Ghost Bird

In 1836, a friend sent John James Audubon a specimen of an eastern black rail. Audubon never saw one in the wild. John James Audubon/National Audubon Society.

On Sunday, September 10, 2020, The Post and Courier featured a fascinating article on a bird native to South Carolina called the Black Rail.

Even a non-birder will enjoy this well-written article about an elusive bird, also known as the “Ghost Bird”, that is declining in numbers, but has yet to make it on the endangered list. It is also a cautionary tale for the avid birders trying to seek the bird out.

Click here to access the article and hear the captivating account beautifully read by the author.

Returning Piping Plovers “Joe” and “Big VB”

Piping Plovers have begun returning to Seabrook! As Ed and Aija Konrad’s article in the September The Seabrooker explained, Seabrook Island hosts migratory and winter resident Piping Plovers. These birds are usually from Atlantic or Great Lakes nesting stocks of which the Great Lakes birds are the most endangered, with only 75 nesting pairs left. Great Lakes Piping Plovers are intensively managed on their nesting grounds with researchers monitoring the progress of each nest and intervening by saving the eggs when it appears that a nest might be lost to high water or loss of a parent to predators.

Since early August, I have been fortunate to see and photograph eight migratory Piping Plovers with bands. Six of those have been Great Lakes birds.

“Joe” – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC, by Mark Andrews

We report our orange banded Piping Plovers to Alice Van Zoeren, Researcher with The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team. On August 24th, I reported a bird with a lot of bling, “Orange flag, Green over Violet // metal USGS band and Yellow over Orange” and was certainly surprised to hear back from Alice:

This is the report we’ve all been waiting for! The first of the 39 captive-reared babies from this summer to make it south!

This little plover came from a nest at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI near Sleeping Bear Point. Its mother was also captive-reared and has had some very bad luck. For the second year in a row her mate was predated, likely by a merlin. She attempted to incubate alone, but it’s ultimately not possible. The eggs were collected, incubated at the Detroit Zoo and the resulting chicks raised in captivity until they could fly well. They were released on North Manitou Island on July 10th. On July 19th I was the monitor on the island and noticed that this chick (Known also as “Joe”) wasn’t able to hold its wings up in the normal position. It was still actively feeding and behaving completely normally so no intervention was planned. By July 19 it had fully recovered. This has happened before with other chicks. Perhaps it overdid flying and got sore muscles? I saw it on North Manitou August 10th, but by the 11th this chick, two adult males and four other fledged chicks had left the area.

It’s so exciting to hear that Joe made it to South Carolina.

https://www.facebook.com/GLPIPL/

Alice Van Zoeren, Researcher with The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team

I saw Joe four more times from August 24 through September 1st and still look for him each time I head out on North Beach. On September 5, I thought I had spotted him again but when I got a better spotting scope view, I realized it could be another of the 39 captive reared birds from this summer! The new bird with orange flag but violet over blue bands was foraging with three other Piping Plovers without bands.

Big VP – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC by Mark Andrews

I sent my pictures to Alice and heard back right away:

Youre hitting the jackpot! I was just out looking for this young bird. It’s sibling is still up  here but this one was last seen here on 9/2. It made mighty good time getting to  Seabrook. This is another of the chicks that was captive-reared this summer. This one came from a nest at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, near Sleeping Bear  Point…about 1/2 mile from where Joe originated. In this case the adults were both first-time parents and had lost their first clutch to high water/waves. Their second nest was a  late one and they just seemed to give up on incubation in favor of heading south. More  experienced parents with nests started at the same time stuck it out and hatched chicks.    This chick was released near the south boundary of SBDNL on 8/7.  It’s only the second  of this year’s captive-reared chicks to be reported from wintering territories..”

Alice Van Zoeren`

A few thoughts on observing and resighting shorebirds. Resighting is the activity of reporting the bands, tags, or flags biologists place on birds to identify individuals and, in turn, make observations about the larger flocks that these individuals make up. In the case of Piping Plovers, we report directly to the researchers and are rewarded with the type of personal responses like I have shared above. Go to the Facebook link:

https://www.facebook.com/GLPIPL/

for more information on what the Piping Plover researchers do to protect these birds and to get a sense of the excitement we have in reporting our sightings to them.

If you are out on the beach, please remember the steward rules for approaching shorebirds and give them space to feed. They need to rebuild their fat reserves to continue their migration or to survive harsh weather.

Please walk around resting or feeding birds and learn to recognize when birds are getting nervous if you get too close. Piping Plovers run, then fly. If you chase, they will burn calories that they need to survive.

Use binoculars, spotting scope or camera with a long telephoto lens to observe the birds from a distance. While it appears that I am very close in these photos, they were taken with a long telephoto lens and cropped (magnified) on my computer.

North Beach is a Federally designated Critical Habitat for wintering Piping Plovers. North Beach can be a harsh environment. All the great work the Great Lakes researchers do can be undone here by carelessness.

If you observe or photograph a banded bird, please report your observation to Seabrook Island Birders. We will send the report to the proper site and enter the sighting into the Seabrook Island registry that Ed Konrad has maintained.

