Sparrow “Big Day” with David Gardner

It was a beautiful January day to search for as many wintering sparrows on Seabrook Island as could be located.    The group met at St. Christopher with a goal to tour several spots at the Camp then procede to the maintenance area and others as time permitted.  Flo Foley provided each participant with a sheet of pictures detailing the distinguishing characteristics of the 12 sparrow species most likely to be found.  The group started at the Camp’s feeders where Chipping and Song Sparrows were seen.  Next the group proceded out to the beach where in the dunes a Savannah Sparrow was seen.  Around the bend in the marshes along Bohicket Creek, the three marsh sparrows (Nelson’s, Saltmarsh and Seaside) were seen.  On the return trip, the “islands” of brush were searched in hopes of finding a Field Sparrow.  Alas, that species remained hidden but the group was lucky enough to flush out three elusive Common Ground Doves.   The group then traveled to the maintenance area where Chipping, Song and White Throated Sparrows as well as an Eastern Towhee were seen.  Finally, the group proceeded to the Equestrian Center in hopes of finding a Swamp Sparrow, a Junco and / or a Vesper.  No luck in any of these species but for the day, 8 sparrow species were seen with 64 species seen in total. (See entire list below)

Please be sure to check out Calendar and the Activities page for our upcoming events!

Article Submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photos Submitted by:  Flo Foley

Camp St. Christopher
Bufflehead 7
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Red-throated Loon 1
Common Loon 1
Double-crested Cormorant 6
Brown Pelican 13
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 8
Bald Eagle 1
Clapper Rail 2
American Oystercatcher 7
Willet 3
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Laughing Gull 11
Ring-billed Gull 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Forster’s Tern 1
Common Ground-Dove 3
Mourning Dove 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
American Crow 4
Carolina Chickadee 4
Tufted Titmouse 3
House Wren 1
Carolina Wren 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Gray Catbird 2
Pine Warbler 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Nelson’s Sparrow 1
Saltmarsh Sparrow 4
Seaside Sparrow 3
Chipping Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 3
Red-winged Blackbird 30
American Goldfinch 1

Maintenance Area and Equestrian Center
Lesser Scaup 3
Bufflehead 49
Wood Stork 12
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Snowy Egret 1
White Ibis 12
Black Vulture 4
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 2
Bald Eagle 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Killdeer 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 6
Ring-billed Gull 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 3
Tufted Titmouse 1
House Wren 3
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Eastern Bluebird 3
American Robin 2
Brown Thrasher 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 2
Palm Warbler 12
Pine Warbler 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Chipping Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 3
Eastern Towhee 1
Northern Cardinal 3
House Finch 5
American Goldfinch 9

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet  –  Regulus calendula
Length:  4.25″;  Wingspan:  7. 5″;  Weight:  0.23 oz.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – file photo

There are two good ways to identify the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. First, you might see it out of the corner of your eye. That’s because it flicks its wings and hops fairly continuously. You also might recognize it from its very distinctive call. The song sounds like an electric typewriter. Listen.

In pictures, he is often shown flaunting his bright red crown but that is much more the exception than the rule and only the male has the crest. Both the male and the female are greenish gray in color with a white eye ring and wing bars that resemble those of a non-breeding Goldfinch. We have those now on Seabrook but they are considerably bigger. It is the kinglet’s small size and jumpy nature that are the most likely to catch your attention.

The Ruby-crowned is a winter bird for us. It migrates primarily to Canada and Alaska to breed but is seen year-round in a few western states.

Cornell Labs lists this bird as one that comes to a feeder but the feeder should probably be in a woodsy or shrubby area. Here is what they recommend to attract them:

Food and feeders to attract Ruby-crowned Kinglets
Food and feeders to attract Ruby-crowned Kinglets

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

Article submitted by:  Marcia Hider
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad & file photos

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.

Bird of the Week … The Woodpecker Challenge

How did you do?  Could you match all the pictures and songs for the six woodpeckers found on Seabrook Island, SC?  The sounds can be tricky!  Use the links on the bird names to re-read our blogs for each.

