Note: This article, written by Joleen Ardaiolo, first appeared in The Seabrooker, July 2020.
Birdwatching can be a solitary hobby, as you certainly don’t need a birding group to compile a list of every bird you locate during a year. However, on Seabrook Island, birding activities and programs held before the pandemic had become quite the social events. The more activities, the merrier! The more participants, the merrier!
Then came a contagious virus that changed socializing as we knew it and, sadly, the Seabrook Island Birders had to cancel all programs and activities. Fortunately, the birds were still here. Bird watching didn’t have to stop. With everything closed and cancelled, there was actually more time to take advantage of the many resources available online about birds and birding.
As it turned out, birdwatching didn’t have to be solitary. Many photos were shared and questions asked using social media. Our neighborhood social media app Nextdoor alerted neighbors about the nesting Bald Eagle and Great Horned Owl on the golf course along with the Ospreys near the amenities office. In all cases, there were successful fledglings. With the help of the Nextdoor readers, birds were identified from cell phone photos. Our local photographers got to use this platform to share some amazing photos of the many birds found at the beach, in the marsh, on the golf course, and in our backyards. Though not as personal and local, Facebook offers another way to connect with birders in Charleston, in all of South Carolina, in your home state, and beyond. Photos and experiences can be shared, questions can be answered, and information disseminated. If you use Facebook, check out Audubon South Carolina, Charleston Audubon & Natural History Society, Birding in South Carolina, Carolina Bird Photo Sharing Group, Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, and of course Seabrook Island Birders. Engaging in this type of social media is for everyone. You don’t have to participate, just enjoy the photos and learn from the questions asked and information given.
Webcams have become a popular way to observe nature. Remember April the giraffe in 2017? Even without orders to shelter in place many people were checking the webcam in her zoo stall hoping to witness the birth of her baby. It was a wonderful distraction from everyday life that year. The webcam is a virtual window and “Bird Cams” are that window for birds living, feeding, and nesting all over the world. These webcams offer views that even the best binoculars could not give you. As people were asked to stay at home, bird nesting season was beginning and the Cornell Lab Bird Cams were set up all over the world for anyone to access and follow a multitude of different birds nesting. These cams are always accessible by going to allaboutbirds.org and searching for Bird Cams. You can even engage with other followers by checking out their comments or adding your own. If you want something local, access the Kiawah Island bird feeder cam at their town hall at kiawahisland.org. Lots of birds common to our area and some surprise visitors can be seen on a variety of different feeders.
Bird Watching While Social Distancing
While everyone was not comfortable with this, there were times this spring when a few of us would go out birding. Spring migration for birders is like receiving gifts daily for a few weeks. For this short period you have an opportunity to view birds traveling through the area that you would not normally see. Unless you are an experienced birder, identifying a bird is always easier when you have more than one brain to access, especially if the bird is not common to your area. So occasionally two or three of us would bike and bird around Seabrook Island keeping the appropriate distance apart when on and off our bikes. It gave us outdoor time, a minimal amount of exercise, some social interaction, and that needed extra help in identifying those migrating warblers and shorebirds.
For those not interested in any contact, there were updates through text messaging and the Google Group for SIB that kept us updated on what was being seen at our feeders and nearby. A good example was when a Rose-breasted Grosbeak was spotted at a feeder and verified with a poor quality grainy cell phone photo through text. Over the next couple weeks others were spotting this beautiful bird and luckily many of us got to see one during the birds’ short stopover. Through Google Groups, members were alerted of the arrival of birds like the Great Crested Flycatcher and the Summer Tanager.
Meetings and Activities Resume
Even though large groups are still not allowed to flock together, the Seabrook Island Birders have been able to resume their executive committee meetings and some activities through Zoom. You will have to provide your own popcorn, but the movie matinees are back via Zoom. Also, SIB’s first Virtual Evening Program was held and well attended on June the 3rd. The program was on nesting and presented by two of SIB’s friends from Audubon South Carolina. For a schedule of what’s to come virtually or, hopefully soon, in person keep checking our website at seabrookisland.org.
Getting Back To Normal
Even as our country struggles to get back to normal some of us may need to keep our distance for a while longer. During the past few months we have adapted to a new cautious way of living and adding some new activities that incorporate social distancing might spark a whole new hobby. The Seabrook Island Birders, through our website, SIB posts, and Facebook are trying to entertain and inform and SIB always welcomes the opportunity to teach anyone about birds and birding. Join our group, follow our posts, or contact us through our email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Stay Safe Everyone!
Article submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo
SIBs Virtual Evening Event on Zoom