On March 28, 90 SIB members and friends attended an informative evening program on “Where Have All the Shorebirds Gone?” The program focused on Seabrook Island’s protected shorebirds, threats they face, and what we can all do to help protect them.
After social time and refreshments, Aija and Ed Konrad lead a shorebird identification slide show with photos of shorebirds found on Seabrook Island (Ed Aija Shorebird ID SIB Mar 28). Our guest speakers were Melissa Chaplin, Endangered Species Biologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, SC Field Office, and Janet Thibault, Wildlife Biologist, SC Dept. of Natural Resources. Melissa and Janet are very familiar with Seabrook Island’s critical habitat, and the diversity of shorebirds that depend on our beach to rest and refuel during wintering and migration, or nest in our dunes, or are year-round residents.
Melissa’s discussion was on Piping Plovers: where they breed in Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Great Plains areas, bands and what they mean, Seabrook Island’s wintering population identified by individual Piping Plover bands or features in recent SCDNR and USFWL surveys, the importance of our winter habitat, and what we can all do to help this federally endangered/threatened shorebird survive.
Janet focused on the federally threatened Red Knots: their 18,000 mile round trip journey from South America to the Arctic to breed, the importance of geolocators/nanotags which provide data for research on what’s needed for survival, and data from these devices placed/retrieved on Seabrook Island showing actual movement and the importance of North Beach as a stopover point for Red Knots to rest and feed. Janet highlighted other shorebirds that may nest on North Beach: American Oystercatcher, Wilson’s Plover, Least Tern, and Willet. (Don’t forget to sign up if you are interested to assist in the banding of Red Knots next week)
The discussion was very interactive and included many good questions which helped us all to better understand these shorebirds and their threats, the importance of our habitat, and what we can all do to assist in protecting them on North Beach.
SIB’s new brochure, “Respect Seabrook Island Shorebirds and Habitat”, was distributed. This brochure was developed by Ed Konrad, along with SC DNR and USFWS, and supported by the Town of Seabrook and SIPOA. The brochure describes what we all can do to help protect our shorebirds, the Seabrook Island beach dog rules, and some interesting information on our two key protected birds, the Red Knot and Piping Plover.
You can download the brochure by clicking on the link above or going to our website seabrookislandbirders.org and clicking on the menu: About/Shorebird Brochure. Or pick up a hard copy at the Lake House, the Amenity office, the SIPOA office lobby, the Town of Seabrook Island office lobby or Indigo Books.
The day after the program, eight Seabrook Island Birders joined Aija Konrad for a North Beach bird walk. It was a Piping Plover bonanza with 24 spotted, when normally we see only 3 to 5! Piping Plovers are still wintering here, but in larger numbers as they move through SC from southern beaches to prepare for flight north to breed. A large flock of Red Knots was spotted flying over Kiawah Island, and later 75 Red Knots were seen on our sandbars. Red Knots are growing in numbers to feed & rest on North Beach for their long migration north to breed in the Arctic. By the end of April, there could be 5000 knots here!
Large numbers of Black Skimmer, Forster’s and Royal Tern, and Dunlin were seen on the walk. Our good friends, the banded U5 American Oystercatcher and its mate, were on the lagoon side of North Beach. Will they be nesting soon? Wilson’s, Black-bellied, and Semipalmated Plover were spotted, along with Ruddy Turnstone and Marbled Godwit. Bufflehead, Hooded and Red-breasted Merganser, and a lone Lesser Scaup are still with us on the lagoon. A good time was had by all!
Article and photos by Ed Konrad