SIB Movie Matinee Double Feature: “Crash: A Tale of Two Species” and “Birds of May- Documentary about Red Knots”



SIB will continue its movie matinees this spring with two documentaries.


The first, “Crash: A Tale of Two Species” is the story of the fabric of life, and how every species is interconnected – each one important, no matter how big or small. At its center is the humble horseshoe crab, a creature which has remained virtually unchanged for 350 million years. Its annual spring spawning produces millions of eggs that are the lifeline for a tiny bird called the Red Knot, which migrates 10,000 miles from South America to the Arctic each year. Scientific and medical communities have discovered that the crab also provides an indispensable testing agent for drugs and vaccines, as well as resources for human optics and burn treatment. But horseshoe crab numbers are plummeting from their new use as bait for the fishing industry, dropping by two-thirds or more since 1990. And the precious pyramid depending on this age-old creature is about to come crashing down. To view the trailer, click here.

Second will be “Birds of May”. Filmed in May 2016 on the beaches of the Delaware Bay, is filmmaker Jared Flesher’s ode to the natural spectacle of the Red Knot’s annual visit. It’s also an examination of potential new threats to Red Knot survival. Not everyone is sure that expanded oyster farming and Red Knots can happily coexist. Against the scenic backdrop of the bay, Flesher interviews both oyster farmers and the shorebird biologists who fear that an oyster farming boom here could push the rufa Red Knot closer to extinction. To view the trailer, click here.

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 an afternoon at the movies!

Monday Thursday, March 5, 2020 4:30 pm – 6:15 pm
Location: Oystercatcher Community Center
Max: 30
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

If you are not yet a 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: Otherwise you may pay a $5 Guest Fee.

Once you are a member, please complete the information below to register no later than Tuesday, March 3, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Wednesday, March 4th.

Join us for “Beautiful Imagery” with Benjamin Clock

RSVP for SIB’s Beautiful Imagery with Benjamin Clock

Event: Benjamin Clock – Beautiful Imagery
Date: Wednesday March 25, 2020
Time: 7:00 pm Registration & Social
7:30 pm Program Starts
Location: Live Oak Hall, Lake House, Seabrook Island, SC
Max: 140
Cost: Free for members; $5 for guests

Beautiful imagery… a powerful tool to educate, inspire, & change the conservation of birds & habitat!

Join SIB at the Lake House for an up close and personal informative evening with Benjamin Clock, a field biologist, nature photographer & videographer, who has a passion for documenting the wonders of wildlife & their habitats to help conserve wild places. Benjamin will share his worldwide adventures & stunning images, plus highlight his work to protect Red Knots that feed & rest on SC beaches on their long spring migration from South America to the Arctic.

Don’t delay and sign up today by completing this easy sign up form in order to help us plan for the number of chairs, snacks and wine.

If you are not already a member of SIB, you may join at the door for $10 or come as a guest for $5.


Benjamin Clock is a field biologist, nature photographer, videographer and audio recordist with a passion for documenting organisms and their habitats in effort to help conserve wild places. He believes that beautiful imagery of nature can be a powerful tool to educate, inspire and make a positive change for conservation of habitat and biodiversity. Ben worked for 14 years as Videographer and Assistant Curator at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library of Natural Sound and Video. His work takes him all over the world in search of birds to film and photograph. He has been a passionate naturalist and birdwatcher since the age of ten. He is currently working on a short film documenting the importance of the beachfront and marsh of South Carolina’s coast as a Spring stopover for Red Knot on their migration between southern South America and the Arctic. To view some of his work, visit

2020 03 25 Benjamin Clock Poster

RSVP for SIB’s Beautiful Imagery with Benjamin Clock

Register for Friday’s Shorebird Steward Training

Come to the Seabrook Island Birders Steward Program Training session on Friday February 28 at 3:00 pm at the Oyster Catcher Community Center, followed by a Happy Hour at 5:30 pm. Let us know you are interested by completing this simple form.


To help birds at risk: Seabrook Island sits at a critical junction for a number of shorebird species! During the spring, birds like Piping Plovers and Red Knots need our beaches to pack on weight in preparation for migration. Birds fitted with transmitters have proven that some Red Knots, as part of their 9.300 mile trip from South American to its breeding ground, leave Seabrook Island and fly non-stop to the Hudson Bay in northern Canada over 1,200 miles away. Other birds like Least Tern and Wilson’s Plover use the beach area for nesting and food.

To honor Seabrook’s promise to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).  The USFWS and SCDNR allowed our town to relocate the inlet in part because we agreed to protect the birds that needed sustenance from our beaches.

