Easter Parade on North Beach

North Beach Spring Plumage

The last few days, Ed and I have been birding North Beach. We were delighted to see that many of our wintering or migrating shorebirds were changing into their Easter finery! I grew up in a house of modest means, but one thing I could be sure of every Easter was a new dress for church. Made me start to hum the old song that many of you may remember, Easter Parade. I remembered most of the words, but was struck by the line “the photographers will snap us, and you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.” Huh??? What the heck is a rotogravure?  

So I went to my old friend Google and found that it is the color magazine section of a newspaper…remember back in the day when we actually read print news? So here were some of the birds on our beach today, changing into their breeding colors! They could  be featured in the rotogravure, with Ed the photographer, snapping them. 

Black-bellied Plover, North Beach

Black-bellied Plovers…turning from their drab gray winter plumage. Many of them mottled, heading toward a full black belly. 

Dunlin…turning from their drab, gray winter duds, many with darkening bellies, soon to become full black bellies and more rusty backs. 

Red Knot, North Beach

Red Knots… well on their way from drab gray to a beautiful rust color. 

Ruddy Turnstones…putting on their little black vests with rusty backs, from their drab brown winter sweaters. 

Piping Plovers…many in breeding colors with their full black breast bands and forehead spots, with two-tone bills. The Piping Plovers we saw today on North Beach are very likely the last of our wintering guests. They’re headed north to breed, and will be back in late July.

Easter Parade, indeed! 

Article by Aija Konrad, Photos by Ed Konrad

Advertisements

WANTED: Banded Painted Bunting Sightings

Screen Shot 2019-04-19 at 12.37.35 PM

During the summer of 2017 and 2018, adult male Painted Buntings were
fitted with geolocators (a light-level tracking device) on Kiawah Island.
The birds were banded with an aluminum band on the right leg and either
a yellow or pink on the left leg. To retrieve the valuable data stored on the
geolocator, we need to recapture these birds and take off the device. If
you happen to see a Painted Bunting with a yellow or pink color band
coming to your bird feeder, please contact Aaron Given at
agiven@kiawahisland.org or call (843) 768-9166.

A Very Personal Seabrook Island Piping Plover “Life Story”

At the March 13, 2019 SC DNR Shorebird/Seabird workshop, Melissa Chapman from U.S. Fish & Wildlife discussed sharing a bird’s “life story” as a better way of connecting people to birds. Make it personal vs. just the data. Here’s a good example of a very personal Seabrook Island Piping Plover “life story.”

Some background: When Aija and I spot banded Piping Plovers (PIPL) on North Beach, I take photos and we send to our biologist friends we’ve gotten to know: Alice Van Zoeren (Great Lakes Region), Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, University of Minnesota; Meryl Friedrich (Atlantic U.S. Region), Virginia Tech Shorebird Program; and Dr. Cherri Gratto-Trevor (Atlantic Canada Region), Prairie and Northern Wildlife Research Centre, Saskatoon Canada.

Alice, Meryl, and Cherri like to get immediate feedback and photos on where their PIPLs are during wintering, and they reply back to us with interesting information on the PIPL’s travels. Aija and I have developed email relationships with these researchers through the years. We even met Alice two years ago when we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in MI, where the Great Lakes Region PIPLs breed. A fascinating visit!

So, here’s the story… We spotted and reported to Alice this Great Lakes Area banded PIPL in November 2018 and again March 2019. Orange flag means Great Lakes.

UL Silver LL Green - UR Orange Flag LR Green Red - Seabrook Island Mar 27 2019 -0459
UL Silver LL Green – UR Orange Flag LR Green Red – Seabrook Island Mar 27 2019 – Ed Konrad

UL Silver LL Green - UR Orange Flag LR GreenRed - Seabrook Island Nov 9 2018 -2993
UL Silver LL Green – UR Orange Flag LR GreenRed – Seabrook Island Nov 9 2018 – Ed Konrad

Alice wrote back this week “This plover spent the winter on Seabrook. You met her before during November 2018. We don’t know when or where she hatched since she wasn’t banded as a chick, but she bred in 2018 at Grand Marais, MI and was banded at that time. She spent August 2018 at Cumberland Island, GA and then settled for the rest of the winter at Seabrook. She’ll soon be headed to the upper peninsula. We’re expecting our first plover at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore any day now!”

So here’s the point. Great Lakes Region Piping Plovers are Federally Endangered. The Great Lakes were once home to nearly 800 pairs of Piping Plovers. Today, about 75 nesting pairs remain in the Great Lakes population. Just 75 nesting pairs. This tiny banded Piping Plover bred and then flew 1000 miles south to Georgia in August. She hung around Georgia awhile until heading 150 miles north to Seabrook Island. Good choice little PIPL! Upon arriving last November, maybe she thought “this looks like a cool place to be, lots of space for foraging, big wide beach, protected critical habitat, the people seem friendly, they care about the birds and SC DNY and USF&WL are involved, they try hard to follow the dog rules. I think I’ll stay for the winter!”

So now, with our help, this little gal is about to head north to breed again. And hopefully she’ll be successful, as she’s so important as one of only 75 Great Lakes female PIPLs needed to keep this endangered population going.Pretty cool. Well done Seabrook Island for helping her rest and get strong for her long trip back north to bred! If she comes back to winter with us later this this year, maybe we should give her a name. Any ideas?

Here’s the Great Lakes Piping Plover website about the great work Alice does: https://www.greatlakespipingplover.org/

Article and photos submitted by Ed Konrad

Sign up to Learn Together at North Beach

Sign up Today!

On Wednesday, April 24, Aija and Ed Konrad will lead a SIB Learning Together bird walk at North Beach. We’ll be looking for the Red Knots that are our guests in April, stopping at Seabrook Island to rest and refuel on their long migration from South America to the Arctic to breed. Flocks of 1000 knots have been seen to date, growing to 5000 or more as in past years. Wilson’s Plovers are being seen in the critical habitat getting ready to mate and nest. Overall, we hope to spot a nice variety of shorebirds as we work our way to the North Beach inlet.

We’ll meet in the Property Owners’ beach parking lot at 10:00am. This will get us to the beach a couple of hours before the rising tide which brings the Red Knots and other shorebirds closer to the shore. Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, water, snacks, and maybe lunch if you plan to go the entire way to the inlet. Of course, you can head back at any time.

Wednesday, April 24 10:00 am – 1:00 pm (shorter or longer as you wish!)
Learning Together at North Beach
Location: Meet at Owners Parking Lot near entrance to Boardwalk 1
Max: 18
Cost None for members; $5 donation for guests

Sign up Today!

Join SIB – Learning Together on Golf Course-Ocean Winds

The troops are lined up and ready to go – – Jackie Brooks

Monday April 22,2019 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course
Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts.
Max: 20
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

Each Monday one of the Golf Courses is closed, so join us for a morning of birding by RIDING in golf carts for at least 9-holes on Ocean Winds 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 Great Crested Flycatchers, Mississippi Kites, Eastern Kingbirds or some of our other summer residents may also have arrived.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2019 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Register for Learning Together on Golf Course-Ocean Winds no later than April 20, 2019

SIB Movie Matinee: Opposable Chums

For SIB’s third movie matinee, we will be presenting Opposable Chums: Guts & Glory at the World Series of Birding, a 2008 documentary/comedy 64 minutes in length.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 4.37.25 PMAs described on Amazon: “The World Series of Birding features more than 70 teams competing to identify the most bird species in 24 hours. It’s equal parts scavenger hunt, science expedition, and endurance test. OPPOSABLE CHUMS, as seen on PBS, features renowned birders David Sibley, Kenn Kaufman, and Pete Dunne. Taking you along for the raucous ride, OPPOSABLE CHUMS may well be the very first nature documentary comedy.”

  • The contest goes from midnight to midnight
  • The playing field is the state of New Jersey
  • Any vehicle except aircraft may be used
  • All birds counted must be alive and unrestrained
  • Teams may begin the event anywhere in the state, and follow any route they devise
  • BUT each team must cross the Finish Line by midnightSign Up Today!

