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Join the Seabrook Island Birders Shorebird Stewards Program

Why?

To help birds at risk: Seabrook Island sits at a critical junction for a number of shorebird species! During the spring, birds like Piping Plovers and Red Knots need our beaches to pack on weight in preparation for migration. Birds fitted with transmitters have proven that some Red Knots, as part of their 9.300 mile trip from South American to its breeding ground, leave Seabrook Island and fly non-stop to the Hudson Bay in northern Canada over 1,200 miles away. Other birds like Least Tern and Wilson’s Plover use the beach area for nesting and food.

To honor Seabrook’s promise to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).  The USFWS and SCDNR allowed our town to relocate the inlet in part because we agreed to protect the birds that needed sustenance from our beaches.

The Purpose

To educate: Many people do not appreciate how important our sanctuary is. The stewards program asks you to be a volunteer to help educate people about the importance of our tiny piece of the world to the shorebirds that visit. This is not an enforcement effort, but an educational effort. 

Your Commitment

The Seabrook Island Birders Shorebird Stewards Program asks you to volunteer for two-hour shifts, signing up for as many or as few as your schedule allows. You will use an online sign up to pick and choose the times you want to give. Ideally, at least two people will be working together for each shift. Please honor your commitment to the times you choose. Be friendly and open.  Encourage people to approach you with questions but limit your answers to the depth of their curiosity.

The Seabrook Island Birders Stewards Program’s Commitment to You

Prior to accepting a commitment of your time, we, in cooperation with Audubon South Carolina, will train you. You will learn key ways to interact with the public. We will provide educational material to enhance your understanding of the birds and you will have a professional spotting scope provided by SCDNR to show folks these miraculous birds. You can use these tools to help educate our friends and neighbors as to how to interact with the birds while on the beach. You will also be provided a station containing a chair, an umbrella, some signs for people to read, and some information to share. You will be kept informed as to what birds are currently on the Island and, if known, where they are from.

Learn more

Come to the next Seabrook Island Birders Steward Program Training session on Friday February 28 at 3:00 pm at the Oyster Catcher Community Center. If you wish to join as a steward or just want more information, click here to complete a simple form.

Red Knots in spring plumage on North Beach at Seabrook Island – Ed Konrad

Red Knots and You!

Article written by: Bob Mercer
Photos & Videos by: Mark Andrews

Red Knots arrived early this year and the numbers keep rising. Beginning in February with a few hundred birds to the end of March with several thousand birds, these birds need the safety of Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island Beaches to power up for their long, non-stop journey toward their breeding grounds in the High Arctic. In order to help the birds, the Seabrook Island Birders (SIB), working closely with Audubon, SCDNR, SIPOA and the Town of Seabrook, implemented a short-lived steward program modeled after the Turtle Patrol and Dolphin Watch. Volunteers would be stationed on the beach with spotting scopes and binoculars to help beachgoers see the unique species of birds visiting our Seabrook Island beaches. 

Red Knots on North Beach using a “digiscope” (Camera phone attached to spotting scope)
(photo credit Mark Andrews)

The Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) Shorebird Steward Program hoped to educate residents and visitors about how these small creatures need to fly huge distances. The birds succeed only IF they can pack on enough fat (adding up to 40% of their body weight) eating the tiny clams found in the surf. With better beachgoer understanding, the Stewards anticipated people would be willing to share the beach by leaving the birds alone as they fed or rested. Without a doubt, watching a huge flock of birds lift off and swirl around the sky in what appears to be a choreographed dance is breathtaking. From the bird’s perspective, time flying and avoiding people requires the burning of precious calories and may be the difference between life and death. 

The anticipated spread of COVID-19 resulted in the SIB Shorebird Steward Program being cancelled for this year. The real fear of virus spread requires a safe social distance of six feet. The planning committee decided a volunteer could not share a view from a spotting scope without people getting close and touching the equipment placing the volunteer and the visitors in jeopardy. The decision was made not to conduct the Shorebird Steward Program in 2020. Despite not having a formal program of volunteers, beachgoers can and are encouraged to still be engaged and helpful.

