A Rare Visitor to SC

A few days ago, Ed and I went up I-26 N, to the Goose Creek/Hanahan exit to see some rare visitors to SC…two Limpkin. A Limpkin is a large wading bird, that on a quick look can look like a juvenile White Ibis or a giant rail. They are rarely seen outside of the tropical wetlands of Florida and South Georgia. It is a large, dark brown bird with distinctive white speckles and a large, bent, orange bill. It walks slowly in shallow water in wooded and brushy swamps, in this case the west side of the Goose Creek Reservoir, where there is a canal with two islands and some wetlands. The birds search for apple snails and other mollusks. Limpkin have a very loud, otherworldly cry that can be heard mostly at night. 

These birds were spotted by the homeowners in the Otranto subdivision. They had been there about a month before a homeowner told a birding friend, who put them on Facebook and subsequently EBird. Since August 2, a steady stream of birders has come to the neighborhood to see them. Ed and I were very much hoping the birds would stay until we got to Seabrook last week and they did!  Limpkin have been appearing in SC and GA the last few summers. Always exciting to add a new “life bird” to a state list! We’ve seen Limpkin before, and Ed says these two are his best looks and photos of the species.

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

Cancelled – Have you seen the roosting at Palmetto Lake?

Cancelled! Cancelled! Cancelled! Cancelled!

This impromptu activity has been cancelled due to lack of participation … by the birds. Members have stopped by the last two nights and report the birds are seen flying over but are no longer roosting by Palmetto Lake. We may reschedule for a different date if the birds decide to return.

If you have driven by Palmetto Lake recently at dusk, you probably have seen the hundreds of roosting white birds around Palmetto Lake. We know there are White Ibis, Great Egret and Snowy Egret. We decided to explore more.

What: Impromptu Bird Watch at Palmetto Lake

When: Tuesday August 27 at 6:30 pm

Where: Meet at gate end of Lakehouse Parking lot

No registration required for this impromptu activity. Just show up if you are interested. We are unsure how far we’ll travel around the lake….it depends upon where the birds are.

As always, bring your binoculars, bug spray, water and hat.

Hope to see you there.

An amazing morning at North Beach!

What a great morning at North Beach. Ed and I saw our first Reddish Egret of the season for Seabrook down near the point, dancing away! We spotted four Piping Plovers on the shore at the dolphin stewards area. One had orange bands, endangered from the Great Lakes Area. We learned from our researcher friend in MI that this one “is a young bird hatched this summer on Cat Island, Green Bay, WI. Good to see that it’s made it safely south!”

Then a group of 5 dolphins gave us several wonderful looks at strand feeding! While watching the Piping Plovers and dolphins, a Bald Eagle appeared and stole an Osprey’s fish in flight!!!

Doesn’t get any better than this! Just another day at Seabrook Island! And I’ve used an exclamation point after almost every sentence!!!

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

Join us for a Learning Together: Biking and Birding the Seabrook to Kiawah Bike Path

Grab your bike and join us as we bike and bird along the bike path from Seabrook Island’s Lake House through Freshfields to Mingo Point on Kiawah. The path is paved and borders wooded areas, marsh and fields. Mingo Point has bird feeders which always has a variety of birds including possibly some migrating warblers. It also has access to the Kiawah River for sitings of shorebirds.


Join SIB Executive Committee Members Melanie Jerome and Judy Morr for this biking & birding trip along the bike path. We hope to see shorebirds like egrets, herons and Roseate Spoonbills in the tidal marsh areas. We will listen for passerines hoping to catch a glimpse of those heading south for the winter. And birds of prey are common to see flying overhead. Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, bug repellant, snacks and water.

Saturday, August 31, 2019 7:30 am – 11:00 am
Learning Together – Biking & Birding the Seabrook Isand to Kiawah Bike Path
Location: Meet at Gate side Parking area for Lakehouse
Max: 12
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 register no later than Thursday August 29, 2019. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event.

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

Have you seen the rookery at Palmetto Lake?