Bird Species Photo Song
1 Pileated Woodpecker  C  S4
2 Downy Woodpecker  E  S1
3 Red-bellied Woodpecker  B  S5
4 Red-headed Woodpecker  A  S6
5 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  F  S3
6 Northern Flicker  D  S2

Extra Credit – Match to their call

S1
S2
S3
S4
S5
S6

Article Submitted by:  Nancy Brown
Photographs Submitted by:  Ed Konrad & File Photos

Bird of the Week … Who are we???

During the past year, we have profiled six woodpeckers common on Seabrook Island, SC.  Test your knowledge to see if you can recognize each by both their picture and their sound!

Bird Species Photo Song
1 Pileated Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpecker
3 Red-bellied Woodpecker
4 Red-headed Woodpecker
5 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
6 Northern Flicker

Extra Credit – Match to their call

S1
S2
S3
S4
S5
S6

Leave us a comment if you want to make a guess – and watch for the full article on Sunday morning!

 

We’ve Moved!

weve-moved-eagle-nest

We know many of our friends on Seabrook Island have been concerned about the loss of our home last summer that was in the dead tree between Ocean Winds Green #3 and Crooked Oaks Tee Box #4.  We’d like to inform you all that we have found a “fixer-upper” and moved in a few weeks ago.  It was a home previously occupied by an Osprey family located on Crooked Oaks on Hole #3 near the Yellow Tee Box on the left side in a very large pine tree.  We have been busy renovating by adding additional hard and soft wood to the existing structure and considering other cosmetic changes to make it more comfortable for our soon-to-be growing family.  You may see us at our new home or flying overhead over the marshes, golf courses and beaches of our beautiful Seabrook Island.

We hope in another month we’ll be able to make more announcements about our family.  Please stay tuned!  And if you have any information about us you want to share, please be sure to send it to our friends the Seabrook Island Birders (SIB).

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown
Photos taken by:  Charles Moore
Graphics submitted by Marcia Hider

SIB “Birds of the Week” – Marsh Sparrows (Seaside, Saltmarsh & Nelson’s)

Seaside Sparrow – Ammodramus maritimus – L: 6″ WS: 7.5″ Wt: 0.81oz
Saltmarsh Sparrow – Ammodramus caudacutus – L: 5.25″ WS: 7″ Wt: 0.67oz
Nelson’s Sparrow – Ammodramus nelsoni – L: 5″ WS: 7″ Wt: 0.6oz

When I sat down to write this article, I began to think “why did I choose to write about these birds???” They are elusive, secretive, up/down, now you see ’em, now you don’t! It took me 6 years, living at Seabrook, until I knew about them and then another year to actually find them! Having said that, they are beautiful and important birds in our salt marshes, where all of them winter.

Three birds make up the marsh sparrows…the Seaside Sparrow, the Saltmarsh Sparrow and the Nelson’s Sparrow. They all belong to the genus Ammodramus, in the group known as American grassland sparrows. Ammodramus is from the Latin for “sand runner.” All have songs and calls that sound like you dialed a fax number, pretty much (Seaside, Saltmarsh, Nelson’s). Strange and grating…lol! All of them have low, direct flight, are secretive and go quickly down into the grasses. And most of their feeding is done running on the sand! They are all about 5″ in length.

I asked Aaron Given, wildlife biologist at Kiawah who bands these sparrows every winter/spring, to give me a few of his thoughts on why he bands these birds and this is what he wrote back:  “Three species of coastal “marsh” sparrows winter in the salt marshes of Kiawah Island (and Seabrook): Seaside Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Saltmarsh Sparrow.  This group is considered species of high conservation concern due to their specialization of habitat that is considered spatially restricted.  It appears that this group may be particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and loss of saltmarsh habitat along their wintering grounds along the southeast United States.  The objectives of the study is to determine habitat requirements, site fidelity, relative abundance, and distribution of the species and subspecies.” And a light bulb went off in my head… “species of high conservation” in danger of losing it’s habitat. That’s why these little guys are important at Seabrook! (If you are interested to assist in banding these birds, click here to learn more!)

