A Week in the Life of a Novice Birder

If anyone sees me riding my bike, walking my dogs, or walking on the beach they will notice that I am generally looking up to the skies, over the marsh, or out towards sandbars. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before I suffer some type of bird watching injury because I am never paying attention to where I am walking, only to the flashes of colors or sounds of bird calls. I have always been interested in birds, but my new home in the low country offers so many new species to watch.

I sign up for almost every activity that the Seabrook Island Birders offer. Being newly retired, I have been one of their most loyal groupies since the spring. And, now that I have a couple of the members’ phone numbers, I will readily text them to see if they think I might have heard a Clapper Rail at the crab dock or seen a Great Horned Owl at the beach. Hopefully, this is not too annoying for them. 

This week started on Sunday at 8 a.m.  A “Backyard Birding” event at the Hurd’s garden on Loblolly. It was the first cool morning for a while and, even though there were not many species seen, it was still an enjoyable fall morning talking to neighbors about what they had spotted in their yards.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

The highlight for me was seeing what I had thought was a woodpecker and finding out that it was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Now I have been spotting a pair in my yard all week. The rest of Sunday I spent agonizing over what type of bird feeders I should order from Amazon to start attracting more birds to my own yard. 

On Wednesday, I was out for a run. As I am heading down Marsh Haven Road towards SI Road, I look across the marsh towards the fire station. I think I see four ducks bobbing in the water, but cannot see them well enough to identify them. I am running and texting Judy Morr to let her know, just in case she may be interested, since ducks are just beginning to make their way back to the island for the winter. She gets to the marsh to check it out before I could even get back to my house, but missed seeing the ducks. No worries, I hop on my bike and meet her at the SI maintenance pond for an impromptu two and a half hour walk that netted Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills , White Ibis, Killdeer, a Red-tailed Hawk, and a Belted Kingfisher. This area is a hidden birding goldmine!

Bald Eagle @ Bear Island
Chris Correale

Finally, on Saturday, a group of six women met at 6 a.m. and set off to Bear Island for sunrise and a day of birding there and at Donnelly Wildlife Management Area not far from Edisto in the ACE Basin. I was expecting to see several species of ducks, but was totally unprepared for what we did see. So many and many types of ducks, and incredibly so many shore birds, Bald Eagles, Roseate Spoonbills, woodpeckers, warblers, and on and on. We saw hundreds and hundreds of birds at Bear Island and Donnelly WMA, with a total of 73 species for the day. I was asked if I saw any new bird species to add to my life list. Yes! Too many to count, but from the top of my head, the White Pelicans and American Avocet. I’ll be studying the E-Bird list that was compiled during our trip. And, I do realize this is a nerdy way to spend an evening. Being it was almost a nine hour round trip day, I was exhausted, but so euphoric from the experience. 

If you are a newcomer to Seabrook or even a long time resident looking for an enjoyable pastime, you might consider the Seabrook Island Birders. The group is always so welcoming and eager to educate new members and even Island visitors who want to participate in just one event. SIB offers so many types of activities, from lectures to short walks around Palmetto Lake to a slow sixteen mile bike ride on the West Ashley Greenway. If you decide to check out this group, I guarantee you, too, will start noticing your surroundings and experiencing the same thrill I do when I see that Pileated Woodpecker working the pine tree in my yard. 

Article submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo
Photo credits to Ed Konrad & Chris Correale

Author: sibirders

SEABROOK ISLAND BIRDERS / “watching, learning, protecting” Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) are residents, renters and guests of Seabrook Island, SC who have an interest in learning, protecting and providing for the well-being of the incredible variety of birds that inhabit Seabrook Island throughout the year.

One thought on “A Week in the Life of a Novice Birder”

  1. Joleen, what a wonderful article. This is the frosting on the cake for the several of us who put together Seabrook Island Birders three years ago. Thanks to Judy for the extra effort to assist. Many SI residents have been awakened to wildlife beyond dolphins, deer, and raccoons. I’ve birded since my Grandma gave me field guide (a relatively new bird book option at the time) when I was five. A regret is that I did not do the same for my grands. As the old ad said, getting people interested in birding “is a gift that keeps on giving.”


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