Red Knots flying on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC (Video Credit: Mark Andrews)

Red Knots have several relatively predictable behavioral patterns. Beach visitors who understand these behaviors derive more enjoyment from their time on the beach, but they also can use this knowledge to protect the birds.

Red Knots in South Carolina eat predominantly Donax (Coquina) clams. As one walks on the beach, these are the small white clam shells that crunch under one’s feet. At high tide, the water floods the beaches and the source of Red Knot food. The Red Knots settle down in flocks of hundreds to thousands preferring the tip of Seabrook Island’s North Beach and the southern tip of Beachwalker County Park on Kiawah Island to rest and await the receding tide. If people can stop about 100 yards back from the tip of North Beach, the birds can rest for as long as they want. A bird resting spends the time converting food into fat. A bird flushed burns up that food to fly to safety.

Red Knots feeding in water on North Beach (Video Credit: Mark Andrews)

As the tide recedes, the birds leave their resting place and look for the flat, dark brown, ripply mud right along the edge of the water where the clams live. As the tide recedes farther, the clams bury themselves deeper into the wet mud down below the bill length of the Red Knot and the Red Knots spread out along the beach looking for better foraging ground. As the tide returns, the reverse is true. The clams rise up and the Red Knots feed some more. Visitors can help the Red Knots by detouring around the birds. During this time, from falling tide through the mid-rising tide, ample areas of exposed beach should be available for both the birds and us human visitors. Give them space!

Red Knots feeding on Donax/Coquina Clams on North Beach (Video Credit: Mark Andrews)

When the high tide covers the beach, the Red Knots need a secure location to rest and bath. Let them rest!

Photos of Red Knots resting at the point of North Beach – Give them space! Let them Rest!
(photo credit Mark Andrews)

How To Make These Next Few Weeks A Little Easier, Courtesy Of Birds

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has numerous resources to entertain and educate people of all ages while we are keeping our social distance. From live cams, to games to courses. So if you run out of closets to clean and cupboards to organize, click on the links below!

Here at Bird Cams, we recognize that the world is facing uncertain and challenging times ahead as we band together to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. We hope that during this time the birds can provide some respite to those in need of a peaceful moment and an outlet to reconnect with nature. For more ways to bring birds and nature into your home, check out these ideas from All About Birds

Live Cams: Bring The Birds To You

Stream one of our Bird Cams for peace, beauty, and intimacy with wild creatures. Many of our users keep a cam streaming all day long just for the calming outdoor sounds that filter in.

Bring nesting owlshawks, and Ospreys into your home

Or watch a rotating cast of birds at our feeder cams:

Ruffed Grouse and Evening Grosbeaks in snowy Ontario

Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals at our offices in Ithaca, New York

Tanagers and tiny toucans  (called aracaris) in tropical Panama

We wish you health, happiness, and safety! 

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Birding with Lewis & Clark

In these stressful times when we’re staying close to home, how about a trip across the US? This week Ed posted our 2019 birding trips on his Flickr site. A memorable trip was our month-long driving tour in July 2019 from Atlanta to the Oregon coast, a combination of birding and following the Lewis and Clark trail!

After some birding in Michigan, we headed west and followed Meriweather Lewis and William Clark on their trek across North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon to the Pacific. Then back home through California, Nevada, Utah and the Midwest. Ed is an avid history buff, so this was definitely on his bucket list. I was a bit wary of a driving trip of that distance. But I have to say, it was a wonderful experience for 29 days!!! We visited many wonderful National Parks, including Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota (what a fabulous sleeper), Yellowstone in Montana, Crater Lake in Oregon, and Redwood in California.

To follow our journey on Flickr, here’s the URL:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/edkon/

Some Flickr navigation tips:

The home page that comes up is the “Photostream” – a chronological view of all our birding trips with the Lewis and Clark trip first. When you get to the bottom of each Photostream page, click to the next page to keep the story going.

To see the name of the bird, or a caption, place the mouse pointer over the photo. And if you’d like to view the photos in a Slideshow instead, click the button above “Clark” on the Photostream.

