Bird Sighting – Return of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Name: Andy Allen
Date & Time of Sighting: 3/31/17 12:30 pm
Location of Sighting (be as specific as possible): 2600 Jenkins point, very near marsh
Name of Bird Species: Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Number of Birds Sighted: one male
Comments: We have one male each year who visits our window feeder several times a day and regularly checks out our deck Penta, even if we are sitting on the deck. He has a mate by summer and at least one fledging by fall. There is a nest in a live oak between the house and the marsh.
Yesterday was the first day we noticed him with his amazingly bright ruby throat. I don’t think he was around this winter.

Is this early for hummingbirds to return since bright red flowers are still fairly rare? Maybe they have come back to lots of feeders or were here this whole mild winter. We stopped feeding in late October when there was no evidence of action and only resumed mid-March

Response from SIB

Hello Andy
Thanks for your sighting and question.  Although some Ruby-throated Hummingbirds do winter on Seabrook Island, it is very possible that the one at your home has returned from its migration.  I have found a few things on the web, but the blog below is quite timely and I like the visual of the map they created showing the return on or around April 1st for our area.
Nancy Brown
____________________________________________
HERE COME THE RUBY-THROATS
(Updated 27 Mar 2017)

After a long winter without Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, it’s gratifying to know this diminutive Neotropical migrant is reportedly making its way back toward Hilton Pond Center and points north. It’s hard to explain to folks who aren’t hummingbird enthusiasts just how crucial this news is to those of us who brew batches of sugar water all summer long, but the annual arrival of spring migrant ruby-throats is one of the most-anticipated happenings in the world of backyard birdwatchers. Ruby-throats have already appeared along the Gulf Coast and are moving their way northward, so it’s only a matter of time until phones start ringing and E-mails start flying as folks announce “I just got my first one at the feeder!” Since hummingbird watching is a such a highly competitive sport, few things are more important than being able to say you spotted the neighborhood’s first ruby-throat of the season.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migration
 Hilton Pond Center (read the full Hilton Pond Center blog at this site)

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Three days of learning, watching, and understanding the importance of protecting the Red Knots and key bird species on North Beach!

Aija and Nolan with 1200 Red Knots – Ed Konrad

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad and Charley Moore

On Monday, March 27, Ed and I birded on North Beach with Nolan Schillerstom, Coastal Program Coordinator, Audubon South Carolina, to help him prepare for Tuesday’s Stewardship training. We were treated to 1200 Red Knots feeding for over an hour on North Beach. Also good looks at our resident pair of American Oystercatchers, U5 and its mate. And three pairs of Wilson’s Plovers with males staking off their females and territory.

Tuesday, March 28, was Red Knot Training and Stewardship training led by Nolan from Audubon SC. We had 24 participants actively engaged with Nolan and the training. We learned about our threatened and endangered shorebirds and seabirds, who either are migrating or nesting at Seabrook North Beach. The Red Knots that migrate 18,000 miles roundtrip from South American to the Arctic, and reside at Seabrook in the spring to feed and rest on their long journey, were highlighted. We discussed how we can be more aware of the many threats to our North Beach habitat and birds. Nolan also discussed how to be good stewards on the beach, and gave us good tips on informing others about our birds and habitat.

Fifteen birders joined us on the Red Knot/Learning Together at the beach on a beautiful morning on Wednesday, March 29. What a great morning we had! As we got to the beach, the tide was just starting to recede. It seemed pretty quiet, but soon we were treated to a “fly by” of over 100 Black Skimmers heading toward Deveaux Bank. Out over the ocean we had a particularly odd sighting… eight Great Blue Herons. That is the first time I have seen this species circling over the ocean.

Learning Together North Beach – Ed Konrad

As we headed down past the “No Dogs Allowed” signs we began to see clouds of our target bird, the Red Knots, on the horizon. Several large groups flew by us heading out over the ocean and we estimated there were probably close to 1,800!  Spotting a DNR truck, we ran into Janet Thibault and Felicia Sanders from SC DNR, who were checking out the knots. Janet answered questions from the group. We also found a smaller group of Red Knots with Dunlin, Sanderlings and a mixed tern flock (Forster’s and Royal) on the beach. Everyone got good looks at the birds in the scopes.

