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Register for SIB’s February Virtual Evening Program

Hemispheric Flights of Migratory Shorebirds

Everyone is Welcome!

Date: Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Program starts 7:00pm.
Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: Free
Attendance: 500

Questions? Email us at: SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com

Each year millions of shorebirds migrate to Arctic breeding grounds from wintering sites in South & Central America and southern North America. SC beaches are important sites for these long-distance migratory birds. Many know the Red Knot’s journey – Arctic tundra to nest, southern South America for winter, AND a stop in SC to refuel. But what about Whimbrels, Dunlin, Sanderlings, and Semipalmated Plovers that also nest on the northern Arctic shores?

What are migration routes of Seabrook’s shorebirds? Where do the birds spend the rest of the year? How do banding, innovative tagging & tracking technology, and peoples’ reporting help identify birds’ exact movements and locations? Join us for Felicia Sanders’, SCDNR partner and SIB’s good friend, fascinating look at the diverse countries & habitats shorebirds encounter on their global journeys!

Felicia Sanders has been working 30 years on conservation efforts for a wide diversity of bird species. Felicia joined the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in 2001, and leads South Carolina’s Seabird and Shorebird Projects. Her primary tasks are promoting conservation of important sites for nesting and migrating coastal birds, surveying seabirds and shorebirds, and partnering with universities to research life histories. She is a coauthor on numerous scientific publications, and has traveled to the Arctic 5 times to participate in shorebird research projects. Felicia went to graduate school at Clemson University, majoring in biology. Last year she was awarded the Biologist of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, whose members include 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

View Bald Eagle and Great Horned Owl Bird Cams

Tired of watching reruns on Netflix? There are two live camera feeds in the area of birds on their nests. There is a Bald Eagle nest on Hilton Head Island and a Great Horned Owl nest in Savannah. Both are live feeds and anything can happen.

Hilton Head Island Land Trust has an Eagle cam on a nest located on private property in an undisclosed area since eagles can be quite sensitive to human activity while nesting.  The First Eaglet HH3 hatched on 12/26/2021 and Second Eaglet HH4 hatched on 12/27/2021. Watch the live action and read more about this nest in cooperation with the Hilton Head Island Land Trust

During the Fall of 2014, a pair of Great Horned Owls began frequenting an abandoned Bald Eagle nest adjacent to a protected, nutrient-rich salt marsh at The Landings, on Skidaway Island, near Savannah, Georgia. A pair of owls successfully fledged four owlets from the site in 2015 and 2016, but they did not return to breed in 2017. An Osprey pair has nested at this site since then, but change is afoot as the 2022 breeding season gets underway and the nest site returns to the owls! You can keep up with the Great Horned Owls all through nesting season on this live-streamed camera feed from Cornell Lab and Skidaway Audubon. Watch the live action here.

If this hasn’t given you enough bird cams. Cornell Lab has more cameras of nests and feeding stations for various birds. You can find a complete list with links at their All Camera site.

Beyond our Backyard – Pitt Street Causeway and Fort Moultrie

Register Today!

Google Map: Pitt St Causeway to Co-op and Fort Moultrie

Pitt Street Causeway in Mount Pleasant is a small park with limited parking and no facilities, but it is worth a visit at any season. Almost any species of shorebird occurring along the South Carolina coast might be present on the mud flats here (especially at low tide). The marshes and salt creeks on the north side of the causeway are good for any salt marsh species, including all of the marsh-loving sparrows. You also have a good view of Charleston Harbor.

When SIB visited this site in 2019, we observed 41 species. The causeway is accessible for those with mobility issues. Once we are done at Pitt Street, those who are interested will go for lunch at The Co-op at 2019 Middle Street.

After lunch, SIB will return to Fort Moultrie and the Sullivan’s Island Nature Trail. In September, we saw 62 species on our visit. The season will be different, offering a different variety of birds. This portion of the walk will include walks over uneven paths.

Participants may opt only the morning at Pitt Street or both. If you wish to only do Fort Moultrie, we ask you just let us know and provide your own transportation.

Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, bug repellant, snacks and water.