The Seaside Sparrow is probably the most common of these sparrows.  It is a stocky,  short-tailed, large-billed sparrow with dark gray overall, a white throat and blurry gray streaks below. It has yellow lores (area between the base of the beak and the eye) on it’s face that are very distinctive. They like to run along the sand at the edge of the marsh grass to feed, like little mice.

The Saltmarsh Sparrow is solitary and secretive, but if you are lucky enough to see one, it’s a real treat. The Saltmarsh has an orange triangle on it’s face, a gray crown and dark streaks on the sides of it’s white breast.

The Nelson’s Sparrow also has a bright orange triangle on it’s face and breast. The orange on the breast goes down part way and ends abruptly at a well-defined white belly.   The crown is dark gray with a gray ear patch. It also feeds on the sand or climbing up into the grasses.

On Seabrook, I have mostly found the marsh sparrows in the back part of what used to be the old cut, in the grasses, at a higher tide. On a rising tide, they often pop up to the top of the grasses. The marsh sparrows feed mostly on the ground on insects, spiders, snails, seeds of grasses, and small marine invertebrates. They do this in the dense grass and at the edges of shallow pools.  During the Christmas Bird Count, we found over a dozen of them at Camp St Christopher, near Privateer Creek. The photos for this article were all taken on Seabrook Island by Ed. So keep your eyes out for these beautiful little sparrows. You need patience and your look may be brief, but well worth it!

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

Article submitted by:  Aija Konrad
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.

Bird of the Week … Who are we???

images-4

This week, we will learn about three birds common in the winter on Seabrook Island but rarely seen.  Aaron Given, Kiawah Island Wildlife Biologists bands them each winter/spring to study the impact of habitat change related to sea-level rise and loss of salt marsh habitat.  If you’d like to volunteer to assist Aaron on this banding project, we’ll tell you how on Sunday when we tell you …  Who are we?

Leave us a comment if you want to make a guess – and watch for the full article on Sunday morning!

 

SIB Identifies 116 Species in Christmas Bird Count

SIB Members Aija Konrad, David Gardner, Judy Morr, Justin Johnson & Nancy Brown
SIB Members Aija Konrad, David Gardner, Judy Morr, Justin Johnson & Nancy Brown

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began on Christmas day in 1900 by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, who proposed a new holiday tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.  Since then, this tradition has continued to grow and the data collected is used by scientists to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

Aaron Given, wildlife biologist at Kiawah Island, is responsible for organizing the collection of data for the Sea Island CBC, a 15 mile radius which includes Seabrook, Kiawah, Wadmalaw and Johns Island.  During the chili supper, held after a day of birding last Wednesday January 4th, Aaron announced that 152 species were identified for the entire Sea Islands CBC.  There may be a couple species added after he gets a few late lists.  This is close to his record of 158 since starting the Sea Island CBC in 2010.

As for Seabrook Island, our grand total was 116 bird species and over 3,000 birds for the 24-hour period, which far exceeded the previous record of less than 90 species. Thanks to a group of SIB members, we had residents of three homes who conducted Backyard Birding and four teams of people who covered six areas of Seabrook Island.  Way to go team!!!  Here’s a summary of the results from each team.

Backyard Birders:

Rob & Melanie Jerome had 22 species, Dean & Judy Morr had 14 species and  Cindy Willis with 8 species.  Since a backyard on Seabrook Island is a little different than the average American backyard, our volunteers observed everything from woodpeckers and songbirds to herons, egrets, storks and loons.  Thank you!

Golf Courses:

A team led by George Haskins and included Marcia Hider, Charley Moore, Russ Preston, Tori Langen and Flo Foley covered both golf courses, once in the early morning and once in the late afternoon.  This was the first time the golf courses were included in the CBC.  They net a total of 35 species, of which two were only seen on the golf course:  the American Coot and the Cooper’s Hawk.

Camp St. Christopher:

Aija Konrad & Justin Johnson covered 7.5 miles of ground in a 7 hour period and saw 72 species, of which 21 were only seen at this location.  And although David Gardner was under the weather, he was able to get out for short periods to assist.  They certainly had the largest challenge trying to cover a huge and diverse habitat which included beach, woodlands, marsh and more!  Highlights included seeing all three “salty” sparrows:  Saltmarsh, Seaside and Nelson’s.

