Free Webinar: Gardening for Birds

A male Black-throated Blue Warbler perches in an American Beautyberry shrub.
Photo © Susan Disher/Macaulay Library.

Want to help more nesting birds be successful? Join experts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon’s Plants for Birds on June 8 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern for a discussion on how to choose native plants that will thrive, and get tips on creating gardens that meet the needs of birds. No matter how large or small your growing space, you’ll be inspired to put on your gardening gloves and get busy creating a bird-friendly environment. 

Register to attend this free event: http://bit.ly/GardeningForBirds

Beyond Our BackYard-Birding at Kiawah River Development

Sunday, June 6, 2021 8:00am-11:00am
Learning Together at Kiawah River Development
Location: Meet at the “bridge” entering the property
Cost None for members; $5 donation for guests

Another chance to check out birds that can be found on this varied habitat property. We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Osprey and other birds of prey. If we are lucky, we will see an eagle and osprey duel over a fish. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals. We will drive to various locations on the property and then walk for better birding observations. Of course, this also gives us a chance to see this neighboring development.

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

If you are not yet a 2021 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 dues to the event. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please register no later than Friday June 4, 2021. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday June 5, 2021. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Ask SIB: Is this a Chuck-will’s-widow?

Each spring, many residents and visitors of Seabrook Island hear the song of the Chuck-will’s-widow as they return to the island to breed. But is it unusual for anyone to see this bird as it is more active in the evening and early morning, and hidden by its camouflaged markings. A year ago we got word of a nesting mom with chicks and were lucky to share photos. Once again, a family staying on Seabrook has found a nest with a Chuck-will’s-widow mom and two chicks!

Monday morning we saw this question along with some photos and a video:

Hello, my family and I were staying at Pelican Watch Villas on Seabrook Island and noticed there’s a bird outside of the Villa. Can you confirm that this is a Chuck Will’s Widow? 

Karrah Throntveit
Video taken by Karrah Throntveit

On Monday, Karrah’s family was thrilled to hear the news confirming the bird was a Chuck-will’s-widow . They knew that they had witnessed something very special and wanted to share it with others!

Charley Moore was also excited as he had never before been able to photograph a Chuck-will’s-widow, let alone a mom on a nest with two chicks!

We hope you will enjoy the above video taken by Karrah Throntveit and the photos below taken by Charley Moore.

Listen to “How Do We Know that Birds are in Trouble?”

Bring Birds Back is here! Listen to the series premiere on BirdNote’s website or through your favorite podcast app.

Bring Birds Back is BirdNote’s new podcast about the joy of birds and the ways that humans can help them through simple, everyday actions. In the inaugural episode, host Tenijah Hamilton gets to know biostatistician Dr. Adam Smith, coauthor of the study that found we’ve lost 3 billion birds in North America since 1970. The good news? There are lots of ways to help.

Ask SIB – More Birds Mobbing

Question:

Hi, Today I was walking not far from a pond with high reeds.  A big heron was standing on the ground minding his own business when suddenly a red wing blackbird exploded out of the reeds and attacked the heron.  The big guy took off  and the red wing kept after him for twenty or thirty yards.  I assume the red wing was protecting a nest but do heron eat bird chicks?

Andy Allen, SIB Member
Red-winged Blackbird mobbing Great Blue Heron, by Larry deWitt;

Answer:

This interesting observation contains two parts based on the behavior of each bird. The Great Blue Heron is an opportunistic feeder and will eat anything it can get down its throat. This would presumably include Red-winged Blackbirds. Red-winged Blackbirds tend to be an aggressive species defending a territory against other Red-winged Blackbird and occasionally against predators. A male Red-winged Blackbird defends a territory as opposed to a mate. It is not uncommon for a strong male to hold a highly desirable territory which attracts numerous females. Therefore, the bird you saw chasing the heron was not defending a particular nest, but driving the bird from his territory and presumably his harem of females.

Mobbing, the behavior of chasing away a potential predator is a common behavior among many bird species. Is it innate or learned? I don’t believe anyone has studied the Red-winged Blackbird’s interactions. A surreptitious study by Konrad Lorenz and detailed in his book King Solomon’s Ring details how Rooks, a European species of crow, which he fed by hand, instinctively attacked his hand when he was holding a limp black object (similar to a dead Rook).

