Become a Citizen Scientist by Watching the Birds in your Backyard!

Do you enjoy watching the birds in your backyard?  Whether you have feeders or not, you should consider becoming a citizen scientist by joining Project FeederWatch this winter.

What is Project FeederWatch?

Project FeederWatch lets you become the biologist of your own backyard. You identify the birds in your backyard or at your feeders and submit your observations to the Cornell Lab. You can count every week between November—April, or you can count only once all season—the time you spend is up to you! The easy online data entry lets you immediately see all of your counts and view colorful summaries and graphs. Anyone interested in birds can participate; you don’t have to be an expert. All you need is a comfortable chair, a window, and an interest in the birds in your neighborhood.

How do I participate?

Once you sign up you can immediately start collecting data at your feeders. Read the online instructions and use the printable tally sheets to collect your counts. In the meantime, you will be sent a research kit in the mail with your unique ID number; once you have your ID number you can enter your counts online. Kits take a few weeks to arrive, but don’t worry—it will be there soon, and you don’t need it to start collecting data.

What do I get when I register?

The cost to participate is $18 and you will receive:

  • FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions
  • Full-color poster of common feeder birds
  • Bird-Watching Days Calendar
  • The Project FeederWatch annual report, Winter Bird Highlights
  • Digital access to Living Bird magazine

The first day to count birds for the 2017-18 FeederWatch season is Saturday, November 11, 2017 and the season runs through April 13, 2018.  There are already four SIB members who have joined Project Feederwatch for the 2017-2018 winter season.  Let us know if you already are signed up! We hope more members will consider joining! 

If you would like to learn more about Project FeederWatch, SIB is hosting a seminar to explain the program and provide support to our members on Monday, December 4, from 4:00 – 5:00 pm.  The seminar will be held at the Lake House in the Eagle’s Nest room. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions and go to the Project FeederWatch website to Join Now!

Submitted by:  Nancy Brown

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SIB Member Profile: Nancy Brown & Flo Foley

Nancy and Flo taking a break from birding in Botswana, September 2016

It was because of the birds that Flo Foley and Nancy Brown moved to Seabrook Island four years ago after retiring from successful careers at Verizon.

Flo has always loved nature and fondly remembers watching the pheasants in her backyard growing up in Jamaica Plain, MA. Her grandmother, who lived next door, had a pet parakeet that Flo visited daily and she always enjoyed playing with Mikey. Her dad was a real animal lover too and had multiple feeders in the yard. Flo and her dad cherished their times watching the birds together and watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom when Flo was young.

Nancy also loved the outdoors and remembers watching all the birds on the seed and suet feeders, especially during the cold Maine winters where she grew up.

When Flo and Nancy met at work 24 years ago, they were both managers at Verizon, although in different areas of the company. Flo was a Tier II technical support Engineer whose team often assisted Nancy’s team with the more technical parts of the business.  It might have been the fact that Nancy felt Flo could fix any trouble Nancy’s team presented to her that brought them together.  However, it was their love of animals, the outdoors and travel that sealed the deal.

Zoos, aquariums and birds have always been a part of their life.  Their activities have ranged from taking early morning canoe rides on the Sudbury River to watching Great Blue Herons in the quiet misty marsh, to purchasing a timeshare on Captiva Island, FL so they could visit the wading and shorebirds at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge yearly.  They even hired a private birder in Ireland for the day and took a “Hawk Walk” at Ashford Castle’s Ireland School of Falconry, where they handled a Barn Owl and various types of Hawks.  Much of their world travels have included birding.