Friday, January 28, 2022 8:30am – 4:00 pm (roundtrip from Seabrook Island)

  • Leave Seabrook Real Estate: 8:30 am
  • Bird Pitt Street Causeway: 9:30 am – 11:30 am
  • Lunch: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
  • Bird Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island Nature Trail: 1:30 – 3:30pm

Location: Meet at Real Estate Parking lot at 8:30 am to carpool to Pitt St in Mount Pleasant with start there at 9:30am with of low tide being around 10:30.
Max: 12
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/ or we request a $5 donation to SIB.

Once you are a member, please register no later than Wednesday January 26, 2022. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event. 

Up Close & Personal with Eastern Bluebirds

You may have read the recent article regarding the winter behaviors of Eastern Bluebirds. Today, I want to tell you about the nifty gift I gave my mom for Christmas.

My parents live on Johns Island just 25 minutes from our home on Seabrook Island. A couple years ago SIB member Carl Voelker was helping his grandson make bluebird nest houses and my mom, Susanne, was thrilled to have Carl install one in her backyard. In each of the past two years, she has watched while three broods of young were raised and fledged!

As the holidays approached, we came up with the perfect gift for her – a camera to watch the birds from the inside of the birdhouse. I searched the internet for possible options, and selected a product made by Green Backyard. This company has a number of different products including houses, feeders, and cameras for birds and other wildlife. The kit I chose included a cedar birdhouse with a 38mm (1.5″) opening along with a waterproof outdoor WiFi camera. I had decided to purchase their box as it is designed with an added “window” to allow for illumination and it is structured to easily install the camera to the “ceiling” of the box.

Before buying this camera, I verified two things:

  1. Strong WiFi signal at the site it would be placed to connect to my parent’s home WiFi router.
  2. Availability of power using the included 10 meter (~32.8 feet) long power cord, which I plugged into an outdoor extension cord, to reach the exterior GFCI outlet .

I ordered the kit directly from Green Backyard and it arrived within about 10 days. The camera and birdhouse were fairly easy to install. I placed the camera inside of the birdhouse as directed, then placed the box on the pole replacing my mom’s original birdhouse. I ran the power cable and extension to the GFCI outlet. Next, I installed the iCSee app on my phone to activate and configure the camera to the home WIFi router. I inserted the memory card (not included) into the SD card slot and sealed it with a sticker (provided).

(Photos: Top Left – equipment for camera installation; Middle Left – left side of birdhouse; Bottom Left – right side of birdhouse showing removable panel (translucent) for illumination; Right – birdhouse after final installation.)

Both video and audio is transmitted wirelessly via WiFi to your router, allowing you to watch live feeds from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or PC.

I set the option to send each of us a notification when there is movement at the box (see example). This is triggered when a bird enters or even if there is a sudden change of lighting or significant movement with wind. When you open the app, you can view the live feed and take photos or video that are saved on your app and can be downloaded to your device.

The great news for my mom is that her Eastern Bluebirds entered the new box within a day! Almost every morning we are notified and watch a male and female enter and check out the box, just as Bob Mercer described in his article. We can’t wait for when the nest building begins in another 6-8 weeks, followed by the laying of eggs!

Watch and listen to this brief video of both the male and female as they enter and explore the birdhouse.

You can learn more about the product I purchased or buy it by clicking the links below. We are all very happy with it, but I encourage you to do your own research if you are interested to install a camera at your home. (I have no affiliation or relationship with the supplier of this product and did not receive any compensation for my review.)

Ask SIB: Eastern Bluebird Winter Behavior

On January 9, 2021, Andy wrote SIB, “Today we saw maybe half dozen blue birds and one was sitting on the entry hole.  Isn’t it early for them to be nesting?  Has the warm weather put them off schedule?”

Eastern Bluebird – photo by Bob Mercer

The questions are relatively easy to answer. Yes, it is too early for them to be nesting, so they are not “off schedule” due to the weather. As usual, the questions lead to another question; what are the birds doing?

