Ask SIB: How to Keep Ants off the Hummingbird Feeder

Is there any way to keep ants out of my Hummingbird feeders? There is a little cup in the middle that is supposed to keep them out but nonetheless they crawl in through the ports, then get trapped and most of them drown.

Melodie Murphy

To keep ants off of a hummingbird feeder, you need to create a water baffle. If your feeder is a hanging feeder, they sell them wherever you get your feeder supplies. Essentially,  you are placing a small reservoir of water between the hook and the feeder. The ants cannot get passed the water. This needs to be kept full.

Bob Mercer

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) welcome questions from our community of birding friends! If you have one, just fill out the form on our website or send us an email!

Outdoor Encounters at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center

Early Bird Walks 

  • June 27 August 8 
  • July 11 August 22 
  • July 25 

Rise and Shine! Enjoy an early morning bird walk through the diverse habitats of a hidden treasure on Seabrook Island. Camp in search of warblers, buntings, herons and other waterfowl. Join us and learn bird watching techniques and identification skills as we search for warblers, buntings, herons and anhinga. For the beginner and amateur. Hikes will take you into the maritime forest of live oaks and magnolias, our slough, along the beach and salt marsh. 

  • Fee: $10/person 
  • Time: 8 am – 10 am 
  • Meet: Porch of Susanna’s House 
  • Bring: binoculars; mosquito spray; water bottle; We do have binoculars that you can borrow 

Deveaux Bank Kayak and Birding Tour 

  •  July 31  (Let us know if you want to go on a different date)

Paddle to one of the largest sea bird nesting sanctuaries in the southeast to identify and observe terns, pelican, black skimmers and other shorebirds. Come and explore the island and other marine life together at this amazing place. 

  • Fee: $50/person (kayak, paddle, and life jacket is included in price) 
  • Time: 11:30am – 2:30pm 
  • Meet: Porch of Susanna’s House 
  • Bring: water, lunch or snacks; binoculars (camp has some to borrow) 

Night Hikes & Star-Gazing 

2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month 

  • June 27
  • July 11
  • July 25 
  • August 8 
  • August 22 

Learn to identify constellations. Hear the call of the barred owl or chuck-wills-widow. Heighten your senses through sensory activities. Search for spider eyes. Join us for a nocturnal experience that starts on a forested path in the maritime forest and ends on the beach. 

  • Fee: $20/person 
  • Time: 8 pm – 10 pm 
  • Meet: Porch of Susanna’s House 
  • Bring: mosquito spray; flashlight 

 Pre-registration is Required for all Classes 


St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center 
2810 Seabrook Island Road 
John’s Island, SC 29455 

Vehicle pass is called-in to access Seabrook Island and Camp property 

Birding is Back on the Golf Course

Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course
Date: Sunday June 28, 2020 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to members

SIB birding from Golf Carts – Jackie Brooks

Ocean Winds golf course is closed for major renovations, but Seabrook Island Birders has obtained permission from Seabrook Island Club and the Golf Club Operations to take a group of members out on the front 9 to bird and visit the rookery. We will RIDE in golf carts (1 4-person and 10 2-person carts) which can accommodate 13 – 24 people, based on the number of people who will share carts.

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, and Eastern Kingbirds.

To keep everyone safe, we will ask people to social distance and wear a face mask. When you register, if you are not joined by a family member, please let us know if you are open to riding with a non-family participant or if you prefer to be in a cart alone.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, 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 you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please register no later than Friday June 26, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday June 27, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Seabrook Island has a Least Tern Nest!

Least Tern on nest with partner on guard – Glenn Cox

In 2015, a major effort proceeded where the Captain Sam’s Creek and Kiawah River outflow was redirected creating the much larger North Beach. The necessary permits were provided by US Fish and Wildlife Services and the SC Department of Natural Resources because this wide expanse of beach would provide excellent nesting habitat for a number of rare and endangered species of birds: in particular the Least Tern and Wilson’s Plover. It has been successful. Both species nest on Seabrook Island now!

Least Tern egg in nest – Glenn Cox

Each year as part of the effort to provide a safe zone, the SCDNR designates a nesting area with yellow signs on North Beach between the lagoon and the dike close to Captain Sams inlet, where the birds most likely will nest. These signs direct beach goers to avoid the sensitive area so the birds can raise their young. If a nesting bird leaves its nest because of disturbance, the heat of the sun can boil the eggs or fry the young. The attached photos show how minimalist the nests are.  In fact, they are really just scrapes in the sand.

Friday, at sunrise, Seabrook Island’s resident photographer, Glen Cox, discovered a nest of the Least Tern outside of the designated nesting area. It is obvious the bird cannot read and felt that the area between the ocean and the lagoon would provide a better location. Unfortunately, the bird does not understand humans and their desire to walk the beach. In an effort to protect this bird’s nest, a new area has been cordoned with signs.

Mark Andrews, a Seabrook Island birder, who volunteers with SCDNR, coordinated with SCDNR to create the new nesting area.  SCDNR told him that it has been a bad year for Least Tern nests, so this is likely these bird’s second or third attempt to produce young this year.  While Mark was out on the beach, he saw many Least Tern pairs courting so hopefully more nests will be laid and successfully fledge chicks.  These little birds are very  territorial so if you are walking North Beach and a small tern “dive bombs” you, you have probably inadvertently gotten too close to a nest.

While people are out enjoying Seabrook Island’s North Beach they are asked to respect the boundary established to protect this Least Tern pair’s nest.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Photo Credits: Glen Cox and Mark Andrews

Virtual Movie Matinee: Dancing with the Birds

Join us to Watch: Dancing with the Birds
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
4:00 – 5:30 pm

Dancing with the Birds is a 2019 documentary film directed by Huw Cordey and narrated by Stephen Fry. The premise revolves around exotic birds doing mating rituals, either by dancing or creating nests with the right decorations.

As we are still limited in conducting in-person group activities, we are offering our third “Virtual Movie Matinee” using Zoom! And the best part is you don’t even have to be on Seabrook Island to join and it is FREE!

Once you register, we will send you a link the day prior to the event to allow you to access our Zoom live video. We will open each event with introductions and a little social time, watch the hour long show together, and finish with a short discussion to get your feedback and answer questions.

Sign up, then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

This event is free, but if you are not a SIB member, we invite you to join for only $10/person/year. Visit our website for more information about how to join.

Ask SIB: How Do I Keep Squirrels Out of My Feeders?

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) welcome questions from our community of birding friends! If you have one, just fill out the form on our website or send us an email!

I’m having a problem with pesky bossy squirrels that are cleaning out my bird feeders taking the great majority of the seed. I read that one can add cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper into the seed before putting it into the feeders and that this will deter the squirrels but not the birds (as they do not have taste receptors for capsaicin). As the bird expert, do you know whether or not that adding the pepper to the feeders will not hurt the birds and if not, approximately how much one needs to add?

Leslie Baylis

Quick response : Hi there!  You are correct – In fact you can buy suet with red pepper at Wild Birds and I can attest it works that squirrels don’t like and birds don’t mind. But let’s ask our “resident naturalist,” Bob Mercer, to see if he has any more details.

Nancy Brown

Nancy, you are right. Mammals do not like red pepper and birds don’t react to it. Some people think it is cruel for the squirrel, especially if they rub their eyes. I think a little shock therapy goes a long way. As to the amount, that is another question. The common wisdom is birds can tolerate 20,000 parts per million (PPM) while mammals can tolerate more like 20 PPM. So, you do not need a lot. One source, which is totally anecdotal suggested a ¾ cup for a 40 lb. bag of seed. Squirrels are quick learners, so if you do not get it strong enough the first time, who knows how they will behave. One word of caution! Red Pepper is a problem for us also. It can be a skin irritant and if you get it in your eyes, it will most likely involve a trip to the hospital, especially if you are working with large quantities. Do not shake the pepper flakes into your bird feeder on a windy day! Mix it inside.

My suggestion if you want to go this route is to try a ½ tsp of either Cayenne pepper or Red Pepper flakes in each feeder and see if it works. If it does, you should be able to reduce to ¼ tsp or even eliminate adding the pepper flakes once the squirrels are trained to stay away, repeating the process only when they catch on that you are no longer using the flakes.

