Bird of the Week … Who am I???

Who am I? As a clue to this week’s bird, I’ll give you two truths and a lie about me that will help you identify me.

  1. I love to spend most of the year in the north ranging as far north as Alaska but I spend the winters along both the east and west coasts of the US and as far south as Mexico.
  2. I am a member of the duck family and my principal diet is fish.
  3. You most likely will find me in the winter around inland waterways such as ponds and rivers.

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

 

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SIB Member Profile – George Haskins

George Haskins birding on a Lindblad/National Geographic Expedition trip
in California Baja in 2010.

I’ve been interested in birding ever since my Grandmother gave me a Roger Tory Peterson Field Guide when I was six years old.  Soon after that we moved to a home adjacent to an Audubon Sanctuary in Brockton, MA. My sister and I became Junior Auduboners.  I do maintain annual lists of birds seen and compare on this with my sister each year.  I won last year with 104 birds and limited New York birding.  This year I’ve already seen 87 species. My life list is over 300. Picking a favorite bird would be difficult, but the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is special because, on two occasions, I have rescued one into my cupped hand and, then, had him look me in the eye, as if to say thanks, before flying.   

I had 43 years in two overlapping careers, first as a saving and loan officer and, secondly, as a residential real estate appraiser.

In retirement, I have been a non-resident on Seabrook for 17 years and am fortunate to be part of founding Seabrook Island Birders.  I’ve also been on the High Hammock Board of Directors and the Environmental Committee (Lakes and Wildlife Sub-Committee, Deer management Task Force and Common Property Task Force).

Our summers are spent in suburban Rochester, NY and, for numerous years, I have been a member of the Rochester Birding Association. Their monthly publication is “Little Gull.”  In the current issue, a member, John Boettcher, posted a piece entitled ‘Why Birdwatching?’  First time I’ve ever thought of this topic and I agree with the items.  I got his permission to share it with our SIB members.  I have no feel for whether he had a listing priority, but I do think I’d have had a different order, were I the originator.

Why Birdwatching?
by John Boettcher   

  1. Social — Meet new people and renew acquaintances.
  2. Competition — How many birds can you see?  How many species?  Be the first to find new ones.  Post on a list and on eBird.
  3. Hunt — Finding birds in the habitat, getting a good look, and identifying.
  4. Skill Building — Becoming proficient with optics.  Keying on birds using songs and calls.
  5. Gentle Physical Activity — Reason for a walk.  
  6. Enjoying Nature — Exposure to bird habitat — other animals, trees, and flowers.
  7. Mark Seasons — Notice the different birds with different seasons and changes.
  8. Travel to New Places — Nearby and far away.
  9. Build Identification Skills — Home study and practice in the field to build proficiency.
  10. Natural History of Birds — Study and sharing of bird behavior and physiology.
  11. Get a Better View of Birds —   No matter how many times you’ve seen a bird there awaits a better view.
  12. Better Citizen — Appreciation and understanding of nature and need to preserve.
  13. Teaching Opportunity — Pass along your understanding and enthusiasm to others — young and old.

Submitted by George Haskins

Join us for SIB / Audubon Red Knot Training

The Red Knots are here! They are on our North Beach shore in growing numbers, as they refuel and rest as a part of their incredible migration from Patagonia to breeding grounds in the Arctic. By mid-April 1000s of Red Knots will be on our beach, as they begin to turn their beautiful reddish breeding color.

If you’re interested in becoming better informed on the Red Knot, SIB has scheduled a two-hour training session on Tuesday, March 28, 10:00am to Noon, at the Oystercatcher Property Owners’ building. This program is free for all who attend.

To enroll in this interesting, informative, and important program, please REGISTER NOW.

Nolan Schillerstrom, Audubon South Carolina’s Coastal Program Coordinator, will conduct this special training. We’ll learn all about the Red Knot, a Federally Threatened species that has declined by 85% in the last 15 years, and their incredible 18,000-mile-long migration. The importance of our Seabrook island habitat will be covered, as Red Knots come to SC beaches in the spring to feed on coquina clams and Horseshoe Crab eggs as the crabs come onshore to spawn.

Red Knots travel in large flocks and are easily disturbed by people and dogs, adding stress to an already perilous journey. They can be easily flushed when feeding and roosting, causing them to expend energy in flight and not building enough fat reserves for their migration. Nolan will discuss how we as stewards can better educate other Seabrookers on the beach to be respectful and responsible with our Red Knot guests.

We’ll also highlight Seabrook’s other protected species, the endangered Piping Plover that winters here, and the threatened Wilson’s Plover and Least Tern that soon nest on North Beach.

Note there is a birding walk on North Beach scheduled on Wednesday, March 29 from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm if you would like to view the Red Knots (hopefully!) the morning after the training.  Please also sign up for the walk now! (Please note you can attend one or the other or both!)

If you have additional questions about the program, please contact us by sending an email to: SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com

Please enjoy these beautiful photos of our precious Red Knot visitors taken by Ed Konrad on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC.

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SIB “Bird of the Week” – Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Length:  5.5″;  Wingspan 8″;  Weight:  0.36 oz.

Palm Warbler – Glen Bartley

The Palm Warbler is one of the wood warblers. It is fairly common on Seabrook in the winter months and most should be leaving or have left by now. The most obvious field mark is its tail-wagging habit. Although it is a rather dull olive on its back, as it wags, it shows its brighter yellow underparts. You also might pick up the soft striping on its breast and sides. The male sports a rusty-colored cap in its breeding plumage although we would be less likely to see that here because it does not breed here.

This warbler will eat some seeds and fruits in the winter months but it prefers insects.