He tested this behavior on captive birds and learned that after the bird instinctively attached something holding a limp black object on three occasions did it learn to always attack that object. The final piece of the puzzle is once a bird learned to attack an object, it taught its progeny to attack that object even if they never saw the object holding something limp and black. For the Rooks, the behavior is both instinctive and learned. Maybe it is similar with the Red-winged Blackbird as they have been documented attacking tractors, cows, and horses, all things that might intrude into the birds habitat.

Bob Mercer, SIB’s “Resident Naturalist”

First Glimpses of American Oystercatcher U5 & Family


I am writing to announce the arrival of two chicks to American Oystercatcher U5 and his mate over the last 48 hours.

American Oystercatcher U5 with mate and two young chicks on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC
Photograph by Mark Andrews

At the beginning of May, I wrote to announce that American Oystercatcher U5 and his mate had nested on North Beach. U5 has been a resident around Captain Sam’s Inlet since 2014 and last year he & his mate lost three nests to predation. Janet Thibault, a coastal bird biologist for SCDNR, posted new Nesting Area signs on April 30 and confirmed that there were eggs in the nest. 

At that time, we also found that Least Terns were nested in the same restricted area. The Leasties are still nesting and we may be reporting the arrival of their chicks any day. Much of what we say about American Oystercatchers holds for Least Terns as well.

Tuesday morning, I saw the first chick walking with U5. Today, there were two chicks and the family was already foraging along the lagoon behind the nesting area. They may not stay near the nesting area, so please be on the look out at all times and be careful to give them plenty of space. The chicks may be hidden in the wrack or in sparse vegetation especially in the heat of the day. Even a footprint or tire track may be a hiding place.

We originally worried about crows taking the eggs, but these chicks are not yet out of danger by any means. While I was approaching the nesting area Wednesday morning, I watched as one of the parents chased an Osprey away. Crows, gulls and other predators are always ready to pounce. Beach flooding from high tides and heavy rain also takes its toll. The chicks will not fledge (fly) for 30-35 days and the parents will tend to them for even longer (up to 60days). 

We are asking all beach drivers to avoid driving in the wrack or dry sand where the chicks are hard to see. But remember as it gets warmer, the parents may take the chicks to the water’s edge to forage and to cool off. All areas of the beach are prime Oystercatcher habitat. I have attached the Best Management Practices for Beach Driving from SCDNR.

Please excuse the fuzziness of these photos. They were taken at long range with a very long lens to avoid disturbing them. Please do the same and avoid trying to get close for cell phone photos. We’ll keep you informed of the chick’s progress with   current images as we get them.

Mark Andrews, Seabrook Island Shorebird Steward Program Co-Lead
American Oystercatcher U5 newly hatched chick on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC
Photograph by Mark Andrews

A very special Thank You to Mark Andrews and all of the Seabrook Island Shorebird Stewards for volunteering to extend the steward season beyond Red Knots. Now the fun starts in helping these new additions survive to adulthood!

Ask SIB: Do Birds Cooperate to Chase off Predatory Birds?

Question: I saw something that that I thought interesting . We have a blue bird box and a Carolina Wren nest around 50 feet apart. A large Crow landed on the Bluebird box. Both the males attacked the crow to drive it off. Were they working together or as individuals? The Bluebird stood on the top of the box, the Wren on top of its nest. Chipped to each other and entered their nest. Were they communicating with each other?

Anonymous SIB Member
Crow mobbed by Baltimore Oriole in White Clay Creek State Park, Delaware.
Photo from Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Answer: What a cool observation! Normally, it is a House Wren that occupies a bluebird box. House wren are very aggressive and will even destroy a bluebirds eggs if it can. 

So normally, bluebirds do not tolerate having a wren nest nearby, unless the nest opening is too small for the bluebird. This leads me to believe the birds were not cooperating. Normally, both birds work to drive away predators. Nest predation is a major challenge for birds and crows are notorious for feeding on baby birds. Both the bluebird and the wren don’t want a crow nearby. So both would be inclined to attack the crow regardless of what their neighbor does.
This brings us to the second part of your question. Since the bluebird naturally competes with a wren, I suspect that the “communication” you saw was neighbors grousing at each other as opposed to bragging about their ability to chase a crow.

Recognizing that crows are highly intelligent birds, I bet this will not be the last time they visit. I suspect the crow will work hard to access the known food source-baby bluebirds and wren-either directly from the nest or waiting until the babies fledge. This is one reason why, as soon as babies come off the nest, the parents try to get them as far away from the nest and as SIB’s “Resident Naturalist”quickly as they can. 

Bob Mercer, SIB’s “Resident Naturalist”

Birds & More … Photos from recent Birding Beyond Seabrook Island

Members of Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) were recently treated when they traveled off island during spring migration and were lead by expert birders at local birding “hot spots.”

On Sunday, April 25th, Cathy & Carl Miller lead six additional SIB members on a 3 hour adventure searching for spring migrants at Edisto Nature Trail, just an hour south on Rt 17. There were lots of Prothonotary Warblers who nest in cavities low to the swamp. We also heard and/or saw many other migrating warblers such as the Worm-eating, Black-and-white, Swainson’s, Kentucky, Hooded, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-throated & Northern Parula. Besides the plethora of warblers, we also saw lots of interesting insects. In total, 40 bird species were heard or seen.

Two weeks later, on Tuesday, May 11th, Matt Johnson, Center Director of Audubon South Carolina, lead a group of nine SIB members through Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest. The group saw/heard 34 bird species, at least three species of snakes, frogs, dragonflies, damselflies, alligators and white-tailed deer. It was another great day to be enjoying the beauty of the world around us!

Continue reading “Birds & More … Photos from recent Birding Beyond Seabrook Island”

Look at The Seabrooker’s May “Centerfold?”

The Seabrooker, May 2021, Page 8

In case you don’t receive it, or haven’t had a chance to read it yet, we hope you will enjoy The Seabrooker’s May 2021 page 8. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page on the left side of the centerfold! The stories this month feature:

  • Welcome Back! Birds you can expect to see on Seabrook Island this Spring/Summer.
  • North Beach Spring – Shorebirds & Stewards! An update on our Shorebird Steward Program
  • SIB’s Shorebird Steward Program including a QR code (this Quick Response code is a bar code which will open a webpage when a phone camera is focused on it.)

Thanks again to authors Bob Mercer & Aija Konrad along with photographers Bob Mercer and Ed Konrad for their contributions this month. Ed also serves as our graphic designer!

Birding with Children on Global Big Day

Alister Patterson & Reagan Passantino holding their certificates and stuffed birds.

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) celebrated Global Big Day, on Saturday May 8th, with a walk for our youth at Palmetto Lake on Seabrook Island. We recruited 13-year old SIB member Reagan Passantino to assist leaders Judy Morr and Nancy Brown.

One child, 4-year old Alister Patterson joined the event along with his father and Nana. Alister was a keen birder, already recognizing most of the backyard species we found. He was especially intrigued when we opened one of the Eastern Bluebird boxes to reveal several week-old babies.

SIB created a Scavenger BINGO Card to use during the walk. If you have young children visiting Seabrook Island this summer (or even at other locations in the country), you may want to print it out and challenge them to try to identify as many options as possible. Another great resource for children is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth Explorer’s Guidebook.

At the end of the walk, both Reagan and Alister were awarded SIB’s Global Big Day Certificate of Participation and a singing bird, Reagan a Red-tailed Hawk and Alister a Northern Cardinal. What a fun way to spend an afternoon, helping children learn about the natural world around us!

Below is the list of 28 species seen during the walk:

Eurasian Collared-Dove  2
Mourning Dove  1
Laughing Gull  4
Anhinga  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  1
Little Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  2
Black Vulture  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Mississippi Kite  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  2
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  4
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  2
Tree Swallow  2
Carolina Wren  1
Brown Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  6
Eastern Bluebird  4     3 babies in box
House Finch  1
Red-winged Blackbird  6
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  6
Prairie Warbler  1
Northern Cardinal  3

View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/checklist/S87526836