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

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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!