Who Migrates Through Seabrook Island?

I’m sure you know people who winter south of Seabrook Island then visit here on their way north where they spend summers in cooler climate!  In my case, my parents live in Florida during the winter but still summer in Maine.  Since they retired 15 years ago, whether our home was in Massachusetts, New Jersey or now here, our home has been a stopping point “on-the-way” during their spring and fall migrations.  There are several species of birds that do the same thing!  But unlike my parents, they are harder to find and identify.

Located along the Atlantic Flyway, Seabrook Island is a perfect location for these migrants to rest and refuel before continuing their journey.  This spring we’ve talked a great deal about the Red Knot, a special shorebird which travels nearly 10,000 miles each spring from it’s winter home at the tip of South America to breed in the tundra barrens on the Arctic Circle. But did you know there are a number of other species we only see if they happen to stop on our island during their migration north or south?  Here are just a few examples you might be lucky enough to see. Most of them are long distant migrants, and like many other migrating songbirds from eastern North America, they fly across the Gulf of Mexico in a single nonstop journey.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak – Ed Konrad

Our first example is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the bird that stopped at our friend’s feeder on Kiawah Island last week. Check out the eBird Occurrence Map to see its migration and learn more about where this beautiful bird winters and breeds.

Yellow Warbler – Ed Konrad

The Yellow Warbler has a pretty song that sounds like “sweet-sweet-sweet, sweeter-than-sweet” . It winters in Central American and northern South America and breeds across central and northern North America.

Magnolia Warbler – Ed Konrad

The Magnolia Warbler winters in Mexico, Central America, and West Indies and breeds in Northeast US and Canada. Check out this cool animated map showing predicted distribution and relative abundance across all 52 weeks of the year.

Black-throated Blue Warbler – Ed Konrad

The Black-throated Blue Warbler is a striking bird.  It winters in the Caribbean and migrates through Florida heading to breed in the deep forests of the northeastern US and southeastern Canada.

Ovenbird – Ed Konrad

Our final example, the Ovenbird, is a another warbler and has a very distinguishing song that sounds like “teacher teacher teacher“.  Those breeding east of the Appalachians overwinter in Florida and the Carribbean, while those breeding further west fly to Mexico and Central America.

Watch and listen for these birds here this spring, or if you are returning to the north for part of the summer, you just might see some during your migration.

If you are interested in learning more about the study of bird migration, you may want to read The New Migration Science on The Cornell Labs All About Birds website.

Article Submitted by Nancy Brown
Photos by Ed Konrad

Bird of the Week … Who am I?

Who am I?

A friend on Kiawah Island sent us this picture and asked if we could identify this bird.  Although we’ve never seen it on Seabrook Island, it’s a common bird during summers in the northern part of the US. Do you know what bird this is?  Have you ever seen this bird on Seabrook Island? Let us know by leaving a comment, and watch for our Sunday article about birds that stop on their way to their breeding grounds in the north.

Bird Sighting – “FOS” Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite flying – Ed Konrad

Name: Nancy Brown & Flo Foley
Date & Time of Sighting:
Wednesday April 26, 2017 approximately 10:30 am
Location of Sighting (be as specific as possible):
Flying above Crooked Oaks Golf Course on the 11th hole fairway
Name of Bird Species:
Mississippi Kite
Number of Birds Sighted: 2
Comments: We have been expecting to see the Mississippi Kite any day, and today was our “first of season” sighting. Throughout the late spring and summer of 2016, we would see them nearly every time we golfed Crooked Oaks (sometimes on Ocean Winds) and almost always on the fairway or green of the 11th hole of Crooked Oaks. Flo was golfing in a separate group ahead of me and she also saw them. Look for a sleek looking gray bird of prey with long slender wings and a long squared off tail.

Editors Note: This first of season (FOS) sighting is another example of a migrating bird who spends the summer on Seabrook Island (and most likely breeds here too!).   To learn more about them, visit the Mississippi & Swallow-tail Kite blog we published one year ago.  Photo above was is a file photo taken by Ed Konrad in Georgia.