Since Eastern Bluebirds are year-round residents in our area, one can watch the full range of behaviors. During the winter months, bluebirds can gather in flocks of up to 20 birds. These flocks consist of one or more family units. In really cold weather, a flock of bluebirds may all cram into a single cavity, presumably for shared body warmth. Pair bonding for bluebirds can happen anytime between November and March.

This photo of an Eastern Bluebird entering the box and the female watching perfectly captures some of the courtship behavior–wing droop tail spread. Photo by Nancy Brown

During the courtship and nesting period, the flocking behavior disappears. Once a pair settles on a territory, they work hard to drive away all competitors including their siblings. 

It is difficult to know exactly what Andy observed, but one can make an educated guess. Since he saw a half dozen birds, he observed a winter flock. The bird sitting at the nesting hole most likely was a male bird checking out the box for its potential. 

Once a male makes a choice, he will then attempt to attract a mate or to solidify his relationship with his current mate. According to the Cornel Lab of Ornithology website Birds of the World, the male goes through a very predictable pattern of behavior. The male institutes a nesting demonstration display where he perches at a hole holding nesting material with his wings drooping and his tail spread wide. He looks around, presumably to make sure his intended is paying attention, and then look in the hole. The next step is to rock back and forth into and out of the hole before going in the cavity. Once in the cavity, he will stick his head out still holding the nesting material. Leaving the material in the cavity, he then hops out near the hole and does a wing waving display. The female entering the box cements the pair bond. 

People with bluebird boxes they can view, or who have cameras trained on a box, may be lucky enough to watch this behavioral sequence. 

Nesting on Seabrook Island usually begins around the first of March. The Seabrook Island Birders sponsor a bluebird box monitoring program. Volunteers have a route where they check a series of boxes once a week to monitor if birds use the boxes and nesting success of failure. Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to contact the Seabrook Island Birders.

Be sure to read tomorrow’s article discussing the installation and monitoring of a birdhouse with an outside WIFI camera!

Gowaty, P. A. and J. H. Plissner (2020). Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.easblu.01

SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Robin

American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Length:  10″; Wingspan: 17”.Although generally this bird is thought to be a sign of spring in the more northern sections of North American, during the winter this migratory bird loves to hang in the warmer areas of the South gorging on our berries!

American Robin - C. Moore
American Robin – C. Moore

The Robin is among the most abundant bird species on the continent, with a population estimated at more than three hundred million. It lives in almost every habitat, from forest to tundra, from Central America to north of the Arctic Circle, from sea level to 12,000 feet.

The American Robin was mistakenly named after its smaller, orange-breasted European namesake by Early American colonists. The American Robin is not in the robin family but is actually a thrush, part of a group of songbirds that includes bluebirds, veeries, hermit and wood thrushes.  These birds often possess attractive plumage, spotted breasts (particularly in the young) and insectivorous diets. At ten inches long, the robin is the largest of the American thrushes and is often used to describe and judge sizes of other birds since it is so commonly recognized. Its orange breast sets off a black tail, a black head with white around the eyes, a yellow bill, black-and-white-streaked throat, grayish brown back and white undertail.  Male colors are bolder than those on the female and, true to form, juvenile robins have spotted breasts.  Look carefully the next time you see a robin and you will notice what a beautiful bird it is!

With autumn comes a southward migration, although some robins can be found wintering in even hostile climates, eating the berries remaining in wooded, densely vegetated areas. According to Lex Glover, a S.C. Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician, the population of robins in South Carolina swells each fall and winter, as robins move in from the northern states and Canada, sometimes on their way to Florida and the Gulf States.

“We can have pretty intense flocks of them, scattered through the coastal plain,” he says. “When we do Christmas counts, you’ll see large numbers of robins either first thing in the morning or the last thing in the evening, often going into bottomland hardwood areas where there is plenty of cover, and maybe cedars and evergreens so they have a place to roost. I have also seen them in plowed fields, with sparrows and blackbirds mixed in with them.”

