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More Lake Murray: up the Little Saluda and back...

Hi again,

After this morning's post, my stepfather-in-law, Bobby Parnell, took us
for a boat ride across Lake Murray and up the Saluda River. Across the
lake, the birds were mostly more of same. MUCH more of same. Coots by the
thousand, Bufflehead by the dozen, a hundred or more Common Loons. The
loons ranged from complete winter plumage to just a few head feathers
short of full breeding colors. And the Aythya ducks aren't *totally* gone,
a trio of female Ring-necks turned up in the cove by the floating gas

As we approached the mouth of the Saluda where it feeds into the lake,
though, things changed. Coots all but vanished, Bufflehead disappeared,
and loons thinned dramatically. Then a tern appeared! Another not long
after, a few more widely spaced individuals after that, at least 5 in all.
The ones I could identify were Forster's; surprising to see them so far
inland at this time of year! As the terns appeared, so did Bonaparte's
Gulls, flocks of a hundred or two actively feeding, filling the river in
some stretches. Osprey also appeared, including one gathering sticks on a
sandbar for its nearby nest; then an impressive stretch where powerlines
(or maybe phone lines) crossed the river, and the poles were so tempting
that we saw FOUR apparently active nests in less than a mile's distance!
Finally, capping this part off, Bobby steered us to where some boating
friends had spotted a Bald Eagle nest; one of the eagles cooperated by
landing on a bale of hay in an adjacent field, then flying back up to the
nest with a talon-ful of hay! Belted Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons
were also much more common here than on Lake Murray proper, and we flushed
a few pair of Wood Ducks.

After passing under a couple of bridges, the Saluda became the Little
Saluda; we had to slow down, and the birds changed again. One last tern,
perched on a mid-river stump. The day's first Killdeer on the shore. Then,
a pair of Greater Yellowlegs! Another surprise, and like the terns, I saw
more, at least two other individuals. One patch of shallow grassy water
turned out to host not only a yellowlegs, but a half a dozen long-billed
shorebirds too; the light was too bad to tell whether they were dowitchers
or Common Snipe. Lastly, as the banks closed in and became less populated
and more forested, we started seeing and hearing Red-headed Woodpeckers
all around us. A Pileated flew across the river at one point, and a second
one called from the woods whence it had flown. Red-shouldered and Red-
tailed Hawks replaced their piscivorous fellow raptors from downstream. A
flock of about 20 American Pipits flushed from one sandbar and flew
overhead calling. Yellow-rumped Warblers were, of course, everywhere, many
flycatching over the river.

We tied up for lunch at the confluence of two creeks which formed the
Little Saluda. Added Downy Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker to the
woodpecker list, saw an Eastern Phoebe, and heard two Barred Owls dueling
vocally up one creek. We headed home after lunch, encountering many birds
again including the terns, the eagles, the hundreds of feeding Bonies, and
at least two of the yellowlegs. At one point, found ourselves facing an
oncoming horde of at least 75 vultures, most of the Turkey but a few
Black. And, upon passing again under the more upstream of the two bridges
(which Bobby told me was Holiday Road), I noticed a bunch of last year's
Cliff Swallow nests; I dozed off before we reached the lower bridge, maybe
there were some under that one too...

Good birding!


Joshua S. Rose
Duke University
Department of Biology (Zoology, R.I.P.)