Bird Sighting – “FOS” Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat – Ed Konrad

Name: Aija and Ed Konrad
Email: aijak@aol.com
Date & Time of Sighting:
April 21. 2017 at about 9:30 am
Location of Sighting (be as specific as possible):
Bobcat Dune Boardwalk, looking toward the houses. In the area that runs through the sandy part with grasses, looking toward the houses.
Name of Bird Species:
Yellow-breasted Chat
Number of Birds Sighted: 1
Comments: I heard this bird before we saw it, calling it’s ridiculous “chatting” call. I have had it at this location for the past 3 summers. It tends to sit on top of bushes or trees and make it’s call. It can be a bit secretive and make you crazy because you can hear it, but hard to find. It is very showy with it’s yellow breast and throat, and fairly large (7.5″). I have since seen or heard it for the last 4 days. It will stay for the summer.

Editors Note:  Thank you Aija and Ed for reporting your sighting! This first of season (FOS) sighting is another example of a migrating bird who spends the summer on Seabrook Island to breed. Since your sighting we learned that David Gardner from St. Christopher had never seen or heard this bird on Seabrook Island, and it is new for several others of us!  How exciting to know we have an elusive bird that many of us will now add to our lifelist!

Bird Sighting – “FOS” Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker – Patricia Schaefer

Submitter Name:
Patricia Schaefer
Date & Time of Sighting:
Sunday April 23 at about Noon
Location of Sighting (be as specific as possible):
Over the marsh and trees in my back yard and lot next door
Name of Bird Species:
Red-headed woodpeckers
Number of Birds Sighted: 2
Comments: I have not see this bird here in a long time. There were a pair flying in and out of trees. They did a lot of chirping, then in the distance I could see them chasing one another and lots of talking! I did snap an image or two

Editors Note:  Thank you Patricia for reporting your sighting! This first of season (FOS) sighting is another example of a migrating bird who spends the summer on Seabrook Island to breed. Last year, I would see them in two places on the golf course – on Crooked Oaks in the dead tree to the right of the 10th green and in the same tree where the former Bald Eagles had their nest (from the Crooked Oaks tee box of #4 and Ocean Winds green #3).  Where have you seen these interesting birds?  To learn more about them, visit the Red-headed Woodpecker blog we published one year ago.

Spring Departures from Seabrook Island

Article submitted by:  Ron Schildge
Photographs submitted by:  Ed Konrad

Who have packed their bags and are leaving for cooler summers up north?

We are all familiar with the common Northern Snowbird that arrives in early winter with their faded tans, rumpled shorts and out of state license plates. You might be interested to note that there are plenty of true winter birds that enjoy our mild winters as well and come to visit and feed in our backyards for the duration. These birds are now beginning to pack their bags and are ready to head north as spring promises them better feeding opportunities and a gentler climate.

Living on Mallard Lake, I enjoy welcoming members of the duck families that show up in late November but they have already headed north. This year we enjoyed hosting families of Buffleheads who also reside on Palmetto Lake. The males have a mostly white underbelly with a large white crown extending from the eyes to the back of their necks. A similar bird very common to our area are the Hooded Mergansers. They are different than the Buffleheads in that the males have a crest which they can raise or lower as a display of their attractiveness to the female Hooded Mergansers, whom nature shortchanged on the attraction scale. Do you ever wonder why it’s only the human population where the female species are considerably more attractive than the male species? As a balding 70 year-old man, I would trade anything for something as grand as the white crest of a Hooded Merganser but I think that Trump beat me to it. In addition to these two common birds seen on Seabrook Island, we also have a frequent winter visitor called the Lesser Scaup. They are more often found inland but like many ducks, they are fine divers and feed on plant and animal materials which are still plentiful during the winter here. In the summer the Lesser Scaup and the Bufflehead will fly as far north as Alaska to escape the summer heat. The Hooded Merganser on the other hand chooses to stay in the Great Lakes area and southern Canada.

In addition to the ducks that we see on our lakes and ponds, we also have many shorebirds that enjoy their winters here and then head north as far as Alaska and the Hudson Bay in Canada. The Least Sandpiper is the smallest of the North American Sandpipers and is one of the smallest waders in the world. They are about 6” long and have a white underbelly and streaked brown and grey upper-parts with a slender straight dark bill. The Dunlin is also seen frequently on the beach in the winter where they forage for insects, larvae and small crustaceans in tidal pools by the sea. The Dunlins must hate the heat of summer as they migrate almost all the way to the northern polar cap in the summer. Among the gull family that head to cooler climes in the summer are the Bonaparte’s Gull and the Ring-Billed Gull. The Ring-billed Gull is fittingly named due to its black band located just behind the tip of his bill. The Bonaparte’s Gull was named after a French zoologist who was a nephew of Napoleon and is less common than the Ring-Billed Gull. It is one of the smallest gulls found in this area.

