Join SIB for Global Big Day – May 4

2019 Global Big DayOn May 4, Cornell Lab and eBird sponsor Global Big Day. Will you join more than 30,000 others and become a part of Global Big Day? You don’t have to commit to birding for 24 hours—an hour or even 10 minutes of watching birds makes you part of the team. Visit your favorite spot or search out someplace new; enjoy a solo walk or get some friends to join in the Global Big Day fun. As part of this day, Seabrook Island Birders will conduct two Learning Together plus offer you an opportunity to request someone to bird with you at your favorite location..

The morning will start at 7:00 am with a Learning Together at the newly renovated Bob Cat Trail with an extension to Six Ladies Trail. Along this trail we should see our local favorite Painted Bunting who likes to hang out at the end of Bob Cat Trail. Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Towhee and Gulls and Egrets should also be seen. I’m still hoping to see some migratory warblers.  Register for Learning Together on Bob Cat Trail here.

This form can also be used to suggest another location and time you would like to have a friend (old or new) to join you to bird. SIB will send an email to the Google Group of all these suggested times and places for people to gather.

Saturday, May 4 7:00 am – 8:30 am
Global Big Day – Learning Together at Bob Cat Trail
Location: Meet at Owners Parking Lot near entrance to Boardwalk 1
Max: 18
Cost None for members; $5 donation for guests

Also, on this day, SIB member Arch McCullum will lead a SIB Learning Together bird walk at North Beach. Arch was a professor of Ornithology at College of Charleston and also leads bird walks for Audubon of South Carolina. He’s never birded Seabrook’s beaches so it will be a learning experience for all. We’ll again be looking for the Red Knots that are our guests in April and May, 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.  Register for Learning Together at North Beach here

Saturday, May 4 8:30 am – 11:00 am (shorter or longer as you wish!)
Global Big Day – 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

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/ or we request a $5 donation to SIB.

Once you are a member, please complete registration(s) no later than Thursday May 2 , 2019. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday May 3.

If you have additional questions about the program, please contact us by sending an email to: SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com

Advertisements

Spring on North Beach – Red Knots and more!

Red Knot, North Beach

Spring is an amazing and important time for our Seabrook Island shorebirds! Migrating Red Knots are here in growing numbers. After wintering with us, Piping Plovers are heading north to breed. Least Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, and other shorebirds are getting ready to mate and possibly nest on North Beach. It’s a time to enjoy the splendor of our shorebird residents and guests. And to be extra careful when on the beach – give them space to rest, feed, and nest, and follow our beach rules for dogs.

Our SC DNR and USFWS partners have been active monitoring the Red Knot flock to plan for their banding and research. We’re seeing flocks of 300 to 1,500 feeding and resting all along the shore – left of Boardwalk 1, on the sandbars, in the Critical Habitat, at the point, and back on the old inlet. There was a recent sighting of 4,000 knots on the far end of North Beach!

The knots are turning into their beautiful reddish breeding colors. It’s a spectacle when they fly, a large flock darting through the sky with a tint of red as they turn! From late March to early May they move between Seabrook, Kiawah, and Deveaux Bank. In past years Aija and I have seen over 5,000 knots on North Beach at their peak in late April. SC DNR has concluded we have the largest single flock of Red Knots on the East Coast!

Red Knot flock of 300, North Beach Critical Habitat

Red Knot population has declined 85% since 1980, and they’re a “Federally Threatened” species. Knots have the longest migration of any bird, 18,000 miles round trip from the tip of South America to the Arctic where they breed. From SC DNR’s research and geolocator data retrieved on Seabrook and nearby beaches, they’ve determined that 2/3 of our Red Knot flock migrate directly from here to the Arctic to breed, and do not make the usual stop at the Delaware Bay. This discovery makes Seabrook Island a critical stop for the knots before their remaining 3,000-mile journey to the Arctic.

