SIB Member Profile – Donna & Jim Lawrence

Donna & Jim Lawrence

Jim and Donna Lawrence, natives of New Jersey, made Seabrook Island their home five years ago for two reasons:  the beaches and the wildlife.  They are neither golfers or tennis players.  He had enjoyed sailing and is a licensed Bareboat Captain.  From childhood, each had spent plenty of time on the Jersey beaches.

Donna attended Boston University, but graduated from Stockton University with a degree in Literature/Language. For the greater part, she made a career as a volunteer for various organizations as well as raising one son. A major segment of her volunteer time was with the League of Women Voters where she produced publications, prepared grant requests, and served on County and State Boards of Directors.

Jim, who graduated from Boston College, also received an ROTC commission in the U. S. Army. Given an opportunity to select his preferred assignment station, in exchange for an additional year of active duty, he agreed and chose Germany. (Better than Asia.) This required another decision. As Donna put it: “We had to get married.” As he soldiered, she worked within the schools, including some teaching.

After service time, they returned to New Jersey where Jim had a long career in communications with various of the changing units of AT&T as that organization reacted to government actions and the changing telephone business — and this was before cells.

As a kid, Jim’s family adventures to the Jersey beaches put him in touch with shore birds, but they were not a serious interest.  All shore birds were called sandpipers without any further definition.  As adults, they expanded on his birding experience.  Several vacations were also enjoyed on Seabrook Island starting about 1995.

Following Jim’s retirement, Seabrook was chosen as their new home (goodbye snow) and they moved here in 2012. The residence they selected on Wood Duck Place backs to the estuary which then extends to the egret rookery on Ocean Winds #4. With the water, extensive trees and shrubs, and their multipart bird feeders — seeds, suet, jelly, and hummer nectar — a wide variety of birds are attracted.  From Hooded Merganser to Pileated Woodpecker (see Jim’s great photo) to White-throated Sparrow. Fantastic backyard!

Pileated Woodpecker outside the Lawrence’s home.

He got immersed in Exchange Club, Vets on Deck, and SINGH in their new environment. Her LWV duties continued after their move, but as they wound down the two of them got involved with Turtle Patrol.  In spite of all they were doing, neither could resist the opportunity to be in on the ground floor of a new proposed birding group. Donna, in particular, became part of a nine person committee which created Seabrook Island Birders in November 2015. She took on the duties of Hospitality.  This involved the refreshment table at periodic member’s meetings as well as assuring SIB participation in various Island events such as SIPOA/Club annual meetings, 4th of July parade, Earth Day, etc.  All with Jim as her #1 aide.

By the way, their picture, taken in front of the beautiful 2017 Christmas tree, includes a special ornament.  Approximately on a level between their lips, hangs a Wood Duck.

Submitted by George Haskins 

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2017 SIB Year End Review

The second year for the Seabrook Island Birders was a busy year. The organization grew to 248 members. There were 5 “quarterly” evening events with an average of 87 attendees.

  • February 22 Patrick McMillan: Lives and Biology of Hummingbirds
  • April 26 Rudy Mancke: The Natural History of Barrier Islands
  • June 28 Felicia Sanders: Migratory Shorebirds at Seabrook Island
  • September 27 Sidney Gauthreaux: New Ways to Study Bird Migration
  • November 30 Year End Review / Game Night

During the past year, 85 SIB members participated in one or more of the  39 activities during which 170 unique species were seen .

  • Shorebird Training focusing on Red Knot was our most attended activity
  • 8 Backyard Birding activities at members’ homes
  • 6 activities at Camp St. Christopher supporting their outreach program
  • 81 species seen at Bear Island was biggest day
  • 39 species seen on North Beach on March 29
  • Participated in “global” activities
    • Christmas Bird Count on January 4, 2017
    • Great Backyard Bird Count on February 17-20, 2017
    • Global Big Day on May 13, 2017
    • Red Knot banding with Department of Natural Resources
    • Marsh Sparrow banding with Aaron Given
    • Hawk Watch at Center of Birds of Prey
  • SIB now has its own eBird account to track species seen

During these activities, an estimated 1,800 Red Knots was the most of one species seen in a given day. The top five most frequently seen species were:

#5 – Great Egret (27)
#4 – Tufted Titmouse (33)
#3 – Northern Cardinal (35)
#2 – Carolina Chickadee (36)
#1 – American Crow (44)

Four members “competed” to identify the most species on Seabrook Island in 2017. A total of 201 species were identified with David Gardner leading with 194 unique species.

All of this was communicated to our members via various means:

A thank-you goes out to the 2017 Executive Committee of:

  • Nancy Brown
  • Flo Foley
  • George Haskins
  • Carl Helms
  • Dori Helms
  • Marcia Hider
  • Melanie Jerome
  • Ed Konrad
  • Donna Lawrence
  • Lydia McDonald
  • Charley Moore
  • Dean Morr
  • Judy Morr
  • Charles Russo

Welcome to the new Executive Committee for 2018:

  • Nancy Brown
  • Tom Fox
  • David Gardner
  • George Haskins
  • Carl Helms
  • Dori Helms
  • Melanie Jerome
  • Ed Konrad
  • Charley Moore
  • Dean Morr
  • Judy Morr
  • Janis Skeffington
  • Carl Voelker

A full report of our 2017 activities can be seen by launching this document: Seabrook Island Birders – EOY 2017.  We have some great events planned for 2018! We hope you will continue to support SIB by joining and participating in our events during 2018!

Snowy & Cold “Christmas Bird Count” a Success!

CBC – Nancy, Aija, Judy, SI Water Treatment Facility – Ed Konrad

On Friday, January 5, 2018, Seabrook Island Birders participated in Audubon’s 118th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on the Sea Islands as we counted birds on our frozen, snow-covered island. We sent people to the beach, Camp St. Christopher’s, Palmetto Lake, Jenkins Point, Bohicket Marina, the water treatment and maintenance areas, and backyards!  For a day that started at 21 degrees with ice and snow, more than 20 people participated and saw 112 unique bird species, just missing last years record of 116 species. We hope even more people will join us a year from now for the 2018 Christmas Bird Count on our quest to beat the Seabrook Island record of unique bird species. And possibly beat the record for Kiawah Island too!

Read below about our adventures and enjoy our photos!

The Backyard Birders

A record 11 families took part in the backyard birding for a total of 20 hours, recording 44 unique species, including five not seen elsewhere on the island. These included the Baltimore Oriole, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-and-White Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and a Swamp Sparrow.  Special thanks to our Backyard Birding participants:

  • Jackie Brooks
  • Paul Giardino
  • Lucy Hoover
  • Melanie & Rob Jerome
  • Christina McHenry
  • Charley Moore
  • Dean Morr
  • Patricia Schaefer
  • Carl Voelker
  • Marie Wardell

North Beach
(Aija & Ed Konrad, David Gardner)

CBC Aija and David, North Beach – Ed Konrad

What a crazy experience, birding on our beach in frozen solid sand and snow!!! That was the start of our morning on the North Beach CBC. David Gardner, Ed and I headed out on a beautiful wintry day after our big snowfall for a most unusual CBC that would yield 59 species. 

On the way out to the point, we got all the “salty” sparrows near the old inlet. Seaside, Nelson’s and Saltmarsh were out in good numbers on an almost high tide. A surprise was flushing 5 Clapper Rails from the grasses, some almost underfoot! Looking toward the cove, that is the old inlet, we saw excellent numbers of ducks. A surprise was a group of 8 Northern Shovelers, not commonly seen at Seabrook. Buffleheads won in numbers with Redheads and Lesser Scaup next. But the prize duck was a first time for Seabrook Island, a Long-tailed Duck! This is a great duck for our island.

Shorebirds were plentiful down on the point, with the most exciting find, a group of 5 Piping Plovers huddling in the snow on the beach. There were over 250 Dunlin and a large group of 56 Black-bellied Plovers. Oystercatchers, Marbled Godwits, a lone Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstones were among the highlights. We finished the day with 59 species on North Beach…a CBC in the snow, one to remember!

