SIB Travels: Summer at Camp in Maine

Last year, while spending time late summer/early fall in Maine, we purchased property on a lake near Bangor, where I grew up. We are so excited to be able to spend “summah upta camp!” The nights are cool, the air has been dry (NO humidity), and even on the hot days, a breeze comes off the lake and keeps us very comfortable as we sit on the screened porch or on our lawn listening and watching our birds.

Last week while talking with Flo’s sister, I said, “I gotta go, a Woodcock just flew into our yard!” It was just before 7pm and we found it huddled in the wet wooded area between our camp and the next. I grabbed the “big” camera and took photos of the American Woodcock.

American Woodcock, Pleasant Lake, Stetson, Maine – Nancy Brown

According to Sibley Birds, the American Woodcock: “Status and Habits – Uncommon and secretive on damp ground under dense cover within woods, where it is rarely seen except when flushed at close range. Displaying birds emerge into open grassy fields at dusk in spring. Secretive and solitary; rarely seen in daylight and never mixes with other shorebirds”. Guess we were lucky to spot him.

My family always called these birds the “Timberdoodle.” According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website “All About Birds,” the woodcock is also known as the Labrador twister, night partridge, and bog sucker.

The following night while taking our dog out for one last walk, I caught another glimpse of the bird in the same general area. In fact, as it moved, I could observe their interesting walk. Cornell reports, “The American Woodcock probes the soil with its bill to search for earthworms, using its flexible bill tip to capture prey. The bird walks slowly and sometimes rocks its body back and forth, stepping heavily with its front foot. This action may make worms move around in the soil, increasing their detectability.” Watch a fascinating video of an American Woodcock here.

We sure do love life at our camp on the lake! I hope to have more Maine birding experiences to share with you this summer.

Submitted by: Nancy Brown

Talkin’ Birds

Although I love technology, I only recently discovered podcasts. I had always thought of myself as a visual learner and I’ve was never been much of a “book” reader. But during the pandemic, Flo finally convinced me to try listening to books. Then I started “reading” (listening) to books with our two younger nephews during their summer vacation. That led to me listening to books, which finally led to me listening to podcasts.

As Joleen Ardaiolo reported in her Seabrook Island Birder blog three years ago, “Talkin’ Birds, featuring Ray Brown, is actually an interactive weekly radio show that started broadcasting from WATD, a local radio station in Massachusetts 716 episodes ago and is now carried by many other stations. The radio broadcast is later offered as a podcast. This folksy show has features like “Birds in the News”, “Bird Word of the Week” or, my personal favorite, the “Mystery Bird Contest.” Segments are separated by quirky short musical interludes that add to the fun. The show also spotlights the “Conservation Salute of the Week” and is often promoting environmental protection initiatives.”

Talkin’ Birds has become one of my “don’t miss” weekly podcasts! I was excited to learn I could become one of their Ambassadors, a person who shares the word about this program! What better way to share information about this fabulous bird related radio show / podcast than our SIB blog and website! Yesterday, episode #877 aired and Ray even gave us a “shout-out,” mentioning our migrating Red Knots and visiting Whimbrels! The show featured the Saltmarsh Sparrow, the Brant and shared information about using bird nest boxes. You will have to listen to it yourself to know the answer to this week’s mystery bird contest!

There are many ways you can listen to Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds:

  • Live online every Sunday at 9:30 am eastern via livestream
  • Find a radio station for delayed broadcast (mostly New England states)
  • Find the latest or archived shows.
  • And learn how to listen as a podcast.

So take a listen and I hope to hear many of you on-air as you take a guess on a future “Mystery Bird Contest.”

Visit our website to find links to this and other great birding podcasts!

Up Close & Personal with Eastern Bluebirds

You may have read the recent article regarding the winter behaviors of Eastern Bluebirds. Today, I want to tell you about the nifty gift I gave my mom for Christmas.

My parents live on Johns Island just 25 minutes from our home on Seabrook Island. A couple years ago SIB member Carl Voelker was helping his grandson make bluebird nest houses and my mom, Susanne, was thrilled to have Carl install one in her backyard. In each of the past two years, she has watched while three broods of young were raised and fledged!

As the holidays approached, we came up with the perfect gift for her – a camera to watch the birds from the inside of the birdhouse. I searched the internet for possible options, and selected a product made by Green Backyard. This company has a number of different products including houses, feeders, and cameras for birds and other wildlife. The kit I chose included a cedar birdhouse with a 38mm (1.5″) opening along with a waterproof outdoor WiFi camera. I had decided to purchase their box as it is designed with an added “window” to allow for illumination and it is structured to easily install the camera to the “ceiling” of the box.