Red Knot flock. North Beach point

To learn more about SC DNR Red Knot research, visit http://www.dnr.sc.gov/news/2018/jun/jun7_shorebirds.html

Mark in blue shirt, Seabrook Island SC DNR Red Knot Stewardship

Mark Andrews, a Seabrook Island Birders’ member and Seabrook Island resident, is working on a new project with SC DNR this spring to help protect Red Knots. Mark is spending considerable time on North Beach, observing the size and location of the Red Knot flock, and educating Seabrook residents and guests about the knots. Mark’s project is to promote awareness to help our Red Knots rest and refuel for their long migration north to breed. Look for Mark on North Beach and learn about the knots!

Piping Plover flock, high tide resting in Critical Habitat, soon to head north to breed

In April we say bon voyage to our Piping Plovers (PIPL), some having wintered with us since late July. We’re seeing the last of the PIPL now, but in larger flocks of 12 or more as more southern wintering PIPL are stopping here as they head north. Piping Plovers breed in the North Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Great Plains regions. Atlantic and Great Plains PIPL are Federally Threatened, Great Lakes PIPL are Federally Endangered.

This tiny bird, now with a dark breeding color breast band, can be anywhere on North Beach – left or right of Boardwalk 1, in the dogs off lead area, feeding in the Critical Habitat low tide mud flats, or resting in the high tide rack. They need our help for the final bit of rest before heading north. The Great Lakes banded PIPL pictured above, in the flock of 12 PIPL we recently spotted, is one of only 70 breeding pairs remaining from that region.

What’s up with the yellow SC DNR nesting signs in the Critical Habitat? Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers are beginning to mate and hopefully nest! Look up into the sky and you’ll see and hear the racket of the small white terns chasing each other with fish. From a distance, look for the Least Tern courting behavior either inside the nesting area or on the shore. It’s a hoot. The male presents a gift of fish to a female, female considers to accept or reject, and like with all guys, she will often reject the gift and dart away, leaving the male – fish still in mouth – looking very foolish.

If you look carefully in the nesting area, not getting too close to signs, you may spot a couple of Wilson’s Plovers, at times chasing each other with aggressive mating behavior. Or possibly hunkered down in some rack in the dunes. Last June, Aija and I spotted Least Tern juveniles and Wilson’s Plover chicks in this habitat. A first for us in 12 years of birding and photography on North Beach! Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers are SC Threatened Species, so they need our help to nest and thrive.

Our resident pair of American Oystercatchers, one banded U5, may also be hopefully mating, along with others. We’ve been seeing U5 and its mate on North Beach for many years, they’re old friends! SC DNR thinks the Oystercatchers have nested on North Beach, although we haven’t observed nests or chicks. We’ve also been seeing the Willets in aggressive mating behavior, and they have nested here too.

Lots of activity in the Spring! Please make a difference when you’re on North Beach by following these simple steps:

  1. Keep away from birds.  When you see a flock, large or small, give them space.
  2. Don’t force the birds to fly. How close to a bird is too close?  If birds react — calling loudly or taking flight — step back immediately.  A good rule is to stay at least 50 yards away, or half the length of a football field.
  3. Respect posted nesting and feeding areas.
  4. Follow Seabrook’s beach rules for dogs. Shorebirds will be anywhere on the beach including the dogs off leash zone. Please don’t have your dog chase any birds! Our shorebirds’ survival is not a game.
  5. Be a good steward. Learn about our shorebirds and their needs and share the word. Shorebirds are one of the many natural treasures of Seabrook for us to understand, enjoy, and most importantly protect.

Note that the Town of Seabrook, working with USFWS and SC DNR, is in the process of improving our signs. The large buoys that washed away have been reordered. These will mark to start of the dogs off lead area, and the start of the Critical Habitat/no dog zone. There are temporary signs up now at the start of the Critical Habitat until the buoys arrive and can be installed. April is such a critical month for shorebirds, and our signs are missing or faded. So some immediate clarification was needed.

Also, please remember that the Critical Habitat line extends from the No Dogs metal sign at the high tide line straight out to the ocean. The beach and sandbars continuing past this visual line are part of the Critical Habitat and no dog zone. This is especially important in Red Knot season as knots will rest and feed on the sandbars that can be accessible at low tide.

So, when walking North Beach, look around you, observe and enjoy these incredible shorebirds. Just like 20 Seabrook Island Birders did on a recent bird walk on North Beach, tallying 40 species!

Article and Photos by Ed Konrad

Join SIB for Backyard Birding at The Haul Over

Backyard Birding at The Haul Over
Wednesday May 1st at 6:30pm-8:30pm – The Haul Over
Location: 2445 The Haul Over
Max: 12
Cost: None for 2019 members; $5 donation for guests

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage – Dean Morr

Come join us in Annalee Regenburg’s backyard. Her house backs up to the Great Egret Rookery. The females sit on their nests all day and the males come into the nests in the evenings. We plan on observing this wonderful, sometimes noisy event. I’m sure we will see some Snowy Egrets and Green Herons, plus some night herons, all tucked in there too. As always, be sure to bring your water, binoculars, hats and sunscreen.

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/. If you were a 2018 member but have yet to renew for 2019, you may renew following the instructions above or renew the day of the walk. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Register no later than Wednesday April 29, at 10am. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Tuesday April 30th.

SIB’s Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest Trip

The wonderful presentation by Matt Johnson on March 27, 2019, on the Prothonotary Warbler inspired Seabrook Island Birders to join him on a walk. On April 11, 2019, ten SIB members joined Matt for a two hour tour (which became a three hour tour) of the boardwalk through the Four Hole Swamp in the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest.

SIB Beidler 4 Jackie Brooks

It was a busy day at Beidler with our group, one from the Sierra Club, and a class of elementary school students. Matt and the staff did an excellent job of keeping the groups separate so we could enjoy the many sights and sounds.

The forest, essentially untouched by human hands consists of tall, stately trees. A raised boardwalk snakes through the wet environment of towering bald cypress, black gum, and the occasional pumpkin ash and red maple.

Mayfly

In addition to birds, the swamp provides a home for an array of reptiles and amphibians. Remarkably, because the water flows through the swamp, pesky insects are practically non-existent. A mayfly is a great indicator of clean water.

While the 32 species of birds that were identified were the focus of the day, our attention frequently wandered to everything and anything we could find. We had no clue where to look first.

We had not gone far before Matt spotted a cottonmouth sitting on a log. It proved to be the first of three. In addition we saw a brown water snake, a cottonmouth mimic.

At another spot, a palm sized fisher spider gave a brief show before dashing out of sight before anyone could get a picture. Later, a smaller one sat on the walkway rail giving everyone who wanted to a chance to study it carefully.

Also seen were several broad headed and five-lined skinks.

Matt also pointed out some man-made features—a dugout canoe and a camp site—that the staff had added to provide an educational opportunity to teach about the Maroon culture—escaped slaves that lived by hiding in the swamp.

The highlight of the day were the birds. As often happens in a tall forest, some of the birds, like the very vocal and secretive hooded warbler, proved difficult to see. We had nice and clear songs from birds like Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, but never got our eyes on them.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Swallow-tailed Kite only gave some of the group a good look.

That said, other birds performed. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron posed for some pictures.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

Michael Audette captured a series of pictures of a spider walking up and over a Prothonotary Warbler, a mistake because it ended up in the Prothonotary Warbler.

As we returned towards the visitor center, Matt commented that the only target bird we did not see or hear was the Barred Owl. Remarkably, within seconds after being teased by Michael about the money back guarantee, Matt spotted one only about 30 feet off the boardwalk and just above eye level. A great last bird for the day.

Many of the participants ate a picnic lunch with Matt where we talked more about the unique wonders of the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest. What a delightful way to end another successful trip.

Article written by: Bob Mercer

Photographs credits:

  • Michael Audette’s Barred Owl, all of the Prothonotary Warblers, and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.
  • Jackie Brooks’ Yellow-billed Cuckoo, mayfly, 5 lined skink, people, and maroon camp implements.
  • Bob Mercer’s cottonmouth, spiders, and broad-headed skink.

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

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