Another Successful Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)

 

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SIB invited children on Seabrook Island to join us to Bird at Palmetto Lake – Judy Morr

Each year the Audubon encourages everyone to be a citizen scientist and document the birds they see in their yards and travels during the Presidents Day weekend (this year Friday February 15 – Monday February 18).  For our third year in a row, SIB organized four walks on Sunday each at different habitats, including the beach, salt marsh, ponds, and woodlands.  A final birding trip using golf carts on Ocean Winds golf course was held on Monday. In total throughout the five trips, we had a record 85 bird species recorded for the GBBC with 28 people participating from age 11 through … well, we didn’t actually ask! Thank you to all our members who came out to bird and contribute to this annual bird count as a citizen scientist! A special thanks to David Green of Camp St. Christopher and part-time resident Bob Mercer who led some of the trips! We hope to see out at one of our upcoming bird walks or evening events. Please enjoy our photos from the events taken by some of our members.

Continue reading “Another Successful Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)”

Birds of a Feather Plus Friends Flock Together

Question:  The American Robins recently have arrived in flocks to my yard.  At the same time, Cedar Waxwings also came in mass.  All summer, I saw only occasional Blue Jays but their color is now interspersed with the Robins and Waxwings.  Why are these birds normally seen individually or not at all and suddenly they are here at the same time?  Submitted by Judy Morr

American Robin – Ed Konrad

It is not uncommon to see different species of birds flocking together in the fall and winter. At this time winter birds work together to find food that is sparse compared to the abundance available during the warmer months. The more eyes, the better for locating food sources. Recently, during one of the Early Morning Bird Walks at Caw Caw we noticed Cedar Waxwings and American Robins together in trees feeding on berries.

Cedar Waxwing – Ed Konrad

These two species are apparently common traveling partners in the fall and winter. Dozens of birds would fly up in mass to the next tree that looked promising for a better feed. There is no competing when there is a bounty of berries. It is interesting that Cedar Waxwings are social birds year round whereas American Robins know the benefits of grouping together during the cooler months, but become territorial in the spring during nesting season. For more information check out Robins and Waxwings in Winter and Summer Comparing Behaviors.  Agricultural fields, which are abundant around John’s Island, are another area that you might see mixed flocks feeding on grain and seeds remaining after the harvest. 

A single bird in a flock is also safer because there are many other birds to look out for predators, such as hawks or owls, as he eats or rests. A hawk cannot easily pick off a single bird crowded with others as they perch on power lines or in trees. I’m sure most people have noticed a hawk being chased away by a swarm of smaller birds. Interestingly you may also see a couple of Blue Jays together with Robins on a lawn during winter months. Blue Jays may raid a Robin’s nest for eggs or hatchlings during nesting season, but are more interested in acorns, seeds, and insects in fall and winter and are excellent alarms for incoming predators. 

Frigid nights will also bring birds together. A tight knit flock roosting in trees at night offers a greater defense from the cold winter weather. BirdNote, a wonderful short daily podcast, recently released 61 Tons of Robins! about how many American Robins were counted in Florida roosting together at night. 

So, it appears that birds engage in activities that are beneficial to their survival. Large numbers of birds and even different species will flock together in fall and winter when they are more vulnerable to the elements in order to locate food, keep warm, and stave off predators.  

Submitted by: Joleen Ardaiolo

Photos by: Ed Konrad

Join us Saturday to Bird “Beyond our Backyard” at Bear Island/Donnelly WMA

REGISTER NOW!

Saturday, February 23, 2019 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool to Bear Island and Donnelly Wildlife Management Area
Max: 10 Cost: Free to members, $5 Guest Fee

If you have never been to Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or to Donnelly WMA, you won’t want to miss this opportunity – it’s well worth the 60-mile one-way trip! Part of the ACE Basin, this area is perfect habitat for birds with ponds, rivers, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, mudflats mixed pine-hardwood forest and farmland. Most of the birding is done by car with stops to get out and take short walks for viewing. Bear Island closes for hunting from November 1 – February 1 each year. We hope the winter waterfowl will still be present including the Tundra Swan. Each person should bring their own lunch, snacks and beverages, as there are no restaurants in the area. Also be sure to bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, binoculars, camera and a scope if you have one.

If you are not yet a 2019 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. Otherwise you may pay a $5 Guest Fee.