Bob Mercer, SIB’s “Resident Naturalist”

Thanks, both Nancy and Bob. I put some cayenne pepper in the feeder on Wednesday afternoon and saw the squirrels yesterday (Thursday) but not up on the feeders- they were nosing around on the ground. However, today they’re not even under the feeders so I think this approach worked. Thank you both for your help. Now, maybe you have some wise advice about the deer eating the plants…

Leslie Baylis

Ask SIB: Nesting Anhingas

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) welcome questions from our community of birding friends! If you have one, just fill out the form on our website or send us an email!

Breeding Anhinga pair vs Great Egrets – photo by Valerie Doane

I’ve seen a male and female Anhinga, I assume a mating pair, on Jenkins Point Road in the lagoon rookery on the right.  You know better than I that there are only a few Egret nests in that rookery.  I noticed on several different visits over the last 10 days or so that the Anhinga pair was sometimes sitting on a nest and sometimes they were not and sometimes they were in a big time squabble with a pair of Great Egrets over the nest!  I have photos of the squabble on June 1st.  I swear the Egrets and Anhinga pair were fighting over the nest!

I was wondering about a few things and thought perhaps you might have some insight on the following:

1.     Do these two species often steal each other’s nest? 

2.     Do Anhinga’s typically nest in the same rookery as Egrets?

3.     Isn’t it late in the season for chicks to hatch? 

Valerie Doane

So for some quick answers, Nancy Brown responded as follows (be sure to “Read More” to see the answers and more photos!):

Continue reading “Ask SIB: Nesting Anhingas”

Update: Chuck-will’s-Widow with her Babies!

Earlier this month, we shared a story and photos about a nesting Chuck-will’s-widow on Seabrook Island. The great news is, she has hatched two babies!

I spent 15 minutes photographing and I swear both chicks and mama did not move an inch. No wait, not even an 1/8 of an inch!  If I hadn’t gotten the preview from your (the McCullochs) bathroom window, I would have missed entirely.  Honestly they look like a tree stump or some bizzaro type of reptile.

The chick on the mama’s left (our right) has the right side of its little bitty head buried under the mama’s breast so only really seeing a profile of its left side in these photos.  I tried to change my angle a bit in order to reconcile its head from her breast, but couldn’t without disturbing them.

Valerie Doane
Chuck-will’s-widow mother and her two chicks. Photo credit: Valerie Doane

Thanks again to Warren and Julie McCulloch for announcing the birth of the chicks, and for the wonderful description and photo taken by Valerie Doane!

Watch the Replay – Nesting Birds of Seabrook Island

On June 3, 2020, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) held its first Virtual Evening Program, Nesting Birds, with Matt Johnson & Nolan Schillerstrom from Audubon South Carolina.  Nearly 100 people registered from 16 states, with about 55 joining the program live.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the topic and the great work done by Matt and Nolan to present information specific to Seabrook Island! The event was interactive, with participants posting questions live on the Zoom “chat” feature.

For those who missed the event, or want to watch it again, click on the link below:

To learn more about Audubon South Carolina, we encourage you to visit their FacebookTwitter, and Instagram as well as their website .

Watch for more “virtual” events coming soon! And if you want to give us feedback on our programs, take our brief survey using this link to let us know:
– When you think you will resume participation if available
– Ideas for activities
– Feedback on Zoom programs

Mercer’s Musings: A Study of Red Knots

This article, written by Robert Mercer, originally appeared on page 11 in the June 2020 edition of The Seabrooker.

Early in season, Red Knots are gray. There is a banded bird in this picture hiding its flag.

As I leave South Carolina behind, so are the Red Knots (Calidris canutus rufa).

Early in the year, when the Red Knots started to show up on Seabrook Island beaches, my friend, Mark Andrews, talked me into helping him get counts of the birds. After several attempts, Mark realized that our numbers could not be very accurate as birds could be anywhere nearby. In an effort to remedy this shortfall, Mark made arrangements for a team of people to create a snapshot survey of the total number of Red Knots on the Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island Beaches. In mid-March we counted about 2,000 Red Knots.  On our second effort, at the end of March, the number rose to about 3,200.

How many birds do you count? Flock of mostly Red Knots. Estimated size of whole flock, 4,000.
Continue reading “Mercer’s Musings: A Study of Red Knots”
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