If you have driven by Palmetto Lake recently at dusk, you probably have seen the hundreds of roosting white birds around Palmetto Lake. We know there are White Ibis, Great Egret and Snowy Egret. We decided to explore more.

What: Impromptu Bird Watch at Palmetto Lake

When: Tuesday August 27 at 6:30 pm

Where: Meet at gate end of Lakehouse Parking lot

No registration required for this impromptu activity. Just show up if you are interested. We are unsure how far we’ll travel around the lake….it depends upon where the birds are.

As always, bring your binoculars, bug spray, water and hat.

Hope to see you there.

Wintering Piping Plovers – July banded sightings

Aija and I send photos of banded Piping Plovers that we spot on North Beach to Alice Van Zoeren, Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, so the researchers know the whereabouts of their wintering birds. Great Lakes Piping Plovers are Federal Endangered. They have orange flags, and then other various color bands, to identify them. Alice reports back to us interesting info from their breeding area. From this info you can see the researchers’ dedication, and the challenges the Piping Plovers face.

The three banded Piping Plovers below, spotted on North Beach July 24-25, were the first we’ve seen this year on their journey south to winter after breeding. Remember, there are less than 70 breeding pairs remaining in the Great Lakes area endangered population. These three are very special guests indeed! We learned from Alice…

“This is a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, MI, breeder. He began breeding in 2018 at Platte Point. This year Platte Point is under water and he moved about two miles north. He fledged two chicks.” (Bands: Left leg – orange flag, red/green bands. Right leg – silver metal, yellow bands)

“Hatched 2010 at Sleeping Bear Dunes, mouth of Platte River. She began breeding in 2011 at Manistee MI. In 2012 moved to North Manitou Island, where she’s been breeding ever since. She had a rough summer this year. She and her mate lost all the newly hatched chicks from their first attempt to an unknown predator. They put in a second nest, but it was quite late and they headed south before the eggs hatched.” (Bands: Left leg – orange flag, two black bands. Right leg – silver metal, blue bands)

“Hatched 2017 on North Manitou Island, MI. He returned to begin breeding in 2018 at Wilderness State Park MI.” (Bands: Left leg – orange flag, black/blue bands. Right leg – silver metal, green bands)

In July we spotted three other Piping Plovers that weren’t banded. The one in the right photo is a “first year bird”, a juvenile hatched this year making its first trip south to winter. Note the differences to the left photo of mature birds – juvenile has black bill, partial collar, paler plumage.

Some of our July Piping Plovers may remain at Seabrook for the “winter” until they head back north next spring to breed. Others may have stopped here to rest before continuing to wintering beaches further south. Aija and I will keep an eye out, and let you know if any of the three banded Great Lakes Piping Plovers remain as our guests for the next 8 months. Plus others we spot from the Great Lakes or Atlantic breeding areas. Look for the Piping Plovers too, and please give them space to feed and rest. They can be feeding anywhere along the shore to right of Boardwalk #1, or left of Boardwalk #1 all the way to the point.

Piping Plover, Seabrook Island North Beach, to left of Boardwalk #1

Article and Photos by Ed Konrad

Join us for Learning Together on North Beach – August 24 at 5:00 pm

The Piping Plovers are back and there is a good chance to see more Shorebirds. SIB member Arch McCallum 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. 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 5:00 pm. This will get us to the beach shortly after high tide which brings the shorebirds closer to the shore. The day should be getting cooler with hopefully a nice evening breeze. Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, water, and snacks. Of course, you can head back at any time.

Saturday, August 24 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
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 the registration no later than Thursday August 22 , 2019. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday August 23.

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

Piping Plovers are here!!!!!

They’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!, said a July 16 email from Melissa Chaplin, Biologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “They” are the Piping Plovers, returning from northern breeding areas. Plovers breed April to June in three US and Canada population areas – Great Lakes, Atlantic coast, and Northern Great Plains. In July they migrate to southern Atlantic and Texas coasts, and the Bahamas, to “winter” until the following spring.

