Respect Seabrook Island’s Shorebirds & Habitat

In an extraordinary example of what can be accomplished in a positive collaborative effort by private and governmental interests, a new Seabrook Island beach brochure has been prepared and printed and will be shared with participants at SIB’s evening program on Wednesday March 28.  (Even if you haven’t been able to RSVP, there is still space, so please join us tonight!) Initiated and facilitated by Seabrook island Birders’ (SIB) Ed Konrad, this colorful educational pamphlet provides guidelines and reasons for preservation of shorebird habitat.  Contributions to the wording and layout were made by SIB Executive Committee members, as well as representatives of the SIPOA Environmental Committee, US Fish and Wildlife (USF&WL), SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Town of Seabrook Island Council.  These groups have all endorsed the brochure.  The cost has been supported by the Town, which has management responsibly for the beach area, and SIB.  Distribution will primarily be through the Town Hall, SI Club’s Amenity Office, Lake House, and those groups who offer property rental services.

As a support in launching this informational effort, SIB’s next members’ evening program (complete with refreshments and a raffle) will be on March 28th at 7:00 PM in The Lake House.  The event will feature Melissa Chaplin (USF&WL) and Janet Thibault (SC DNR), each of whom plus Felicia (?) (SC DNR) were involved in the brochure preparation, in an interactive discussion of our shorebird population and its habitat.  These individuals are regularly seen on the beach monitoring those birds— particularly the Piping Plover and Red Knot.  They also are responsible for placing and maintaining the seasonal signage which defines the nesting area of our North Beach.  It is important to recall that one of the key items which will be considered in any future applications for inlet relocation, as was done recently with the cut, will be the success in protecting shorebird habitat.

While the words of the brochure are important, it will ultimately be the positive stewardship actions of the persons who walk the beach as to whether our migratory and resident shorebird populations survive.  The opportunity to see and interact with wildlife and our beautiful beaches are generally acknowledged as primary attractors for visitors to Seabrook.   Visitors become buyers.  It is our responsibility to assure continued wildlife presence.

Submitted by George Haskins

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Red Knots and Piping Plovers on North Beach!

Register for one or both of our great events this week!

Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone – Wednesday, March 28, 7:00 pm

SIB bird walk at North Beach with Aija & Ed –  Thursday, March 29, 8:30 am

SC DNR has reported seeing over 1000 Red Knots on Deveaux Bank, and the numbers are increasing as they migrate north. Ed and I recently spotted 300 Red Knots about 30 minutes after a high tide. They were feeding on the shore where it bends towards the end of North Beach, one of their favorite spots. A flock of knots was also on a sand bar. As the tide fell, they all moved to the sand bar. As we walked back, we spotted a smaller group of knots in a flock of Willets to the right of Boardwalk #1.

A few knots were beginning to turn reddish. Four had bands, two were readable, #512 and #1C1. In looking at our photos of banded Red Knots, we spotted 1C1 last February too! Per the website to report and track banded birds (bandedbirds.org), 1C1 has also been reported at Kiawah Island in 2012, and at Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet in 2015 and 2016.

Red Knots have one of the longest migrations of any bird, 18,000 miles round trip from the tip of South America to the Arctic where they breed. From March to early May, Seabrook Island is an important stopping point for them to feed and rest on their long journey north to breed. Last year we had estimated 5000 Red Knots on North Beach at their peak in late April. Knot population on the East Coast has declined 85% since 1980, and they are “Federally Threatened” under the US Endangered Species Act.

Red Knots, North Beach, April 2016 – Ed Konrad

Throughout the winter, we usually see Piping Plovers when birding on North Beach. They’re usually in small groups of two to five, feeding along the shore. Some are banded, and we report and send photos of these to biologists at the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program, and University of Minnesota Great Lakes Piping Plover Team, for their research.

We’ve had two recent banded Piping Plover sightings on North Beach that we reported. We learned that one was banded by researchers from State University of NY (SUNY) as a one-day old chick in June 2017, at North Brigantine Natural Area in New Jersey. Ed and I have spotted this Piping Plover twice: this February, and in August 2017 as was migrating south from the Atlantic area breeding grounds.

The second banded Piping Plover we’ve spotted three times: This February, and last November and February. Researchers tell us it was banded on Kiawah Island in 2012, and breeds on the coast of New Jersey. These little guys look to be making themselves right at home as they spend winters with us!

