It was a great summer for birding North Beach! Some days it was literally a cast of a thousands…terns, gulls, skimmers, oystercatchers, and a nice mix of shorebirds. Most birds gathered at the bend toward the inlet on a sandbar. My favorite time to go is just before or after high tide, when the birds are pushed in for good views. Once they start to disperse it is hard to see them on the distant sandbars. Often when we walked out to the beach, we were greeted by Painted Buntings…singing, calling, and near the end of the summer perched on grasses eating seed.
A late summer favorite is the Reddish Egret. We’ve been seeing one, sometimes two, on North Beach for many years. Each time we spotted this year’s Reddish it stayed for a couple of hours in the large tidal pool – giving us great looks of it’s feeding behavior “dance” – running through shallows with long strides, staggering sideways, leaping in the air, raising one or both wings as a canopy to shade schools of small fish seeking shelter in the shade, and then catching its meal!
Roseate Spoonbills and dolphins strand feeding are always two amazing sights on Seabrook. But it’s rare to see both together! Ed first spotted four Spoonbills at the far end of the North Beach lagoon. Next came the dolphins, strand feeding first at the point and then swimming to far end of the lagoon right in front of the Spoonbills. Ed was a good distance away, but was ready with his camera anticipating a strand feed. Then it happened! Roseate Spoonbills and dolphins strand feeding in the same frame!
On Sep 24 we had a high count of 73 American Oystercatchers! What a thrill to see so many together. Marbled Godwits were present, often on the edge of the larger tide pools, probing the sand with their long bills. Colorful Ruddy Turnstones roamed the shore. Black-bellied Plovers and Wilson’s Plovers hung out near the end of the inlet. Black Skimmers were abundant, often in the hundreds and always fun to see skimming the water’s edge.
Piping Plovers are here to “winter” – some staying for the season, others just stopping by as they head farther south. Then next spring they’ll return north to breed. Here’s a cool coincidence. Ed and I spotted these two banded PIPL on the same day last fall on Nov 9 – orange flag Great Lakes breeding region, and black flag 2K Atlantic Canada region. A birder colleague spotted these same two PIPL on Sep 9 on North Beach! So they’ve been seen together twice on the same day at Seabrook – last fall and this summer!
So maybe these two have decided again that Seabrook is a great place to spend the winter! These year to year “resightings” show how well our Critical Habitat is developing for Piping Plovers and other shorebirds.
2K breeds at Prince Edward Island, Canada. Here’s their Facebook post about his whereabouts south from the info we reported. The researchers are very happy that he’s doing well at Seabrook! Click on this link:
Please give our Piping Plover guests space to feed and rest. Remember, they’re Federal Endangered (Great Lakes Region) and Federal Threatened (Atlantic US & Canada Region).
Osprey prowled the beach looking for fish, often coming up with a good catch. Once, we witnessed an eagle stealing a fish, mid-air, from the Osprey. I have literally seen the eagle in pursuit, making the Osprey drop the fish and the eagle catching it in mid-air! Terns were abundant, with Royal in the greatest numbers. Caspian Terns with their large red bills and grating calls stood out. Sandwich, Common, Least and Forster’s Terns were in the mix.
It’s always a thrill to see the Black Terns as they migrate through, often speckled and mottled, changing from the black summer plumage. Gull-billed Terns patrolled the dry sand of the “highway” with their plunge-dives mid-air for crabs and insects, never diving in water.
We had several walks on the beach this summer, one SIB walk that had over 25 birders led by Arch McCallum. Thanks to Mark Andrews for bringing wine, a very nice touch for the evening bird walk! Ed and I also hosted a Carolina Bird Club walk for many folks from SC and NC who marveled at our wonderful beach with it’s bounty of shorebirds. So many great spots to bird on Seabrook! The closing picture is of three beautiful young Tricolored Herons on the platform at Palmetto Lake…always fun to see a species where the juvenile is even brighter than the adult. Good birding to all!
Article by Aija & Ed Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad