Chuck-will’s-widow & Spring Migration

Each spring, migrants fly north, either leaving, passing through or ending their migration on Seabrook Island to breed. One of those birds who spends its spring and summer on Seabrook is the Chuck-will’s-widow.  Even if you have never seen this bird, chances are if you live or spend time in the spring here, you have heard him! Last Thursday, April 4th, was our first recorded identification of the Chuck-will’s-widow by George Haskins.  In fact, it was only a few days after his first “sighting” two years previous.  Below is a blog we have “recycled” from April 2, 2017.


On Friday, we asked if you could identify a bird by its song.  It was first reported on Seabrook Island early last Thursday morning by George Haskins.  The answer:  the Chuck-will’s-widow.  This bird winters as far south as Colombia, Venezuela and the Caribbean and breeds in pine, oak-hickory, and other forests of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. They tend to live in more open areas than the similar Whip-poor-will, which are not common here on Seabrook Island.

Chuck-will’s-widow – Flo Foley

Scientist continue to learn much about the migration of birds, especially with the advancement of technology such as using radar, acoustic, electronic and optical technologies. Spring migration starts as early as January and continues into June.  Birds generally take off shortly after sunset, some flying all night and landing just before dawn the next morning.  Others will fly nonstop for 60-100 hours as they flyover oceans and continents. Some nights there could be hundreds of millions of birds flying over North America.

Citizen Scientists like all of us are a great resource for migration information as we document bird sightings using the Audubon/Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: eBird.org.  This data is also available for anyone to view.  This link will open the eBird page to view the historical bird observations for all species by month for Charleston county.  For example, the Chuck-will’s-widow is shown below to arrive in April and is gone by the end of September.

Chuck-will’s-widow historical frequency sightings by month for Charleston County, SC from eBird.org

You can also drill down to view a map of locations where a bird has been documented, like the Chuck-will’s-widow map below.  Notice the red bubble was a sighting of a Chuck-will’s-widow documented by Aija Konrad on 3/31 near the tennis courts.

Chuck-will’s-widow map of sightings on Seabrook & Kiawah Island, SC from eBird.org

Another great website to learn more about bird migration, including a forecast each week for four geographic regions in the country, is Birdcast.info, a site created by Cornell.  Below is their forecast for the Chuck-will’s-widow for the Gulf Coast and Southeast and it looks like they are right on time!

Migrant Species

Chuck-will’s-widow

 

Begin
Arriving

3/29

Rapid Influx

4/10

Peak

 

4/24

Rapid
Departure

6/25

Last Departure

After Jun 30

Throughout April we will continue to share information related to bird migration including which birds are packing their bags to head north, which birds are arriving to breed and those who are just passing through and utilizing our island for rest and refueling.

In the meantime, check out this great article, Birdist Rule #70: Get Prepared for Spring Migration, by Nicholas Lund on the Audubon website.

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown

You can still join SIB at Beidler Forest on Thursday April 11

We’ve had some cancellations so there are now openings to search for the Prothonotary Warbler at Beidler Forest.  Register now if you would like to join us.

Thursday, April 11, 2019 7:45 am – 2:00 pm (Tour starts at Beidler at 9:30a)
Location: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool to Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary (Google maps says 1.5 hour drive)
Min: 7 Max: 15 Cost: $12 per person ($10 if over 65 or Audubon member), $5 Additional Guest Fee

If you have never been to Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, you won’t want to miss this opportunity – it’s well worth the 70-mile one-way trip! Matt Johnson, Education Director at the facility will be presenting at our SIB evening program on Wednesday March 27. He has offered to lead us on a guided tour while the Prothonatary Warblers are likely to be present. Last year in this same week, Matt’s tours saw 30+ species including not only the Prothonatary Warbler but also Barred Owls, 5 species of Woodpeckers, 3 species of Vireos and 5 additional species of Warblers.

As the walk ends between 12:00 and 12:30, participants may want to bring a lunch, snacks and beverages to “picnic” at the Center prior to their return to Seabrook Island as Matt reports there are limited number of 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 an additional $5 Guest Fee.

Once you are a member, please register. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

Eastern Bluebird Houses for a Good Cause

My grandson’s 4th grade project is to raise money for the homeless people of Charleston. He is selling Eastern Bluebird houses in the Riverland Terrance neighborhood. My grandson, Leo, says this way we are providing shelter to both birds and people.

So far we have built eight in my shop. We have sold five and made an additional three for use on Seabrook Island for the Bluebird Society.

If anyone is interested in purchasing a bluebird house, please contact me using the link below.

Photos and Article Submitted by: Carl Voelker

 

Meet the Yellow-throated Warbler

Photo by David Etler

The Yellow-throated Warbler, Setophaga Dominica, is a common warbler in this area year round and breeds west to Texas and north as far as Illinois. They are part of the family of Wood Warblers or Parulidae.

If you are lucky enough to spot this stunning warbler, it is an easy bird to identify.  It has a bright yellow throat and chest with sharply contrasting black triangles through and below the eyes and bright white eyebrows. The back and top of head are gray with a white under-belly and two white wing bars. The Yellow-throated Warbler, besides having colorful markings, is also distinctive because of its stockier body and longer, sharp, black bill. The male and female are similar in appearance with the female being slightly duller. 

The Yellow-throated Warbler’s song is a clear series of down whistles with a rising note at the end as teeew-teeew-teeew-teeew-tew-tew-twi . The male will actually establish his territory during breeding season with his song. 

These warblers will most likely be spotted in this area by looking higher up in a pine, live oak, or palm tree. They actively forage by quickly creeping in and out along branches and spiraling up and down trunks of trees. They probe deliberately into crevices, pine needles, pine cones, and Spanish moss looking for insects. This bird will creep instead of fluttering as some warblers do. In palm trees they might be spotted in the crowns or hanging upside down among the leaves. 

The diet of the Yellow-throated Warbler is mostly insects. They are insectivores and feed on beetles, moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, mosquitoes, ants, aphids, and spiders. However, they will also come to your backyard feeders if you have the feeders in an area that is a desirable habitat for them and perhaps have a feed mix that includes fruit and/or dried mealworms. 

Once the male locates his territory and his mate, the male and female stay monogamous during the nesting season and produce two broods per year. The nest, prepared mostly by female, is either in a clump of Spanish moss or at the outer edge of a high pine branch. In the Spanish moss the female will form a pocket and line it with grasses, weeds, and feathers. On the pine branch, she will weave together weed stems, bark strips, and grasses to form a cup and then line it with plant down and feathers. She will lay 3 to 5 pale gray-green eggs with dark specks that are less than an inch long. Both the male and female incubates the eggs and feed the nestlings. The eggs incubates for 12 to 13 days and the young leave the nest in about 8 days. 

61851B67-94EC-482D-9B04-EF07A58767F4
Photo by David Etler

The new family will stay together during the breeding season and then become part of a mixed species flock with Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, and other warblers during non breeding season. 

Luckily for us, the Yellow-throated Warblers have increased their population by 50% between 1966 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight, and at this time are not a conservation concern.

Article Submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo

Birding – An Activity As We Age

Seabrookers are active residents when you consider the average age. Being active and engaged is important physically and mentally. Many residents (full and part time) are involved with golf, tennis, cycling, swimming, fitness classes at the Lake House, running, walking with or without a dog, pickle ball, or a combination of the above. However, there may come a point, either for a period of time or permanently, when these more physical activities are not an option.  Birding should be considered as an activity that can accommodate almost any level of participation.  Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) can add to your enjoyment of that activity.

Aching bodies and reduced mobility are common complaints among Seniors.  Birding often is thought to involve long walks but birding can also be adapted for someone with reduced mobility.   SIB includes activities that recognize members’s limitations while still being enjoyable to all. One of the favorite activities is Birding on the Golf Course. Most months this “Learning Together” activity is scheduled on a Monday when one of the Seabrook Island Club’s golf courses is closed.  The Club allows SIB to use the club’s golf carts to tour the closed course looking for birds.  More experienced birders lead the walks where all participants spot birds and work together to identify and count them.  Since the activity is done in golf carts, this activity can be enjoyed by all, even those usually confined to a wheel chair.  On April 22, SIB’s Learning Together will be held at 9:00am on Ocean Winds Golf Course.  Our last visit to this location resulted in 51 species being seen including a beautiful Coopers Hawk, Great Egrets, and plentiful Eastern Bluebirds.   

Sometimes SIB has activities that are done primarily by car with stops along the route to get out, stretch and see the birds up close.  On February 23, 12 members visited Bear Island Wildlife Management Area and Donnelly Wildlife Management Area and observed 89 species in the course of the day.  On Thursday, April 18, SIB will have this type of activity as we car pool around Kiawah River Development to explore this new neighbor while enjoying their diverse environments and birds.  We should expect to see Wild Turkeys, Roseate Spoonbills, Bald Eagles, Ospreys and some warblers.

A Roseate Spoonbills 2 - Robert Mercer
Roseate Spoonbill, Bear Island – Bob Mercer

Another off island excursion is planned for April 11 to Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest for a “walk” along their boardwalk.  Prothonotary Warblers should have returned and Barred Owls are among species that may be seen.  Since the entire route is on a boardwalk, it can be traversed by someone in a wheelchair. 

Backyard Birding is also enjoyable with minimal mobility required.  SIB has a monthly scheduled activity at someone’s home where the host opens their deck to members to sit and watch the birds that visit their backyard.  The hosts get help identifying their frequent visitors and members get to enjoy birding with friends in a comfortable environment.  Sign up for April’s Backyard Birding on April 4.

Mobility may not be the only perceived limitation to birding as we age.  Memory also may not be as strong as when younger.  SIB activities are often called “Learning Together” as no participant can remember the identity of all species seen.  Extra eyes means more birds are seen and the group helps each other identify the birds.  

Audubon, assisted living facilities, and other organizations have developed programs to encourage birding.  The Institute on Aging published a blog citing a case study on how an individual, bedridden for weeks after a fall, became engaged and was encouraged to work through the rehabilitation issues by watching and listening to birds outside her window, studying, and eventually taking short walks out in nature to observe the birds.  The article ( Birdwatching Helps Older Adults Reconnect with Nature and Their Health ) also offered points for caregivers regarding configuring a comfortable birding environment for bedridden and recovering patients.  The calming aspect of nature was a documented benefit. Birdwatching offers a range of sensory stimulation and memory exercises for older adults. Observing small visual details, noticing patterns in animal behavior, and listening closely to bird songs all help to engage your loved one’s brain. These memory-related tasks enhance older adults’ reflex skills, mental alertness, and can even benefit dementia.

Birding can be an activity shared with your younger relatives.  Seeing the awe of a young child learning to identify a Northern Cardinal can be very rewarding.  There are various books available targeted towards a younger audience.  Cornell Labs also has educational programs for K through 12.

An updated schedule of all SIB activities can be found on SIB’s web page; SeabrookIslandBirders.org/bird-walks/.  If a group activity isn’t your thing, consider the SIB Ambassador Program.  This program can make you more comfortable birding in your own home.  A few members of SIB can schedule a time to come to your home and mentor your own birding activities.  Locations for feeders and types of bird food can be discussed. SIB members can also show you books and/or smart phone applications that can help you in your bird identification.  More information on this program can be found at https://seabrookislandbirders.org/sib-ambassador-program/.

Submitted by Judy Morr

Join SIB for Spring Migration Birding at Camp St. Christopher

REGISTER NOW!

Saturday, April 6, 2019 9am-11am
Spring Migration @ St. Christopher Camp & Conference Center 
Location: Meet at the Bus Parking Lot at St. Christopher
Max: 10
Cost : No fee for members; Non-members=$5

5 Northern Parula
Northern Parula – Ed Konrad

Explore the lakes, lagoons, paths and slough at St. Christopher . This event will have 1 – 2 miles of walking over uneven terrain. Spring should be in full swing, so we should see all the usual suspects, but will also hopefully get looks at our some of our more elusive resident breeding songbirds…Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Parula, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Painted Bunting.

Early April is also the start of migration for a number of species, so we may be lucky to see a few migrant warblers (Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat), Scarlet Tanagers and Blue Grosbeaks.

Bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, water and binoculars.

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/. You may bring your membership fee to the event.  Or, if you prefer, you can attend as a guest for $5.

Use this link to register  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeQd58s2oSsqsRO-iiwvtd-CgkRW7PO7bB-e1RKpdKprYKbHA/viewform

Join SIB for Backyard Birding on Cat Tail Pond

REGISTER NOW!

Thursday , April 4 at 9:00am – Cat Tail Pond
Location: 2500 Cat Tail Pond
Max: 12
Cost: None for 2019 members; $5 donation for guests

Come join us in Paula and Bob’s Adamson’s back yard. They live right on the golf course and have 6 feeders plus a birdbath and 2 bluebird boxes. They even have 2 owl boxes. (bees have moved into one of them). Many birds can be seen from the deck or the yard. It will be spring migration time and we may see many of those passing through. In addition to birds, Paula says they have lots of turkeys, squirrels, bunnies raccoons and possums.

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.

Please complete the information here to register ASAP. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Wednesday, April 3 .