Piping Plovers breed at Great Lakes, Atlantic, and Great Plains areas from April to July. In late July they migrate to southern coasts and the Caribbean to winter until the next spring. Seabrook is an important wintering and migratory site, offering a quality foraging and roosting habitat important for adults to survive and return to their breeding sites. Populations and breeding habitats have drastically declined due to threats of development, people, dogs, predators, weather, and environment. Great Lakes area Piping Plovers are “Federally Endangered”, with only 76 breeding pairs recorded in 2017. Atlantic area Piping Plovers are “Federally and SC Threatened”.

So, look for, and please respect, these endangered and threatened birds that are our guests during their important migration and wintering on North Beach!

Remember our SIB March 28 event, “Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone?”, 7pm Registration & Social, program starts at 7:30pm. Live Oak Hall at the Lake House. Our guest speakers will be Melissa Chaplin, Endangered Species Biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, SC Field Office, and Janet Thibault, Wildlife Biologist with the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources. If possible, please RSVP.

Ed and I will lead a SIB bird walk at North Beach to look for the Red Knots, Piping Plovers and other shorebirds on Thursday, March 29. We’ll meet in the Property Owners’ beach parking lot at 8:30am, about an hour after high tide. We’ll be walking to the inlet, and hopefully the knots will begin feeding as the tide falls. RSVP now!

Article by Aija Konrad, Photos by Ed Konrad

REMINDER: Register Now For “Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone?” on March 28th!

REMINDER: To help us plan for the number of chairs, snacks and wine, please let us know you plan to attend by completing this easy registration form.

Event: Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone?
Date: Wednesday March 28, 2018
Time: 7:00 pm Registration & Social; 7:30 pm Program Starts
Location: Live Oak Hall, Lake House, Seabrook Island, SC
Max: 140
Cost: FREE for members; $5 for guests
Join SIB for $10 and the event is Free!

Register Now!

Each year, thousands of shorebirds enjoy the beaches of Seabrook Island to rest and refuel as they migrate through or to spend a season living and even nesting on our dunes. And each year, the number of birds is decreasing. SIB is pleased to present a panel of experts to discuss questions such as:

  • What birds do we find on our beaches and when?
  • Which birds are of particular concern?
  • Why are birds banded?
  • What type of bird surveys are conducted on our beach and why?
  • What are the signs we see on the beach and why are they changed throughout the year?
  • What can Seabrook Island Residents do to help?

Panel members will include:

  • Melissa Chaplin, Endangered Species Biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, SC Field Office
  • Janet Thibault, Wildlife Biologist with the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources

Join SIB at the Lake House for another fun and informative evening. To set the stage for the panel discussion, Aija and Ed Konrad will lead a brief Shorebird Identification Slide Show of the birds found on Seabrook Island. Be sure to bring your questions about shorebirds too! The program will conclude with the drawing of raffle tickets with several great prizes! Be sure to bring cash to buy the raffle tickets: $2/ticket or $5/3 tickets.

Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone?

Red Knots on North Beach at Seabrook Island, SC – Ed Konrad

The Red Knots and other migrating shorebirds have already started to arrive on our beaches!  The article link below explains more than ever why we MUST give space and allow these fragile animals to rest and refuel after their long journey from South America while they prepare to travel to the Arctic Circle to breed.

“Aerial surveys in January 2018 of the rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus) population wintering in Tierra del Fuego, South America, revealed a total of 9,840 birds. This is a 25% decrease on the number recorded in January 2017 (13,127), and marginally the lowest recorded since the surveys began (the previous low was 9,850 birds in 2011). “

Read the entire article here:  https://www.whsrn.org/red-knot-low

We hope you will join us next Wednesday night March 28, 2018, when a panel of experts will discuss birds like the Red Knot and others on our beach, their status and how we can help protect them and their habitat.

Register Now!

Spring Birdwalk at Camp St. Christophers & Farewell to David Gardner

David Gardner (photo credit Ed Konrad)

David Gardner, Director of Environmental Education at St. Christopher and SIB Board member, has accepted a job in Washington state and will be leaving Seabrook effective this Friday March 23, 2018.  David will be leading one last walk with SIB at Camp St. Christopher on Thursday morning and there is still room for a couple more people.  The walk, one to two miles in distance, will be in search of spring migrants while exploring the lakes, lagoons, paths and slough.