Jenkins Point, Palmetto Lake, SIPOA/Club Maintenance Area, Horse Pasture:

Judy Morr, Flo Foley and Nancy Brown spent 5 hours walking 2 miles and driving a couple miles to spot and identify 48 species, of which 14 were unique including three Greater Yellow-legs on Jenkins Point.  A visit to the Water Treatment Plant in the afternoon with David, Justin, Ed Konrad, Aija, Judy and Nancy during 90 minutes recorded 25 species.  The 31 Wild Turkeys seen inside the water treatment plant may have been one of the highlights!

Bohicket Marina:
Since Nancy & Flo live at the marina, they birded both the river and the resident feeders twice during the day and Nancy and Judy visited in the evening and reported a net count of 24.  They were lucky when a Whimbrel flew onto the low tide mud flats down river and with their birding scope the team could easily identify the bird.
North Beach:
Jim Edwards, Jane Chew and Bing covered this area and were able to get some great finds!  With a total of 50 species, 11 of those were unique for the day including Red Knots, Piping Plover and Horned Grebes.
Thanks again to all our volunteers!  We can tell you the team is already thinking about how we can beat our record of 116 next year and hope more members will join us as Backyard Birders!  Below is the species list and total count of individual birds for each seen during the day along  with some of the photographs taken.
Submitted by:  Nancy Brown
Photographs by:  Ed Konrad & Charley Moore

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wood Duck 2
Lesser Scaup 4
Bufflehead 105
Common Goldeneye 1
Hooded Merganser 24
Red-breasted Merganser 6
Ruddy Duck 1
Wild Turkey 42
Red-throated Loon 3
Common Loon 3
Pied-billed Grebe 11
Horned Grebe 3
Wood Stork 14
Double-crested Cormorant 176
Anhinga 7
American White Pelican 3
Brown Pelican 151
Great Blue Heron 31
Great Egret 40
Snowy Egret 23
Little Blue Heron 36
Tricolored Heron 9
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
White Ibis 23
Black Vulture 30
Turkey Vulture 28
Osprey 6
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper’s Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 12
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Clapper Rail 18
Sora 1
American Coot 1
American Oystercatcher 12
Black-bellied Plover 12
Semipalmated Plover 3
Piping Plover 1
Killdeer 2
Whimbrel 1
Ruddy Turnstone 5
Red Knot 30
Sanderling 82
Dunlin 62
Least Sandpiper 1
Short-billed Dowitcher 10
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Willet 26
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Laughing Gull 10
Ring-billed Gull 56
Herring Gull 11
Forster’s Tern 21
Royal Tern 8
Eurasian Collared-Dove 10
Common Ground-Dove 2
Mourning Dove 1
Great Horned Owl 2
Barred Owl 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Belted Kingfisher 13
Red-bellied Woodpecker 26
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 7
Downy Woodpecker 7
Northern Flicker 30
Pileated Woodpecker 8
Merlin 2
Eastern Phoebe 8
Blue Jay 16
American Crow 163
Fish Crow 1
Tree Swallow 4
Carolina Chickadee 46
Tufted Titmouse 50
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Winter Wren 2
Sedge Wren 1
Marsh Wren 2
Carolina Wren 24
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 33
Eastern Bluebird 134
Hermit Thrush 5
American Robin 351
Gray Catbird 6
Northern Mockingbird 10
European Starling 25
Cedar Waxwing 167
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 4
Palm Warbler 4
Pine Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 212
Prairie Warbler 1
Nelson’s Sparrow 5
Saltmarsh Sparrow 4
Seaside Sparrow 4
Chipping Sparrow 146
White-throated Sparrow 5
Savannah Sparrow 4
Song Sparrow 8
Swamp Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 4
Northern Cardinal 61
Red-winged Blackbird 58
Boat-tailed Grackle 24
Brown-headed Cowbird 22
Baltimore Oriole 2
House Finch 17
American Goldfinch 22

SIB "Bird of the Week" – American Robin

American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Length:  10″; Wingspan: 17″; Weight: 2.7 oz.

If you guessed the American Robin as the answer to our “Who am I” question on Friday’s blog post, you are correct!  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
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.