Once you are a member, please complete the information below to register no later than Thursday, February 21, 2019. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday, February 22, 2019.

Birding App Recommendations

 

One of the best resources for bird watching has always been the many guides available in book  form. The Sibley Guide to Birds, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, and Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, as well as many others are referred to as field guides because you can carry them with you to identify birds in the field. These guides have pictures, information on habitat, and identifying clues regarding size, color, and sounds. So much valuable information and I read these guides like novels.

These days most people are never without their smart phones. Besides being used to communicate, these devices are mini computers that can also navigate and educate. There are apps available to download to your device for anything you can imagine and birdwatching is no exception. These birding apps have all the information of a field guide, plus some unique features like playing a bird’s call or recording the call to identify. There are apps that can identify a bird by a photo that you have taken with your smartphone or your camera and some apps will even use your birding information to add to their database for their research. 

Finding the apps that work for you may take some trial and error. Many of the people with whom I go birding use eBird by the Cornell Lab to keep their life list of bird species. This is an app from Cornell University that will use your data for research. It is amazing to go to their website to see how your information is used to show migration patterns of these birds. However, for identifying birds I use Audubon Bird Guide by the Audubon Bird Society. I can quickly search for a bird by even a partial name or bird type. This app will show me photos, a map of locations during the year, written description, and audios of the bird’s calls. This app will also search birds by descriptors, even though I do not use that feature on this app. If I want to identify a bird by descriptors I go to my Merlin app, also from The Cornell Lab. This app uses my location, date, size of bird, colors, and activity to make you a list of possibilities. This app can also use a downloaded photo to generate a list of possibilities. I have never had much success with photos that I have taken with my iPhone, but if use a decent camera, it works very well. 

All the apps mentioned above are free to download, but there are really excellent apps that are available for a one time fee that have even more features. With Bird Song Id USA Automatic Recognition & Reference for $4.99 you can apparently record a bird’s song to identify. Sibley’s Birds 2nd Edition at $19.99 is an app that I have been eyeing for a year. I have the paper field guide and love all the information it provides so I can only imagine that the app would be just as good. In fact, the new edition provides a not only the “compare” feature, but also a “similar to” feature to assist in identifying your subject!

My only complaint with using a smart phone as a field guide is that there is generally no WiFi in most areas that you will be birding and the glare on the screen sometimes makes it hard to see the photos. The information available through these apps is still incredible even if you only use them at home. 

Additionally, there are apps for bird lovers that are just fun. Dawn Chorus by Audubon is an app that lets you make a wake up alarm using a bird call chorus that you select.  Daily Bird is a day by day calendar that highlights a new bird each day with a short descriptor. 

Search “birding” in your tablet or smartphone app store and see if you might benefit from some of these apps. And let us know if you have a favorite birding app that others might enjoy!

Submitted by:  Joleen Ardaiolo

Final Reminder: Register for Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count – SIB’s Activities This Weekend

Interested to  join for a bird walk on Sunday or Monday?  See below and sign up for one, some or all!  In fact, if you have children at home or visiting, consider bringing them to our walk at Palmetto Lake on Sunday February 17, at 1:00 pm!  Details and link to register below.

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 7.25.32 amEach year, Audubon hosts The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  The GBBC is a fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org.  The 22nd annual GBBC will be held Friday, February 15, through Monday, February 18, 2019.

Seabrook Island Birders schedules numerous activities in conjunction with the GBBC.

On Sunday, February 17, four separate walks are scheduled.  You can register to participate in one or all four.

  • Sunrise Birding at North Beach – 6:30 AM – 9:30 AM
    It’s early but what can be greater than sunrise and birding on the beach. The group will meet at the Owners Beach Access Parking Lot at Boardwalk 1 then walk the 2 miles to Captain Sam’s Inlet. Those unable to walk the entire distance may turn around at any time. The group will work together to identify those hard to distinguish plovers and sandpipers. Red Knots may even be sighted. The walk is scheduled around the high tide when the birds will be consolidated on a narrower beach.
  • Jenkin’s Point – 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
    We will be exploring the birds seen along Jenkins Point lagoons and streets, including ducks, wading birds and shorebirds. Since this event will be primarily by car, it is appropriate for members with mobility issues.
  • Palmetto Lake – 1:00 – 2:30 PM
    Join us to explore the birds around the Lake House and the walks of Palmetto Lake. This is less than one mile of flat, paved walk around the lake. We welcome our Seabrook Island parents to bring their children to this walk with no charge for parent or child.
  • Maintenance Area / Equestrian Center – 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
    We’ll start at the Garden Parking Lot and explore the retention ponds of the Water Treatment Facility and its borders where Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks and songbirds and sparrows can be seen. From there, we will walk along the horse trail (or drive) to the Equestrian Center to see Starlings and Cowbirds plus numerous other birds that can be expected there.

