In these stressful times when we’re staying close to home, how about a trip across the US? This week Ed posted our 2019 birding trips on his Flickr site. A memorable trip was our month-long driving tour in July 2019 from Atlanta to the Oregon coast, a combination of birding and following the Lewis and Clark trail!
After some birding in Michigan, we headed west and followed Meriweather Lewis and William Clark on their trek across North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon to the Pacific. Then back home through California, Nevada, Utah and the Midwest. Ed is an avid history buff, so this was definitely on his bucket list. I was a bit wary of a driving trip of that distance. But I have to say, it was a wonderful experience for 29 days!!! We visited many wonderful National Parks, including Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota (what a fabulous sleeper), Yellowstone in Montana, Crater Lake in Oregon, and Redwood in California.
The home page that comes up is the “Photostream” – a chronological view of all our birding trips with the Lewis and Clark trip first. When you get to the bottom of each Photostream page, click to the next page to keep the story going.
To see the name of the bird, or a caption, place the mouse pointer over the photo. And if you’d like to view the photos in a Slideshow instead, click the button above “Clark” on the Photostream.
On the Photostream home page you’ll see tabs under the banner. Click on “Albums” and you’ll see all our 2019 trips. Including an album of the many birds we’ve spotted and photographed throughout 2019 on Seabrook Island. There are also albums of my 2018 US Big Year, and our many other wonderful trips through the years.
So, if you need some diversion, or something to lull you to sleep at night, take a look at our birds. Enjoy!
On Saturday, Feb 29, a group of 12 SIB birders made the trek down to Bear Island and Donnelley WMA in the ACE Basin. It was a beautiful sunny day, but very windy and quite cold. We all persevered and did well, despite the gusty winds. Mary’s House Pond at the entrance to Bear Island was drained low and filled with hundreds of shorebirds. There were many beautiful American Avocets feeding in the water, which we continued to see all morning long. Some were even beginning to have hints of their tan breeding colors. Glossy Ibis made an appearance several times and 2 Osprey were busy tending to a nest.
As we began our caravan through the property, Brown-headed Nuthatches gave us great views. Belted Kingfishers rattled their call several times during the day. Throughout the property, we saw hundreds of ducks, mostly Gadwall and Northern Shovelers, with both Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal mixed in. Tree Swallows worked all the impoundments. A perched Bald Eagle gave great looks at Hog Island. We had a total of 7 Bald Eagles for Bear!
At Donnelley it was fairly quiet in the afternoon. Seven Roseate Spoonbills sat huddled from the wind in a tree. We had great looks at a Blue-headed Vireo and ended the day on a high note with a beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker perched against the blue sky, which our leader Bob Mercer was able to even get into the scope for all of us! A great finish for a group of tired and happy birders!
We tallied 65 species for Bear Island and 61 for Donnelly. Links to the checklists are at:
We had a fun week of December birding all around Seabrook! On Jenkins Point we were greeted by 2 Roseate Spoonbills, the number has since grown to 5. Nice to see a flash of pink in the winter landscape. Black-crowned Night Heron numbers are growing, at least 15 squawking their way between the 2 ponds on Jenkins Point Rd. Hooded Mergansers floated on the first pond, working in tandem with a Tricolored Heron and a Snowy Egret to stir up a meal on the far shore!
At the water treatment area, we found a rare (on EBird) Long-tailed Duck. The first night I saw two, but only one seems to remain. This is a rarity for the Charleston area, so very exciting to see! I have had one previous sighting on Seabrook for the CBC, out on the old inlet. Bufflehead numbers were increasing with about 35 one evening!
On North Beach, Marbled Godwits were seen every day, working the large tide pool near the bend, along with Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones. Semipalmated Plover and Dunlin numbers were in the hundreds. A nice surprise was 12 Red Knots, one with a band!
Ed and I did our usual beach prowls for wintering Piping Plovers. On a very foggy day we spotted 4 plovers. But Ed’s usually great photos were a foggy mess. One PIPL had an orange band, with maybe a gray band too? We sent photos to our friend, Alice Van Zoeren, Great Lakes PIPL Conservation Team in MI. Alice replied, “could the band be purple, is there a number?” And if yes, it could be “very exciting!” Purple? Exciting? We’ve never seen a PIPL with a purple band in all our years of looking! We were back out the next day, a beautiful morning, and spotted 8 PIPL. Then there it was in the middle of the beach – our banded “purple” with the number 31!
Here is Alice’s info on this PIPL: “You’ve proved it! This is the chick, we named “Little V”, from our Point Betsie MI nest. It’s the only one that fledged from this new 2019 nesting area. It’s a very busy and narrow beach just south of the Point Betsie Lighthouse. You can see us banding it on this Chicago Tribune video! https://www.chicagotribune.com/ed257930-fef2-4c7f-8e72-3450…
“Some of this video is of us catching and banding another brood, but this chick is the one in my hand, and running off while Steph chants “survive, survive”. Guess it worked.”
Be sure to watch the above video link from Alice – highlight the link and copy to your browser, turn on the audio when video loads. What a special story about our endangered little winter guests, and the challenges they face! What a special visitor to Seabrook Island!
Other banded Piping Plovers we’ve seen are returning winter guests at Seabrook. Black Flag 2K from Prince Edward Island, Canada, has been spotted now Sep and Dec 2019, and Nov 2018. SCDNR also spotted 2K on Devaux Bank in October. And last month we resighted this Great Lakes banded PIPL for the fourth time – Oct, Sep and Mar 2019, and Nov 2018.
These sightings and stories highlight the struggle these tiny Piping Plovers face to survive. Remember, PIPL that breed in Atlantic US and Canada regions are Federally Threatened, Great Lakes region are Federally Endangered with only 71 breeding pairs remaining. They’re with us for nine months a year, as wintering guests, or stopping by as they head to/return from beaches farther south. Our critical habitat is thriving, and we’ve been regularly seeing four to eight PIPL on any given day. Usually around the large tidal pool in the critical habitat – along the shore or resting on the beach. But they can be anywhere along the shore, so please give them space to feed and rest!
Article by Aija and Ed Konrad, Photos by Ed Konrad
It was a great summer for birding North Beach! Some days it was literally a cast of a thousands…terns, gulls, skimmers, oystercatchers, and a nice mix of shorebirds. Most birds gathered at the bend toward the inlet on a sandbar. My favorite time to go is just before or after high tide, when the birds are pushed in for good views. Once they start to disperse it is hard to see them on the distant sandbars. Often when we walked out to the beach, we were greeted by Painted Buntings…singing, calling, and near the end of the summer perched on grasses eating seed.
A late summer favorite is the Reddish Egret. We’ve been seeing one, sometimes two, on North Beach for many years. Each time we spotted this year’s Reddish it stayed for a couple of hours in the large tidal pool – giving us great looks of it’s feeding behavior “dance” – running through shallows with long strides, staggering sideways, leaping in the air, raising one or both wings as a canopy to shade schools of small fish seeking shelter in the shade, and then catching its meal!
Roseate Spoonbills and dolphins strand feeding are always two amazing sights on Seabrook. But it’s rare to see both together! Ed first spotted four Spoonbills at the far end of the North Beach lagoon. Next came the dolphins, strand feeding first at the point and then swimming to far end of the lagoon right in front of the Spoonbills. Ed was a good distance away, but was ready with his camera anticipating a strand feed. Then it happened! Roseate Spoonbills and dolphins strand feeding in the same frame!
On Sep 24 we had a high count of 73 American Oystercatchers! What a thrill to see so many together. Marbled Godwits were present, often on the edge of the larger tide pools, probing the sand with their long bills. Colorful Ruddy Turnstones roamed the shore. Black-bellied Plovers and Wilson’s Plovers hung out near the end of the inlet. Black Skimmers were abundant, often in the hundreds and always fun to see skimming the water’s edge.
Piping Plovers are here to “winter” – some staying for the season, others just stopping by as they head farther south. Then next spring they’ll return north to breed. Here’s a cool coincidence. Ed and I spotted these two banded PIPL on the same day last fall on Nov 9 – orange flag Great Lakes breeding region, and black flag 2K Atlantic Canada region. A birder colleague spotted these same two PIPL on Sep 9 on North Beach! So they’ve been seen together twice on the same day at Seabrook – last fall and this summer!
So maybe these two have decided again that Seabrook is a great place to spend the winter! These year to year “resightings” show how well our Critical Habitat is developing for Piping Plovers and other shorebirds.
2K breeds at Prince Edward Island, Canada. Here’s their Facebook post about his whereabouts south from the info we reported. The researchers are very happy that he’s doing well at Seabrook! Click on this link:
Please give our Piping Plover guests space to feed and rest. Remember, they’re Federal Endangered (Great Lakes Region) and Federal Threatened (Atlantic US & Canada Region).
Osprey prowled the beach looking for fish, often coming up with a good catch. Once, we witnessed an eagle stealing a fish, mid-air, from the Osprey. I have literally seen the eagle in pursuit, making the Osprey drop the fish and the eagle catching it in mid-air! Terns were abundant, with Royal in the greatest numbers. Caspian Terns with their large red bills and grating calls stood out. Sandwich, Common, Least and Forster’s Terns were in the mix.
It’s always a thrill to see the Black Terns as they migrate through, often speckled and mottled, changing from the black summer plumage. Gull-billed Terns patrolled the dry sand of the “highway” with their plunge-dives mid-air for crabs and insects, never diving in water.
