Painted Bunting Palooza

We received this note from Jennifer Hesterman this past week:

Hello, thought you would enjoy this photo, taken after the storm on August 26th at 6:30 PM – 3 males and 7 females and/or immature males. And two water-logged cardinals 🙂

Jenni
photo by Jennifer Hesterman

Fall Warbler Sightings

Ed and I have had a fine week of fall warblers at Palmetto Lake. We have had Yellow, American Redstart, Prairie, Yellow-throated, Back-and-White and Northern Parula! Most have been found in the trees and hedge by the soccer goal. The Yellow has been particularly regular here, from the soccer goal to the Lake House side entrance by the handrail. The warblers have also been active in several trees with berries on the far end of the lake with the “pump.” There is a palm tree that hangs over the path…follow it to its top and look in the trees with the small berries! And listen for “chips,” no one is singing in the fall. Good luck! Also over 500 birds have been roosting at Palmetto Lake in the evening…Great and Snowy Egrets, Tricolored, Green and Little Blue Herons, and lots of White Ibis, along with a few Anhingas. It’s quite a sight to see!

Article submitted by Aija Konrad, Photos by Ed Konrad

Kiawah Island Banding Station

Kiawah Island is located next door to Seabrook Island, SC.  Did you know the Kiawah Island Banding Station (KIBS) consists of two banding sites located on private lands at the far western and eastern ends of Kiawah Island?

The Captain Sam’s Site located at the western end of the island was established in 2009 by the Town of Kiawah Island with support from the Kiawah Conservancy. The first two years was spent learning and working through the details of operating a banding station, as well as collecting baseline data to help guide future study. In 2011, an effort to standardize protocol and effort was launched. A banding assistant was hired to help with daily operations and we began to build a volunteer base.

In 2015, the Little Bear Site located on the eastern end of the island was created. This site was created as an alternate site in case banding operations on the west end need to be suspended due to development. The second site also provides for interesting comparison between two similar but different habitats. Since 2012, a crew of 4-7 assistants has been hired to ensure that KIBS can be run every day during the fall migration period. It also set the standard course for future seasons to come.

Banding conducted at KIBS will provide valuable data on the species diversity and composition on Kiawah Island.  Bird banding is also a significant tool used to assess the health and demographics of bird populations.  Important information such as productivity, survivorship, and movements of many species can be attained through a banding program.  All banding data collected is submitted to the Bird Banding Laboratory administered by the United States Geological Survey.

KIBS is the only banding station located along the coast of South Carolina, and has grown to become one of the largest banding stations in the southeastern United States, thus providing important information on migrating birds along the South Atlantic Coast.

OBJECTIVES

The major objectives of KIBS are to:

  • Gather baseline information on resident and migratory birds on Kiawah Island.
  • Collect data to enable long-term monitoring (i.e. population tends) of birds on Kiawah Island.
  • Monitor fall migration to determine the importance of Kiawah Island as stop-over habitat.
  • Assess the effects of development on bird populations.
  • Provide data to better manage habitat and guide future development plans.   
  • Contribute high quality data to the North American Bird Banding Program.

This year marks the 12th consecutive year that we have been banding on Kiawah Island during the fall at the Captain Sam’s (CS) site.  The Little Bear (LB) site is in its 6 year of operation.  Across both sites, we have banded 54,732 birds and have had 12,930 recaptures of over 130 species. 

This year’s banding will be a little different as we follow protocols and guidelines related to COVID-19.  One of the more difficult changes this year is that we will not be allowing visitors, volunteers, or educational groups to come out to the banding site.  We rely on volunteers especially on busy days when we need and extra hand or two to help extract birds or scribe data.  We don’t host many groups but we have a few that come out each year, and will surely miss those day teaching people about the birds and the work that we are doing.     
I am looking forward to another successful banding season!

However, be sure to visit our blog throughout this fall to see updates and photos of the birds we band.

Article submitted by Aaron Given, Town of Kiawah Island Wildlife Biologist; Bander-In-Charge (Master Bander)

Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course

NOTE: This activity is very popular and we are only allowed to have a maximum of 24 people, so sign up early if you are interested. We have already filled eight seats using the waitlist from a previous event.

Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course
Date: Sunday August 30, 2020 8:00 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 those from the 6/28 waitlist and SIB 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: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. You may bring the form and your payment or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5 the morning of the event.

Please register no later than Friday August 28, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday August 29, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Watch the Replay: Seabrook Island Shorebirds

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) hosted its second virtual Zoom Evening Program on Wednesday August 19, 2020, featuring naturalist Bob Mercer speaking on the Shorebirds of Seabrook Island.

More than 80 people registered for the event from ten states and one Canadian Province. Bob first explained which birds are NOT shorebirds … waterfowl, gulls, terns, herons, and more!

What characteristics do shorebirds have?

