt. National Battlefield Park, GA); L. Matt. (L. Mattamuskeet N.W.R., NC); EI. (Pea Island N.WR., NC); S.S.S. (Savannah Spoil Site, Jasper, SC).


Loons lingering from the winter season included the Red-throated Loon at L.Julian, NC until 27 Apr (TJ) and the Yellow-billed Loon at L. Horton, GA until 3 Apr (MI). Also of note for the spring was the Red-necked Grebe at Shallotte Inlet, Brunswick, NC 9-11 Apr (TP). A complete surprise was the Yellow-nosed Albatross observed at Cape Pt., Buxton, NC point for over 20 minutes as it flew offshore toward Diamond Shoals f f Apr (KM). Photographs should provide the 2nd documented record for North Carolina, though there are several sight reports of albatross for the state. The usual complement of late May pelagic trips off North Carolina’s Outer Banks was run again with much success (BP). Gadfly petrels were highlighted by at least 4 Fea’s and 10 Herald (Trinidade) Petrels 21-31 May (off Oregon and Hatleras Inlets). Shearwater numbers were about average, though 9 Manx during the period was evidence of the increasing effort to locate this species (which is often seen in cooler inshore waters) on the pelagic tours. Storm-petrel numbers were about normal for spring, with the peak counts including 32 Leach’s and 19 Band-rumpeds 30 May off Hatteras. The highlight of the spring, however, was the Black-bellied Storm-Petrel found off Oregon Inlet 31 May (P. A. Guris, M. D. Overton, M. R. Tove, R. Wiltraut, G. Wheaton, J. Gallup et al.). The bird, was associating with a mixed storm-petrel flock in a cool eddy of the Gulf Stream in 800 fathoms of water. It was immediately identified as a Fregetta storm-petrel; photographic documentation indicated Black-bellied rather than White-bellied. If accepted, this would represent the first record for North America! Other highlights of the season included 3 Red-billed Tropicbirds (now almost annual) during May (BP) and a Masked Booby near shore out of Hatteras 22 May (S. Howell). An imm. Brown Booby was photographed on a channel marker near Harkers I., Carteret, NC 15 Apr (JC), providing a very rare sighting for that state. In South Carolina, rare pelagic species included a Manx Shearwater off Charleston 10 Apr and 5-6 Band-rumped Storm-Petrels off Charleston 30 May (ND et al.).

American White Pelicans continued Io be found Regionwide, with the most unusual sigh tings being 45 at L. Matt 7 Mar (fide WC), 6 at Jordan L., NC 19-20 May (fide WC), 15 at L. Burton, Rahm, GA 11 Apr (fide TM), and 15 at L. Julian, NC 11 Apr (TL). Also rare inland was the Brown Pelican at L. Townsend, Guilford, NC 10-20 Apr (ET). There were more Magnificent Frigatebird reports this spring than usual, with birds being noted at Cumberland I., GA 2 May (BW et al.), at Cedar L, NC 16 May OFJFe et al.), at Wrightsville Beach, NC and later that day at Ft. Fisher, NC 26 May (A&CR, OA), and at Folly Beach, SC 27 May (CW). Reddish Egrets included the usual bird at Gould’s Inlet, GA during Mar and Apr QFl, EH, PS, GB), a white morph at Donnelley WM.A., SC 17 May (KA), and one on Eittle St. Simons L, GA 23 May (BN). Noteworthy inland were the 2 Black-crowned Night-Herons at L. Junaluska, Haywood, NC 14 Apr (DH, BO) and the Glossy Ibis at Santee N.W.R., SC 17 Apr (MT). Roseate Spoonbills provided rare sightings for the Carolinas, with singles at Folly Beach, SC late Apr-early May (fide DF), at S. Tibwin, Charleston, SC 14 May (CW), and at Bodie I., NC lighthouse pond 19 May+ (RD, ESB, GLA, ph. Bob Salomon, m.ob.). The latter bird, about the 12th for the state, was apparently present for several days earlier and later in the nearby PI. area (v.o.).


Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks continued their presence at Donnelley W.M.A., SC, with up to 12 seen 27 May (LM), and 5 were seen briefly in a flooded field in Tyrrell, NC 17 May (fide JL). It is generally believed that these birds are of wild provenance, potentially from the Florida population. There were several lingering waterfowl of note this spring. Up to 2 Snow Geese were very late at E.L.H. 14-15 May (CL, JS el al.). A subad. male Common Eider was found near Harkers I., NC 15 May (R&PT), and up to 2 Long-tailed Ducks remained in the Ft. Macon, NC area until at least 10-11 May (RN, JF). Scoters lingered at several sites this spring, with the latest being one Surf and 3 Blacks at Caswell Beach, NC 30 May (JP)- Two Common Mergansers were very late at Falls L., NC 2 May (BB), and a Red-breasted Merganser was very late along the Altamaha R., GA 31 May (fide DC). The Cinnamon Teal found at the Altamaha WM.A., GA during late Feb, was last seen 3 Mar (RW, GB, BH). The best inland scoter report was of 8 Surfs at L. Julian, NC 18 Mar (TJ et al.).

There was the usual scattering of Swallow-tailed Kite reports from all three states this spring. One moving northward at the Altamaha R., Long, GA 3 Mar (GB, BH) was easily one of the earliest ever for that state. Another very early one was n. of Georgetown, SC 7 Mar (TK). Somewhat out of range were singles at Oxbow Meadows, GA 4 Apr (WCh) and McAlpine Greenway, Charlotte, NC 24 Apr QW et al.). The biggest flock of Mississippi Kites reported was the 79 near Wedgefield, Sumter, SC 5 May (LM), while the most out of range were the 2 at Jackson Park, Hendersonville, NC 9 May (RS). An ad. Swainson’s Hawk seen in flight near San tee N. W. R., SC 3 Apr (LM), if accepted, would be only the 3rd from that state. Rare in the spring season after mid-Mar, a Rough-legged Hawk was a good find near Roper, Washington, NC 3 Apr (fide TP). A Clapper Rail was found dead in downtown Charlotte, NC 26 Apr (TP) for a rare but not unprecedented inland occurrence. Much more unusual and totally out of place was the Purple Gallinule seen walking from a road toward the beach on Ocracoke L, NC 24 Apr (TPe et al.). Causing much excitement was the appearance of 8 Whooping Cranes from the Florida reintroduction program on their way north. First seen in Lowndes, GA 29 Mar (NK), they were again seen somewhat e. of the expected migration path near Franklin, NC 1-3 Apr (v.o.). Sandhill Crane reports included 2 at K. Mt. 10 Apr (fide GB), 2 near Townville, SC 18 May (SP et al.), and 2 at Bear Island WM.A., SC 24 Apr (ND) and 21 May (SW).


Only one American Golden-Plover was found this spring, that being one in basic plumage at Oxbow Meadows, GA 3-4 Apr (WCh). Very rare inland Blacknecked Stilts were found at Oxbow Meadows, GA 14-16 May (WCh) and at Phinizy Swamp, Augusta, GA 29-30 May (LS). American Avocets were noteworthy inland, with one at Falls L., NC 2 May (BB) and 17 in Bartow, GA 5 May (BZ). Other very rare inland shorebirds included a Willet at L. Junaluska, NC 26 Apr (DH, BO, WF), a Baird’s Sandpiper in Marshallville, Macon, GA 17 Apr (fide TM), and a another Baird’s at Hoop. 15-17 Apr (WF, BO). The latter bird, if accepted, would be only the 3rd spring report for that state. Upland Sandpiper reports were down again this spring, with Georgia being the only state that reported birds. Georgia also had the only Long-billed Curlews, with one at Little St. Simons I. most of the spring (BN) and 3 on Sapelo I. 12-14 Mar (MF). One Curlew Sandpiper was reported, thai being one photographed at the S.S.S. 31 May (SC). Another rare shorebird was the female Ruff (Reeve) found at Bear Island W.M.A., SC 20 Apr (DF). There is only a handful of spring reports for that state. Only two reports of Wilson’s Phalarope were received, single birds at the Altamaha W.M.A., GA 29 Apr and 3 May (BD, TKe, DHd) and at the S.S.S. 28 May (SC). Rare onshore Red-necked Phalarope reports included 5 at the S.S.S. 19 May (SC) and one at the Long Beach, NC airport 30 May QP). A pelagic trip out of Charleston, SC 10 Apr had excellent numbers of phalaropes, with 450 Red-neckeds and 350 Reds (ND et al).