Just before the New Year, one of our members, Ellen Coughlin, sent us the picture below to ask us to confirm the identification of the birds.  She said, “They were in the back yard and over the lagoon as well as fighting over the bird bath on Dec. 23.  There were easily 100-150 of them.  Flying around like they were drunk.  This is the second time this event has occurred.  The last time the birds were red winged blackbirds and it was about three years ago.  Same weird behavior, diving bombing us as we stood on the enclosed screened in porch.”  As you might remember from last weeks blog on Cedar Waxwings, some birds eat so many fermented berries they become “drunk.”  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, ” When Robins eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.”

American Robins - Ellen Coughlin
American Robins – Ellen Coughlin

In fact, just days before Ellen’s email, a birder staying at his parent’s house on Bohicket Creek reported, “I watched flocks of robins flying from Wadmalaw Island to Johns Island at dawn, and then again from Johns Island to Wadmalaw Island at dusk. I would guess the flyway was about a half-mile wide, so I couldn’t monitor the whole thing, but multiple estimates of the number of robins passing overhead in my binocular’s field of view led me to a count of 300 per minute for 40 minutes (the flight lasted somewhat longer) for a report of 12,000 robins.  I’m confident that estimate is low, though it’s easy to over-estimate the number of birds for species that fly in loosely-organized flocks.

Keep your eyes and ears open for these common winter birds on Seabrook Island.  We are still seeing flocks of them flying overhead or eating berries atop trees and bushes throughout the island!

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown 2017, resubmitted by SIB
Photographs provided by:  Hud Coughlin, Ed Konrad, Charles Moore
Source:  South Carolina Wildlife

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Learning Together-Walk on North Beach

Learning Together at North Beach

Sunday, January 23, 2022 8:00m-10:00am
Birding at North Beach
Location: Meet at Boardwalk # 1 Parking lot
Max: none
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests

Join SIB to bird at Seabrook Island’s North Beach. This three mile round trip walk travels from Board Walk #1 to the tip of North Beach along Captain Sams Inlet as high tide approaches. Birders from beginners to advanced birders will enjoy the variety of birds found on North Beach. At this time, many different species of shorebirds rest and feed near the point or along the beach ridge near the beach’s pond. Along the way, we will explore the many different species that can be found in this unique area.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, hats and sunscreen. Bring a spotting scope if you have one. There should be spotting scopes available for viewing. Bring plenty to drink and a snack if desired. There are no facilities. We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated.

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. You may bring the form and your dues to the event. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please REGISTER no later than January 21st. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on January 22nd, the day prior to the trip. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Join SIB for Workshop on Favorite Birding Apps

Register Today!

Do you have a smart phone or a tablet? Are you interested in learning more about birds or trying to identify a bird? Why carry a heavy paper guidebook into the field or even around the house when you probably have a smart phone or tablet nearby!?! Like with everything, there is an App for ANYTHING! And birding is no different. For many people, using a smart phone is the best way to easily identify birds and even track sightings.

Getting started using these various apps sometimes requires help. Or others may have “tricks” they have learned while using the apps. SIB will offer a workshop to share and learn from each other. If you don’t already have the desired app on your device, we’ll even help you get it loaded.

Bring your device, questions and tips to our workshop. If you want to load new apps, you will also need your account information for the App Store. If you want more information about possible apps, read prior blogs to give you ideas:

SIPOA rules for masks will be followed.

Tuesday January 25, 2022 from 4:00-6:00 pm
Location: Seabrook Island Lake House, Osprey 2
Max: 12
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

Sign Up by January 23rd and you will receive a confirmation on January 24.

RESCHEDULED: SIB Presents: The Center for Birds of Prey

In Person Evening Program
rescheduled to March 22, 2022

If you have already purchased a ticket and can attend the event on the new date, no action is required!

If you have not yet signed up, register today! We have already sold 66 of the 100 tickets for this event.

Date: Wednesday March 22, 2022
Registration starts 7:00pm. Program starts 7:30pm
Location: Live Oak Hall, Lake House, Seabrook Island, SC
Program Fee: Members $5.00
Attendance: Limited to 100 members

If you are not a 2022 SIB Member, you can join/renew for $10/year

Stephen Schabel, Center for Birds of Prey Director of Education, once again brings the Center’s amazing raptors to the Lake House. We’ll witness the interesting and important world of raptors through this unique indoor program. Stephen’s engaging discussion, along with watching the birds in action, will give us a wonderful education of these majestic creatures and the significant role they play as apex avian predators. 