  • Generally thin billed and long-legged
  • Frequently found foraging along shoreline
  • Foraging by picking and probing

In learning to identify shorebirds, Bob recommends you focus on size and shape and NOT color, as the color changes through the year and can make it more confusing! Look at size and shape of the body, length of the legs, and size and shape of the bill, especially in relationship to the head!

After reviewing all of the common Seabrook Island Shorebirds and listing others not found on Seabrook, Bob gave a quiz so the participants could put their new found knowledge to use. Watch the replay to learn more, or refresh your memory!

The participants were asked if they liked this format and what other bird topics they would like SIB to present. The response was an overwhelming “YES” and below are the results of the topics people indicated they would enjoy.

SIB plans to continue holding evening programs virtually using Zoom each month. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for evening speakers or topics by sending us an email to SeabrookIslandBirders@gmail.com. Watch for announcements for future virtual events!

Ask SIB: Where Have All the Pelicans Gone?

Sofia, 13-month old granddaughter of Dick & Marg Wildermann

SIB Received this email on Sunday 8/16/20:

Dear SIB

Our daughter has been renting a villa on Rolling Dunes, next to boardwalk #1, for two weeks.  We spend part of most days there, especially in the evening.  For two weeks, our 13-month old granddaughter, Sofia, loved being out on the porch or deck in the evening to watch the pelicans fly directly overhead.

The pelicans came over constantly, in groups of several or even 20 or more. We’ve noticed when walking the beach as well that there are many pelicans this year.

Well, Saturday evening there were very few pelicans flying over their villa in the evening.  On Sunday there were none.

Where have the pelicans gone? 

Sofia will be here for another week.  I promised her that SIB would bring the pelicans back.  So you now bear a heavy burden.  

Thank you,

Dick Wildermann

And then we received this follow-up note on Monday 8/17/20:

SIB friends:

We took Sofia to the property owner’s pool at North Beach today and there were lots of pelicans.  Thank you so much for taking care of our problem so quickly.  Sofia would point at them flying overhead and screech.  She loves pelicans.

I told her the SIB experts said we saw no pelicans yesterday because it was Sunday and they had taken the weekend off.  I hope that was the right answer.

Keep safe, Thank you, with love, Sofia

Dick Wildermann

Her mom, Jodi added,

Thanks! She’s a real birder already. She loves nothing more than the birds, especially the pelicans. She hasn’t learned yet that screaming at them chases them away rather than attracting them though.

Jodi Simopoulos

Besides having the weekend off, the only other explanation we at Seabrook Island Birders came up with is that the weather had changed and the Brown Pelicans had different flight patterns as directed by the Pelican Air Control (PAC). But in all seriousness, as this is a question many of our island residents and guests have asked, there probably is no logical reason we mortal humans could discern. Weather, tide, winds, fish schools, … all would have a bearing the pelicans would understand.

Join SIB for our August Virtual Events

With the heat of the summer and the need to still social distance, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) has scheduled two “Virtual Movie Matinees” and an Evening Program using Zoom during the month of August!  And the best part is you don’t even have to be on Seabrook Island to join!

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

Sign up for one, two or all three of our events, then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

Movie Matinee: The Saga of the White Tailed Eagle on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

The sea eagle was once widespread throughout almost all of Europe and graced the coats of arms of many different countries. During the 19th and 20th centuries it was driven to the brink of extinction by hunting, the increased use of pesticides and the destruction of its habitat. This touching animal drama recounts the true life story of one individual bird, observed over the course of a year. Beginning with its birth in a lowland forest in Central Europe the film team follows the eagle’s first outing with its brothers and sisters and subsequent distant migrations to places as far away as Scandinavia. Finally it chronicles its dramatic lead poisoning, recovery and resettlement in a nature reserve.

Evening Program: Seabrook Island Shorebirds on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Do you enjoy going to the beach to watch birds but then find yourself frustrated with trying to identify the small shorebirds that run along the edge of the surf? Join this special “virtual” program, with Naturalist Bob Mercer, to learn about the shorebirds that call our island home. He will provide you with simple clues to help you learn the very challenging sandpipers and plovers often seen on our beach, and then give you a chance to practice your new identification skills during our program.

Movie Matinee: Owl’s Odyssey on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

A female barn-owl’s home is demolished and she seeks a new place to live. Flying through forests and grasslands, she meets common owl species in Central Europe, some she can co-exist with, others she must shun. This documentary is a beautiful display of what owls mean to humans; how they fly and hunt; why they’ve been associated with death. The owl finally finds a new home, as the guest of a barn owl family, in time to see the new clutch of young following their mother on their first majestic flight.

Watch the trailer here.

Birding in the time of Coronavirus – our therapy…

Well, this is an article that has been written and rewritten three times since the beginning of March when all this started. How easy it is in these trying times to have a long list of “things to do” and not get to them. Hours flow into days, days flow into weeks, and weeks flow into months.  Junk drawers to sort, closets to clean, years of old photographs to organize…oh, maybe tomorrow.

Our therapy has been birdwatching – a soothing and fantastic pastime that you can do alone! As Ed and I stayed close to home since early March when all this started, we’ve spent endless hours walking and hiking. We’ve made it a game to see how many bird species we can identify.

Ed challenged himself to see how many species he could photograph. He’s up to 171 now with a Swallow-tailed Kite, a nice companion to the Mississippi Kite we saw in May. He calls it the 2020 Pandemic Birdathon! Considering I recorded 182 species on eBird during this time, not bad for my hubby the photographer!

Early March was pretty scary. Local parks in our town closed and we couldn’t go for walks. So, we found places near home with few people and out of the way trails. Some early discoveries were following the progress of a breeding Osprey pair, being thrilled when a Broad-winged Hawk circled overhead, and being patient to not just hear but to find and photograph the elusive vireos.

Another destination was country roads with cattle ponds that are an eBird hotspot and magnets for migrating shorebirds, totally without people! A special visitor was a rare Wilson’s Phalarope that gave us great looks. Bobolink were spectacular in the spring flowers. And who would have guessed we’d see a Snowy Egret and Cattle Egret, so common at Seabrook, in the GA pastures! It was like a box of chocolates each time – we never knew what treat we would get.

With all the traveling we’ve done through the years to bird and photograph, we’ve not stayed put long enough to really appreciate our feeders. We border a Corps of Engineers property, and the variety of migrating and breeding birds was a wonder. Brown Thrashers and Gray Catbirds were daily visitors to the feeders, and nested in the woods along with an elusive Wood Thrush we discovered. Scarlet Tanagers and Great Crested Flycatchers graced our trees.

Our favorites to the feeders were the migrating Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. In April we started with two, and grew to ten!!! They came consistently for over three weeks!! We photographed as many as eight at one time, but we know there were at least ten by their different plumages. They waited patiently for us on the deck at 6:45 each morning to put out the feeders. We became good friends with these striking birds, and were sad when they decided to fly north to breed.

Searching for migrating warblers was like a scavenger hunt, and we found 23 total from March to June. These are always a challenge for Ed to photograph – they don’t sit up and pose. Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky, Worm-eating were some favorites. We found Cape May and Blackpoll Warblers in our backyard, have these always been here? AND… an ever-elusive life bird for us both, the Connecticut Warbler found by a birder in Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta!! Whaaaatttt??? We made tracks immediately to the city!

Connecticut Warbler – Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta GA

There’s a theme in this article about taking more time, being patient and really absorbing the nature around us on our walks. We’ve heard friends say that this is a positive of the pandemic. In May and June we carefully hunted for nests -Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers with chicks were treats. And while we were out there, we began to photograph and identify spring and summer wildflowers – an interesting challenge too. PlantNet and iNaturalist Apps will identify things for you from a photograph on your phone.

So that is our story during this unsettling time. Solace in our birds and the beauty of nature. 

To view Ed’s photos of our 2020 Pandemic Birdathon, click or cut and paste to your browser this URL for Ed’s Flickr page. The 171 species are on pages 1 and 2 of the “Photostream” homepage, and also in the first Album.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/edkon/

Article by Aija Konrad, Photos by Ed Konrad

Our March Osprey with chicks in June Lake Allatoona GA

Piebald Chickadee

Alas, the morning spent on my front porch in hopes of the prothonotary warbler returning was in vain. He had found the accommodations at Chez Ardaiolo more to his liking (refer to Prothonotary Warbler Sighting on Loblolly Lane ). However, upon moving to the back porch, I noticed an unusual looking bird drinking water from the hummingbird feeder. No, that wasn’t a white Carolina  Chickadee, just the sun playing tricks on my eyes.  Ooops, there he is again, and he is much whiter than than his companion chickadee.  Boy, is he pretty, but is he a baby, not yet with his adult feathers? Is he a molting bird? 

Leucistic Carolina Chickadee photographed by Jackie Brooks

It turns out that he is a mutant bird, but not one from Area 51.  He is a leucistic Carolina Chickadee.  Leucism is a genetic mutation that causes pigment to fail to be deposited on a bird’s feathers. Plumage that does have color is often a paler, diluted version of its normal color. Since he has some normal coloring, along with his white patches, he is a pied or piebald bird.  Birds that are completely white are leucistic birds. These birds have normal colored eyes, legs and skin. Only their feathers are affected by the lack of color. Albino birds, on the other hand, have no pigment in their skin, legs, feet, and bill. Their eyes are pink or red.

This is not the first leucistic bird to find their way to Seabrook Island. We published an article back in January 2020 with photographs of a leucistic Brown-headed Cowbird.

So, what brings two highly unusual birds, the Prothonotary Warbler pair and the Piebald Carolina Chickadee, to the same area within 24 hours?  Is it fate?  Is it luck? 

Article and Photographs by Jackie Brooks