The Purpose

To educate: Many people do not appreciate how important our sanctuary is. The stewards program asks you to be a volunteer to help educate people about the importance of our tiny piece of the world to the shorebirds that visit. This is not an enforcement effort, but an educational effort. 

Your Commitment

The Seabrook Island Birders Shorebird Stewards Program asks you to volunteer for two-hour shifts, signing up for as many or as few as your schedule allows. You will use an online sign up to pick and choose the times you want to give. Ideally, at least two people will be working together for each shift. Please honor your commitment to the times you choose. Be friendly and open.  Encourage people to approach you with questions but limit your answers to the depth of their curiosity.

The Seabrook Island Birders Stewards Program’s Commitment to You

Prior to accepting a commitment of your time, we, in cooperation with Audubon South Carolina, will train you. You will learn key ways to interact with the public. We will provide educational material to enhance your understanding of the birds and you will have a professional spotting scope provided by SCDNR to show folks these miraculous birds. You can use these tools to help educate our friends and neighbors as to how to interact with the birds while on the beach. You will also be provided a station containing a chair, an umbrella, some signs for people to read, and some information to share. You will be kept informed as to what birds are currently on the Island and, if known, where they are from.

Learn more

Come to the next Seabrook Island Birders Steward Program Training session on Friday February 28 at 3:00 pm at the Oyster Catcher Community Center. If you wish to join as a steward or just want more information, click here to complete a simple form.

Red Knots in spring plumage on North Beach at Seabrook Island – Ed Konrad

Off Island Birding at Bear Island WMA-February 29,2020

Early morning birding at Bear Island.

Saturday, February 29, 2020 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool to Bear Island and Donnelly Wildlife Management Area
Max: 10 Cost: Free to members, $5 Guest Fee

If you have never been to Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or to Donnelly WMA, you won’t want to miss this opportunity – it’s well worth the 60-mile one-way trip! Part of the ACE Basin, this area is perfect habitat for birds with ponds, rivers, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, mudflats mixed pine-hardwood forest and farmland. Most of the birding is done by car with stops to get out and take short walks for viewing. Bear Island closes for hunting from November 1 – February 1 each year. We hope the winter waterfowl will still be present including the Tundra Swan. Each person should bring their own lunch, snacks and beverages, as there are no 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 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: Otherwise you may pay a $5 Guest Fee.

Once you are a member, please complete the information below to register no later than Thursday, February 26,2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday, February 27,2020.

Banded Black Skimmers on North Beach

Black Skimmer (6)

Janet Thibault, our good friend and partner from SCDNR, was on North Beach Wednesday February 12, 2020, and gave us a heads up on the banded Black Skimmers she had just seen at the point. We quickly headed down the beach to check them out, rarely having seen a banded skimmer. It was a different experience for us to look for the bands…to carefully look at their legs, like we do for banded Piping Plovers but not skimmers. Aija’s usually doing a count of a large skimmer flock and then moving on to spot other shorebirds. I’m usually trying to get a photo of them skimming in the water – opening their bill and dropping the lower mandible, until they feel a fish with their lower beak. We spent a long and patient time that day – with Aija carefully spotting bands in the scope, and me then trying to find and photograph that particular banded skimmer in the flock. Now we know to look more carefully when spotting Black Skimmers! Thanks Janet!

Just wanted to pass along some re-sighting of black skimmer bands I saw while doing a Piping Plover survey at Seabrook. At high tide last week (Feb 12th) I got good looks of a flock of 170 Black Skimmers roosting on the Seabrook side of the inlet right at the far tip. I sent the resights into the Bird Banding Lab (BBL) and also emailed some folks involved in banding skimmers. Turns out two birds were banded as chicks in New Jersey this past summer. One was banded as a chick in New York this past summer. One was banded as a chick in North Carolina this past summer, and one was banded in Massachusetts in 2017 as a chick. Below are the details from the BBL reports and email clips. I just want to pass on the message that Capt. Sam’s is so important for all sorts of seabirds and shorebirds to rest and feed and spend their time. Especially these skimmers spending their first winter down here. Let’s spread the word!

Janet Thibault
Wildlife Biologist
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Two of our Seabrook Island Birder members photographed three of these same birds, along with two that Janet hadn’t seen that day.  Two of Janet’s sightings we don’t have photos:

  • Blue H11 (right leg): Was too young to fly when banded in 2019 near Stone Harbor, Cape May County, NJ
  • Orange A0 (left leg): Yes, it’s a Mass bird. A0 was hatched and banded in 2017 on Martha’s Vineyard, MA. Recently, it was seen at Huguenot Memorial Park in FL (160 mi. away, straight line distance) in December 2019, so it’s moving around a bit –Carolyn Mostello

If you happen to see and/or photograph a banded bird, be sure to report it!  Learn how from our website here.

