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Register for “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America … and Back! “

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are likely the most common hummingbird species in the world, but there is much to be learned about their life history—especially with regard to what they do the six months of the year when they’re not at our feeders and flowers in the eastern U.S. Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., principal investigator for “Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project,” is the only scientist studying these hummers on the OTHER end of their migratory path in Central America. During his hour-long Zoom presentation, Dr. Hilton will share some of the exciting results of his 30-plus citizen science hummingbird expeditions to the Neotropics, followed by time for questions and answers about these amazing little birds that break all the rules.

Date: Wednesday December 2, 2020
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 PM

Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: FREE

Meet the Speaker:

Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, York, SC

DR. BILL HILTON JR. was twice named South Carolina Science Teacher of the Year and was honored as the state’s Outstanding Biology Teacher. In December 2008 Discover magazine cited him as one of “50 Best Brains in Science” and one of ten top amateur scientists in America. Based at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York SC, Dr. Hilton is an life-long educator-naturalist with a keen interest in all things in nature. An active field researcher, Hilton has banded more than 71,000 birds of 127 species during 39 years just at Hilton Pond. He is one of only about 200 people authorized to capture wild hummingbirds and has banded and released more than 6,600 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the Center since 1984, with 3,000-plus captured elsewhere. He also investigates other aspects of natural history, from pollination to predation and ecological succession to environmental change.

Final Reminder: Register for “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America … and Back! “

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are likely the most common hummingbird species in the world, but there is much to be learned about their life history—especially with regard to what they do the six months of the year when they’re not at our feeders and flowers in the eastern U.S. Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., principal investigator for “Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project,” is the only scientist studying these hummers on the OTHER end of their migratory path in Central America. During his hour-long Zoom presentation, Dr. Hilton will share some of the exciting results of his 30-plus citizen science hummingbird expeditions to the Neotropics, followed by time for questions and answers about these amazing little birds that break all the rules.

Date: Wednesday December 2, 2020
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 PM

Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: FREE

Meet the Speaker:

Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, York, SC

DR. BILL HILTON JR. was twice named South Carolina Science Teacher of the Year and was honored as the state’s Outstanding Biology Teacher. In December 2008 Discover magazine cited him as one of “50 Best Brains in Science” and one of ten top amateur scientists in America. Based at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York SC, Dr. Hilton is an life-long educator-naturalist with a keen interest in all things in nature. An active field researcher, Hilton has banded more than 71,000 birds of 127 species during 39 years just at Hilton Pond. He is one of only about 200 people authorized to capture wild hummingbirds and has banded and released more than 6,600 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the Center since 1984, with 3,000-plus captured elsewhere. He also investigates other aspects of natural history, from pollination to predation and ecological succession to environmental change.

Replay Available for “River of Rapters”

More than sixty people joined Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) on October 21, 2020, for our evening Zoom program “River of Raptors.” The team from Audubon South Carolina did a fabulous job in helping us learn the difference between a Red-tailed Hawk vs a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Turkey Vulture vs a Black Vulture, and the Cooper’s Hawk vs a Sharped-shinned Hawk.

If you missed the event, or want a refresher, you can watch it now!

About the Program: Many species of raptors make their home in South Carolina for at least part of the year, and even more pass through during their perilous diurnal seasonal migration. Join Audubon South Carolina’s Emily Davis and Jen Tyrrell to learn how to identify South Carolina raptor species as well as explore their migration habits, behavior, and conservation issues they face.

UPDATED – Learning Together on Golf Course-Crooked Oaks

We are resending this notice as we included an incorrect link for registration. If you already signed up, you are all set. If you are interested in attending, we still have eight seats available.

SIB birding from Golf Carts – Jackie Brooks

Monday November 23, 2020 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Crooked Oaks Golf Course

Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to prior waitlisted & members

We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe even some of our fall migrants!

To keep everyone safe, we will ask people to social distance and wear a face mask. When you register, if you are not joined by a family member, please let us know if you are open to riding with a non-family participant or if you prefer to be in a cart alone.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2020 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 complete the information below to register no later than Friday November 20, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday November 19, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

REVISED: Special Captive Reared Piping Plovers Seen on Seabrook Island North Beach

Article by Mark Andrews, photos by Mark Andrews and Ed Konrad

“Joe” – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC, by Mark Andrews

Over the years, Seabrook Island Birders have written many articles to highlight the importance of our island’s beaches for federally Endangered/Threatened Piping Plovers. In the September 2020 edition of The Seabrooker, we explained that Seabrook Island hosts many migrating and winter resident Piping Plovers, and featured the life stories of some of those birds.

