Article by Aija Konrad
Photos by Ed Konrad
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.
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.
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.)