This spring’s Outer Banks pelagic trips yielded lowest-ever numbers of jaegers but did produce as many as 5 South Polar Skuas 21-30 May (BP), though the identification of one of the birds on 25 May was much discussed: photographs of the bird may be published in the British journal Binding World as a first-summer Great Skua, a plumage essentially undescribed in the literature. Inland Laughing Gulls included 2 at Falls L., NC 2 May (BB) and 2 at L. Walter E George, GA 30 May (J&MA). Very rare in spring, a Franklin’s Gull was a good find at the West Point L., GA dam area 22 Mar (WCh). Even more unexpected was the ad. Black-headed Gull found for one day at the s. end of Jekyll I., GA 21 Mar (BW et al). If accepted, this would be that state’s 2nd. Rare spring Glaucous Gulls included first-winter birds at Beaufort, NC 24 Apr QF et al.) and on Wassaw L, GA 27 Apr (PR). As expected, all North Carolina Arctic Terns were found off the Outer Banks. Found on four trips, the peak count was the 6 off Oregon Inlet 21 May (BP). In South Carolina, where much rarer, one was off Murrell’s Inlet 14 May QPe), and 4 were off Charleston 19 May (ND). Noteworthy inland terns included 7 Forster’s Terns at Garden Lakes, Rome, GA 27 Apr (MD) and a Least Tern near Stateburg, Sumter, SC 17 May (MT). Bridled Tern numbers were down, with the best North Carolina count being 5 off Oregon Inlet 30 May (BP). South Carolina had 2 off Charleston 10 Apr (ND et al.) for an early sighting. Sooty Tern sightings were one off Charleston, SC 10 Apr and 2 off Charleston 19 May (ND et al.), 2 off Oregon Inlet, NC 21 May (BP), and one onshore in the Cape Fear R. near Southport, NC 17 Apr (MH et al.). Only one inland Black Tern was reported, that being at the E.L.H. 31 May (EH). The winter’s influx of alcids in North Carolina continued into Mar. A sick Dovekie (which later died) was found on the beach at Atlantic Beach 4 Mar (fide JF), and another dead one was found there 5 Mar QF). Also an injured Thick-billed Murre was found on Ocracoke 19 Mar and taken to a local rehabilitator (EHa). Razorbill reports involved dead ones off C. Lookout 3 Mar (fide JF) and at Ft. Macon 5 Mar (RN). Live ones included 3 flying past Atlantic Beach 17 Mar UFJFe, BHo), one at Ft. Macon 23 Mar (RN), and one off Cape Lookout 24 Mar (JFe).


Only one White-winged Dove was reported, that being at a feeder in Shelby, NC .15 Apr (fide TP). Black-billed Cuckoo sightings were about average, coming from the w. portions of the Region. A Short-eared Owl at Little St. Simons I., GA 16 Mar was a good find for that coastal locality in spring (BN). Unusual was the Common Nighthawk found far offshore of Hatteras, NC 22 May (BP). A Whip-poor-will was very early in s. Moore, NC 5 Mar OB). Woodpeckers made news this spring with several high counts. A one-day total of 23 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at K. Mt. 22 Mar (GB et al.) was quite remarkable for this generally scarce species. A flight of 77 Northern Flickers in one hour in n. Greene, GA 21 Mar (PS) was very notable, and a count of 50 Pileated Woodpeckers on the Milltail Creek B.B.S., Dare, NC 30 May was very impressive (ML).

Only one Olive-sided Flycatcher was mentioned this spring, that being at Call-away Gardens, GA 9 May (D&PM). There were several noteworthy Empidonax sightings this spring: a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at K. Mt. 2 May (only the 3rd spring record there; fide GB), an Alder Flycatcher at Hoop. 16 May (WF, BO), and a Least Flycatcher at Eno River S.E, Durham, NC 5 May (HL). South Carolina’s 3rd inland Vermilion Flycatcher was an ad. male near Lexington 29-30 May (DS, MS, BF). Rare spring sightings of Western Kingbird involved singles at James 1., SC 17 Apr (CH et al.) and Jekyll I., GA 1 May (IS). Also of note was the Gray Kingbird at Edisto Beach, SC 18 Apr (SG et al), this being away from the usual sites in coastal s. Georgia. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers once again were present in the Region. One bird returned to the Monroe, NC site 19 Apr but did not stay this year (AO). One was seen not too far from there 11 May (GM), probably the same bird. At the McDonough, GA site, birds returned 16 May (BZ et al.). Other sighiings included one n. of Perry, GA 4 May (D&PM) and one near Brattonville, York, SC 28-30 May (BF, BMJH).