Camp St. Christopher
(David Gardner, Justin Johnson, Lauryn Gilmer, Nathaniel Hernandez)

A team of four staff on Camp St. Christopher observed 42 species over a period of four and half hours and through four miles of beach, woods and ponds.  Highlights included:   230 Red-winged Blackbirds, 405 American Robins, once again, all three marsh sparrows (Saltmarsh, Seaside and Nelson’s), 42 Scaup seen from the beach and a Barred owl that flew past the window while Justin Johnson ate his breakfast.

The Rest of Seabrook Island
(Judy Morr, Aija Konrad, George Haskins,
Nancy Brown)

CBC Mtce Area – Painted Bunting – Nancy Brown
CBC – Mtce Area – Red-shouldered Hawk – Ed Konrad

The sun was shining nicely off of the snow but it was a brisk 20 degrees when we began our search in the SIPOA / Club Maintenance Area and the Water Treatment Facility.  33 species were seen in this area including four Ruddy Duck, 13 Bufflehead and one Ring-necked Duck.  The surprise of this stop was seeing two olive green birds with a yellow chest.  Who would think on a snowy January morning we would see Painted Bunting?  The day also ended with a brief return to this area where 13 species were observed including the expected Hooded Merganser which had joined the other ducks. This time, the surprise was an American Woodcock in the tree line between the SIPOA / Club Maintenance Area and the Community Garden.  Both visits included Brown Thrasher and Eastern Towhee scratching under a bush looking for bugs among the leaves and snow.

CBC Palmetto Lake – Western Kingbird – Nancy Brown

It had warmed to the mid-30s as we got to Palmetto Lake where 30 species were seen.  Although a sighting of Killdeer is not unusual, it was unusual that we observed numerous Killdeer at each stop throughout the day.  Also at Palmetto Lake we saw the expected various Heron and Egrets.  The prize “find” at this stop was seeing the Western Kingbird that was first observed on Tuesday and continued at various locations around the lake through Friday.  During CBC, it was walking the path near the tennis courts side of the lake.  We returned to Palmetto Lake later in the day and spent more time near the playground and on the nature trail.  There the 24 species seen included seeing a Golden-Crowned Kinglet and a Blue-headed Vireo.

A drive down the various streets off of Jenkins Point resulted in 22 species being seen with three Tricolor Heron being the first of this species seen for the day.  Since the golf courses were closed, the survey of that usually prolific site was done looking at the cart path and ponds near the Sealoft Villas.  This brief stop resulted in nine species including a Belted Kingfisher, a good view of two Wood Storks and as we were leaving, a Coopers Hawk cooperated and landed on a nearby chimney.  While making the drive back to Palmetto Lake, the trip was delayed while waiting for 17 Wild Turkeys to complete their crossing of Seabrook Island Road near Fox Lair.  Surprisingly, this was the only siting of Turkeys during the our various birding sites.

Once again, thank you to all the participants of this years Christmas Bird Count!  Even with the delay of a day due to snow and ice, the team did a fabulous job in searching out some great birds!

Article submitted by:  Aija Konrad, Judy Morr, Nancy Brown
Photographs by:  Ed Konrad, Charley Moore, Dean Morr, Nancy Brown

Cooper’s Hawk

The designation Birds of Prey covers a wide range (from eagles to falcons) of our feathered population, as will be evident during the upcoming Seabrook Island Birders’ evening event on January 31st (Click here to learn more or register).  Within that range, are three species identified as Accipiters. Accipiters are defined as short-winged hunters, with relatively long legs and tails, which are extremely adept at high speed attacks on small birds and mammals — often from concealed perches.  Ambush is their forte.

One of these three, the Cooper’s Hawk, is common on Seabrook Island.  The bird has a length of 16.5 inches and a wing span of 31 inches.  This is smaller than its cousin the Northern Goshawk (21 and 41 inches, respectively), but larger than the similarly marked other cousin — the Sharp-shinned Hawk (11 and 23).  For comparison purposes, the ever present Red-tailed Hawk is 19 inches long and with a 49 inch wing span. Below is the comparison of the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned.

When Roger Tory Peterson published the first handy-sized Field Guide for birders in 1934, the Cooper’s was called a Chicken Hawk and the Sharp-shinned a Sparrow Hawk.  Changing names on bird species has always been a challenge for the bird watching community.

All juvenile accipiters have banded tails, brownish backs, and a tendency to streaked breasts.  The adult male Cooper’s Hawk has a bluish-gray back and cap, plus a speckled orange breast.   His flap-flap-glide flight pattern provides rather stiff wing beats.  In contrast, the Sharpie’s wing beats are quick and snappy.  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Separating Sharp-shinned Hawks from Cooper’s Hawks is one of the classic birding challenges.”   

Favorite hunting sites for Cooper’s are the many bird feeders which birders display — and he is not interested in the seed therein.  My usual observation finds them sitting, very erectly, on roof tops from which there is a great view of potential prey below.  Last Spring there was a juvenile which seemed to make his home around the Island House.

A few years ago, there was a nesting pair of Cooper’s Hawks within The Village residential area of the Island.  The male was known to make high speed passes over the resident’s heads as they walked around their community.  Was he concerned for the safety of his new family or practicing flight techniques?

Several of our members have recently provided photographs of Cooper’s Hawks.

Submitted by George Haskins
Photographs by Ed Konrad, Marie Wardell & Carl Voelker

A Snowy Day…

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Ed Konrad

On Thursday, January 4,  a day after Snowmageddon 2018, Ed and I went out for a walk around Palmetto Lake and nearby areas. It was a beautiful sunny morning and we found some interesting bird activity. We were surprised to find many birds feeding on the snowy ground. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher hopped along the snow and fluttered close to the ground, obviously finding some goodies. Nearby a Ruby-crowned Kinglet did the same and a bit down the path, an Eastern Phoebe. In the palmettos, Eastern Bluebirds were beautiful against the icy branches. And in a nearby Wax Myrtle, Yellow-rumps chipped away, perching on an icy limb.

Continue reading “A Snowy Day…”

Local Residents! Count your Backyard Birds on Thursday January 4th

It’s a cold week on Seabrook Island, and what better way to spend Thursday January 4th than by staying inside with a warm beverage and watching your bird feeders to track birds for the annual Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This area encompasses Johns, Wadmalaw, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands.

If you plan to be on the island on Thursday, let us know you want to participate by filling out the form below. We will email you a form that you will use on the day of the count and answer any other questions you may have about the event.

The process  for the day is easy, just follow these steps:

  1. Identify and count all individuals of all species that visit your feeder/yard on the day of the count.  Record only the highest number seen for each species at any one time for any one count period.  For example, if from 7:00 – 7:30 am a single Northern Cardinal visits your feeder, then later two visit, and even later three show up at your feeder, your count for Northern Cardinals will be three – the highest number to visit at one time for that count period.  Repeat this process for each count period.
  2. Record the time spent bird watching under each count period.  It is not necessary to be at your feeders for the entire day, or even continuously.  Record just the time spent watching.  In the example about it would be 30 minutes.
  3. Record the highest number of individuals for each species from all count periods and the total number of minutes spent observing.
  4. At the end of the day, forward (scan or take a photo) your form to SIB at:  SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com.  We will collect all the responses and forward to Aaron Givens, CBC Coordinator for Sea Islands.

We hope you will participate in this great event!

Don’t Miss the Center of Birds of Prey on January 31st!

Join us for an exciting and informative evening with the Center of Birds of Prey!

Date: Wednesday January 31, 2018
Registration & Social: 7:00 pm
Program Starts:  7:30 pm
Location:  Live Oak Hall at the Lake House on Seabrook Island
Fee:  Members $5 and Guests $10

SIB will provide beverages including wine and coffee.  We ask everyone to RSVP no later than January 28, 2018 so we will know how much wine to purchase and how many chairs to set up.

For only $10, you may join or renew your 2018 SIB membership the night of the event.

Don’t miss this chance to have another fun filled evening with our flock of Seabrook Island Birders!

Please mark these 2018 SIB Evening Programs on your calendar !

We don’t want you to miss out on any of the fun in 2018, so be sure to put these dates on your calendar! All events will be held in the Live Oak Hall at the Lake House with registration starting at 7:00 pm *.

  • Wednesday January 31 – Center for Birds of Prey
  • Wednesday March 28 – TBA
  • Wednesday May 30 – TBA
  • Wednesday September 26 – TBA
  • Friday November 9 – Annual Dinner & Bird Bingo (* starting at 5:30pm)