Once we get get beyond the pandemic, come join us for a North Beach bird walk and get to know the shorebirds. They are another fascinating aspect of nature here on Seabrook Island.

Article and photos by Mark Andrews

Join SIB to Bird Ocean Winds Golf Course this Sunday

Seabrook Island Birders is again hosting a birding on Ocean Winds golf course event this Sunday, September 27, 2020 starting at 8:30 am and finishing around 10:30 am.

Ocean Winds golf course is closed for major renovations, but Seabrook Island Birders has again obtained permission from Seabrook Island Club and the Golf Club Operations to take a group of members out to bird the course. 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 only have seven seats available so if you are interested, sign up NOW!

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 even some of our fall migrants!

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.

The event is free for 2020 SIB members or you may be a guest fee of $5. To join SIB, just bring your $10 to the event or follow the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/.

All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday September 26, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Birding the Lewis & Clark Trail on September 23!

Birding the Lewis & Clark Trail
Guest Speakers: Ed & Aija Konrad
Date: Wednesday September 23, 2020
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 PM
Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: FREE

REGISTER TODAY

REGISTER TODAY

Speaker Biographies

Aija and Ed Konrad have been birding at Seabrook for 12 years. Aija is the avid birdwatcher and Ed is the photographer. You have probably seen them at North Beach or around Palmetto Lake, the tall blonde with binoculars and the guy with the big lens camera. They’ve been SIB members for 5 years and Ed serves on the board.

Aija and Ed have been advocates for many years on protecting Seabrook’s shorebirds, with a focus on our endangered and threatened species. They’ve built strong partnerships with our SC DNR, USFWL, and SC Audubon biologists, as well as researchers in the Piping Plover breeding regions. You read their many birding articles and view Ed’s photos on the SIB website and the Seabrooker. In the last decade they’ve traveled extensively to bird and shoot photos in 49 US states and Canada, Central America, Europe, and the Far East.In 2018, Aija did a US Big Year, and they crisscrossed the country to see how many bird species they could identify in a calendar year. They wound up with a whopping 577 species, and Aija placed #15 on EBird’s Lower 48 states!

When 2019 rolled around it was quite a letdown after the Big Year, so they had to think of another goal. Ed, who is a history buff, had an idea on his bucket list for years…driving cross country and tracing the Lewis and Clark trail…with lots of birdwatching and photography. So, they set out on their 28-day journey of birds and history.

Aija and Ed are Penn State graduates. They live in Atlanta full time and Seabrook Island about 10 days a month. They have 2 children and 4 grandchildren. Travel has become all about birds…if we could only do that again!

You can view Ed’s bird photos and their many travel adventures on Ed’s Flickr site. Just click or cut and paste this URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edkon/

September Virtual Movie Matinee Series

Register Today

The weather is beginning to cool and fall is on its way. With the need to still social distance, SIB will continue our “Virtual Movie Matinee” series using Zoom through the fall! Join us on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays in September. 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 or both here and then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

Plight of the Grassland Birds on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

From the fields of New England and Canada to the vast plains of Montana to the deserts of Mexico, grassland birds are losing their habitats at an alarming rate.Host Will Lange explores efforts to protect the birds and their habitats. Watch the trailer here.

Journey of the Broad-winged Hawk on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Every year, thousands of broad-winged hawks embark on a treacherous flight from New Hampshire to South America. JOURNEY OF THE BROAD-WINGED HAWK follows the raptors’ two-month, 4,500-mile migration from New Hampshire, over an Appalachian flyway in Pennsylvania, over Corpus Christi, Texas, and ending in the rainforests of Ecuador and the Maquipucunu Reserve. Along the way, people and communities follow and celebrate the hawks’ journey. Host Willem Lange traces the migratory route of these magnificent birds from the White Mountains to the Andes of Ecuador, and shares the stories of those who witness this wonder of nature. Watch the trailer here.

Register Today

Free Community Kayak & Boat Tours

Whether you are an avid birder, a beginner, or just want to learn more about this interesting part of  Charleston Harbor, you might be interested in an excursion to Crab  Bank. With a grant from National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Coastal Expeditions and Audubon South Carolina are offering free 2 hour, family friendly tours during this Fall.  Learn about the restoration for this critical bird habitat after intensive fund raising by many agencies. 

You can choose between a boat trip or ,for the more adventurous, take a kayak tour. Whichever you choose, it is bound to be a fun, informative activity. 

Be a Part of the Crab Bank Story

Be a Part of the Crab Bank StoryIn 2018, the people of Charleston rallied for Crab Bank. Many of you made donations, wrote letters or raised your paddles high at the Save Crab Bank Paddle. It was truly a community effort to protect something that we know is important. And the next chapter of this critical seabird rookery is about to begin. 

The Coastal Expeditions Foundation and Audubon South Carolina invite you to witness the restoration of Crab Bank Seabird Rookery as our guest.  

All Fall, we’re offering complimentary boat and sea kayak tours to this vital nesting island so you can share in the story of Crab Bank. 