It was their yearly trips to Ding Darling followed by three trips to Cape May, NJ to observe the spring and fall migrations that resulted in the purchase of high-quality binoculars and a birding scope.  That is also when they began documenting their “Life List.” Flo and Nancy have volumes of bird identification books. However, now with the incredible tools available on smart phones, it is much easier to enjoy their birding hobby.  Using an app called “BirdsEye,” they can locate where specific bird species are being seen, especially those they have never seen before. They use “Merlin ID” to narrow down the identification of a species and their favorite bird guide app is Sibley’s.  Finally, “eBird” allows them to easily document the birds they identify through sight or sound anywhere they go.  Nancy even keeps a list most days she golfs, where the birds are plentiful! (You may notice she can be quite obsessive with her smartphone if you’ve ever been on a bird walk with her!)

Zazu (White-faced Gray Cockatiel) and Kiki (Pearl Cockatiel)

While living in Massachusetts, Flo and Nancy kept a 150 gallon saltwater fish tank which included soft corals, starfish, crabs and shrimp. After moving to New Jersey in 2006, they owned two Cockatiels: a White-faced Gray male named Zazu and a Pearl female named Kiki.  Both birds were fond of sitting on their shoulders to watch TV at night.  Zazu could even sing and talk!

Since retiring in 2012, Flo and Nancy have enjoyed all the birds in their backyard at Bohicket Marina along with those in all of the Lowcountry of SC. They have had the good fortune to take birding trips to New Mexico, South Texas and this past year a spring migration in the Midwest, all with a company called Wings.  They have also birded Maine and New Brunswick Canada with a well-known Maine guide.  A highlight of their life was their trip a year ago to Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.  In total, they have seen 487 of the more than 950 species in the ABA area (North America north of Mexico) but only 650 of the world’s 9-10,000 birds. They plan to add to that list in a week as they’ve hired a guide to bird Barcelona.  In 2018, they will be traveling and birding the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia.

Besides birding and travel, Flo and Nancy golf a couple times a week and became “Master Naturalists” through a program with the Charleston County Parks and Recreation in the spring of 2016.  Flo enjoys playing the piano, building ships and her quiet time drawing and painting.  Nancy is a SINHG trip leader, has enjoyed the communication role she has played for a few organizations on Seabrook and takes time for yoga.  Both Flo and Nancy volunteered to help start the Seabrook Island Birders when it formed during late 2015.  It has allowed them share their passion for birding and meet even more people on our beautiful island!

Kiawah Conservancy presents “Taking Wings”

Shorebirds are a beautiful part of our little part of paradise. Neighboring Kiawah Island recently focused an afternoon sharing more information about these diminishing creatures.

Six members of Seabrook Island Birders attended the Shorebird Symposium as presented by neighboring Kiawah Conservancy. The afternoon began with author Mary Alice Monroe giving a reading from her latest best seller Beach House for Rent. The program continued with a presentation by Kiawah Biologist Aaron Given about features used in identification of shorebirds.  Wildlife Biologist and Conservationist Larry Niles talked about Red Knots and their dependence upon Horseshoe Crabs and activities in the Delaware Bay area. After a brief intermission, a panel discussion featuring Melissa Chaplin of US Field and Wildlife, Aaron Given of Kiawah Island, Felicia Sanders and Janet Thibault of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Larry Niles discussed some of the challenges faced by our local shorebirds.

The symposium ended with the debut of Kiawah Conservancy’s latest video, Taking Wings, which features many of the shorebirds of our neighboring island and therefore ours as well.

In addition to watching that video, you can learn even more about shorebirds by reading the the recently published edition of Naturally Kiawah, which features shorebirds and includes pictures from Seabrook Island Birders member Ed Konrad.

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr

2017 Bluebird Trail Monitoring Results

Following is the 2017 Data from the Bluebird Trail Monitoring efforts.

