While photographing wading birds in our beautiful marshes, I noticed a Great Egret with a transmitter about the size of a small TV remote on its back and a metal band with numbers on its left leg. Have you seen this bird?
I posted a couple pictures of the bird on NextDoor and received a response suggesting this was the Great Egret named Edward who I learned is tagged and being monitored by the New Jersey Audubon Society.
This began a search for the origin of this bird. I contacted the NJ Audubon folks and learned their bird “Edward” was hanging out at Staten Island and had been in the area for a couple of weeks during the time period I spotted the egret. They did say he winters in the Hilton Head area so maybe we’ll see him this fall.
My research took me to organizations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland and Florida. All of the personnel I spoke with were more than generous with their time in helping to track down who might have tagged and banded this egret.
I was referred to Dr Kenneth Myer, Executive Director of Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Gainesville Florida. I provided him with the pictures and the partial band number. Dr Meyer responded and stated the bird is possibly one of the 80 Great Egrets banded and tagged in Louisiana and South Carolina from 2 September 2010 to 23 February 2011. The birds were banded and tagged to gauge effects of the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig spill that occurred on 20 April 2010. The partial band number I provided matched the lot numbers of bands used for this group of egrets. Dr Myer stated the GPS-enabled satellite transmitter appears to be the same model used for the study. In order to gain more information about this individual egret, Dr Meyer will need the complete band number.
I last saw the egret just this week in the marsh nearest Deer Pointe and Marsh Gate Drive. The challenge now is to get the remaining numbers of the band so we can learn more information from this bird.
If anyone else has photographs of this bird, please contact me or let SIB know so we can close the loop!
And if you are interested to learn more about migrating birds and how scientists are tracking them to learn more, we hope you will attend our SIB Evening Program with Dr. Sidney Gauthreaux this Wednesday night at 7:00 pm at the Lake House on Seabrook Island. Click here to learn more and register!
Satellite tracking of large migratory birds has been around for a few decades, but within the last decade new technological advancements have enabled the tracking of small migratory birds. In this presentation I will review results of migration studies using the new technology to track individual birds (miniature GIS devices, light measuring geolocators, Avian NanoTags and the MOTUS network) as well as the detection of large scale movements of migrating birds with recent technological upgrades to Doppler weather surveillance radar.
About Dr. Gauthreaux …
Dr. Gauthreaux retired from Clemson University where he was a faculty member from 1970-2006 and taught ornithology, animal behavior, and behavioral ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences. He still maintains a research presence at Clemson. He was a part-time employee of GeoMarine, Inc. (Plano, Texas) as Senior Scientist in the area of Remote Sensing and Technology from 2006-2012, and currently works as an independent consultant. He is also a part-time faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where he works on the assessment of avian radars with Dr. Edwin E. Herricks’s group.
Research emphasis on bird migration throughout the United States and particularly across the Gulf of Mexico using combinations of radar and direct visual techniques to study the characteristics and geographical patterns. Research in applied ornithology includes
1) studies to reduce instances of aircraft colliding with migrating birds
2) assessing the risks of migrating birds colliding with man-made structures such as transmission lines, towers, and wind turbines
3) the attraction of migrating birds at night to different types of lighting on towers and other structures (e.g., tall buildings and offshore platforms).
Below is a YouTube production with Dr. Gauthreaux speaking about our neighboring ACE Basin.
Beach birding is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates…”you never know what you’re gonna get!” It can be a feast, with too many birds to count, or famine, with a long walk to the end of the spit and few results. This week has been a gluttonous feast!
Our favorite time to bird North Beach is at high tide and as the tide falls. (Photo 1) The birds are usually gathered in a high tide roost, rather than far out on sand bars. We observed large numbers of terns, skimmers, pelicans, and gulls on the North Beach shore at the tip of the turn toward Captain Sam’s. Also at low tide on North Beach, Tri-colored Heron often fish at the tip of the inlet as the tide pools form. (Photo 2) Although we did not see the Reddish Egret this time, you can often it see here.
The protected area behind the yellow signs on North Beach had large numbers of Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings and peeps roosting in the dry sand. There are always a few Piping Plovers mixed in. (Photo 3) We also saw a great assortment of resting birds on the back side along the old inlet, towards Captain Sam’s mouth. (Photo 4) All of these areas are among our favorite spots to bird North Beach.