House Finch Eye Disease

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 1.08.13 PM
House Finch Eye Disease – Tamami Gomizawa

This year I decided to participate in Project FeederWatch. This citizen science program is the perfect outlet for someone who enjoys watching the birds at her backyard feeders, but doesn’t want to bore all her friends and family with a list of birds she has attracted. Project FeederWatch actually wants your data! With their partner the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they use your data to track birds in Canada and all U.S. states except Hawaii.

Being that the House Finch is a frequent visitor to my feeders in the winter months, it is often included as a bird seen on my weekly FeederWatch sightings list. Each time that I enter the House Finch I am prompted to report if these birds had signs of eye disease. The FeederWatch program has turned out to be a useful tool for scientists to track avian diseases as well as winter movements. 

House Finches were initially found only in western North America. In the 1940’s pet stores across the U.S. started illegally selling House Finches as pets calling them “Hollywood Finches.” Someone in Brooklyn, NY spotted one of the birds in a pet store and reported it to the Audubon Society. To avoid prosecution pet stores stopped selling the House Finches and released them into the wild. The birds that were released continued to breed successfully and spread throughout eastern North America. 

In 1994, participants of Project FeederWatch in the Washington, DC area spotted and reported seeing House Finches with swollen, crusty eyes acting strangely at their feeders. Lab tests were done through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on some infected birds and found these birds were infected with a parasitic bacterium called mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. This disease had previously been found in poultry as a respiratory disease. Possibly the first House Finch to contract the disease was sharing feed with some of the infected poultry. 

House Finch Disease Map
Map of Disease Progression in House Finches – Project FeederWatch

With the help of the participants from Project FeederWatch, scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have tracked the progression of the House Finch eye disease across the United States since it was first spotted in 1994. Through 1997 the infected birds seemed to be concentrated on the eastern part of the country and through the midwest and into Canada. In 2002 FeederWatch participants began spotting the infected birds in the northwestern states and the disease began progressing down the west coast and finally in 2013 began looping back east into the southwestern states. 

House Finch Eye Disease Errol
House Finch with Eye Disease – Errol Taslkin

The House Finches afflicted with mycophlamal conjunctivitis have red, swollen, and crusty eyes. In extreme cases the eyes are so swollen the birds are essentially blind making it difficult for them to find food and are susceptible to predators. In many cases, infected House Finches do not die from the disease itself, but from starvation or predation. However, there are some birds who are able to survive mycophlamal conjunctivitis and these are the birds who have continued to spread the disease across the country. 

Over the years the House Finch developed some immunity to the bacteria and to keep up the bacteria evolved to become even more virulent. So, the prevalence of the disease has remained stable. Goldfinches, Purple Finches, and Evening Grosbeaks, have also been sighted with the disease, but it is not as prevalent in these species. 

If you spot infected birds at your feeders, All About Birds has some tips to follow to keep your yard and feeders disease free.

  • Clean your feeders at least every month with a diluted bleach solution. Rinse well and allow feeders to dry completely.
  • Consider purchasing tube feeders that can be completely disassembled and washed in a diluted bleach solution in the sink or in the dishwasher.
  • Rake the area underneath your feeder to remove droppings and old moldy seed.
  • Space your feeders widely to discourage crowding among birds.
  • If you see diseased birds, take your feeders down and clean them. Wait a few days before putting feeders back up to encourage sick birds to disperse. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for help with sick birds.
  • Read more about House Finch eye disease from Project FeederWatch and All About Birds.

House Finch Eye Disease 1
House Finch Eye Disease – photos courtesy of Project FeederWatch

Great Backyard Bird Count-Ocean Winds Golf Course

Viewing the Rookery at Hole #4 on Ocean Winds (Jackie Brooks)

Monday Monday, February 17,2020 9:00-11:00 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. 

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.  

If you are not yet a 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: or we request a $5 donation to SIB. 

Once you are a member, please register no later than Saturday, February 15, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Sunday, February 16th.

Join SIB for 2020 Great Backyard Bird Count

Sunday February 16, 2020 8:00am – 5:00 pm
Great Backyard Bird Count
Location: Various locations around Seabrook Island
Max: 20 No cost to members, $5 to non-members

Join us in participating in Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count. The day will involve walks at various locations throughout the day. The schedule below allows for individuals to sign up for a portion of the day if the whole day is not of interest. We request you register for all sections you will be attending so we know if we should wait for you at any individual location.

