Last Sunday I accompanied a group of local birders to Orangeburg, S.C., to look for migrating shorebirds at the SuperSod Turf Farms located there.
For years, birders from both Carolinas have made late summer trips to this site in hopes of finding some of the more uncommon and rare species that pass through the area on migration.
Turf farms attract lots of shorebirds, especially if they are heavily irrigated, or after heavy rains. Such farms offer habitats of flat, short grass that are unusual in the Piedmont. At Orangeburg, puddles form that attract species that like shallow water and mud.
The extensive open fields of flat turf also attract those species that prefer grass. Areas like this site are usually more productive during periods of unsettled weather that cause moving birds to temporarily cease migration. They seek out appropriate stopover habitat until they can resume their journey.
We arrived by 8 a.m. and immediately found some lingering puddles with some least sandpipers, semipalmated sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers, a solitary sandpiper, semipalmated plovers, and loads of killdeer.
Adult and immature little blue herons perched on the irrigation equipment or foraged on the short turf for insects; joined by a few great blue herons and great egrets. Horned larks were very evident, with both adults and immature birds easily seen walking on the turf or roadsides. Occasionally migrant flocks of barn and bank swallows swooped low over the ground for flying insects. High overhead, turkey vultures, red-shouldered hawks and red-tailed hawks lazily soared.
Unfortunately, the weather was too nice this day to keep the rarer species grounded, like upland sandpipers, white-rumped sandpipers, Baird’s sandpipers, or American golden-plovers.
Maybe by the time you read this, some tropical rainfall may have replenished the puddles and knocked some flocks of shorebirds out of the sky. If the tropical system Isaac passes close enough to the west of the Carolina Piedmont, more birding opportunities may arise. Stay tuned next week for a report on how that turned out.