The program is limited to 100 SIB members. SIPOA COVID protocol will be followed – masks required in Live Oak Hall, masks and physical distancing recommended while traversing other indoor space. No refreshments will be served. If COVID conditions change prior to January 19 the program could be canceled.

Questions? Email us at: SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com 

Meet the speaker: Stephen Schabel, Director of Education 

A native of South Carolina, Stephen joined the Center in 2003 after completing his M.S. degree in Environmental Policy at the College of Charleston. Prior to graduate school, he spent several years exploring various teaching opportunities outside the traditional classroom, as well as a career as an accomplished mandolin player and vocalist for a variety of groups in the Charleston area. Stephen’s background in education and environmental policy along with his lifelong passion for the outdoors -especially birds – offers a unique and relevant foundation for his role as Director of Education. Stephen oversees the care, husbandry, and training of the Center’s educational resident bird collection as well as the design and implementation of conservation education programs offered by the Center throughout South Carolina and beyond. Stephen particularly enjoys the aspects of “lure flying” falcons and conversing one on one with visitors about issues related to the conservation of birds and other wildlife.

Ask SIB: “Are Red Knots at North Beach?”

Fred Whittle recently sent a question to Seabrook Island Birds. He asked, “Are Red Knots at North Beach now?  Thought I saw them on Sunday afternoon.”  

Photo taken of Red Knots and other Shore & Seabirds by Mark Andrews on 12/28/21.  Notice the misty view, as there was a thick marine layer with visibility of only around 50m date day.

The quick answer is yes. Mark Andrews recently reported 300 birds at the end of North Beach. That leads people who like birds to a host of other questions. First and foremost, “Why are they here?” Instinct drives much bird behavior. The hard-wired drive to migrate makes birds leave the far north long before conditions become untenable for life. Some but not all of the eastern race of Red Knots, Calidris canutus rufa, migrate from the Central Canadian Arctic to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. With studies being done by scientists and observations like birders on Seabrook Island, much has been learned about Red Knot migration habits and much more still needs to be discovered. Knots spend winter in four regions:

  1. Southern coast of S. America, mainly Tierra del Fuego
  2. Northern coast of S. America, mainly Maranhão
  3. Western Gulf of Mexico, mainly the Laguna Madre
  4. Southeast U.S./Caribbean, mainly FL to NC

Evolution created these four regions as ways to protect the populations. Each location offers advantages and disadvantages—e.g. long or short distance to travel low or high parasite exposure. Unfortunately, a evolutionary new risk has arisen in these ancestral wintering grounds—humans. Development along the migratory route and probably climate change stress the migrants. 

The work being done by SCDNR, University Of South Carolina’s Senner Lab, and our local birders strive to understand if the same birds each year hang around South Carolina or are they stopping here on their way to Florida or farther south. We do know that the numbers of Red Knots slowly increase as the season passes into spring. We do know that many of our birds spend time in Florida and when they arrive here, they may stay several weeks of even months before flying on to either New Jersey’s Delaware Bay or directly to the southern tip of the Hudson Bay.

In May, birds with flags indicating that they were banded in South America show up on Seabrook Island. They join up with the birds already here before they all depart sometime before Memorial Day.

For all these birds, the arc along the South Carolina coast provides a critically important stopping area where they can pack on the fat before tackling the long flight to the Arctic and the arduous task of raising the next generation.

When you see people out on the beach taking pictures, recognize that the photographers want far more than pretty picture, they want clear images of the tiny flags on the bird’s legs. Once scientists receive these flag codes, the scientists can start to build a better understanding of the migratory patterns of the Red Knots.

When you are on the beach, remember, “Share the beach – give them space!” If you have questions or are interested to learn more about the SIB Shorebird Steward team, please send and email to: sibstewards@gmail.com or complete this form.

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