  • Maintenance Area /Equestrian Center 8:00-9:30 am
    We’ll start at the Garden Parking Lot and explore the retension ponds of the Water Treatment Facility and its borders where Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks and songbirds and sparrows can be seen. From there, we will walk along the horse trail (or drive) to the Equestrian Center to see Starlings and Cowbirds plus numerous other birds that can be expected there.
  • Palmetto Lake 10:00 – 11:30 am
    Join us to explore the birds around the Lake House and the walks of Palmetto Lake. This is less than one mile of flat, paved walk around the lake. We welcome our Seabrook Island parents/grandparents to bring their children to this walk with no charge for parent or child.
  • North Beach – (High Tide 2:17 pm) – 1:00-3:00 pm
    The group will meet at the Owners Beach Access Parking Lot at Boardwalk 1 then walk the 2 miles to Captain Sam’s Inlet. Those unable to walk the entire distance may turn around at any time. The group will work together to identify those hard to distinguish plovers and sandpipers. Red Knots may even be sited. The walk is scheduled around the high tide when the birds will be consolidated on a narrower beach.
  • Jenkin’s Point 4:00-5:00 pm
    We will be exploring the birds seen along Jenkins Point lagoons and streets, including ducks, wading birds and shorebirds. Since this event will be primarily by car, it is appropriate for members with mobility issues.

For all events, bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, water, snacks and binoculars and/or camera.

If you are not yet a SIB member, you must first become a member for $10 by following the instructions on our website:, or you may join each session for a Guest Fee of $5.

Once you are a member, please register to let us know which portions you plan to attend no later than Thursday, February 13, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday, February 14, 2020.

Join SIB for Valentine Backyard Birding at Live Oak Park

Bufflehead – Ed Konrad

Friday , February 14th at 4:00-6:00pm –
Location: 1729 Live Oak Park
Max: 12
Cost: None for 2019 members; $5 donation for guests

Come join us in Jerry and Diana’s Cohen’s back yard on Valentine’s Day. We won’t see love birds, but their yard faces the marsh at Horseshoe Creek. They also have a dock for additional bird viewing. Sunset will be at 6:05pm that evening. Many birds will be heading home to roost for the day. Our ducks will still be hanging around and so will the Robins, cedar waxwings and many other species.

As always, be sure to bring your water, binoculars, hats and sunscreen.

If you are not yet a 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: 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 register no later than February 12th at 10am. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Thursday , February 13th.

Ask SIB … What can I do for Starling invasion?

We often receive questions about birds from our members and residents of Seabrook Island. This week, Carl recently sent us this question:

Starlings have taken over my feeders. They discovered it about a month ago. Now they arrive each morning and occupy every feeding slot for hours, consuming lots of birdseed and depriving the finches, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, wrens, sparrows, etc. With the starlings dominating the feeder, I doubt that we will see painted buntings this year.
Will these starlings move on or is this the new normal?
Any suggestions?

Carl, Deer Point
European Starlings at Feeder – Birdwatching HQ

Joleen Ardaiolo provided the following response:

This is a great question and one that most people who have bird feeders have needed an answer to at one time or the other, especially with various species of “bully birds.” I have had problems in the past with American Crows, Boat-tailed Grackles, and even Blue Jays at the end of their nesting season. Your question comes at an interesting time because at present, I am  having the same issue with Red-winged Blackbirds.

Because I have had problems in the past with bully birds, I had already made some adjustments to the feeders I use.  First, I decided to use smaller tube feeders. These have smaller perches that make it more difficult, even though not impossible, for large birds to perch on comfortably to eat. If the large bird does land on this feeder it won’t stay long. You might think that you will need to fill these feeders more often, but if you just have smaller birds eating at these feeders, you probably won’t be filling them more than once a week. Also, leaving seed in a tube feeder much longer will result in the seed at the bottom going rancid.

I also have used cages on my tube feeders when certain bully birds were being aggressive. These allow only small birds to get close to the feeder. This might be a great option for Painted Buntings since I have read that they are not group feeders. You could put out a couple small caged tube feeders that only contain millet, their seed of choice. Perhaps feeding inside the cage will make them feel more protected.

As for the other birds that you want to attract, I have found that using a tray feeder with a dome top works really well. The dome top is adjustable to only allow in the size bird that you want to feed. I have mine adjusted to allow in birds up to Northern Cardinal size and fill it with sunflower and safflower seed to make everyone happy.

One of the staff members from Wild Birds Unlimited also suggested I bring in my feeders for a few days to encourage the offending birds to go elsewhere for their snack. I read that European Starlings are ground feeders, so eating from your feeders might be more opportunistic than natural for them. I have seen flocks of Starlings on the ground at the Equestrian Center and farm fields so they might just need to be urged to move on.

I am hopeful that these suggestions will help, but I would also like to encourage anyone else who might have had success with getting rid of bully birds at their feeders to respond to this post.

If you have a question for SIB, either use this link or send an email to

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