Shorebird News from North Beach

April brings many shorebirds to Seabrook Island’s North Beach. Some are getting ready for long migrations and others are here to nest. That means that Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) Shorebird Stewards, while continuing to focus on educating beachgoers about Red Knots and assisting with Red Knot research, will now have another job protecting the birds that nest in the area posted by yellow SCDNR signs.

About 4000 Red Knots are now using the beaches of Seabrook Island and Kiawah to feed on Donax clams to bulk up for their journey to the Arctic to nest. Red Knots are listed as Federally Threatened and many research efforts are under way to measure Red Knot numbers and to identify habitats for protection. This last week, stewards from Seabrook Island and Kiawah assisted as biologists from SCDNR captured some of the knots roosting at Captain Sams Inlet. Most of the birds were banded with the usual lime green tags. A few were also fitted with satellite transmitters that will provide a much more complete picture of Red Knot migration than tracking devices used previously. These transmitters will also last longer than previous devices.

Another recent Red Knot research project was the first Coastal Coordinated Red Knot Count done in conjunction with Georgia DNR. A biologist flew in a helicopter to survey the Georgia islands and South Carolina up to Isle of Palms for flocks of Red Knots. At the same time, other biologists and stewards, like some from Seabrook Island, counted from the ground. Because Red Knots can easily travel from Seabrook Island to places like Harbor or Hunting Island in under an hour, they can also be double counted unless one can coordinate the count to get a snapshot of all the birds in essentially the same moment. The count will be repeated in May.

Please remember: When you walk along our shore and see Red Knots feeding in the surf, please “Share the Beach and Walk Around”.

Exciting news! U5 and his mate have again nested within the Yellow Nesting Signs! As you may remember from a series of Tidelines articles ( ), U5 and mate are long-time Captain Sams Inlet residents who successfully raised two chicks in the Nesting Area last year. Two weeks ago, Janet Thibault, SCDNR Coastal Wildlife biologist, posted the area and found two eggs in the oystercatcher nest. Unfortunately, last week, we saw gulls harass the oystercatchers and steal an egg! Afterwards, Janet confirmed that they only have one egg left to incubate. Disappointing news like this reminds us that North Beach can be a harsh environment. High winds and unusually high tides both erode the shoreline and bury nests in sand. Predators like crows and gulls steal eggs and chicks. The signs give the nesting American Oystercatchers, Wilson’s Plovers and Least Terns some protection from humans but please stay well back from the signs to give the birds the space they need to raise their chicks. If they nest like last year, some birds might have a nest right among the signs!

-Submitted by Mark Andrews, Co-chair SIB Shorebird Stewards. (All photos taken at a safe distance well-outside the signs with a long lens and then cropped significantly)

Join SIB for Learning Together on North Beach

Sunday, May 1, 2022 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Birding at North Beach
Location: Meet at Boardwalk # 1 Parking lot
Max: none
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests

Register now!

Join SIB to bird at Seabrook Island’s North Beach. This three mile round trip walk travels from Board Walk #1 to the tip of North Beach along Captain Sams Inlet as high tide approaches. Birders from beginners to advanced birders will enjoy the variety of birds found on North Beach. At this time, many different species of shorebirds rest and feed near the point or along the beach ridge near the beach’s pond. Along the way, we will explore the many different species that can be found in this unique area.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, hats and sunscreen. Bring a spotting scope if you have one. There should be spotting scopes available for viewing. Bring plenty to drink and a snack if desired. There are no facilities. We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated.

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: 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 April 29th. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on the day prior to the trip. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Anhinga vs Double-crested Cormorant

Anhinga                                                    Double-crested Cormorant 
Anhinga anhinga                                                   Phalacrocorax auritus
L: 35″   WS: 45″  Wt: 43.3 oz                    L: 33″   WS: 52″   WT: 59.2 oz

When walking the Palmetto Lake trail, you often see a large, black bird perched on the Osprey platform or the alligator ramp with it’s wings spread. Most times, it is a Double-crested Cormorant, which are very common birds for Seabrook Island. But sometimes, you are lucky enough to see an Anhinga.

Male Anhinga drying wings - E Konrad
Male Anhinga drying wings – E Konrad

Anhingas roost in trees over water or on platforms, and on Seabrook, they are often solitary. They are about 35″ long and have a 45″ wing span. They are sometimes called the “snake bird” since they swim completely submerged with only their head exposed. They spear fish with their very pointed, long, thin and straight bill. They have a long, fan-shaped tail when perched, long pointed wings and a long neck. The most striking part about them is the whitish-silvery upperwing pattern which makes them look like they are wearing a snazzy jacket! If you see this pattern on the back of a large dark bird, it’s an Anhinga. The females have a velvety-buff upper body, as do the juveniles (until the 3rd year). The Anhinga has a striking blue-green eye ring in breeding plumage. Anhingas nest in small colonies, often with herons or egrets. They eat fish, frogs and often newly hatched alligators.

Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings - E Konrad
Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings – E Konrad

Double-crested Cormorant are nearly the same size, 33″ long  with a 52″ wing span. They are very common birds on Seabrook, often perched on the lake platforms or in large groups swimming in the inlet at North Beach. They may form large flocks and when we see them in flight, often flying in a large “V” formation. Their bills are orange, curved, hooked shaped, and thicker than an Anhinga. They use them to scoop and grasp their prey. Juveniles can also have buffy breasted color variations. Cormorants have a striking crystal like blue eye and a yellow-orange face patch. Cormorants nest in large colonies and are fish eaters.

Both birds do not have oil glands so their feathers are not water repellent. This lets them move more easily underwater for foraging.  That’s also why you often see them drying their non-waterproof wings spread open, when perched. Both birds make low nasal frog-like grunts. So a quick tip is this:

  • Slender, long-necked with a straight, pointy bill, wearing a snazzy jacket = Anhinga.
  • Shorter necked , hooked, curved and orange bill, wearing basic black = Cormorant!

If you would like to learn more about these birds visit:

Article submitted by:
Photographs provided by:

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Beyond Our Backyard-Edisto Nature Trail

Beyond Our Backyard – Edisto Nature Trail 

Saturday, April 30, 2022 8:00am-12:00pm
Location: 17038 Ace Basin Pkwy
Carpool: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool at 7:00am, drive is approximately 50 minutes to the nature trail’s parking lot
Cost: Free for SIB Member; $5 Guest Fee

Come join us for spring migration, Beyond Our Backyard, at the Edisto Nature Trail. This park, within the ACE Basin on Highway 17, is both a migrant hot spot and a known nesting area for a number of sought after bird species. The park, adjacent to the Edisto River, has a variety of habitats along its one point five (1.5) mile looped trail. As you walk the park in search of its birdlife you will move through a pine and maritime forest habit into, adjacent the Edisto River, a cypress-tupelo swamp. In prior years, because of this varied habit, we have encountered a vast array of wildlife and plant life inside the park boundaries.

Some of the bird species we will endeavor see, and have encountered in prior years, includes such Warbler Species as Prothonotary, Worm-Eating, Black and White, Swainson’s, Kentucky, Hooded, Black Throated Blue, Yellow-Throated, and Northern Parula. Other possible bird species include, but are not limited to, Veery, Scarlet Tanager, Blackburnian Warbler, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Blue-Winged Warbler, Warbling Vireos, and a variety of raptors.

This nature trail has a number of board walk cross overs to assist in traversing potentially wet areas. Appropriate foot ware is recommended, even during dry spells, so that all participants are able to maximize the enjoyment of their experience. Participants should also consider these other items to maximize the comfort and enjoyment: binoculars, bug spray, sunscreen, hats, layered clothing to adjust to the mornings weather, field guides if print is your preference, eyeglass – lens cleaner, water, snacks, camera, and a pack or shoulder bag for your needs.

If you are not a member of Seabrook Island Birders you may do so by following this link : Or by going to our web page under the Contact tab and clicking on Join SIB.

Please complete the form below to REGISTER prior to April 27th, 2022. You will receive a conformation letter the day prior to the event.

Beyond our Backyard-McAlhany Nature Preserve near St. George, SC

Beyond Our Backyard – McAlhany Nature Preserve near St. George, SC

Sunday, April 24, 2022 with morning only (8 am – 11 am) and all day (8 am – 2 pm) options
Leave Seabrook Island Real Estate to carpool at 6:30 am (please be there before 6:30 am)
Meet trip leaders Cathy & Carl Miller at the truck stop in Jacksonboro (intersection of US Hwy 17 & SC 64) and at 7:15 am to caravan to site
Note: Cars with low ground clearance are not recommended for the drive into McAlhany
Max: 12
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests

Join SIB to bird at the beautiful McAlhany Nature Preserve up on the Edisto River near Saint George. This 367 acre preserve is under a conservation easement with the Lowcountry Open Land Trust and is owned and managed by the Charleston chapter (Charleston Natural History Society) of the Audubon Society. This property includes such habitats as 1.5 miles of frontage on the Edisto River, a 9 acre oxbow lake, bottomland hardwoods forest, a freshwater marsh, upland oak-hickory forest and a restored longleaf pine and native grasslands area. To get a feel for the types of habitats as well as the species that live and pass through, take a look at  “Flora and Fauna of McAlhany Nature Preserve” .   All birding will be on foot so wear comfortable hiking shoes.

In the morning, we will cover about 2 miles of wooded trails birding the south side of Wire Road along the River Trail. This area includes the river frontage, the oxbow lake, the Cypress Forest and flood plain. We can expect to see a large variety of birds including Egrets, Herons, Anhinga and Wood Ducks as well as birds of prey like Barred Owl, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. We will also see and hear our resident smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, hopefully 3 vireo species – Blue-headed, Red-eyed and White-eyed. A few sparrow species may still be present and we could also see several warbler species such as Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue warblers, Northern Parula, Common Yellow-throat, Yellow-throated, Prothonotary and Hooded warblers. We will eat an early lunch at about 11 am in the picnic area. Then in the afternoon, we will explore the young longleaf pine and grassland areas on the north side of Wire Road covering about 1.5 miles of sandy trail and fire breaks. We will hopefully see Sedge and House Wrens, Yellow, Prairie and Pine warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo and Painted Buntings as well as Yellow-throated vireo and possibly Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Many of these species can be seen on either side of the road of course.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, bug spray, hats and sunscreen. Bring plenty to drink and a picnic lunch to eat on the property. We will make use of the picnic shelter however there are no facilities available to us on the property as the cabin will be locked. We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated

If you are not yet a 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website:

Once you are a member, please complete the information below to REGISTER no later than Friday, April 22, 2022. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Belted Kingfisher – King of the Lagoon

Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Length:  13″; Wingspan: 20″; Weight: 5 oz.

Belted Kingfisher - C Moore
Belted Kingfisher – C Moore

Along any of Seabrook Island’s lagoons, ponds, lakes or other waterways you may hear a very distinctive loud rattling call, a flash of blue and a splash of water as a Belted kingfisher plunges head first into the water catching an un-expecting fish near the surface. Occasionally you may also spot this beautiful medium-sized, brightly colored bird with a very distinct shaggy topknot sitting on an isolated tree branch or dead tree limb over the water’s edge surveying its kingdom.

A very territorial and fearless bird the Belted kingfisher will aggressively protect its territory. I witnessed a female belted kingfisher dive-bomb and chase off a juvenile eagle that dared to sit on a tree branch too close to its lagoon. At the same time these birds are very leery of humans and are difficult to get close to.

Over 90 species of kingfishers occur word-wide but only the Belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon, is found throughout much of the United States and Canada. Here they breed and are year-round residents. It is even depicted on the Canadian $5 bill.

In winter they migrate south into Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. They occasionally travel great distances and frequent areas such as Colombia, Venezuela and have been recorded in Greenland, Ireland, Portugal, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.

The Belted kingfisher is a stocky bird of about a foot in length with a wingspan of between 19 and 23 inches. It has a shaggy multi-pointed crest or topknot, a thick pointed bill and is one of the few birds where the female is more colorful than the male. Females are also slightly larger than males.

The head and body are slate blue. There is a white collar around its neck and a dark blue breast band on its white belly. Whereas all young birds have an orange or brownish-red band on the upper belly only the female keeps the band and as with all her plumage brightens as she matures.  Have you ever wondered why the female of this bird species has more coloration than the male?  Scientists have yet to answer the question, but here is one suggestion.

The Blue jay with its bright blue plumage is the only Seabrook Island bird somewhat similar in appearance. However, it is smaller, more slender, has a single pointed head crest, a smaller bill and a thin black collar around its neck.

Although primarily a fish eater the Belted kingfisher eats a wide variety of prey including insects, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles., mollusks and even small birds and mammals.

They nest near inland waterbodies in the spring, digging and excavating a long nesting burrow in the mud or sand along the waters’ edge. The tunnel angles up so that should the water rise an air pocket would protect the eggs and young birds. The female lays five to eight oval, pure white eggs and both sexes incubate the eggs.

Keep your eye out for this very unique bird along Seabrook Islands many waterways but you may hear its loud piercing and rattling call as it streaks across its kingdom long before you can spot it.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Charles Moore
Photographs provided by:  Charles Moore

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Kiawah Earth Day Celebration

Our friends at the Kiawah Conservancy are hosting an Earth Day celebration on Friday April 22 at Night Heron Park. Join in the celebration and stop by and visit Seabrook Island Birders Shorebird Stewards at their table.

More information can be found at Earth Week 2022 – Kiawah Conservancy.

Learning Together-Kiawah River Development

Learning Together at Kiawah River Development

Saturday, April 16, 2022 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. We hope to see the Little Blue Heron rookery in full habitation.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 2022 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: You may bring the form and your dues to the event. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please complete the information below to REGISTER no later than Thursday, April 14, 2022.. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday, April 15th.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Clapper Rail

Clapper RailRallus longirostris
Length:  14.5″; Wingspan: 19″; Weight: 10 oz.

Clapper Rail eating a small crab on the mud flat - Ed Konrad
Clapper Rail eating a small crab on the mud flat – Ed Konrad

You may not be aware that hidden in dense cover in our salt marshes lurk a bird called Clapper Rail.  This slinking, secretive bird is a year-round resident on our island and often we only hear the loud clattering call as our clue that a Clapper Rail is even around.  Because they also rarely fly you are very lucky if you get a quick glimpse of one stalking mud dwelling prey along the edge of the marsh.

Are you familiar with the saying “thin as a rail”?  Well, this saying is attributed to the Rail’s lean body and the fact that this stealth bird has the ability to compress its body to such a degree that it can easily squeeze between stems of grass and plants almost melting into the vegetation and and barely causing a ripple.  This tactic allows them to quickly disappear to escape their predators.  Clapper Rails are so effective at maintaining a low profile that their major nonhuman predators are pike, black bass, and other predatory fish which feed on their young.

The Clapper Rail has a chicken-like appearance, with long unwebbed gray toes, strong legs and long slightly decurved bill. When it walks it twitches its short upturned white patched tail.  It has grayish brown upper-parts with vertical white-barred flanks, grayish cheeks and white throat.  Its eye color is red to reddish orange.  This bird is locally known as the Marsh Hen, Salt Water Marsh Hen and Mud Chicken.  Males are slightly larger than females but similar in coloration.

These birds feed mainly on crustaceans, aquatic insects, grasshoppers, seeds, slugs and small fish. They search for food while walking and probing with their long bills in shallow water or mud.

Nests are well built cups of grasses and sedges lined with finer material.  The nests are usually built on the highest, driest place in the marsh. During courtship the male points his bill down and swings his head from side to side.  He also may stand erect with neck stretched and bill open.  Nesting season is from April to June.

The eggs, 5-12, are creamy white with irregular brown blotching. The incubation is 20-23 days and the new young are covered with black down and leave the nest within one day to be fed by the parents.  Young can fly in about 9-10 weeks.  Both parents feed and guard the young until they are independent.  Since these rails are very territorial during feeding and breeding they can be quite belligerent when defending their nests.

A group of Rails is collectively known as a “reel” of rails.

In 1940 one hurricane left an estimated 15,000 of these rails dead in South Carolina, and in 1976 another storm killed some 20,000 in New Jersey.

Keep an eye ear out for Clapper Rails, as they live amongst us in the marshes all thoughout Seabrook Island.

Similar Species

  • King Rail: Habits similar to Clapper Rail.  Plumage is darker and more richly colored and more reddish. More distinct blackish centers on upper parts.
  • Virginia Rail: Smaller in size 9.5″L, 13″ wing span and 3 oz weight. Plumage bright reddish. Bill is more brightly colored

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Repost of Article submitted by:  Flo Foley
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad & Bob Hider

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

SIB’s Article for the April The Seabrooker

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 April 2022 SIB article. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page article on Page 4! The stories this month feature:

What’s For Lunch? – Learn about the variety of things our local birds eat with pictures from SIB members.

Thanks again to author Ed Konrad and photographers Glen Cox, Ed Konrad, Susan Markhum, Bob Mercer, Dean Morr, Patricia Schaefer and David Woodman for their contributions this month. Ed also serves as our graphic designer!

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