Most of the banded Piping Plovers on Seabrook are part of the Atlantic coast or the Great Lakes nesting stocks. The Great Lakes birds are the most endangered with only 60-70 nesting pairs remaining. While these numbers are so low that researchers have named many individuals to track them, they represent a 5-fold increase from the 12 breeding pairs found in 1990! Achieving these gains has required intensive efforts by biologists to monitor the progress of each nest and to step in to save eggs and chicks when it appears that a nest might be lost to high water or the loss of a parent. This process is referred to as Captive Rearing. There were 39 captive reared chicks incubated, raised, and released by the Great Lakes program in 2020.

“Big VB” – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC, by Ed Konrad

Since August, we have observed eight banded Great Lakes Piping Plovers on North Beach. Three of these are from this group of 39 special captive reared chicks. Mark Andrews told the stories of the first two, “Joe” and “Big VB,” in a Seabrook Island Birders blog post in September. But then a third captive reared Piping Plover was seen here in October. In an incredible moment, these three very special birds were seen together on October 11, 2020! We call this third Piping Plover “Red Yellow” from the bands on its leg. 

We learned from Alice Van Zoeren, Researcher with The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, “You’ve found yet another of the 2020 captive-reared chicks. Of,RY:X,Y/O came from a nest at Grand Marais, MI. This summer we had many more adult females than males and, in several instances, females began nests without pairing, with males that already were paired and had nests to attend to. This was one of those instances. A plover can’t successfully incubate eggs alone, so when it was clear that she was giving up on incubation the eggs were collected and captive reared. This chick was released on 8/5 near the south boundary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.” 

“Red Yellow” – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC, by Ed Konrad

You can help us in our efforts to observe and record the bands on Piping Plovers and other seabirds and shorebirds. This activity, called resighting, is what links the birds back to the researchers and requires many hours of careful and accurate observations. We cannot be out on the beach all the time; the more eyes we have on these birds the better. In the Seabrook Island Birders story below, we review the steps we take to protect birds while we work near them. If you’d be interested to learn about helping with resighting on North Beach, email us at seabrookislandbirders@gmail.com and Mark Andrews will be in touch with you.

We would like to share the stories of two of the 39 captive reared chicks seen on North Beach this fall. Read the Seabrook Island Birders’ September full blog story.

Read more about these special birds, in an article published in the Sierra Club magazine, including Joe’s sighting on Seabrook Island. Remember when you read the article that “Big VB” is the grand-chick of footless “Violet.”

Read the September 2020 Piping Plover article written by Ed & Aija Konrad in The Seabrooker (see page 5).

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have returned

Several Seabrook Island Birders have reported the return of another winter resident …the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Listen for their “mew” call as you travel around the island.

Below is a blog originally posted in November 2016.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Length:  7.1-8.7″; Wingspan: 13.4-15.7″; Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Ed Konrad
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has a red cap but not the nape. It has a striped face and a prominent white stripe on side. It’s black bib, patterned underparts also distinguish it from the red-bellied woodpecker.

20-yellow-bellied-sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

As the name indicates, sapsuckers rely on sap as a main food source. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker licks the sap from these holes, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old. Then, after the tree leafs out, the sapsucker begins making shallower, rectangular wells in the phloem, the part of the trunk that carries sap down from the leaves. This sap can be more than 10 percent sugar. These phloem wells must be continually maintained with fresh drilling, so the sap will continue to flow. Sapsuckers tend to choose sick or wounded trees for drilling their wells, and they choose tree species with high sugar concentrations in their sap, such as paper birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple, and hickory. They drill wells for sap throughout the year, on both their breeding and wintering grounds. In addition to sap, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also eat insects (mostly ants) and spiders, gleaning them from beneath a tree’s bark like other woodpeckers. And at times they perch at the edge of a tree branch and launch after flying insects to capture them in midair, like a flycatcher. Sapsuckers are also attracted to orchards, where they drill wells in the trees and eat fruit.

Yellow-belled Sapsuckers perch upright on trees, leaning on their tails like other woodpeckers. They feed at sapwells—neat rows of shallow holes they drill in tree bark. They lap up the sugary sap along with any insects that may get caught there. Sapsuckers drum on trees and metal objects in a distinctive stuttering pattern. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet elevation. Occasionally, sapsuckers visit bird feeders for suet.

Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Sapsuckers are common on Seabrook in winter but are less noisy and may be less obvious than other woodpeckers. They are “common but inconspicuous.” Look for their “wells” – drilled holed lined up around the trunk and marking trees to see where they feed.

Check out this cool YouTube video of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker eating from the already drilled holes in a tree:

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

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad

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.

Carl Helms (1933 – 2020)

Dori Helms recently shared that her husband Carl passed away last week. Her comment to us was “I thought we had more time but it was quick—what he wanted. He was so frustrated at not being able to get out to watch the birds and do what he used to do as a younger man. Please let all the SIB people know- at least those who knew Carl. I will see you when I get back out to Seabrook—take care of the birds for Carl.”

Carl was a great birder and gave good input to Seabrook Island Birders. Even before SIB was an organization, he created and maintained a web page Birds of Seabrook Island. You can read a profile we published a few years ago about Dori and Carl here.

A full obituary was published in Greenville.

Dori & Carl Helms at their home at Creek Watch on Seabrook Island, SC

Become a Citizen Scientist by Watching the Birds in your Backyard!

Do you enjoy watching the birds in your backyard?  Whether you have feeders or not, you should consider becoming a citizen scientist by joining Project FeederWatch this winter.

What is Project FeederWatch?

Project FeederWatch lets you become the biologist of your own backyard. You identify the birds in your backyard or at your feeders and submit your observations to the Cornell Lab. You can count every week between November—April, or you can count only once all season—the time you spend is up to you! The easy online data entry lets you immediately see all of your counts and view colorful summaries and graphs. Anyone interested in birds can participate; you don’t have to be an expert. All you need is a comfortable chair, a window, and an interest in the birds in your neighborhood.

How do I participate?

Once you sign up you can immediately start collecting data at your feeders. Read the online instructions and use the printable tally sheets to collect your counts. In the meantime, you will be sent a research kit in the mail with your unique ID number; once you have your ID number you can enter your counts online. Kits take a few weeks to arrive, but don’t worry—it will be there soon, and you don’t need it to start collecting data.

What do I get when I register?

The cost to participate is $18 and you will receive:

  • FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions
  • Full-color poster of common feeder birds
  • Bird-Watching Days Calendar
  • The Project FeederWatch annual report, Winter Bird Highlights
  • Digital access to Living Bird magazine

The first day to count birds for the 2020-21 FeederWatch season is Saturday, November 14, 2020 and the season runs through April 9, 2021.  In past years, nearly a dozen SIB members have joined Project Feederwatch during the winter season.  Let us know if you already are signed up. We hope more members will consider joining! 

Let us know if you have any questions and go to the Project FeederWatch website to Join Now!

Hooded Mergansers are back!

Last weekend, Aija Konrad shared she saw her First of the Season (FOS) Hooded Merganser for Seabrook Island. The “Hoodies” were seen through the fence on the retention pond at the Seabrook Island Waste Treatement Plant. On Tuesday, Glen Cox posted on Nextdoor seeing his FOS in the lagoon along Jenkins Point. In 2018, Glen reported his FOS the last week of October so the timing is fairly consistent.

Our winter birds are returning, so be sure to let us know when you see FOS birds on Seabrook Island so we can let our members know who is arriving and where they can be seen!

Use this link to Report a Bird Sighting and if possible, send a photo to our email:  seabrookislandbirders@gmail.com.

The blog from December 11, 2016 compares the Hooded Merganser versus the Buffleheads:

Hooded Merganser  Lophodytes cucullatus L: 18″, WS: 24″ WT: 22.4 oz.
Bufflehead  Bucephala albeola  L: 13.5  WS: 21″ WT: 13 oz

We had several members who successfully guessed today’s Bird of the Week!

For winter birding at Seabrook, I always look forward to the arrival of two of my favorite ducks….the Hooded Merganser and the Bufflehead. Both are winter visitors for us. On a quick look, the males of these species can look pretty similar, but they are quite different when studied closely. Both ducks have disproportionately large heads with white patches on the sides. But look carefully and you will see the differences.