  • Thursday March 22, 2018 8:00 – 11:00 am
  • Spring Migration @ St. Christopher Camp & Conference Center with David Gardner
  • Location: Meet at the Bus Parking Lot at St. Christopher
  • Max: 10
  • Cost $5 donation to St. Christopher Educational Outreach Program

If you are interested in attending, register now!

David will truly be missed by all who have interacted with him, but especially those of us who have enjoyed birding with him since the creation of SIB less than three years ago. We will never be able to replace his special combination of enthusiasm, knowledge and his English accent that endeared him to us!  Several of our members wanted to share a few stories about David so you too could learn what a special person he is and how we are sad to see him leave!

From Bob and Eileen Mercer:

David will be taking his talents to the North Cascade Institute (https://ncascades.org/) located in the North Cascades National Park in Washington State and is situated near the crest of the Cascade Mountains, a large lake and many square miles of wilderness. David’s enthusiasm and talents will serve him well. As a bonus, he will learn about a whole new ecology. He will need to get used to the higher altitudes and the exercise associated with a mountainous territory, as opposed to the coastal plain. One of the wonders of the area is that David will be able to get his coastal fix with a drive similar to going to Bear Island and will be able to visit the desert just by going over the ridge.

Unlike St. Christopher, the North Cascade Institute offers programming for children, a year-long graduate level study program, and a significant amount of adult programming. Anyone can sign up for any of the many adventures. Check out their offerings at https://ncascades.org/ and maybe plan a visit to see David (if nothing else, visit the website to see the stunning facility and views he will be forced to endure). Eileen and I spent 4 days there living in their luxurious dorms and enjoying the gourmet food provided by a professional chef and can highly recommend a visit. We wish David lots of wonderful experiences and a whole host of life birds!

From George Haskings:

One has to wonder a bit about the mind workings of a person who would voluntarily give up a seemingly good job (bird watching and working with kids in an outdoor environment) on Seabrook Island in order to take a position in the State of Washington where it likely rains many more days a year than the sun shines.  When I inquired of him on that matter, his
reply was “I’m from England.”

As I contemplated that, I recollected that most of my ancestors came from England and Scotland; that I grew up in New England; and (when seeking employment) I went to Rochester, NY, which has recorded snow every month except August.  You don’t have to shovel rain and we had snow in January.

David is an excellent birder – fabulous hearing and knowledge of bird calls. He has generously offered his talents to Seabrook Island Birders and his leadership on bird walks will be missed.  Best wishes to him and his family.

From Marcia Hider

SIB was lucky that David is so in love with birding. He has led some wonderful birding trips and his enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. He has said he’ll use any excuse to take a group out.  And the proof of that is what he leaves behind. I had to get something in his office once and I could hardly get the door open. There were piles of things everywhere awaiting his return. I just laughed.

But his birding knowledge benefits from the time he puts in.  Once last spring, as we were walking on the St. Christopher boardwalk listening to and seeing numerous Green Herons, I heard a different call – kind of a squeaking sound. I asked David if maybe it was from Green Heron chicks. He smiled and said no, that he thought it was probably a frog being consumed by a snake. I was sure he was kidding until I focused in on the location, only to find a snake consuming a frog! Unbelievable.

He will definitely be missed.

 From Lydia McDonald
One of my first birding adventures was with David at Bear Island . I remember riding with David in his car, and his vehicle hitting the branches and low plants and he didn’t care because he was doing something he loved. I was wowed by his knowledge and expertise. He was persistent in making sure I found the bird and taught me so much about the birds. David has a gift for finding the birds and teaching others about them. It is fun to be around David ; he truly enjoys his job.
From Aija Konrad

A memorable and very fun day I had with David was when we did a route on the Breeding Bird Survey last June. The survey is done nationally as a long term monitoring program of birds at the height of breeding season. I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into, but I accepted his invite to do it. I knew that we would cover 24.5 miles of country roads and stop a half mile apart for a total of 3 min in each spot to listen for and count all birds we could ID.

Our route was in Colleton County, near Walterboro, and we started before sunrise! It was a hoot…practically all of it is birding by ear, since in 3 minutes, you barely have time to get your bins up. I was the scribe and timer,  David the driver and we both counted the birds. It was so much fun and I was amazed at what we could ID just by sound. After approximately 5 hours, I could barely get out of the car (50 stops, in and out…do the math…LOL!) We took our life in our hands at some stops, barely having a shoulder to pull off on, with cars whizzing by. I can’t remember how many species we got, but it sure was a great day and one I will always remember with David and his enthusiasm, sense of humor and most importantly, his infectious competitive spirit, always hoping for 1 more species!!! That’s David!