Finally, that leaves us with the winter visitors that we see often on our backyard feeders and are heading north for more organic delicacies available from Mother Nature. On the woodpecker spectrum is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which has a hardly noticeable yellow belly (go figure) but both a red cap and a red throat to distinguish itself from the Downy and the Hairy Woodpeckers. Other common birds that you won’t be seeing after May 1 will likely be the American Robin, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and the Cedar Waxwing. But don’t worry, they have leases on the Island commencing around Dec. 1 so you’ll see them again!

Bird of the Week … Who are We?

You might have guessed, but this week our migration topic will focus on those birds who spend winters on Seabrook Island and fly north to breed in the spring! How many species can you name? Leave us the names of your favorite “snowbirds” and be sure to watch for our article on Sunday morning!

SIB Member Profile – Judy & Dean Morr

Judy and Dean are checking the Eastern Bluebird house in their front yard. The box is open and showing a nest of woven pine straw which s awaiting eggs.

Judy and Dean Morr moved to Columbia, South Carolina, from their native Ohio (they met at The Ohio State), in 1984 seeking winter warmth. He was as an architect and she was involved with computer software. When they could get away, they’d sneak off to Kiawah for beach time. However, when it came time to contemplate retirement, they opted for a home on Seabrook which they bought before retiring. She became a tele-commuter here and he spent Monday-Friday commuting to Columbia for a year or so. They were not birders though he had long been  into woodworking. His specialty was birdhouses and feeder for others.  

The former Lakes and Wildlife Subcommittee of Environmental maintained a few houses for Eastern Bluebirds around the Lake House with Jackie Mowat as the caretaker. There was also a group, led by Joan Hylander, who informally tended numerous bird houses on Crooked Oaks. Both Joan and Jackie were looking to ‘retire’ about the time the Morr’s moved to the Island. In some manner, Judy learned there was this job opening. She was looking for something interesting to occupy Dean’s future retirement time. She volunteered to be the new caretaker, but only until Dean was on-Island a year or so hence. L&W gladly accepted her offer.  

Dean is still in project management, but as coordinator for maintaining and monitoring more than 75 Eastern Bluebird boxes, on three golf course trails plus one at the Lake House. He built and, accompanied by David Gardner, installed 12 additional bluebird houses last month for a new trail at Camp St Christopher. He builds new boxes as needed, repairs damaged boxes, oversees a troop of monitors who visit the boxes weekly gathering nesting information, and keeps the records. The details are on the SIB website, but, in the 2016 nesting season, 359 fledgling Eastern Bluebirds and 106 Carolina Chickadees emerged from those boxes. Dean has also blended his program into the fledgling (pun intended) Seabrook Island Birders organization and is becoming an accomplished photographer of our many feathered friends. He has also become a member of the SIPOA Environmental Committee and recently completed an inventory report for properties purchased by Seabrook Island Green Space Conservancy.

Judy has recently retired from the tele-commuting duties. The interesting thing is that the bird watching bug bit Judy as well. She and Dean were part of the nine person group which started organizing Seabrook Island Birders 18 months ago. She now serves as the chair of the SIB Activities Committee. Judy’s skills as a bird watcher haves progressed amazingly — I was the leader of her first bird walk in January 2016 around Palmetto Lake. In addition, she is very active with the Islands’ Turtle Patrol and can, I understand, often be found at the end of Boardwalk 8 watching one of Seabrook’s fantastic sunsets.

By the way, the two of them have a private bluebird trail, I’m told, as well as one active nest (see picture) in their front yard. Further, their backyard is a haven for birds (including Wild Turkeys and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds). These two relative newcomers are major contributors to maintaining a good environment for the Island’s wildlife.

Submitted by George Haskins

Spring Arrivals to Seabrook Island

Article by: Aija Konrad
Photos by: Ed Konrad

What fun it is each season to look forward to birds that are arriving on our island! This article is on Spring/Summer arrivals and in a few weeks we will have an article on Departures. It’s like a regular revolving door with all the spring comings and goings!