Watch several “Opposable Chums” trailers here: http://www.opposablechums.com/trailers.html

SIB will provide the popcorn and snacks! You can bring pillows to make the chairs more comfy and BYOB. Please sign up to join us for this fun afternoon where you will learn more about the wacky world of birding!

Tuesday April 23, 2019 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Location: Osprey 1, Lake House
Max: 25
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

Sign Up Today!

Recap of SIB’s March Evening Program – Prothonotary Warbler & Project PROTHO

1 Matt Johnson, Francis Beidler Forest, photo by Marcie Daniels
Matt Johnson, Francis Beidler Forest, photo by Marcie Daniels

On March 27, Matt Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation & Engagement for SC Audubon, fascinated 63 SIB members and guests with a discussion of conserving the Prothonotary Warbler – “the Canary of the swamp.”

Prothonotary Warblers are migratory, spending April to September in southeast swamps like Francis Beidler Forest. In winter they travel thousands of miles to Central and South America. “Prothonotary” comes from official scribes in the Catholic Church who long ago wore bright yellow hoods, as this bird does.

 

2 Prothonotary Warbler, Beidler Forest, photo by Ed Konrad (2)
Prothonotary Warbler, Beidler Forest, photo by Ed Konrad

The Prothonotary Warbler is the eye-catching songbird of the Southeast bottomlands. It’s personable, not as apt to fly off as other species, and seems to be almost curious as people approach. They weigh about half an ounce and belt out a strong song in the forest of “tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet”. Population has declined by 40 percent since the 1960s, as preferred breeding habitats of swamps and forested wetlands have dwindled due to development. 20% of Prothonotary Warblers worldwide need SC habitat to survive.

The Francis Beidler Forest is an Audubon wildlife sanctuary in Four Holes Swamp, a blackwater creek and swamp system of over 16,000 acres. Its crown jewel is 1,700 acres of old growth Bald Cypress and Tupelo forest. A 1.75-mile boardwalk lets visitors see the cypress-tupelo trees up close, many of which are over 1,000 years old. This is one of SC’s most sacred landscapes, preserving a precious habitat for 160 species of birds, including the Prothonotary Warbler. They nest in holes in trees such as cypress “knees” at Beidler, rather than in the open, which is unique among eastern warblers.

 

 

 

Matt discussed Project PROTHO, that he leads at Francis Beidler, to band, track, and research Prothonotary Warblers. “PROTHO” is an acronym for “Protecting Resident Ornithologically Tantalizing Hole-Dwelling Occupants.” Matt said the name always brings a laugh, but the project has a serious mission: identify local birds, their habits and territories so they can be protected.

Prothonotary Warblers are banded with unique colors to identify individual birds, and to study habits and needs to better focus conservation efforts. Visitors at Beidler can participate in banding and are encouraged to help monitor the birds as they walk the 1.75-mile boardwalk. “We can learn a lot about prothos’ behavior from the visitor information,” said Matt. “It’s a good way to engage visitors as it’s such an iconic bird and they’re so easy to see and hear.”

Matt told the amazing story of “Longshot”, the first protho with a geolocator. The next spring, while leading a group of visitors through the forest, Matt spotted Longshot who had come home! From the data on Longshot’s geolocation device, SC Audubon learned that when this little guy left Beidler he flew 5,000 miles south to Colombia, before returning home to within 10 or 15 feet of where he lived the previous year! Migration is the most dangerous part of a bird’s life, so to think this same bird returned to the same spot the following year is nothing short of amazing! Hence the name Longshot!

Since the success of Longshot, several Prothonotary Warblers have been fitted each year with geolocators as a part of Project PROTHO. In addition to providing vital nesting habitat in Beidler Forest’s sanctuary, SC Audubon continues their tracking to learn more about these beautiful yellow songbirds. From the data recovered to date, Matt has discovered that each bird traveled to Colombia, like Longshot, before returning to Beidler Forest, often to the exact same spot, the next year!

A follow-up SIB bird walk with Matt at Francis Beidler Forest was held on April 11 to observe and experience this amazing Prothonotary Warbler story. Watch for this article and photos later this week. Thank you Matt, for sharing this story, critical project, and your passion with SIB members!

Article and Prothonotary Warbler photos submitted by Ed Konrad