Atlantic (green flag, photo above) and Great Plains Piping Plovers are Federally Threatened. Great Lakes plovers (orange flag, photo above) are Federally Endangered. The Great Lakes were once home to 800 pairs of Piping Plovers. Today, less than 70 nesting pairs remain, due to nest disruption by development, predators, people, dogs, weather.

In addition to providing habitat for Piping Plovers that pass through during fall and spring migration, South Carolina hosts a number of Piping that remain here to winter. To better understand the challenges they face, and our responsibility to protect them, a view of their full year cycle is helpful.

In April, Piping Plovers leave their wintering grounds, and head to the northern breeding areas. After mating, they typically lay a clutch of four eggs. The nest is a small scrape on the beach, usually in an area with small stones that camouflage the eggs. Both parents participate in sitting on the eggs. Chicks hatch in June and into July.  During the first weeks after hatching, chicks are unable to maintain their own body temperature. They spend much time tucked in under their parents’ wings staying warm. They can run about and feed themselves within hours of hatching. It takes 3-4 weeks for them to be able to fly.

On a recent July trip across the country, Aija and I stopped at Whitefish Point in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. We found three volunteers watching over a nest of Piping Plovers and learned that day was the possible hatch date. The nest was in stones on the beach, covered with a wire cage to protect it (photos above). This year there was only one nesting pair at Whitefish, as opposed to multiple pairs in previous years.

The volunteers were concerned that the male had not been seen for over 3 hours, which was unusual. As we watched, the female (photo below) would get up from the nest to chase a Killdeer and Semipalmated Plovers, leaving her nest exposed. Suddenly a volunteer saw a crack in one of the eggs! We all watched closely with the scope and one chick hatched! (photos below) We left the beach with the thrill of witnessing a hatch, but with worry that without the male, the female would not be able to keep the chicks warm and sustain her brood.

Later we learned from Alice Van Zoeren, researcher with the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, two of the four eggs hatched successfully. Thankfully, the male returned. When the chicks were banded, both adults were still there, and the two chicks were doing well.

Another interesting story on the huge challenges Piping Plovers face in their breeding grounds was on the Chicago shores of Lake Michigan this spring. For the first time since 1955, Piping Plovers in Chicago have hatched chicks. The adult plovers arrived at Montrose Point, one of the city’s best birding locations, in early June. Lake Michigan’s rising waters took the pairs’ first three eggs. But on a second try, there were three new Piping Plovers roaming the shores of Lake Michigan! This story became even more amazing when organizers of a concert that would have attracted 20,000 people to the beach was canceled to protect the chicks!

So, for three months of the year dedicated biologists, researchers, and volunteers work incredibly hard, despite all the many risks the birds face, to ensure Piping Plovers have a chance to successfully breed. Then they do all they can to help the chicks grow and get strong to start the next part of the life story – heading south to winter. From here the Piping Plover protection responsibility shifts to us and the southern beaches for the next 9 months.

In mid-July, the plovers head south to their wintering grounds, where they remain until the following spring. Last week Aija and I spotted five Piping Plovers on North Beach. Three had orange flags, all endangered from the Great Lakes population (photos below).

On their winter territories, Piping Plovers follow a predictable routine. As tides ebb or recede, plovers are on exposed tidal flats or sandy shores to feed on tiny crustaceans and marine worms. They typically spend most daylight hours foraging along the shore , and then at high tide retire to high beach areas to rest (photos below on North Beach). In March and April, just prior to their return north, Piping Plovers molt feathers on their heads and breasts, regaining their forehead and neck bands. The base of the bill changes to orange. Then the cycle begins again!

The Piping Plover wintering season now begins at Seabrook Island! And with their arrival, comes our responsibility to protect them so they can remain healthy and strong for next spring’s return north to breed.

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 give them space.
  2. Don’t force the birds to fly. If birds are calling loudly or taking flight – step back immediately.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 by Aija and Ed Konrad. Photos by Ed Konrad – taken on Seabrook Island North Beach and Whitefish Point MI.

Information from Great Lakes Piping Plover website: https://www.greatlakespipingplover.org/