SIB Travels: Oklahoma O.K. !!!

GA departure, Welcome to Oklahoma!

Oklahoma… “Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!” Does anyone remember the Rogers and Hammerstein musical? I sang in the high school choir and “Oklahoma” was the first musical production I was in. I can still remember a lot of the songs! So, when we decided to drive from Atlanta to the most western part of Oklahoma, I did a lot of singing in the car! 

Why Oklahoma you might say? Well in my quest for at least 50 bird species in each of the 50 states, Oklahoma was pretty near the bottom of the US list with only 17 birds. And on the way to OK we could bird AL, MS, LA, and AR, all states lacking in birds! I was able to get each one of the states above 50 bird species and I got OK to over 100! A pretty good run for a quick trip! 

My eBird US map. Shading shows # of species

We also included some history for Ed. He has always wanted to go to the Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We spent a half a day there and it also turned out to be a good place to bird. Our trip wound up being 10 days and a total of 10 states! AL, MS, LA, AR, OK, CO, NM, KS, and TN. I love when the GPS says, “welcome to …”!

People often ask me how we know where to go in states and where to bird. Well, eBird is an invaluable tool. First, we decide where we want to visit…a national park, state park, recreation area, or a family trip. Then I click on the menu section of eBird and choose Explore, then scroll down and choose Alerts. This lets me choose a state or county, which you tap in and see the birds you “need” for that area. I see what birds I “need” (am missing) in that particular state.

Planning at home, map and yellow pad notes

It’s a bit overwhelming if you’ve never been to the state, but at least you know what are the common and easy birds you can pick up. AND, what life birds are there. Then you look for hotspots and find any hotspots on your route. You click on them and check the sightings that have been seen recently. And then you start making copious lists in a notebook or on a yellow legal pad. Our car is always overrun with sheafs of paper that I have notes on. LOL!

You begin to break things down by counties. Ed always prints me a county map of each state off the Internet so I can see what counties are along our route. But I am also the queen of the old-fashioned paper map! I lay all my maps out on the dining room table before we go. I highlight our route and then can see what counties we will pass through for reference. I can then search needs on eBird by county in any state. Easy pick-ups can be made at hotel parking lot edges and rest areas. I once picked up 5 warbler species at a good wooded rest area off I- 80 in PA! So, it’s a rather mind-boggling process but it’s fun to plan and break it down. And remember, no one has to be as obsessive compulsive as me. LOL! Just enjoy!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Mountain Bluebird, Chihuahuan Raven

When we got to Oklahoma, we began to see western species. Western Meadowlarks, Mountain Bluebirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (OK state bird). A scissor-tailed greeted us soon after we crossed the OK border. It’s such a joy to see this glorious beautiful bird with its salmon under parts and ridiculously long tail!  At one point in western OK Ed said “gosh these crows look awfully big”. And when we stopped along a country road to look at one, it croaked, and we realized they were Chihuahuan Ravens, another western species!

Wichita Mountains NWR

Western Meadowlark, Bewick’s Wren

Crossing OK, we visited the Wichita Mountains NWR, a beautiful refuge, where we had great looks at the western species Bewick’s Wren, a relative of our Carolina Wren. One of the favorite parts of our trip was in the most Western point of OK, Black Mesa State Park. It is not a large park, but what a beautiful day we had there! We were lucky to get a Sage Thrasher and some Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays, both western species related to our thrasher and jay.

Black Mesa State Park OK

Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk

Driving through miles of grassland on the way to Black Mesa, we spotted so many Red-tailed Hawks sitting on utility poles. And mixed in with them was a beautiful Ferruginous Hawk! Hundreds of Western Meadowlarks serenaded us with their songs. They are very similar to Eastern and the way to distinguish them is by their song. Thank goodness for Merlin sound app, which can be pesky and give you wrong species, but in this case it was very helpful with the meadowlarks. Another nice surprise was lots of White-crowned Sparrows, sitting in fields of sorghum. Driving some dirt roads through grasslands we also spotted Scaled Quail and Northern Bobwhite.

Sage Thrush, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

White-crowned Sparrow, Scaled Quail

We were at the far end of the OK panhandle, and hiked partially up to the highest point in the state – Black Mesa at 4973 ft. After the hike, we were close to the tri-state monument on the corner of OK, NM, and CO, in the middle of nowhere! It was a hot afternoon and there were no birds to report, however, we did spy some scary tarantulas! We picked up another quick state, spending the night in KS, just across the OK border while crossing the state. If you get one really good early morning stop, as in KS at a water treatment plant, you can sure load up on a lot of new state birds. Ducks were everywhere!

Black Mesa, highest point in OK, 4973 feet

Tri-state monument: OK, NM, CO and the Tarantula

The Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge looked like an interesting stop, but we were saddened to see that severe drought had dried up most of the marshes and ponds. A large lake in the center of the refuge still had water, but was seriously down with large amounts of dead fish. Hopefully, they will get some rain soon, but it will take a lot to fill up those marshes and ponds. There were still thousands of Franklin’s Gulls, (a relative of our Laughing Gull), hundreds of white pelicans and avocets, ducks and many shorebirds!

Snowy Egret on 100s of fish, American Avocet

So, a great 10 days on a “spontaneous” 3200 mile trip! And, we crossed the entire state of OK without going on an interstate??? Believe it or not, that is the way the GPS took us, state and county roads at 60-65mph! Who does that? Only a crazy birdwatcher and her photographer husband!

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

The Dakotas…Potholes and Prairies

Note: This article appeared in the July 1 Seabrooker. It’s been updated for SIB blog.

After all the stops and starts of travel during Covid, we had an itch to get on the road again! You may wonder, why the Dakotas? They happen to be wonderful places for birdwatching, particularly in June and July. The birds are plentiful, the weather is wonderful, and the scenery is spectacular. We drove from Atlanta to Fargo, ND, then west across the state, south into SD, and back east across SD to Sioux Falls. A grand total of 5,000 miles!

Common Merganser, Eared Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Western Grebe

The Dakotas are part of an area called “potholes and prairies.”  The potholes are shallow depressive wetlands of glacial origin that hold water from snow melt and rains. In the summer, they’re a haven for breeding waterfowl and other birds. North Dakota is sometimes called the “duck factory”  of the Midwest because it supports more than 50% of our nation’s migratory waterfowl. Many of the ducks that we see at Seabrook in the winter go to the Midwest to breed in the summer. There is nothing like seeing a breeding plumage Ruddy Duck, who is so plain for us at Seabrook in the winter, but has a shocking blue bill and rusty plumage in the summer. Another highlight was breeding Western Grebes, sometimes colonies of over several hundred. Seeing them doing their synchronized mating dance was a first for us! Another striking grebe was the Eared Grebe, in breeding plumage Eared Grebe with its “maraschino cherry” eye. We saw a Common Merganser with adorable striped ducklings. In the wetland areas are Yellow-headed Blackbirds, with shocking yellow heads and voices that sound like a fax machine from back in the day! 

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope

Another of our passions is birding the grasslands of the Midwest. There are several national grasslands in North and South Dakota, and they harbor a wonderful population of birds. We enjoy the drives along miles of dirt roads, with no one around but an occasional farmer waving hi, as we look for Upland Sandpipers sitting on fence posts. It is awe inspiring to see the vast expanses of farmland and meet some of the people that farm it…truly American’s breadbasket. And how out of place and fun to see some of our Seabrook shorebirds in the grasslands of the Midwest – many Marbled Godwit, Black Terns and Willet in the fields and on the roads. Another striking shorebird, the Wilson’s Phalarope, also breeds in the grassland areas.

Other western grassland birds were the Chestnut-collared Longspur, a bird we had seen in previous trips, but never quite as good as on this one. Western Kingbirds dotted the fences everywhere, as did Lark Buntings with striking black plumage and white wing patch. Horned Larks called with their tinkling chirps. Bobolinks in distinctive breeding colors, and their little bubbling “Martian-like” song gave us great looks.

Chestnut-collared Longspur, Western Kingbird, Lark Bunting, Horned Lark, Bobolink, Lark Sparrow

Teddy Roosevelt National Park is a hidden treasure. It has impressive scenery, a herd of bison and beautiful birds – like the Lark Sparrow with its harlequin face pattern, and the stunning Lazuli Bunting. In South Dakota we drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Parkway where we found one of our favorite birds, the American Dipper. It is the only songbird that regularly swims and submerges in fast running streams, looking for aquatic insect larvae. It was like finding a needle in a haystack, but we were able to spot one and saw it’s diving behavior! Western woodpeckers are always fun to find, and we found a Red-naped Sapsucker at higher elevation in SD.