On Monday, February 18, 9:00 am – 11:00 am, we conclude our GBBC with a “walk” on Ocean Winds Golf courseRegister here.  Join us for a morning of birding by RIDING in golf carts for at least 9-holes on the golf course. We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe Hooded Mergansers, Northern Flickers, Eastern Phoebe’s or some of our winter residents may also be seen.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Learn to Identify Common Birds

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Northern Cardinal – Charles Moore

With the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) coming up this weekend, the National Audubon Society wrote a great article on the common bird species you are likely to see at your feeders and in your backyards. Of the 15 birds they describe, there are nine we are likely to see in your backyard on Seabrook Island with one additional bird’s “cousin” and one found at the horse pasture. The remaining can also be seen in South Carolina, but not generally on Seabrook Island.

Read the article here!

How many can you name? Where do you see them? We hope you will join us on Sunday and/or Monday for our annual GBBC! And we hope you will record your sightings for the GBBC this weekend (and every day!) using eBird.org.

Love Birds in our Midst

It is only natural to conjure up romantic ideas about your bird families. If you have had the good fortune to watch a nest being built and hatchlings being tended by diligent bird parents you want to imagine that your avian family will live and love happily ever after. Where there is no indication that many offspring stay with their parents for long, there are several bird species couples that mate for life. 

Sadly for us romantics, there is no emotional attachment between bird pairs. Their bonds are driven by successfully producing offspring and even the ability to care for and protect their brood. And, if the bird couple does not successfully produce eggs, they will look for other mates. This keeps their species strong. 

Advantages of a long term relationship is that the couple may produce more than one brood in a season or even replace a brood that was attacked by predators or lost in a natural disaster. The attentive partner comes in handy for building the nest and feedings during the incubation period for the mate and the baby birds in the nest. This is most important for the larger birds and birds of prey where the nesting time is longer and there is the need for a large area to acquire food and keep the hatchings protected. A great birding basics article to check out about birds that mate for life is from The Spruce, Do Birds Mate For Life?. 

Northern Cardinal – Dean Morr

There are a number of species that we see often on Seabrook Island that will be celebrating Valentines Day as a couple. Probably the most familiar bird couple to anyone living east of the Mississippi is the Northern Cardinal. Even though you see large flocks in the winter it is common to see a mated pair together at your feeder where occasionally the male will feed the female a seed in a gesture that looks like a kiss. You may have also experienced a Northern Cardinal attacking his reflection on your car mirror or house window. This is that male protecting his female and their territory. 

Blue Jay – Ed Konrad

The male Blue Jay is another common bird in our area that, after being chosen by the female from a pool of a half dozen or more contenders, is loyal for life. The male is integral in the nesting season and the aggressive behavior that some many complain about is merely a loud bird protecting his family. 

Black Vultures

 

The Black Vultures that can be seen on top of the shops at Freshfields not only catch up with their mate for nesting season, but enjoy hanging out together all year round. When the male Black Vulture spots a prospective female, he chases her in flight and periodically dives at her. Annoying to some, but apparently this works for enticing the female Black Vulture. 

Bald Eagle on nest – C Moore

Our most beloved Bald Eagle is a raptor that finds a life mate. This pair also returns to the same territory and nest each year. If they successfully produce young at a nest they will go back year after year adding to that same nest. Some nests can end up weighing one or two tons.  Many on Seabrook Island can attest to that having seen the huge Bald Eagles nest on Bohicket Creek.

These are but a few examples of the species that will be celebrating Valentine’s Day together. According to an article in Bird Watchers Digest  Do Birds Mate for Life? and statistics from The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior 90% of all bird species are socially monogamous. There may be a little more about cheating in the Sibley’s statement, but we won’t go there since it’s Valentine’s Day.  ❤️

Submitted by:  Joleen Ardaiolo
Photo Credits: As noted