In the coming year, this critical nesting island will be restored to over 20 acres of high-ground for brown pelicans, black skimmers, American oystercatchers, multiple species of terns and herons, and more. This State Heritage Preserve will yield tens of thousands of young birds into wild populations as a result of our collective efforts. 

This adventure departs from our Shem Creek flagship location in route to the protected edge of Charleston harbor. Coastal Expeditions guides will provide interpretation specific to the Crab Bank effort as a critical part of only five protected bird-nesting islands on the South Carolina coast.

These 2-hour, family-friendly tours are made possible by a grant through National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Gather your family and friends and come out with us on one our tours- everyone is welcome! Book your boat or sea kayak spots now!

Restoration of Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary has been a true community project. The Coastal Expeditions Foundation has been proud to work alongside Audubon South Carolinathe Coastal Conservation LeagueSouth Carolina Department of Natural Resourcesand South Carolina Wildlife Federation and YOU to make it a reality.

Check Dates & Reserve Your Spots!

KAYAK TOURS

BOAT TOURS

When you book, you’ll be asked to hold your reservation with a credit card at $20/person. You won’t be charged unless you are a no-show. If you can’t make it, give us as much notice as possible so that others may go in your place.
Outings may be filmed by a documentarian, Adam Boozer of Jewell & Ginnie LLC, to be made into a film capturing the rebirth of Crab Bank over the next year.

COVID-19 safety: When you are on the Coastal Expeditions campus and on the boat, everyone is expected to socially distance and wear a mask. On sea kayak tours, you may remove your mask once you are on the water.

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Pelicans Photos are from Crab Bank when it was supporting hundreds of Brown Pelican nests, just a few years ago. Taken by Dana Beach, Coastal Conservation League

Can’t make it out but want to support the work that the Coastal Expeditions Foundation is doing for environmental education and seabird rookery protection? 

Make a donation today!

Donate!

SIB supports current Beach Rules for Pets

In October 2019, the Town of Seabrook Island enacted revised Beach Rules for Pets which in part, moved the “Pets of Leash” area. Town Council is scheduled to conduct a one-year review of Ordinance 2019-09 during its Ways and Means Committee meeting on Tues. September 8, 2020, at 1:00 pm. Please submit your comments prior to noon of that date at this Public Comment Portal

The SIB Executive Committee (SIB-EC) has submitted the following public comment:

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) commends the Town of Seabrook Island on their 2019 ordinance revising the beach rules for pets.  Members of our group participated in the public hearings involved prior to the ordinance’s adoption and understand the various interests that were considered prior to adoption.  As the Town Council conducts their one-year review of the ordinance, SIB recommends the ordinance remain in effect as is.  This ordinance helps protect the various shorebirds that feed, roost and even nest on North Beach while allowing pet owners to exercise their pets on the beach.  Although the pandemic has reduced the number of children at Camp St. Christopher, the ordinance also provides for increased safety for any children visiting the Camp.

Various SIB-EC members will submit additional more detail personal comments.

Please take a few minutes to express your opinions to Town Council

https://www.townofseabrookisland.org/beach-rules-for-pets-ord.html

Zoom with SIB for our September Virtual Events

Fall is approaching, but we sure hope we can avoid the hurricanes this year! However, now with Seabrook Island Birder (SIB) virtual programs, not only can we still be active while social distancing, we might even be able to hold the events if we are visited by bad weather.

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) has scheduled another two “Virtual Movie Matinees” and an Evening Program using Zoom during the month of September!  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  movie or presentation 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!

Plight of the Grassland Birds
Tuesday, September 8, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

From the fields of New England and Canada to the vast plains of Montana to the deserts of Mexico, grassland birds are losing their habitats at an alarming rate.Host Will Lange explores efforts to protect the birds and their habitats. Watch the trailer here.

Journey of the Broad-winged Hawk
Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Every year, thousands of broad-winged hawks embark on a treacherous flight from New Hampshire to South America. JOURNEY OF THE BROAD-WINGED HAWK follows the raptors’ two-month, 4,500-mile migration from New Hampshire, over an Appalachian flyway in Pennsylvania, over Corpus Christi, Texas, and ending in the rainforests of Ecuador and the Maquipucunu Reserve. Along the way, people and communities follow and celebrate the hawks’ journey. Host Willem Lange traces the migratory route of these magnificent birds from the White Mountains to the Andes of Ecuador, and shares the stories of those who witness this wonder of nature. Watch the trailer here.

Program: Birding the Lewis and Clark Trail
Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 7:00 – 8:30 pm

What happens when an avid birdwatcher and her photographer, who’s also a history buff, go on a 28-day road trip from Atlanta to the Oregon coast…tracing, birding, photographing the route of the Lewis and Clark 1803-1806 Corps of Discovery Expedition … 8,900 miles, 17 states, 269000 hotel points, countless birding adventures, and incredible scenery and history!

Join us for Aija and Ed Konrad’s roller coaster adventure with tales of birds, history and their glorious journey.