We had several walks on the beach this summer, one SIB walk that had over 25 birders led by Arch McCallum. Thanks to Mark Andrews for bringing wine, a very nice touch for the evening bird walk! Ed and I also hosted a Carolina Bird Club walk for many folks from SC and NC who marveled at our wonderful beach with it’s bounty of shorebirds. So many great spots to bird on Seabrook! The closing picture is of three beautiful young Tricolored Herons on the platform at Palmetto Lake…always fun to see a species where the juvenile is even brighter than the adult. Good birding to all!
A few days ago, Ed and I went up I-26 N, to the Goose Creek/Hanahan exit to see some rare visitors to SC…two Limpkin. A Limpkin is a large wading bird, that on a quick look can look like a juvenile White Ibis or a giant rail. They are rarely seen outside of the tropical wetlands of Florida and South Georgia. It is a large, dark brown bird with distinctive white speckles and a large, bent, orange bill. It walks slowly in shallow water in wooded and brushy swamps, in this case the west side of the Goose Creek Reservoir, where there is a canal with two islands and some wetlands. The birds search for apple snails and other mollusks. Limpkin have a very loud, otherworldly cry that can be heard mostly at night.
These birds were spotted by the homeowners in the Otranto subdivision. They had been there about a month before a homeowner told a birding friend, who put them on Facebook and subsequently EBird. Since August 2, a steady stream of birders has come to the neighborhood to see them. Ed and I were very much hoping the birds would stay until we got to Seabrook last week and they did! Limpkin have been appearing in SC and GA the last few summers. Always exciting to add a new “life bird” to a state list! We’ve seen Limpkin before, and Ed says these two are his best looks and photos of the species.
What a great morning at North Beach. Ed and I saw our first Reddish Egret of the season for Seabrook down near the point, dancing away! We spotted four Piping Plovers on the shore at the dolphin stewards area. One had orange bands, endangered from the Great Lakes Area. We learned from our researcher friend in MI that this one “is a young bird hatched this summer on Cat Island, Green Bay, WI. Good to see that it’s made it safely south!”
Then a group of 5 dolphins gave us several wonderful looks at strand feeding! While watching the Piping Plovers and dolphins, a Bald Eagle appeared and stole an Osprey’s fish in flight!!!
Doesn’t get any better than this! Just another day at Seabrook Island! And I’ve used an exclamation point after almost every sentence!!!
Aija and I send photos of banded Piping Plovers that we spot on North Beach to Alice Van Zoeren, Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, so the researchers know the whereabouts of their wintering birds. Great Lakes Piping Plovers are Federal Endangered. They have orange flags, and then other various color bands, to identify them. Alice reports back to us interesting info from their breeding area. From this info you can see the researchers’ dedication, and the challenges the Piping Plovers face.
The three banded Piping Plovers below, spotted on North Beach July 24-25, were the first we’ve seen this year on their journey south to winter after breeding. Remember, there are less than 70 breeding pairs remaining in the Great Lakes area endangered population. These three are very special guests indeed! We learned from Alice…
“This is a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, MI, breeder. He began breeding in 2018 at Platte Point. This year Platte Point is under water and he moved about two miles north. He fledged two chicks.” (Bands: Left leg – orange flag, red/green bands. Right leg – silver metal, yellow bands)
“Hatched 2010 at Sleeping Bear Dunes, mouth of Platte River. She began breeding in 2011 at Manistee MI. In 2012 moved to North Manitou Island, where she’s been breeding ever since. She had a rough summer this year. She and her mate lost all the newly hatched chicks from their first attempt to an unknown predator. They put in a second nest, but it was quite late and they headed south before the eggs hatched.” (Bands: Left leg – orange flag, two black bands. Right leg – silver metal, blue bands)
“Hatched 2017 on North Manitou Island, MI. He returned to begin breeding in 2018 at Wilderness State Park MI.” (Bands: Left leg – orange flag, black/blue bands. Right leg – silver metal, green bands)
In July we spotted three other Piping Plovers that weren’t banded. The one in the right photo is a “first year bird”, a juvenile hatched this year making its first trip south to winter. Note the differences to the left photo of mature birds – juvenile has black bill, partial collar, paler plumage.
Some of our July Piping Plovers may remain at Seabrook for the “winter” until they head back north next spring to breed. Others may have stopped here to rest before continuing to wintering beaches further south. Aija and I will keep an eye out, and let you know if any of the three banded Great Lakes Piping Plovers remain as our guests for the next 8 months. Plus others we spot from the Great Lakes or Atlantic breeding areas. Look for the Piping Plovers too, and please give them space to feed and rest. They can be feeding anywhere along the shore to right of Boardwalk #1, or left of Boardwalk #1 all the way to the point.