Bluebirds:

  •   Nest Attempts: 89 (vs 99 in 2016)
  •   Eggs: 318 (vs 386 in 2016)
  •   Hatched: 183 (vs 360 in 2016)
  •   Fledged: 175 (vs 359 in 2016)

Carolina Chickadees:

  •   Nest Attempts: 26 (vs 28 in 2016)
  •   Eggs: 98 (vs 126 in 2016)
  •   Hatched: 82 (vs 106 in 2016)
  •   Fledged: 82 (vs 106 in 2016)

This year, predators (snakes and raccoons) destroyed 34 nests (nest building, eggs, young or parents) which although we had good numbers of nest attempts compared to prior years, would account for most of the drop in the number of eggs, hatched and fledged from 2014 thru 2016. There is no inexpensive solution to keeping predators out of our 73 monitored boxes, but it is being researched further.

There were 6 boxes with no activity this year (compared to 3 in 2016 and 7 in 2015). All boxes with no activity this year had activity last year.

Thank you to the 49 volunteers on the roster and especially to the 21 volunteers for their monitoring efforts and continued support of the Seabrook Island Bluebird Society. We look forward to a successful 2018 Season.

If you would like to learn more about the Seabrook Island Bluebird Society, please check out the information on our website.

Dean Morr
Seabrook Island Bluebird Society
SeabrookBluebirds@gmail.com

The Travels of Red Knot “9CV”

What we now know about Red knot 9CV:

Felicia Sanders from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC-DNR) recently received updated information about Red Knot 9CV. This bird was recaptured Seabrook Island on April 29, 2017.

9CV Day Banded on Cape Romaine

Felicia is the Shorebird Lead for SC-DNR. On June 28, 2017, she presented to Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) a program of photos and narratives of the fabulous shorebirds that spend time on our beaches. That  program included a discussion on Red Knots. Red Knots, a Federally Threatened shorebird species, use our beach during spring migration as a stopping point on their 18,000 mile roundtrip journey from their winter home on the southern tip of South American to the Arctic Circle where they nest. She mentioned, this spring, the largest known flock with 4,000 Red Knots enjoyed our beautiful and bountiful beaches to rest and feed before their 3-day direct 1,400 mile flight to James Bay in Canada. This is pretty amazing considering there are only an estimated 25,000 Red Knots remaining on the planet! Felicia emphasized the significance of our Seabrook flock, and the partnership with Seabrook Island Birders as we assisted SC DNR in April in tagging Red Knots and placing transmitters for important tracking on their journey.  Red Knot 9CV was one of those birds on Seabrook Island.

9CV Travel Map 2015-2016

Here is a map of that Red Knot’s migration. SC-DNR captured it in Cape Romain NWR at Marsh Island on Oct 16, 2015. A picture, as seen below, was taken at that time and a geolocator was placed on the bird as well as the banding tag.  9CV spent the winter at Cape Romain NWR and then left SC on May 24, 2016 and flew directly to James Bay shore (at the N 50 on the map), arriving the next day! It then continued on to above the Arctic Circle where it stayed for 44 days but did not seem to nest.  On July 16, 2016 it returned to James Bay and was spotted by Canadian researchers! Then, on July 30, it arrived in New Jersey and stayed 55 days. On September 24, 2016 it returned to South Carolina until it was captured on Seabrook, SC on April 29, 2017.  At that time, the geolocator was removed so the data could be analyzed and the bird was released. Ed Konrad was able to take pictures of the bird as it was being released. Felicia wanted to thank Ron Porter who interpreted the geolocator data.  She also wanted to thank the many others, who worked on this project!!

The above photos were taken by Ed Konrad as the bird was being released on April 29th, 2017.

Although this bird spent the winters of 2015 and 2016 in South Carolina, similar information from other Red Knots confirms some birds travel from the tip of South America to the Arctic Circle each year. Their time on Seabrook Island is a time to rest and renourish. As Felicia reminded us in June, human disturbance is one of the top threats to nesting, migrating, and wintering shorebirds. Please remember:

Let Birds Feed & Rest: Resting and feeding are key to the survival of migratory and wintering birds on our beaches. Give them plenty of space. If birds run or fly, you are too close!