Bison, Lazuli Bunting, American Dipper, Red-naped Sapsucker

As always in our travels, I am always looking to add another life bird to my list of US birds. While searching for a Golden Eagle nest, we had an up close look at a Ferruginous Hawk, a life bird for me, as it devoured its prey in a prairie dog town. Another life bird was a Gray Partridge, which we expected to find on the prairie, but instead found it in a downtown city park in Fargo! The park had done an excellent prairie restoration in the center of the city, and it was a great habitat for this elusive bird. We ended our trip with a very special Burrowing Owl, who nests in abandoned prairie dog holes. We drove a long way on dirt roads in Ft. Pierre National Grasslands and it did not disappoint! Two were sitting up by their nest holes late in the day. And a trip to SD would not be complete without its state bird, the Ring-necked Pheasant!

Ferruginous Hawk, Gray Partridge, Burrowing Owl, Ring-necked Pheasant

Along with all the beautiful birds we saw, the scenery in the Dakotas is magnificent. The Badlands are spectacular, and Needles Highway is a 17 mile drive of majestic views of rock formations. Custer State Park has a herd of over 1,000 bison, many had calves and they roam freely through the park. We also caught a great look at a coyote and hundreds upon hundreds of prairie dogs. So, if you have a chance, you may want to venture to the Dakotas!

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

What’s to See on North Beach…and Beyond?

Aija on North Beach

Aija and I spent a week at Seabrook in August, and despite the heat, we birded and shot photographs on North Beach. Of course! So, what’s to see on North Beach mid-August – through Aija’s binoculars and my  camera lens? Like any time of the year, always interesting sightings!

The striking American Oystercatchers are wonderful to see, especially a larger flock moving around from the point to the SCDNR nesting area. We were on the lookout for our old friend U5, and his mate and juvenile. The family treated me to a nice “through the lens encounter”. Mom and juvenile were together foraging, then each gave their little call. I heard the return call to my far left, and there’s U5 doing a magnificent flyby!

Piping Plovers are back from breeding up north. We resighted eight, two were banded. We reported the orange flag plover to researcher Alice Van Zoeren, Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, in Michigan. Alice emailed, “This is your friend Red/Yellow; he lost his yellow band over summer. He and mate fledged two chicks successfully at Sleeping Bear Dunes on North Manitou Island this summer. Their territory was 2 miles away from the main nesting area, so we got lots of exercise checking on them each day! Glad he’s made it back to Seabrook!”. Red/Yellow is one of the captive raised PIPL Mark Andrews spotted last October He stayed with us through the spring and is back!

 We learned from the researchers at the Virginia Tech Piping Plover Program that the green flag Piping Plover “2E1 was banded as a pre-fledged chick at Fire Island National Seashore, NY, on 6/2/2021. This is the first observation since banding.” This is 2E1’s first trip south, so like Red/Yellow, maybe will stay with us all wintering season too! Why not, Seabrook is a safe and wonderful place!

Between trips to North Beach, we headed down Route 17 to favorite spots – Bear Island and Donnelly WMAs. The targets were Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites that are seen this time of year. These graceful birds soar and swoop very fast in search of bugs, so photographing them is a real challenge, I wasn’t pleased with this trip’s quality, but the photos show the “moment” of the kites catching then gobbling insects while in flight. A terrific surprise at Bear Island was coming upon a Least Bittern sitting up on the marsh grass, and “posing” for us for a long time. This elusive bird usually skulks deep in the  grass, it’s rare to get looks like this!

Back on North Beach the Black Skimmers gave me a nice beach landscape shot. Small groups of Short-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Plovers hung out, some still with breeding plumage.

Least Terns, and Royal Terns with juveniles begging for food, rested in the protected nesting area. A favorite tern – the graceful Gull-billed Tern, buzzed my head while I was photographing shorebirds. We wondered why as breeding season is over. But then we realized they were catching insects in midair, or maybe looking for small crabs on the ground! These beauties don’t rely on fish for their diets like their ocean-diving cousin tern species.