Some of the rarer vireo reports included an early Yellow-throated at Lilburn, GA 14 Mar (TR), a Warbling at K. Mt. 28 Apr (RH, PH et al.), a Philadelphia at the E.L.H. 23 Apr (CL), 2 Philadelphias at Bethabara Park, Winston-Salem, NC 1 May (fide RSn), and an early Red-eyed at Paulk’s Pasture, Glynn, GA 21 Mar (GK). The thrush migration was considered to be very poor this spring. Numbers of birds were way down, and many observers did not mention them at all. Extremely early were a Gray-cheeked Thrush near Winnabow, Brunswick, NC 11 Apr (GM) and a Wood Thrush at Howell Woods, Johnston, NC 23 Mar (DW). A Bicknell’s Thrush was banded and photographed at Howell Woods, NC 5 May (BS et al., fide HL). If accepted, this would provide only the 3rd documented Bicknell’s for the state. Even if this taxon is “lumped” again with Gray-cheeked, as is being considered by the A.O.U., records of subspecies continue to be of interest, and observers are encouraged to document such birds as thoroughly as possible.


The warbler migration, like the thrush migration, was generally described as poor. Some early arrivals included 2 Black-throated Greens in the Croatan N.E, NC 19 Mar (JF), where waynei usually arrives a week later, and a Prairie at Black Mountain, NC 3 Mar (SGi). Out of place were several offshore warblers off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A Magnolia Warbler was off Oregon Inlet 21 May, and a Prothonotary Warbler was off Hatteras 29 May (BP). The latter bird was extremely late for a migrant (most spring migrants peak in early to mid-Apr); it was captured and released in habitat at Frisco. Cerulean Warblers staged one of their better spring migrations at K. Mt. this year, as evidenced by the excellent count of 12 there 12 Apr (GB et al.). Rare for the mts. was the Prothonotary Warbler in the French Broad R. valley, Hendenon, NC 27 Apr (WF, MW). Another good count for K. Mt. was the 14 Worm-eating Warblers there 12 Apr (GB et al.), which set a high single-day total for the park. There were two reports each of the rare Opomrnis species this spring. Jackson Park, Hendersonville, NC had one Connecticut Warbler 14 May (Wf; RS), 2 Connecticuts on 17 May (RS), and a Mourning on 6-7 May (WF, RS). Another Mourning Warbler was at K. Mt. 20 May (GB, BZ), providing only the 2nd spring report there.

Western Tanager has become an annual visitor in recent years. This spring’s sightings involved a female at a feeder in Albemarie, Sternly, NC 7-11 Mar (MM), a male at a feeder in Winston, Douglas, GA 26 Apr-1 May (fide JS), and a young male singing at the Roanoke River N.W.R., NC 23 Apr (R&SB). The clay-colored Sparrows that wintered in numbers at North R., Carterel, NC remained until 25 Apr, when 2 were still present (JF). Elsewhere, rare spring clay-coloreds were at James L, SC 17 Apr (CH et al.), at the S.S.S. 21 Apr (SC et al.), and at Table Rock S.E, SC 4 May OCa, SS). Very rare and unexpected in spring was the Henslow’s Sparrow found at the N.C.S.U. farm s. of Raleigh, NC 8 May QM et al). There were more Lincoln’s Sparrow reports than usual this spring. Singles were found at Riverbend Park, Catawba, NC 11 Apr (DM), at Little St. Simons L, GA 16 Apr QSi, fide BN), at Griffin, GA 24 Apr (EB), at Athens, GA 25-28 Apr OFl, CS), at Durham, NC 25 Apr (WC), and at Mills R., Henderson, NC 29 Apr (WF). Of interest were the 2 White-throated Sparrows that remained through the period in south-coastal Georgia at Darien (DC). Completely unexpected was the Harris’s Sparrow that showed up at a feeder in Winnabow, Brunswick, NC 20-25 Apr (EC, m.ob.). This bird provided about the 6th record for North Carolina. Even rarer was the ad. Gray-headed Junco (Junco hyemalis caniceps) photographed at a feeder in Charlotte, NC 25-27 May QSh, TP). Obviously the first for the Region, this individual represents certainly the easternmost record; there is a handful of extralimital records from the Southern Great Plains and one from Ohio. North Carolina also had its 4th Smith’s Longspur: one was photographed with Laplands at Hoop. 26 Mar (WF, RS). Snow Buntings, very rare in the Region in spring, provided some excitement this year. A male in high plumage was a complete surprise in a yard in Zebulon, Wake, NC 10-11 Apr (DO) and provided only the 5th Apr report for the state. This bird was outdone however by the female, also in high plumage, found at the jetty at Oregon Inlet, NC 6-9 May (HT, JL, JK), providing the first May report for the state.