Since I am at Seabrook part time, I can’t tell you at this release of this article exactly what is there, but I can share with you what has been there on previous years, per my Ebird list. For those of you not familar with Ebird, it is an app that uses citizen science, via checklists, that is shared with Cornell University for their bird studies. It is also a fabulous tool that keeps all your checklists electronically on your phone/computer, so you can look back at almost exact dates when you found a particular bird or when it arrived in previous years.

I won’t go into detailed descriptions of the birds, that could be a whole article on each one. But I will give a quick description of the arriving birds, and where you might find them so you can be looking. Use a birding guide or app if you are unfamiliar with these species. These birds should all be here within the week, if not already.

Great-crested Flycatcher – Ed Konrad

Before I left Seabrook Island two weeks ago, I found a Great-crested Flycatcher. It was within 2 days of my previous year’s sightings! A good place to see and hear them is in the back part of Palmetto Lake and also on Oystercatcher Rd, just past the POA parking lot. Listen for their drawn out “weep” call.

Painted Bunting – Ed Konrad

I have heard that Painted Buntings have been seen at Camp St. Christopher, and I suspect some of you have them at your feeders. Their favorite tree by the bike rack at the POA boardwalk, but this tree blew over in Matthew. I suspect they will still be in that area and on the top of the wax myrtle going out to the beach. Listen for their pretty, lilting song.

Eastern Kingbird – Ed Konrad

The Eastern Kingbird is a flycatcher that has a black head, gray body with a white belly and a distinct white edge to it’s tail. They are often found at Palmetto Lake, usually perched high in a tree or sometimes at the Equestrian Center. You might hear a sharp dzee or dzeet.

Barn Swallow – Ed Konrad

Barn Swallows have arrived at the Equestrian Center and go in and out of the stable barns. For any of you that grew up in farm country, they are easy to spot with their dark blue bodies, orange bellies and long forked tails.  You might hear their constant liquid twittering and chattering.

Two warblers that spend the summers with us at Seabrook are the Northern Parula and the Yellow-throated Warbler. The Parula has a buzzy rising trill and you can hear them all over Seabrook Island Rd if you drive with your windows open. The Yellow-throated has a song that sounds like “sweet, sweet, sweeter than sweet” and is usually found high in trees. We’ve seen them in the live oaks in front of the Lake House. They often nest in clumps of Spanish moss.

The answer to Friday’s “Who am I” question is the Orchard Oriole. The male has a pretty rusty and black body, and the female is greenish-yellow. It has a pretty warbling song, it’s call is a sharp whistle and it also has a scolding chatter. It is often found near the first pond on Jenkins Point (listen for it’s chattering scold) and sometimes in the Bobcat Dune boardwalk area.

Red-eyed Vireo – Ed Konrad

The Red-eyed Vireo is a summer resident and it can be elusive and hard to spot. You will always hear it, but it can be a real stickler to find. It’s very plain olive in color with a dark eye line, and it’s call sounds to me like it is counting cars..”forty-one, forty-two, forty-three.” Or some people say it’s saying “here I am, in the tree, look up, you can’t see me.” It sings at about 1 phrase, every 2 seconds.

Blue Grosbeak – Ed Konrad

The Blue Grosbeak male is dark blue with orange wing-bars and the female is a plain light brown. I have seen at both Jenkins Point and Bobcat Dune boardwalk. It also has a warbling pretty song. It’s call is a very metallic hard, “tink“. It perches and sings high in a tree top.

Use your bird guide or app to further study these birds, and look and listen carefully for our summer residents. Ed’s photographs are all from Seabrook and nearby hotspots. Good luck on your scavenger hunt! On a quick note, at the beach we will have the arrival of the Least Terns, Gull-billed Terns and Sandwich Terns. We will concentrate on those in another blog article.

Spring Arrivals … Who am I?

Can you name the Oriole that arrives on Seabrook Island every spring and spends the summer with us until it is time to migrate again in the fall?  Here’s a hint so leave us a comment if you know the answer!

Who am I?

Watch for the full article about birds which migrate to Seabrook Island to live and breed here during the summer months in this Sunday’s blog.