Respect Posted Areas: Keep out of posted areas. Disturbances to nesting birds can cause nests or entire colonies to fail. Never walk into the dune areas – Wilson’s Plovers are nesting on Seabrook Island in these areas!

Be a Bird Friendly Dog Owner: Keep your dog on a leash when you see flocks of birds on the beach. Never allow your dog(s) or children to chase birds as it is extremely stressful to birds. And please abide by the “no dogs allowed” past the sign on North Beach. The Piping Plover winter migration is ongoing now.

Please take time to learn and help educate your family, friends, and visitors to Seabrook Island on the importance of protecting and sharing our beach with our wildlife!

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photos submitted by: Ed Konrad

Shorebirds of Kiawah Island: The Symposium

Thursday, October 12, 2017
4:00pm at The Sandcastle 

Members of SIB are invited to register for the Take flight with us at the Kiawah Conservancy’s annual symposium. Learn about some of Kiawah’s most cherished visitors from a variety of expert speakers and see our newest film… Taking Wing!  Speakers include: 

  • Mary Alice Monroe
  • Larry Niles
  • Aaron Given
  • Janet Thibault
  • Melissa Chaplin
  • Felicia Sanders

Thank you to the symposium and documentary sponsors: Town of Kiawah Island and AV Connections. 

REGISTER NOW 

Introducing: Ask SIB

SIB would like to introduce a new feature called “Ask SIB.” Please email us your bird related questions along with any photos. One of our experts, including our resident ornithologist Carl Helms, will research the question and provide an answer. We will also publish on our blog to educate all our members!  Below is our first “Ask SIB.”

Dear SIB,

We have had this bird at our feeder and wondering if it is a mutant or some other kind of chickadee. The white on his tail and breast and back is really white, it is not just blown out. He is a very fast flyer and gets chased by the other birds but comes to the feeder a lot. I don’t think we have seen him the last day or two but was there pre storm and during the storm. Not great pictures but I wanted you to see the white. What do you think? 

Patricia Schaefer

Hi Patricia

Thanks for your question and photos.  I suspect this is a leucistic Carolina Chickadee.  They can be nearly all white to patches of white.  It is the same type of situation as our piebald deer, but different from Albinism.  Below is a more detailed description of bird color variation from the Project Feederwatch website.

Thanks for sending your question!

Nancy

ALBINISM AND LEUCISM

Albinistic Rock Pigeon by Maria Corcacas, Middletown, New York

Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin (but not other pigments). Some colors come from pigments other than melanin, such as carotenoids. Albinism only applies to an absence of melanin; consequently, it is possible for a bird to be albinistic and still have color, although most consider true albinism to be an absence of all pigment.

Leucistic Dark-eyed Junco, by Gary Mueller, Rolla, Missouri

Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin and other pigments from being deposited normally on feathers, resulting in pale or muted colors on the entire bird.

Albinistic birds have pink eyes because without melanin in the body, the only color in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes. It is possible for a bird to be completely white and still have melanin in the body, as when a white bird has dark eyes. In this case the bird would be considered leucistic because the mutation only applies to depositing melanin in the feathers, not the absence of melanin in the body.

Pied Northern Cardinal by Anne Page, Broad Run, Virginia
A third type of mutation that results in pied birds–birds that have white patches–is called partial albinism by some and leucism by others. The white patches are caused by an absence of pigment in some feathers.

Carolina Chickadee with white tail feathers, probably from a close call with a predator. Feathers likely will be replaced with feathers of a normal color during next regular molt. Photo by Vincent Smith, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
To further confuse things, occasionally a bird will lose feathers in a close call with a predator. When this happens the new feathers sometimes grow in white and then change back to the normal color at the next regular molt. This kind of white coloring looks like leucism but is not and most frequently happens in the tail, causing a bird that lost its tail feathers to a predator to have an all white tail.

Source:  Project Feederwatch – Color Variants (https://feederwatch.org/learn/unusual-birds/)