On the Photostream home page you’ll see tabs under the banner. Click on “Albums” and you’ll see all our 2019 trips. Including an album of the many birds we’ve spotted and photographed throughout 2019 on Seabrook Island. There are also albums of my 2018 US Big Year, and our many other wonderful trips through the years.

So, if you need some diversion, or something to lull you to sleep at night, take a look at our birds. Enjoy!

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

Cancellation of 2020 SIB Shorebird Steward Program

We hope you and your families are doing your best to stay safe and healthy during this challenging time as the news of coronavirus spreads in our community, country and world!  Our lives have changed dramatically since we first put out the call for volunteers for our inaugural SIB Shorebird Steward Program back in January, 2020.

We have made the decision to cancel the SIB Shorebird Steward Program for this year.  In the last week, we have enough experience to realize we can not safely stay 6’ apart from each other and the use of the scope and other tools bring risk of contamination if anyone has the disease, especially if they are a carrier with no symptoms.

We would like to thank the more than 40 people who volunteered for this program, many who completed the training and participated in a shift on North Beach during the past three weeks. We hope everyone will use their knowledge about the birds on our beach to share with friends, family and those you meet as you are safely out and about. We will continue to send out information through our SIB blogs and Tidelines.  

We hope many of you will volunteer when we start the SIB Shorebird Steward Program again! We appreciate the support we’ve received from the Town of Seabrook Island, the SIPOA, the Seabrook Island Club and all the Seabrook Island Birders’ members and friends for our birds!


The SIB Shorebird Steward Program Core Team

  • Mark Andrews
  • Joleen Ardaiolo
  • Nancy Brown
  • Marcia Hider
  • Aija Konrad
  • Ed Konrad
  • Bob Mercer
  • Charley Moore

email: SIBStewards@gmail.com

Social Distancing Entertainment – Bird Games

Although we shared this information last November, we thought it might be appropriate to distribute again for anyone looking to entertain young people or even themselves! Here are three games that we thought all of you might enjoy to test your bird knowledge!

In the first game called “Bill Me,” you have to combine two words to make the name of a bird. Next, you have to match each of the birds with the appropriate bill shape.

The second handout has two games, the first is called “Fake Names,” and it lists fifteen bird names, of which eight are not real birds. The final game is a list of five statements, and you need to determine if they are True or False.

As the holiday season approaches, we hope you will print out these games and test your friends and family’s knowledge! To view the answers, visit SIB’s “Bird Games & Puzzles” page where you will find not only the two puzzles and answers discussed above, but an additional two puzzles. Don’t cheat and look at the answers before you try each of the puzzles!

Escape to Nature from Home with BirdNote

During this time of social distancing, stay connected to nature through BirdNote! The first season of Sound Escapes is a great place to start. Join Ashley Ahearn and acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton for sonic adventures in some of the most wild and sound-rich places in the world. (Hint: if you’d like to hear the sounds of the Indigo Bunting, don’t miss Land Between the Lakes.)

Click on an episode below to listen:  

Relearn the Art of Listening
The Song of the Big Island
The Auditory Horizon
Land Between the Lakes
A Jubilant Riot of Music
Cold Lake Amphitheater
Nightfall on the Zabalo

More ways to connect with nature through BirdNote:

Subscribe to BirdNote’s Weekly Preview

Copyright © 2020 BirdNote, All rights reserved.

Early Morning Birdwalks at Caw Caw – Cancelled through Saturday May 9

Please see the message below regarding birdwalks at Caw Caw:

Date: March 17, 2020 at 2:30:53 PM EDT

Charleston County Parks has cancelled all programs and events from now through May 10. There will be no birdwalks at Caw Caw during that time, even though the park may be open. It is possible that more will be cancelled into the future, and that the parks may close entirely during some or all of that time.

Please check charlestoncountyparks.com for additional cancellation information. Since we don’t require pre-registration for these birdwalks at Caw Caw, people may just show up expecting a program. Please spread the word that as of right now, our next birdwalk at Caw Caw will be Wednesday May 13.

Thanks for your help, and we hope to see you soon! Good birding to you! 

Best, 
Keith McCullough, C.I.T.
Natural History Interpretation Coordinator
Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission
5200 Savannah Hwy, Ravenel, SC 29470