Royal Tern

Seeing what’s up on Jenkins Point is always fun. Aija knew a Yellow-crowned Night Heron had been hanging out on Old Wharf Road. This was unusual, as Jenkins Point is a place for the Black-crowned Night Heron. My trusty birding buddy was right as usual. I always wonder, would I ever get these photos without Aija’s expertise?

Article and Photos by Ed Konrad

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Teamwork on North Beach!

On two outings to North Beach this week, we observed some amazing teamwork by ducks, wading birds and gulls. It made me think of a show my now 14-year-old grandson and I watched when he was a toddler, called “Wonder Pets” where they sang a little catchy little tune about cooperation and teamwork. The words are “what’s gonna work? Teamwork! what’s gonna work…Teamwork!” 

The teamwork we observed was 12 Red-breasted Mergansers swimming close to the shore in the old inlet, diving for food. Five Snowy Egrets were running along behind them, looking for anything they could find that the mergansers had stirred up. And in between, were 3 Bonaparte’s Gulls hopscotching over all of them, picking anything off the surface they could find. They were all working together in feeding off whatever each species could stir up.

The 12 Red-breasted Mergansers, with Bonaparte’s Gulls joining the team!

This behavior is called “mutualism”, feeding off the efforts of the other species. The ducks would then look for whatever the egrets had stirred up with their feet. The second day we were there, 3 Tricolored Herons joined  in the mix.  It was amazing to watch such cooperation and I couldn’t stop humming the little “teamwork” song! 

American Oystercatcher – our old friend U5 and mate.

Throughout the morning, which started with a beautiful sunrise, our good old friend American Oystercatcher U5 and its significant other were around us. First saying good morning at the lagoon in beautiful early morning light, then feeding at the old inlet as we watched the “teamwork”, and finally flying overhead to say goodbye as we were leaving the point.

Red Knots are here!!! Flock of over 200 on North Beach point.

We had heard the Red Knots are here!!! Sure enough, a flock of just over 200 were resting at high tide at the point, then took off in their spectacular flight. Our days on North Beach always include a lookout for Piping Plovers. “Red/Yellow”, the Great Lakes Endangered captive raised plover, looks to be quite at home at Seabrook for the winter – at its favorite feeding spot along the lagoon with 4 other unbanded pipers. 

How our morning on North Beach started!

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

SIB Christmas Bird Count

Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone @ North Beach – Ed Konrad

On January 4, 2021, Seabrook Island Birders participated in our most productive annual Christmas Bird Count ever! A record number 114 species, and we suspect a record number of individual birds with nearly 6,500. We had 10 teams of birders hitting Seabrook Island “hotspots” of Jenkins Point, Palmetto Lake, North Beach, Creek Watch, Camp St Christopher, SIPOA/Club horse pasture and maintenance area, Crooked Oaks and Ocean Winds golf courses, and Bohicket Marina. In addition our team consisted of seven feeder watch homes sighting 65 species and 279 individual birds. We walked 26 miles, drove 3.3 miles and rode in golf carts 9.8 miles for 77 people hours of effort!  Amazing!

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, done annually done Dec 14 to Jan 5 by volunteer birdwatchers, and administered by the National Audubon Society. The first count began Christmas Day 1900, when Frank Chapman, ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History in NY, proposed it as an alternative to hunting birds on Christmas. Audubon and other organizations use data collected to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action. Our Seabrook Island CBC is part of the larger Sea Islands CBC done on Seabrook, Kiawah, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands.

In addition to our CBC being an important contribution to Aubudon and understanding and protecting our birds species…we all had a great time! Here’s some memorable moments from some of the Seabrook Island Birders.

From Judy Morr, “It was a fun day, with the highlight being the sightings of so many Purple Finches on Seabrook.  I had seen them before at Caw Caw but never on Seabrook.  It was fun making sure we had the correct identification versus House Finch.  Another “frustration “ was trying to find the nuthatch when there were so many robins chattering away.”