Our second target bird was the Wilson’s Plover and we found several of them on the dry, white sand area, along with three Semipalmated Plovers. Almost to the end of the inlet, we had a very exciting spot of five Piping Plovers, including one banded one, which Charley and Ed photographed. Some of our group had to leave, but seven die hard souls continued down to the end of the beach and back on the “highway.” We spotted more Wilson’s Plovers, including one banded and flagged bird. There seemed to be some “he-en’and she-en'” going on with the plovers, fun to see. In the distance soared an immature Bald Eagle, and an Osprey flew over us.

As we began the trek home, we saw several Willets and we were graced with a fly by of two American Oystercatchers, probably U5 and his mate. Six weary, but happy birders made it back to the parking lot three hours later, a very fun day!

Last birders Standing – Ed Konrad

For those SIBers that attended the training and bird walk this week, remember to practice what we “learned” and “watched” to inform others about the importance of “protecting” our birds that need our help on North Beach!

Seabrook Island–North Beach, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Mar 29, 2017 10:32 AM – 1:39 PM
39 species

  • Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)  1
  • Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  10
  • Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)  15
  • Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)  8
  • Great Egret (Ardea alba)  2
  • Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)  1
  • White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)  7
  • Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)  2
  • Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
  • Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  1
  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
  • American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)  2
  • Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)  3
  • Wilson’s Plover (Charadrius wilsonia)  7     
  • Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)  3
  • Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)  5
  • Red Knot (Calidris canutus)  1800    
  • Sanderling (Calidris alba)  25
  • Dunlin (Calidris alpina)  60
  • Willet (Tringa semipalmata)  5
  • Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)  1
  • Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)  12
  • Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  3
  • Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri)  110     Counted in scope
  • Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus)  29
  • Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)  109
  • Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  2
  • Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
  • White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)  1
  • American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  5
  • Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)  8
  • Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  1
  • Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  2
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  1
  • Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)  1
  • Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  40
  • Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)  1
  • Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  2
  • House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  3

Spring Migration

On Friday, we asked if you could identify a bird by its song.  It was first reported on Seabrook Island early last Thursday morning by George Haskins.  The answer:  the Chuck-will’s-widow.  This bird winters as far south as Colombia, Venezuela and the Caribbean and breeds in pine, oak-hickory, and other forests of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. They tend to live in more open areas than the similar Whip-poor-will, which are not common here on Seabrook Island.

Chuck-will’s-widow – Flo Foley

Scientist continue to learn much about the migration of birds, especially with the advancement of technology such as using radar, acoustic, electronic and optical technologies. Spring migration starts as early as January and continues into June.  Birds generally take off shortly after sunset, some flying all night and landing just before dawn the next morning.  Others will fly nonstop for 60-100 hours as they flyover oceans and continents. Some nights there could be hundreds of millions of birds flying over North America.

Citizen Scientists like all of us are a great resource for migration information as we document bird sightings using the Audubon/Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: eBird.org.  This data is also available for anyone to view.  This link will open the eBird page to view the historical bird observations for all species by month for Charleston county.  For example, the Chuck-will’s-widow is shown below to arrive in April and is gone by the end of September.

Chuck-will’s-widow historical frequency sightings by month for Charleston County, SC from eBird.org

You can also drill down to view a map of locations where a bird has been documented, like the Chuck-will’s-widow map below.  Notice the red bubble was a sighting of a Chuck-will’s-widow documented by Aija Konrad on 3/31 near the tennis courts.

Chuck-will’s-widow map of sightings on Seabrook & Kiawah Island, SC from eBird.org

Another great website to learn more about bird migration, including a forecast each week for four geographic regions in the country, is Birdcast.info, a site created by Cornell.  Below is their forecast for the Chuck-will’s-widow for the Gulf Coast and Southeast and it looks like they are right on time!

Migrant Species

Chuck-will’s-widow

 

Begin
Arriving

3/29

Rapid Influx

4/10

Peak

 

4/24

Rapid
Departure

6/25

Last Departure

After Jun 30

Throughout April we will continue to share information related to bird migration including which birds are packing their bags to head north, which birds are arriving to breed and those who are just passing through and utilizing our island for rest and refueling.

In the meantime, check out this great article, Birdist Rule #70: Get Prepared for Spring Migration, by Nicholas Lund on the Audubon website.

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown