Check out that Snag!

Red-headed Woodpecker outside his home on a snag along the golf course – Glen Cox

Many people may not use the term “snag” often until they become birders. According to Miriam-Webster, the term snag as a noun is defined as:

1.) a tree or branch embedded in a lake or stream bed and constituting a hazard to navigation 
2.) a standing dead tree

Snags make wonderful habitat for birds and I often look towards snags if I’m in search of birds. They make great perches for birds who want a view. They make excellent home both for nests on and inside of the snag for cavity dwellers.

This article written by SC DNR explains the importance of snags in our natural habitat. We want to make all residents and guests aware that the snags are not an eyesore, but something that is beneficial for birds and other wildlife.

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Mercer’s Musings

Many of our SIB members have met Bob Mercer and know what a wonderful person and birder he is! But many of you might not know he has a personal blog and in the past year has been refining his photography skills.

Today, Father’s Day, we’d like to honor Bob by sharing his latest blog. In it he shares why he hasn’t had time to write a blog in nearly a year (birding, working on his photography and submitting tagged birds … much of this on Seabrook Island)!

Please enjoy Bob’s latest blog, Mercer’s Musings: I’m Back!

Birds, Fish, Frogs and Rain … OH MY!

In the past week, SIB held two fun and exciting birding events! Although we needed the rain, we hoped we would have a window of no precipitation when we took both walks. Fortunately, we did!

Roman Crumpton, from U.S. Fish & Wildlife, explaining the project to increase the native Carolina Gopher Frog.

On Friday, June 7, six SIB member met at the Bears Bluff National Fish Hatchery on Wadmalaw Island. The first two hours were spent walking the property, identifying 32 bird species. One highlight were the great looks at the Red-headed Woodpeckers as they entered their cavity nest in a tall snag. The group also heard the Marsh Wren and was even able to sight the birds as they perched high on the marsh grass to sing. Finally, the group enjoyed watching multiple Green Herons, including young and a nest!

Following the birding, Roman Crumpton, one of the employees of the facility, provided a tour. He educated us on the Carolina Gopher FrogGulf Coast Swallow-wort, and the Atlantic Sturgeon. It was a full morning that ended with lunch at the picnic table finishing just before the downpour started! To view the complete list for Bear Bluff event, click here.

Members of SIB as they bird Ocean Winds golf course.

On Monday, June 10, twenty-one SIB members and one guest met at the Seabrook Island Club to bird Ocean Winds Golf course using golf carts. It looked like a parade as ten carts traveled holes 1 – 12, returning just as the sprinkles started and then taking cover under the bag drop to finish the review of birds seen. A total of 37 species. Everyone contributed in this “learning together” event by pointing out birds, identifying them and counting, although in some cases the count was a S.W.A.G (Scientific Wild A$$ Guess).

There were several highlights during the morning. One was watching the Osprey on the nest on hole 3 with some participants able to see one chick. Then spending time observing the rookery from hole 4 with views of nesting Egrets (Great, Snowy & Cattle), nesting Wood Storks and chicks, and a Black-crowned Night-Heron. Finding the young Green Heron who carefully hopped along bare branches just above the water on hole 11 was pretty special as well. To view the complete list for Ocean Winds event, click here.

Please be sure to watch for additional upcoming Activities and sign up! And to view more photos from the two events, “Read More” below:

Photographs by Jackie Brooks & Charley Moore

Continue reading “Birds, Fish, Frogs and Rain … OH MY!”

Beat the Heat & Join SIB for our Movie Matinee

The Egg: Life’s Perfect Invention, Nature

Sign Up Today

Beat the heat and join us for SIB’s fourth movie matinee when we will present a double-header.

First up will be The Egg: Life’s Perfect Invention, a 53-minute episode from PBS Nature. How is an egg made? Why are they the shape they are? And perhaps most importantly, why lay an egg at all? Step by step as the egg hatches, host David Attenborough reveals the wonder behind these incredible miracles of nature.

Our second movie will be Remarkable Birds, a 28-minute film by Coastal Kingdom. What is it about birds that makes them so appealing? Join Tony for a closer look at some of the avian fauna living in the LowCountry – butcher birds, Spoonbills, Clapper Rails and more!

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 world of birds!

Date: Tuesday June 18, 2019 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Location: Oystercatcher Community Center
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests
Max: 25

Sign Up Today

Seabrook Island Shorebirds – Red Knot, Wilson’s Plover, Least Tern – Protection, Education & Research

(As published in the June edition of The Seabrooker)

Seabrook residents and visitors love nature! We’re enthusiastic to volunteer for Turtle Patrol, or come to Seabrook to view dolphins, but how many of us stop to appreciate the incredible shorebirds on our beaches?

Red Knot, Seabrook Island (Ed Konrad)

To the untrained eye shorebirds look the same. Most of the year they’re plain but take on colorful plumage as they get ready to breed. Some call Seabrook home, but many migrate through to breed further north like Red Knots. Some arrive and stay to nest, like Wilson’s Plovers and Least Terns. Most shorebird populations are declining, some significantly. Our beaches provide excellent locale to feed and rest, and recent research shows how important Seabrook Island is for survival.

Red Knots: To help us see shorebirds in a new light, Seabrook Island resident Mark Andrews has teamed up with SCDNR wildlife biologists and Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) to educate Seabrook beachgoers. Andrews has spent hours talking with folks on the beach since April. His focus has been protecting Red Knots.

Why Red Knots? Knots are a marvel! Most birds migrate from southern winter grounds to northern breeding areas within the same continent. Knots fly 9000 miles from Patagonia on the tip of South America to the Canadian Arctic, traversing the Western Hemisphere!

Many knots will stop here on their journey, exhausted from using most of their fat reserves. They feed all along the beaches of Seabrook, Kiawah, and Deveaux to restore their strength. They feed on the Donax, better known as coquina clams, little mollusks all along shore. When horseshoe crabs arrive to spawn in late April, knots feed on horseshoe crab eggs as well. Having adequate food and undisturbed opportunities to feed are essential for their long journey north, successful breeding, and survival.

Red Knot populations have declined significantly, 75% since the 80’s. They’re classified as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This spring we have seen about 4000 knots moving between Seabrook and Kiawah. SCDNR has determined we have the largest single flock on the east coast, which makes our birds very important for the survival of the species.

The SCDNR team has tagged our knots with nanotags that transmit the birds’ location to towers along their migration route. In 2017, 19 NanoTags were affixed to Red Knots during banding at Seabrook. When the data was collected, the scientific community was shocked to learn that all the knots were not flying to Delaware Bay to feed on their way to the Arctic as everyone had thought. Rather, many were stopping here, and then going directly to the Arctic. This spring Red Knots have been tagged on Deveaux Bank, and SCDNR researchers should get this data in late summer.

As his project has progressed these last few weeks, Andrews has begun to hear, “Are the Red Knots on the beach today?” from his fellow beach goers – which he then knows that the knots have made new friends.

Critical Habitat Nesting Area: At the eastern end of North Beach before you get to the Kiawah River, there is a special area marked with SCDNR yellow signs that demarcates a nesting area that is closed to both humans & dogs. This is a very special place where two SC Threatened Species nest – Wilson’s Plovers and Least Terns.

Wilson’s Plover, Critical Habitat

Wilson’s Plovers are robin sized birds with heavy bills and a dark collar across their white breasts. About three pairs of Wilson’s nested in the nesting area last year. So far in 2019, we have counted a similar number of pairs. You will often see them feeding along the tidal lagoon in front of the nesting area early in the morning or at sunset.

The Least Tern is a seabird, smallest of terns at about seven inches long, and white with a black cap. They are often seen hovering over a North Beach tidal pool to fish and presenting fish to prospective mates as their courting ritual. Terns need large areas of dry sand beaches to nest. Eggs are laid just on top of the sand, so it’s easy for anyone to step on a nest and crush the eggs. Last year SCDNR counted 53 nesting pairs of Least Terns! They had chicks, which made it the first successful nesting year on North Beach for the terns since 2015!

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.

Article written by Mark Andrews & Ed Konrad
Photographs by Ed Konrad

Learning Together on Golf Course-Ocean Winds

Sign up today to bird Ocean Winds Golf Course!

The two groups meet to compare notes on sightings – Jackie Brooks

Monday, June 10, 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.

Please register no later than Friday June 7, 2019. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday June 9th.

An Evening with “the Bird Guy”

On May 29th the Seabrook Island Birders welcomed Dr. James Rotenberg, PHD, aka Dr. Jamie, aka The Bird Guy, to Live Oak Hall for a presentation about the Painted Bunting. 

To an almost full house of Painted Bunting lovers, Dr. Jamie shared his research information gathered with his Painted Bunting Observer Team “PBOT” and a group of citizen scientists on how habitat and environmental changes affect the viability of the Eastern Painted Bunting in North and South Carolina. The encouraging news for our area of coastal South Carolina, despite all the new development, is that the survivorship numbers are fairly good and stable. 

Male Painted Bunting feeding a young Painted Bunting at the feeder – Charley Moore

There were a few fun facts learned on Wednesday evening as well.  The Painted Buntings migrate to South Carolina from southern Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba for their breeding season. The female and male might build and locate a very small nest either in low dense shrubs or high in trees. They generally have at least two broods per nesting season. The green Painted Bunting that is normally identified as a female may actually be a juvenile male. The young male Painted Bunting will remain green until his second year. Also, the Painted Bunting is the only green wild bird in South Carolina. Therefore if you see a green bird you can confidently identify it as a female or juvenile male Painted Bunting. Their song is easily recognizable and a male uses this song to establish boundaries. The Painted Bunting also makes a chipping sound very much like a Northern Cardinal.  Dr. Jamie encouraged feeding the birds. The Painted Bunting loves white millet and for them it’s a real treat, like whipped cream. During breeding season they will eat insects for the protein, but are year round seed eaters. So putting a tube feeder filled with white millet in a secluded area away from the other feeders may attract Painted Buntings to your yard.

A video of Dr. Jamie’s interesting and informative program is posted on the Seabrook Island Birders Facebook page for anyone unable to attend.

One final note, 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.

Article submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo
Photos by Jackie Brooks, Charley Moore and Aaron Given