Heather Island Road, Jenkins Point - Hooded Merganser (male & female) - Ed Konrad
Heather Island Road, Jenkins Point – Hooded Merganser (male & female) – Ed Konrad

The Hooded Merganser is one of our most beautiful ducks. The male “Hoodie” has striking white on the head , a black back and it’s sides are coffee brown with two black vertical lines, or “spurs,”that cut diagonally through the white breast. In courting behavior, which begins mid-winter, the males flare their crests, and the females “head-bob and pump.” The female is a chocolate brown and very plain, but I think very classy! When I was researching this article, one source online said “it looks like she blow dried her hair in a jet engine,”because of the swept back crest. HA!

Hoodies feed on crustaceans, fish and insects. They are about 18″ long and one of the smaller ducks. On Seabrook, I most often see them on Jenkins Point (the first pond is a fav) and on Palmetto Lake. I am sure they are on many other ponds on the island. My high count for Ebird was 67 on Mar 15, 2014 at Palmetto Lake. They usually arrive in November and leave in March.

North Beach - Bufflehead (male & female) - Ed Konrad
North Beach – Bufflehead (male & female) – Ed Konrad

The Bufflehead also has a striking male and a plain female. The male has a large head with a big white-wedge patch. It is a small (14″) squat duck and the head looks oversized.  The remainder of the head looks black, but if you look carefully it is an iridescent green/purple. It is mostly found in coastal bays (the old cut area had 2 last week) but can also be found on lakes. The sides of the male are clear white, whereas the Hoodie is brown. The female is a plan gray/brown with a distinctive white patch on it’s cheek.

Buffleheads are usually found in the area of the old cut and the river, often close to the ocean. They feed on mollusks, crustaceans and insect larvae, diving frequently because of their very high metabolism. They are a “now you see it, now you don’t” kind of duck. When swimming, they bob up and down like little rubber duckies.

So keep your eye out for our very own feathered “snowbirds” on Seabrook this winter!

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

Article submitted by: Aija Konrad
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad and Charles Moore

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.

SCDNR shorebird leader named biologist of the year

Many members of Seabrook Island Birders have met Felicia Sanders. She has presented an evening program and leads the Red Knot banding program on the island. The press release below details the well deserved recognition Felicia recently received.

—- NEWS RELEASE —-For Immediate Releasednr logoRed Knot banding with Felicia Sanders 
SCDNR shorebird leader named biologist of the year COLUMBIA, S.C. (Oct. 29, 2020) — Felicia Sanders, who serves as the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Bird Conservation Project supervisor, has been named the Biologist of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.“We are so fortunate to have Felicia as our Shorebird Project leader at SCDNR,” said Emily Cope, SCDNR’s director of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “She truly understands the importance of developing partnerships and building support for conservation. Her hard work, passion, and gentle nature are extremely evident in her everyday activities and set her apart as a true leader in her field.”Sanders, stationed at Santee Coastal Reserve in McClellanville, received the 2020 Biologist of the Year Award Oct. 27 during the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ virtual annual conference from Springfield, Missouri.She has spent 30 years on conservation efforts for a wide diversity of bird species and began her career at SCDNR in 2001. Sanders has worked extensively with sea, shore, and wading birds as well as red-cockaded woodpeckers, grassland birds and neotropical migrants. Since 2007, she has been a tireless champion for the conservation of South Carolina’s coastal birds.Sanders has led South Carolina’s coastal bird management and built a program recognized internationally. She has established partnerships with private, government and non-governmental partners and galvanized grassroots support to protect coastal bird habitat at about 30 sites. This has often included navigating conflict between multiple stakeholders to achieve these protections. Sanders is a dedicated biologist and her research activities have resulted in coauthoring 29 scientific publications and has highlighted the importance of South Carolina during red knot migration. She has mentored numerous wildlife professionals and served on 10 graduate committees.Her many conservation accomplishments include designation of five coastal island Seabird Sanctuaries allowing beach closures to increase nesting success, and the designation of the Cape Romain-Santee Delta Region as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site of International Importance. Also, Sanders is an invited participant in the Artic Shorebird Demographics Network, an internationally coordinated effort with 17 partners working across Alaska, the Canadian Arctic and Russia. She is a founding member of the American Oystercatcher Working Group, a model for shorebird conservation, and coordinated the first statewide winter shorebird and Wilson’s plover breeding surveys in South Carolina.The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) is an organization whose members are the state agencies with primary responsibility for management and protection of the fish and wildlife resources in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.For more information, visit www.seafwa.org.Felicia SandersFelicia SandersSouth Carolina Department of Natural Resources – Rembert C. Dennis Building
1000 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29201