3) Semipalmated Plover and Piping Plover in North Beach protected area – Ed Konrad
4) Large mix of birds on back side of old inlet – Ed Konrad
Since the Piping Plovers have begun to return for their winter migration, we’ve spotted them all along the shore anywhere from to the right of the Property Owner boardwalk #1 to the far end of North Beach. (Photo 5) Ed and I have been searching for banded birds and submitting photos to researchers for the Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast breeding regions. So far this season we have found and submitted 8 banded birds. We’ve learned these have migrated from Fire Island NY, Rhode Island and NJ beaches, from islands north of Nova Scotia, and from the Great Lakes. The researchers appreciate updates on where their birds have been spotted, and it’s exciting for us to know where our Pipers are coming from and their journeys!
The cherry on top of the cake was learning from Alice Van Zoeren, our researcher friend with the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, that a Piping Plover we sighted had hatched on North Manitou Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes MI this summer. Alice banded and watched over this chick, and was excited her chick had made its way to Seabrook! (Photo 6)
Black Skimmers are gathering in large numbers, over 200 each day. (Photo 7) Caspian Tern numbers are growing with 8 spotted. We had eight Marbled Godwits, and three Oystercatchers, including our resident U5. (Photo 8) We hit a bonanza with Black-bellied Plovers, over 70 on the edge of the old inlet, with some still showing black bellies! (Photo 9) An exciting addition on Tuesday was ten Red Knots…the first of the fall season for us. Two were still showing the remains of their rusty bellies. (Photo 10) Short-billed Dowitchers also made an appearance, as did Western and Least Sandpipers.
7) Black Skimmer – Ed Konrad
8) Marbled Godwit, Caspien Tern, Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Willet – Ed Konrad
9) Black-bellied Plover – Ed Konrad
10 Red Knot, Black-bellied Plover, Willet, Least Sandpiper – Ed Konrad
Warblers are also starting to come into the area, with Aaron Given having some great banding this week, including his first Canada Warbler for Kiawah banding station! His blog is outstanding (http://kiawahislandbanding.blogspot.com) and so much fun to follow, with some great pictures. We saw a few warbler species at Mingo Point on Monday…several Prairie’s, a Black-and white, and several American Redstarts. So far on Seabrook we have had Prairie, American Redstarts, Yellow-throated and a Northern Waterthrush. Palmetto Lake is a good place to look for them, as is the parking spot area at Six Ladies trail and the trail itself and the Bobcat dunes boardwalk. It can be challenging in the fall because there are no songs, bird colors are drab, but it’s a fun challenge. Mosquitos have been ferocious!
The night roost at Old Wharf Road at Jenkins Point has been crazy, with hundreds of egrets, herons, and ibis. The noise is quite a cacophony!!! I have not tried counting them yet…there are simply too many. Sadly, a dead deer is in the lagoon, adding a bad aroma!
So that’s the story for a week of fun birding. Keep your eyes and ears open…fall migration has begun!
(Editor’s note: This article was written prior to Hurricane Irma, so as we all know, conditions and the environment are always changing.)
Zugunruhe (zu – gun – rue) is a German word derived from Zug (move, migration) and Unruhe (restlessness). This state of restlessness is commonly noted in migratory animals, especially birds.
As fall approaches and instincts prevail, birds are compelled by this silent call to take flight to their wintering grounds. As part of the Atlantic Flyway, the Lowcountry serves as a predictable thoroughfare for migrating raptors and shorebirds during fall migration passage. Exploiting the Center for Birds of Prey’s strategic location, Zugunruhefest will afford numerous opportunities for observers, both novice and advanced, to experience fall migration from an exceptional vantage point.
In addition to onsite vendors and activities, the festival will include three days filled with naturalists, ornithologists, and educators leading bird walks, flight demonstrations, informative lectures, programs, and more.
When: Thursday, September 28th – Saturday, September 30th
Where: Avian Conservation Center/Center for Birds of Prey, 4719 North Highway 17, Awendaw, SC 29429. Bird walks, field trips and excursions will take place in additional locations throughout the Lowcountry.
Admission: Fees vary depending on activities chosen. For a complete schedule of activities with pricing, please visit the Center for Birds of Prey website or call 843.971.7474 ext. 0 with questions.