From Nancy Brown

It is hard to imagine SIB without David Gardner! David enthusiastically embraced leading many bird walks with our members in all corners of Seabrook Island and beyond.  One of the best things we started as a result of David’s suggestion was our Seabrook Island Patch competition! After the 2016-17 Christmas Bird Count, David thought it would be fun to see who could find the most bird species on Seabrook Island in a calendar year. Four of us took on the challenge, but it’s pretty hard to beat someone who lives at St. Christopher, is outdoors most of the day and their job is to be a naturalist! But then, I can’t complain, as David would be the first person to text the three of us to say he’d seen a new species with the specifics of where it was so each of us had a chance to see it as well! I’ve spent several hours trompsing in the wood or beach looking for elusive birds, including an American Woodcock this past winter, which I never did see!  In the end, he beat us all out for the 2017 Seabrook Island Patch win. Now that he is leaving, I told him I would finally have a chance to beat him! Although I sure wish he was sticking around, I want to wish he and his family the best of luck for the next chapter of their lives!

From all of us at SIB, thank you to David Gardner for his expertise and enthusiasm in finding and identifying birds!  You will be missed!

 

SIB Member Profile: Bob & Eileen Mercer

Bob & Eileen Mercer birding at Bear Island NWR

Silver Lake Park is a 465 acre wildlife and recreational property in Bucks County, PA. Bucks County is north of Philadelphia and across the river from New Jersey. The lake within the park was created as a man-made mill pond with the 1687 building of a dam on Otter Creek. Much of what was once open water has filled with silt over the 300 plus years and is now marsh. The Silver Lake Nature Center occupies about half of the Park and includes the State’s “best protected Coastal Plain Forest,” according to County’s publicity. The recently retired (2015) Robert Mercer was, for 40 plus years, the naturalist manager for this Center.

When Bob and his wife, Eileen Mercer, were seeking a winter haven in retirement, they focused on the Charleston area which they had visited on vacations. They first spent time on the Isle of Palms. From that base, they visited other areas and stumbled onto Seabrook Island. In their research of the Island, they were attracted to the focus on its wildlife.  This is their second winter renting a Marsh Walk for three months or so. It is interesting to note that they had joined both Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) and SINHG before they set foot on our Island in early 2017. I first met Bob on a Yawkey Reserve SINHG trip that January and quickly realized he was an accomplished birder even though he was being very low key. Continue reading “SIB Member Profile: Bob & Eileen Mercer”

Register Now For “Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone?” on March 28th!

Event: Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone?
Date: Wednesday March 28, 2018
Time: 7:00 pm Registration & Social; 7:30 pm Program Starts
Location: Live Oak Hall, Lake House, Seabrook Island, SC
Max: 140
Cost: FREE for members; $5 for guests
Join SIB for $10 and the event is Free!

Register Now!

Each year, thousands of shorebirds enjoy the beaches of Seabrook Island to rest and refuel as they migrate through or to spend a season living and even nesting on our dunes. And each year, the number of birds is decreasing. SIB is pleased to present a panel of experts to discuss questions such as:

  • What birds do we find on our beaches and when?
  • Which birds are of particular concern?
  • Why are birds banded?
  • What type of bird surveys are conducted on our beach and why?
  • What are the signs we see on the beach and why are they changed throughout the year?
  • What can Seabrook Island Residents do to help?Panel members will include:
  • Melissa Chaplin, Endangered Species Biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, SC Field Office
  • Felicia Sanders, Lead of South Carolina’s Shorebird and Seabird Projects with the SC Dept. of Natural Resources
  • Janet Thibault, Wildlife Biologist with the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources

Join SIB at the Lake House for another fun and informative evening. To set the stage for the panel discussion, Aija and Ed Konrad will lead a brief Shorebird Identification Slide Show of the birds found on Seabrook Island. Be sure to bring your questions about shorebirds too! The program will conclude with the drawing of raffle tickets with several great prizes! Be sure to bring cash to buy the raffle tickets: $2/ticket or $5/3 tickets.

To help us plan for the number of chairs, snacks and wine, please let us know you plan to attend by completing this easy registration form.