In North Carolina, Painted Buntings wandered inland more than usual this spring. The most amazing was the ad. male photographed at a feeder in Asheville 11-12 Mar (MW, ST, JMa), which provided the first documented mountain record for the state. Others included a female at Fayetteville 2 May (BWa) and a female at Greensboro 7-8 May (D&CA). Dickcissel reports were about average, with the best counts being 5 in Barlow, GA during May (BZ, PH) and 4 at the Harris Farm, e. franklin, NC 11 May+ (RD). An imm. male Yellow-headed Blackbird was a surprise in a yard n. of Mt. Pleasant, SC 4-5 May (BC, EBl). A locally good count of 31 Brewer’s Blackbirds was had at the usual Open Ground, Carteret, NC area 5 Mar (JF, JFe). Only one Shiny Cowbird was reported this spring, that being a second-year male at Blackbeard Island N.WR., GA 20 May (PS). A pair of Baltimore Orioles nested just e. of Greenville, NC; the male was seen carrying food to a nest 30 May (JWr). As amazing as this seems, nesting by this species was attempted in Greenville during the late 1980s and early 1990s as well. And finally, a Common Redpoll put in an appearance at a feeder in Charleston, SC 5-7 Mar (ND, m.ob.)-most likely a part of the earlier winter influx into the Carolinas.

Contributors: Don &r Carolyn Alien (DSiCA), Ken Alien, Oliver Alphin, Jerry & Marie Amerson (J&MA), George L. Armistead, Jeff Beane, Giff Beaton, Eric Beohm, Ed Blitch (EBl), Brian Bockhahn, Rich & Susan Boyd (R&SB), Edward S. Brinkley, Steve Calver, Jeff Catlin QCa), Walt Chambers (WCh), Bob Chinn, Doris Cohrs, Will Cook, Earl Cooke, Jeff Cordes, Ricky Davis, Nathan Dias, Marion Dobbs, Brucc Dralle, Jack Fennell (JFc)1 Jml Flynn (JFl). Dennis Forsythe, Wayne Forsythe, Mark Freeman, Billy Fuller, John Fussell, Sidney Gauthreaux, Jr., Stu Gibeau (SGi), Bruce Hallett, Elizabeth Hanrahan (EHa), David Hedeen (DHd), Don Hendershot, Roy Hester, Chris Hill, J. B. Hines, Mark Huffman, Bob Holmes (BHo), Earl Horn, Pierre Howard, Mike Ivie, Tom Joyce, Tim Kalbach, Gene Keferl, Tim Keyes (TKe), Nathan Klaus, Joan Kutulas, Carol Lambert, Harry LeGrand, Jr., Jeff Lewis, Tim Lewis, Merrill Lynch, Dwayne Martin, JoAnn Martin QMa), Greg Massey, Bob Maxwell, Denny & Pam McClure (D&PM), Kevin Metcalf, Lloyd Moon, Terry Moore, M. K. Morrison, Jim Mulholland, Randy Newmari, Brandon Noel, Anne Olsen, Bob Olthoff, Dave Osborn, Steve Paiterson, Brian Patteson (BP; Seabirding, Inc.), Jack Peachey QPe), Temple Pearson (TPe), Taylor Piephoff, Jeff Pippen, Pete Range, Ann & Chester Robertson (A&CR), Tim Rose, Ron Selvey, Jeff Sewell, Mac Sharpe, Jill Shoemaker QSh), John Sill QSi), Chris Skelton, Donna Slyce, Ramona Snavely (RSn), Lois Stacey, Scott Stegenga, lain Stephenson, Brian Strong, Paul W. Sykes, Jr., Simon Thompson, Harry Timmons, Mike Turner, Emily Tyler, Russ & Patricia Tyndall (R&PT), Steve Wagner, Judy Walker, Bill Warfel (BWa), Craig Watson, Marilyn Westphal, Russ Wigh, David Williams, Brad Winn, John Wright QWr), Bob Zaremba.

Copyright American Birding Association Mar 2004-May 2004

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