Barred Owl Recently seen on Seabrook Island

Grace Delanoy sent SIB two pictures from a recent encounter with a barred owl.  Although Seabrookers often hear barred owls, it is unusual to capture them in pictures as Grace was able to do.  Her accompanying story is also heart felt.

Thanks Grace for sharing with our community!!!

Barred Owl Sighted on 6/29/16 in the front yard of 2619 Seabrook Island Road. Photo credit: Grace Delanoy.
Barred Owl Sighted on 6/29/16 in the front yard of 2619 Seabrook Island Road. Photo credit: Grace Delanoy.
Barred Owl Sighted on 6/29/16 in the front yard of 2619 Seabrook Island Road. Photo credit: Grace Delanoy.
Barred Owl Sighted on 6/29/16 in the front yard of 2619 Seabrook Island Road. Photo credit: Grace Delanoy.

Here is Grace’s story:

“Years ago, my father-in-law told me the deciding factor to buy a villa at Seabrook Island came when he was taking an evening walk on one of the golf cart paths here. Should it be Seabrook, or Kiawah? Then, he said he heard a “hootie owl” nearby in the trees, and felt it was a sign to buy here at Seabrook. Doug believed in magic and whimsy, so he and my mother-in-law Carol bought this villa as it was being constructed, maybe around 30 years ago. Brad and I, and eventually Sloane, have enjoyed many vacations here during our 28 years of marriage. You can’t help becoming obsessed with the wildlife here, with deers, foxes, dolphins, bobcats, raccoons, rabbits, snakes, crabs, hawks and so much more in abundance. Taking drives around the island just to spot any of them became part of our vacations. Doug and Carol died in the fall of 2011 within 10 days of each other, and now it’s time for this special villa overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Edisto Inlet to be sold. The other night, we saw a beautiful Barred Owl on the island, a first for us. I only had my phone to take a photo, which was woefully inadequate in the low light. On our way to dinner last night, the same owl actually strafed our car, coming within a few feet… Just amazing and magnificent. Tonight, Brad urged me to take a drive with him and see if we could spot the owl again, and to bring my camera just in case. We saw a cute little marsh bunny, and a beautiful cardinal, then drove to where we saw the owl. And there he was. And then, there SHE was! Like kids, we jumped out of the car and ran over to see this owl couple, and to capture them with a simple photograph. They flew from tree to tree, and the light was low. I didn’t get a good picture of the two of them together, but I got this. And I thought of Doug and Carol, and of the “hootie owl” that brought them, us, and other family and friends here for all these years. We will miss this place, and are grateful to Doug and Carol for the times we’ve had here at Seabrook Island.”

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Length: 22-29”; Wingspan: 40”

Could you identify the bird from Friday’s clue on the website? It’s not so easy. It’s a Little Blue Heron in what is called “first year” plumage.

Molting Little Blue Heron - Bob Hider
Molting Little Blue Heron – Bob Hider

When a Little Blue is immature (i.e., during the year in which it is born), it is totally white. Until a birder has mastered the characteristics of our local white egrets, it is easy to confuse the Little Blue with one of those waders. In its second spring, it begins to molt into its slate blue coloration, and, during that change, it appears mottled as the picture shows. By the end of the summer, it will have its more typical warm purplish-brown head and neck and otherwise dark gray-blue body. The two characteristics that it does maintain are its bluish green legs and black-tipped bluish bill.

The Little Blue Heron is common on Seabrook. It inhabits both fresh water ponds and salt or brackish water wetlands. It’s not unusual to find one standing among the reeds on the edge of Palmetto Lake searching for a meal. It can also be found on a dock, staring intently at the marsh below. As an adult, it tends to be solitary as it forages for small fish, crustaceans, frogs and aquatic insects. It stands quite still often with its bill pointed downward waiting patiently for its prey. For this reason, they can be difficult to spot.

In contrast, the pure white immature Little Blue Herons are often found feeding with groups of egrets and other herons which probably protects them somewhat. Eight were counted simultaneously on a Seabrook dock and in the nearby marsh this spring. When observed with such a group, their slow-moving behavior distinguishes them from the more active egrets even though they are very similar in size to the Snowy Egret.

Little Blue Herons are gregarious breeders, nesting in bushes over or near water. During the spring and early summer, they are part of the flocks on Jenkins Point along with the ibises and egrets there. In its write-up on this species, Cornell Lab of Ornithology states, “A courting male points his bill straight upward, suddenly extending and retracting his neck. Little Blue Herons of both sexes, when courting, may occasionally grasp, pull, and shake branches while simultaneously erecting the feathers along their head, neck, and back…. Little Blue Herons and neighboring colonial birds have a pronounced impact on their nesting habitat—stunting the growth of vegetation by harvesting nest material and sometimes killing trees outright by the accumulation of guano.”  This is true on Jenkins Point.

Here are more pictures of Little Blue Herons in their full immature and adult plumages.

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

Article submitted by: Marcia Hider
Photographs provided by: Bob Hider and Carl Helms

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.