Nancy Brown was with Judy for the day, and really liked “Hearing and seeing the Red Breasted Nuthatch on Old Wharf Rd. – which is pretty reliable to hear.” It’s also a stunning bird to see if you’re fortunate to spot it! Nancy also commented on the non-stop texting between the teams to see if certain species were found, and asking “I just saw this bird but can’t identify for sure, can anyone help???!!!” 

Patricia Schaefer was “most excited to see both the male and female Baltimore Orioles today because they have only recently started coming again to our feeder after having noticed them being seen in nearby cities. We were glad they showed up for the count!”

Lesley Gore also was thrilled with the Baltimore Orioles – “The day of the CBC, I eagerly waited to see which species would  show up to my bird feeder. At first it was the usual visitors – Carolina Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmouse and Cardinals. Then, a new visitor – with brilliant orange and yellow plumage underside and black and white wings! Yes, a Baltimore Oriole. My first ever time of attracting one to my feeder. So excited to see one! After a few sips of sugar water, a bite of orange she flew away with a beak full of strawberry preserves! My new visitor did not come again that day. There’s always tomorrow!”

Bob Mercer too was amazed at the Robins before heading to Camp St Christopher and the marina. “The morning started with an almost non-stop river of American Robins all headed up the Stono River. The numbers were astronomical and undoubtedly the total count for the day is an underestimate. Wandering around, occasionally lost, in Camp St. Christopher, I kept running across new species. Some of the treasured finds included the Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows, 12 Wood Ducks, and 7 species of warbler. My day ended at the marina watching Marbled Godwits fly up Bohicket Creek.

Aija and Ed Konrad walked 21000 steps on North Beach, and were “out on the beach by dawn on a beautiful morning, greeted by and startled on the boardwalk by a very large buck! Our best moment was seeing over 17 “salty” sparrows on the old inlet. We’ve never quite figured out where they hide on a high tide, and found them in a dry grassy area to the left of the marsh. A thrill to see so many, but it’s a “now you see ‘em, now you don’t bird”, up and back down into the marsh grass in a flash!”

Ed is always entertained looking for interesting photo subjects, and “capturing a Bufflehead and the Red-breasted Mergansers take flight was a fun challenge. We enjoy searching for our Piping Plover winter guests. Today there was a wonderful trio huddled in the sand, and the Great Lakes banded/endangered “Red Yellow” was still with us and staying safe on North Beach!”

Thanks to everyone that participated! You can see what a fun and productive time we all had! Article by Ed and Aija Konrad

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

Reddish Egrets – North Beach

Early Wednesday morning, Ed and I were treated to the sight of two beautiful Reddish Egrets actively feeding on North Beach. It’s a thrill to see one Reddish Egret at this time of the year, but two is fantastic! They are not common birds here in the Low Country, so it is always a great day when you see one.  It’s the rarest wading bird in North America. 

Mark Andrews has been spotting the Reddish Egrets since about mid-July, which is when they typically arrive. They stay with us into early October. The SC coastline is an important belt of coastal habitat for them. They breed south of us in FL, LA and TX. Our birds are migrants from “post breeding dispersal.”

Reddish Egrets are best distinguished by their feeding behavior, which involves spreading their wings to shade the fish and then running, spinning and flapping while chasing the fish through shallow water. Ed and I call it “dancing.” Seeing a Reddish doing its dance is like dangling a bright shiny object in front of Ed, photographing it will amuse him for hours! Lol!

They love to fish and feed in large tidal pools on the beach, and these were in the large tidal pool closest to the ocean.

People often mistake a Reddish Egret for a Tricolored Heron or a Great Blue, so you have to look carefully for that shaggy, rusty neck and chest and gray body, with no white on the bird. The juvenile birds are a pale chalky color, which was what we had today. To see the difference, the photos below are of today’s juvenile and the mature Reddish we saw on East Kiawah Beach on Tuesday.

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

Birding with Lewis & Clark

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.

To follow our journey on Flickr, here’s the URL:

2020 03 08 Pandemic Birdathon

Some Flickr navigation tips:

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!

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

SIB Excursion to Bear Island & Donnelley WMAs

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:

Bear Island WMA https://ebird.org/checklist/S65310562  

Donnelley WMA. https://ebird.org/checklist/S65299367

Article by Aija Konrad

A Rare Duck & Special Piping Plover – SI in December!

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

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