Before buying this camera, I verified two things:

  1. Strong WiFi signal at the site it would be placed to connect to my parent’s home WiFi router.
  2. Availability of power using the included 10 meter (~32.8 feet) long power cord, which I plugged into an outdoor extension cord, to reach the exterior GFCI outlet .

I ordered the kit directly from Green Backyard and it arrived within about 10 days. The camera and birdhouse were fairly easy to install. I placed the camera inside of the birdhouse as directed, then placed the box on the pole replacing my mom’s original birdhouse. I ran the power cable and extension to the GFCI outlet. Next, I installed the iCSee app on my phone to activate and configure the camera to the home WIFi router. I inserted the memory card (not included) into the SD card slot and sealed it with a sticker (provided).

(Photos: Top Left – equipment for camera installation; Middle Left – left side of birdhouse; Bottom Left – right side of birdhouse showing removable panel (translucent) for illumination; Right – birdhouse after final installation.)

Both video and audio is transmitted wirelessly via WiFi to your router, allowing you to watch live feeds from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or PC.

I set the option to send each of us a notification when there is movement at the box (see example). This is triggered when a bird enters or even if there is a sudden change of lighting or significant movement with wind. When you open the app, you can view the live feed and take photos or video that are saved on your app and can be downloaded to your device.

The great news for my mom is that her Eastern Bluebirds entered the new box within a day! Almost every morning we are notified and watch a male and female enter and check out the box, just as Bob Mercer described in his article. We can’t wait for when the nest building begins in another 6-8 weeks, followed by the laying of eggs!

Watch and listen to this brief video of both the male and female as they enter and explore the birdhouse.

You can learn more about the product I purchased or buy it by clicking the links below. We are all very happy with it, but I encourage you to do your own research if you are interested to install a camera at your home. (I have no affiliation or relationship with the supplier of this product and did not receive any compensation for my review.)

What Bird Makes this Sound?

Each spring, Seabrook Island Birders receive many requests for us to identify the bird that makes this sound. Even if you have never seen this bird, chances are if you live or spend time in the spring on Seabrook Island, you have heard him after dusk and before sunrise! The bird we are hearing is the Chuck-will’s-widow, a “cousin” to another in the Nightjar family, the Eastern Whip-poor-will who makes this sound.

Local Seabrook Island residents began hearing this spring migrant last week!  For me, it was just tonight while taking my pup out for her last walk of the night here where we live at Bohicket Marina Village. Where are you hearing this bird?

Below is a blog we have “recycled” from April 2, 2017, so you can learn more about the Chuck-will’s widow and the migration of these fascinating birds.

And remember, just email us or “Ask SIB” if you have questions about birds you are hearing or seeing!


Published April 2, 2017

On Friday, we asked if you could identify a bird by its song.  It was first reported on Seabrook Island early last Thursday morning by George Haskins.  The answer:  the Chuck-will’s-widow.  This bird winters as far south as Colombia, Venezuela and the Caribbean and breeds in pine, oak-hickory, and other forests of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. They tend to live in more open areas than the similar Whip-poor-will, which are not common here on Seabrook Island.

Chuck-will’s-widow – Flo Foley

Scientist continue to learn much about the migration of birds, especially with the advancement of technology such as using radar, acoustic, electronic and optical technologies. Spring migration starts as early as January and continues into June.  Birds generally take off shortly after sunset, some flying all night and landing just before dawn the next morning.  Others will fly nonstop for 60-100 hours as they flyover oceans and continents. Some nights there could be hundreds of millions of birds flying over North America.

Citizen Scientists like all of us are a great resource for migration information as we document bird sightings using the Audubon/Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: eBird.org.  This data is also available for anyone to view.  This link will open the eBird page to view the historical bird observations for all species by month for Charleston county.  For example, the Chuck-will’s-widow is shown below to arrive in April and is gone by the end of September.

Chuck-will’s-widow historical frequency sightings by month for Charleston County, SC from eBird.org

You can also drill down to view a map of locations where a bird has been documented, like the Chuck-will’s-widow map below.  Notice the red bubble was a sighting of a Chuck-will’s-widow documented by Aija Konrad on 3/31 near the tennis courts.

Chuck-will’s-widow map of sightings on Seabrook & Kiawah Island, SC from eBird.org

Another great website to learn more about bird migration, including a forecast each week for four geographic regions in the country, is Birdcast.info, a site created by Cornell.  Below is their forecast for the Chuck-will’s-widow for the Gulf Coast and Southeast and it looks like they are right on time!

Migrant Species

Chuck-will’s-widow

 

Begin
Arriving

3/29

Rapid Influx

4/10

Peak

4/24

Rapid
Departure

6/25

Last Departure

After Jun 30

Throughout April we will continue to share information related to bird migration including which birds are packing their bags to head north, which birds are arriving to breed and those who are just passing through and utilizing our island for rest and refueling.

In the meantime, check out this great article, Birdist Rule #70: Get Prepared for Spring Migration, by Nicholas Lund on the Audubon website.

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown

SIB’s Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest Trip

The wonderful presentation by Matt Johnson on March 27, 2019, on the Prothonotary Warbler inspired Seabrook Island Birders to join him on a walk. On April 11, 2019, ten SIB members joined Matt for a two hour tour (which became a three hour tour) of the boardwalk through the Four Hole Swamp in the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest.

SIB Beidler 4 Jackie Brooks

It was a busy day at Beidler with our group, one from the Sierra Club, and a class of elementary school students. Matt and the staff did an excellent job of keeping the groups separate so we could enjoy the many sights and sounds.

The forest, essentially untouched by human hands consists of tall, stately trees. A raised boardwalk snakes through the wet environment of towering bald cypress, black gum, and the occasional pumpkin ash and red maple.

Mayfly

In addition to birds, the swamp provides a home for an array of reptiles and amphibians. Remarkably, because the water flows through the swamp, pesky insects are practically non-existent. A mayfly is a great indicator of clean water.

While the 32 species of birds that were identified were the focus of the day, our attention frequently wandered to everything and anything we could find. We had no clue where to look first.

We had not gone far before Matt spotted a cottonmouth sitting on a log. It proved to be the first of three. In addition we saw a brown water snake, a cottonmouth mimic.

At another spot, a palm sized fisher spider gave a brief show before dashing out of sight before anyone could get a picture. Later, a smaller one sat on the walkway rail giving everyone who wanted to a chance to study it carefully.

Also seen were several broad headed and five-lined skinks.

Matt also pointed out some man-made features—a dugout canoe and a camp site—that the staff had added to provide an educational opportunity to teach about the Maroon culture—escaped slaves that lived by hiding in the swamp.

The highlight of the day were the birds. As often happens in a tall forest, some of the birds, like the very vocal and secretive hooded warbler, proved difficult to see. We had nice and clear songs from birds like Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, but never got our eyes on them.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Swallow-tailed Kite only gave some of the group a good look.

That said, other birds performed. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron posed for some pictures.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

The Prothonotary Warblers lived up to expectation. We would see multiple birds some very close. Matt pointed out several unbanded birds and some birds with a whole string of bracelets.  We also spotted some exploring potential nesting sites and carrying nesting material.

Michael Audette captured a series of pictures of a spider walking up and over a Prothonotary Warbler, a mistake because it ended up in the Prothonotary Warbler.

As we returned towards the visitor center, Matt commented that the only target bird we did not see or hear was the Barred Owl. Remarkably, within seconds after being teased by Michael about the money back guarantee, Matt spotted one only about 30 feet off the boardwalk and just above eye level. A great last bird for the day.

Many of the participants ate a picnic lunch with Matt where we talked more about the unique wonders of the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest. What a delightful way to end another successful trip.

Article written by: Bob Mercer

Photographs credits:

  • Michael Audette’s Barred Owl, all of the Prothonotary Warblers, and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.
  • Jackie Brooks’ Yellow-billed Cuckoo, mayfly, 5 lined skink, people, and maroon camp implements.
  • Bob Mercer’s cottonmouth, spiders, and broad-headed skink.

Eastern Bluebird Houses for a Good Cause

My grandson’s 4th grade project is to raise money for the homeless people of Charleston. He is selling Eastern Bluebird houses in the Riverland Terrance neighborhood. My grandson, Leo, says this way we are providing shelter to both birds and people.

So far we have built eight in my shop. We have sold five and made an additional three for use on Seabrook Island for the Bluebird Society.

If anyone is interested in purchasing a bluebird house, please contact me using the link below.

Photos and Article Submitted by: Carl Voelker

 

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