The Palm Warbler has a weak trill like that of the Chipping Sparrow, but slower. It is primarily on one note but increases slightly in intensity as it progresses.

Palm Warbler – Ed Konrad

Although its name would seem to indicate that this bird is found mostly in palm trees, in fact it can be seen in a variety of habitats: open woodlands, low in thickets of shrubs, on the ground, and in open fields.

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

Pine Warbler Range Map – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Article submitted by: Marcia Hider
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad & Glen Bartley

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.

Beginning Birding at Camp St. Christopher

It was a beautiful Thursday to learn more about the birds on Seabrook Island by enjoying a morning of relaxed birding at Camp St. Christopher with David Gardner.  The group started by sitting at the bird feeders near Susannah’s House.  There, the group were shown the difference between Chipping Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows.  Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Red-bellied Woodpeckers were also seen.

White-throated Sparrow (left) vs Chipping Sparrow (right) – Dean Morr

The group proceeded on a short walk along the lagoon to see the Double-crested Cormorant compared to the Anhinga.  A rather noisy woodpecker was heard expanding the cavity in a dead tree to build a nest.  Slight movement could be seen but unfortunately, the suspected Downy Woodpecker never took a break from construction to show itself.

Anhinga – Dean Morr

The flighty Blue-gray Gnatcatchers showed themselves in a live oak before the group headed out to the beach to see Ring-billed Gulls and Brown Pelicans.  Along the way, a Black Vulture and a Turkey Vulture circled overhead giving a good comparison with David pointing out the differences in flight patterns and wing tips.  Later, a Bald Eagle was seen for another comparison of high flying birds.

After returning to the feeders for another look, the group was heading back to their cars when a Hermit Thrush was seen and allowed himself to be studied by the group who left feeling more comfortable in their bird identification capabilities.  A complete list of the 20 species seen is shown below.

Double-crested Cormorant 5
Anhinga 1
Brown Pelican 15
Black Vulture 2
Turkey Vulture 8
Bald Eagle 1
Ring-billed Gull 4
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
American Crow 11
Carolina Chickadee 16
Tufted Titmouse 18
Carolina Wren 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 6
Eastern Bluebird 1
Hermit Thrush 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Chipping Sparrow 18
White-throated Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 9
Brown-headed Cowbird 1

Article Submitted by: Judy Morr
Photographs Submitted by: Dean Morr

 

Bird of the Week … Who am I???

The name of this bird is a misleading indicator of its primary habitat; it is more likely to be found low in thickets, in open areas or on the ground.

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

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Great Egret

Great Egret – Ardea alba
Length:  39″; Wingspan: 51″; Weight: 30 oz.

Great Egret - Charles Moore
Great Egret – Charles Moore

The Great Egret, is also known as the White Egret, Common Egret, Great White Egret or the Large Great Egret. It occurs in tropical and warm temperate regions of the world including Central Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and portions of North, Central and South America.

Standing over three feet tall, the Great Egret is the largest white bird within its range and is distinguished from similar birds by its large size, solid white plumage, yellow bill, and dark grey to black legs and feet.

The neck of the Great Egret is extremely flexible and an adult bird can swallow a one-pound fish with ease, an amazing feat considering that on average adult birds may weigh just over two pounds themselves.

Each breeding season they carry out elaborate courting displays and behaviors and they are believed to be monogamous during a breeding season. It is unknown if they mate for  life.

Great Egret - Charles Moore
Great Egret – Charles Moore

Males establish a territory, select a nesting site, begin to build a nest and initiate mating displays that attract females. Breeding plumage consists of numerous delicate ornamental feathers. The birds display these feathers by holding them up, puffing them out, and spreading them over their backs. At the same time they extend their neck skyward and pump it up and down several times. Great Egrets make dry, croaking sounds, nasal squeals, and other harsh calls. They are particularly vocal during breeding season as they go about establishing territories, courting, forming pairs, and maintaining pair bonds. You just might hear something that sounds like this near their rookeries around the island.

Nests may be 100 or more feet high and frequently are directly above water. They are about three feet across, a foot deep, and lined with Spanish moss or other soft vegetation. Nests are continually repaired during the nesting season.

Great Egret - Charles Moore
Great Egret – Charles Moore

Typically two to four light blue-green eggs appear over a several day period and the adults alternately sit on the eggs. Hatching occurs in 23 to 27 days. Chicks are very aggressive and frequently weaker chicks are tossed out of the nest and don’t survive.

Initially, the parents regurgitate food into the nest but once the chicks are of sufficient size the parent bird feeds the chicks by placing its bill completely inside the mouth of each waiting chick.

Newborn chicks have long thin fuzzy feathers that protrude from their head as if they are affected by static electricity.

Five to six weeks after hatching the chicks attempt their first flights. The average life span of a Great Egret is 15 years but some have been known to live more than twenty years in captivity.

Adult Great Egrets have no predators and only crows, vultures, and raccoons are reported to prey on the eggs and fledglings. However, their beautiful plumage nearly resulted in their demise. Ninety-five percent of the North American Great Egret population was killed for feathers to decorate hats and other clothing items in the 19th century.

Great Egret - Charles Moore
Great Egret – Charles Moore

Today, national and international treaties protect the Great Egret and their populations are thriving in North America. Their greatest threat today is the loss of habitat through drainage and the clearing of wetlands. The logo of the National Audubon Society is the Great Egret in full flight. This logo symbolizes the success of past and current conservation efforts protecting these magnificent birds and serves as a constant reminder that without such conservation efforts many to the world’s most beautiful wonders would be lost forever.

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

Range map of Great Egret - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Range map of Great Egret – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Article submitted by:  Charles Moore
Photographs provided by:  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.