SINHG Visits Kiawah Banding Station

Eight Seabrook Island Birder (SIB) members were among the 12 lucky registrants for the Seabrook Island Natural History Group’s (SINHG) fall trip to visit the Kiawah Island Bird Banding on Cap’n Sams Spit.  As the trip description detailed, every August, Aaron Given from the Town of Kiawah Island sets up twenty-five 40’ mist nets on Captain Sam’s Spit where, over the next couple of months, he collects birds for banding, measuring, and weighing. Our trip on October 1, was the peak migration time for all sorts of songbirds including vireos, warblers, catbirds, chickadees, etc.

Our group gathered at Beachwalker Park and enjoyed Sanderlings on the beach at sunrise as we walked towards the Spit.  Aaron Given met us and took us along the meandering paths beside the mist nets.  He removed some birds from the nets as we went and some of us were lucky to hold the bags of the captured birds.

Bagged birds awaiting processing

Once we got to their workstation, Aaron explained the process as each bird was identified, banded, measured, weighed, aged and studied for fat content of each bird.  This data was all recorded in a ledger that would subsequently be entered in a database and shared globally.

While we were there, the following species were identified: Gray Catbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo.

Attaching Band

For banding, a metal ring with a unique number is attached to each bird’s leg.  This is done with a special pliers and the unique number becomes the bird’s “name” in the database.  The metal rings come in different sizes to not disturb the birds.  At the nets, Aaron’s team efficiently pre-sorts the birds as they are placed in the bags which allows the same size bands to be used consecutively.

Measuring Wing

A special ruler is used to measure the length of the bird’s wing. 






Weigh-in

The birds don’t seem to mind being put head down into a PVC pipe to allow the bird to be weighed.  Different PVC pipe sizes are used based upon the size of the bird.

To age the bird, the naturalists examine primarily the wing feathers.  A hatch-year’s feathers are gradually replaced with sturdier feathers.  By examining the feathers, the naturalists can tell which feathers have been replaced and then know if they are hatch-year or after.  If the feathers don’t provide a definitive answer, the head can be misted with water to see how extensive the scull has developed.

The birds can consume a great deal of fat in a single night of migration.  The amount of fat on a bird would vary based upon how much was gained prior to migration, any special conditions the bird faced during migration (wind, weather, etc.).  While they are resting on Kiawah during migration, they eat berries and insects to regain fat to continue their journey.  Some birds may be on Kiawah for only a day, others for a few nights and some for all winter.  To identify the level of fat on a bird, the naturalist blows on the birds chest.  The bird’s skin is rather translucent under the feathers so by blowing on the feathers, the skin is seen and through it, the degree of fat, rated 0 to 5.

Once all these studies are done, the birds are released to eat, gain weight and continue their journey.  If they should fly into the nets again on the same day, they are released immediately rather than subject them to more stress.  If a bird is “recaptured”, its number is recorded and new data is gathered to ascertain how the bird’s health has changed since its previous capture.

Article by Judy Morr and photos by Dean Morr

SIB’s Article for the October 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 October 2021 SIB article. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page on the left side of the centerfold! The stories this month feature:

  • Why Birdwatching? You hear a lot about it, so what’s all the fuss about? If you aren’t a birder, you may just realize why becoming one can be an exciting new hobby after reading Aija Konrads article and viewing the photos by her husband Ed.
  • 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 author Aija Konrad and photographer Ed Konrad for their contributions this month. Ed also serves as our graphic designer!

It was a great excursion to Fort Moultrie

On Sunday, September 26, a lucky group of SIB members enjoyed a fabulous morning birding at Fort Moultrie. Craig Watson led the group and helped us identify 62 species, only some of which are mentioned below.

Before we left the parking lot, we observed a Red-headed Woodpecker, Chimney Swifts and a first of the season Northern Flicker.

Roseatte Spoonbill – Susan Maarkham

As we walked around the “field” behind Battery Jasper, we saw Bobolinks, Prairie Warblers, Palm Warblers, Common Yellow-throated Warbers, an American Kestrel, and a Merlin. A bright pink Roseatte Spoonbill flew over which is unusual for this location. A Red-tail Hawk sat on the spire of Stella Maris Catholic Church undeterred by the ringing bells.

Summer Tanager – Susan Markham

As we were walking into the Sullivan Island Nature Trail, two Osprey and a Peregrine Falcon flew over. A Swainson’s Thrush was hopping in the brush. Soon we saw a gorgeous Summer Tanager up in a tree. As we continued on the trail, we were able to get good views of American Redstarts, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a Worm-eating Warbler.

Northern Waterthrush ready to be released – Susan Markham

As we continued along the path, we encountered the Sullivan Island banding station. A Northern Waterthrush had just been netted so the group was able to see it being measured, weighed and banded.

As we left the Nature Trail, our walk was officially over but a few of us were having too much fun to quit. We went back along the tree line behind Battery Jasper. A Red-tail Hawk was perched, then swooped, then perched again, obviously looking for lunch. We also saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a Yellow Warbler and a House Wren.

All who participated agreed this would be a place we want to visit again.

SIB Virtual Movie Matinee: The Legend of Pale Male

With the increased number of Covid-19 cases, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) will continue to show movies virtually via Zoom until further notice.

Thank you!

SIB will host the October movie matinee with “The Legend of Pale Male“.

SIGN UP NOW

When in 1991, a wild red tailed hawk is seen for the first time in Central Park, New Yorkers wonder if and how this bold ambassador from the wild could make it in their city. One of them, decides then to buy a video camera and starts following the newcomer. He will… for twenty years! This is the true remarkable story of how Pale Male won the heart of New York City and became a living legend. Trailer of the movie.

Sign up then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our virtual gathering!

Date: Tuesday October 12, 2021 from 4:00-5:30 pm
Location: Virtually on Zoom
Max: 100
Cost: None, however, we hope you will join/renew for 2022 – click here to learn more!

Sign Up to obtain the Zoom link to watch the movie!

2021 SC Audubon’s Coastal Stewardship Report

2021 has been an exciting year for birds on Seabrook’s beaches!

  • We welcomed back 4000-6000 Red Knots
  • We have watched American Oystercatchers successfully raise 2 chicks
  • There was the big announcement of 20,000 Whimbrel roosting on Deveaux Bank
  • AND Seabrook Island Birders Shorebird Steward Program completed our first full year.

Our Shorebird Steward program is part of a network of steward organizations that protect shorebirds during their migration and monitor nesting sites all along the South Carolina coast.

Last week, South Carolina Audubon released their 2021 Coastal Stewardship report. The report compiles the experiences of stewards in 10 communities from Huntington Beach State Park in the north to Little Capers island in the south as they educated beachgoers and monitored nesting sites of Threatened and Endangered birds.

SC Audubon leads many of these sites and while our program, like Kiawah’s, is autonomous, we receive valuable training and advice from Nolan Schillerstrom, SC Audubon’s Coastal Program Associate and Alyssa Zebrowski, the Seasonal Coastal Stewardship Coordinator. Our other sponsors are SCDNR, USFWS, the Town of Seabrook and SIPOA. 

Please enjoy reading the report. If you are a Shorebird Steward here on Seabrook, appreciate how your efforts fit into the larger picture. If you aren’t a steward yet, please come join us next spring. Don’t worry if you can’t identify plovers from sanderlings- shorebirds are challenging and we all learn something every day. We’ll announce our goals and training for 2022 in February.

All shorebird & seabird populations are in decline and your help is urgently needed.

Submitted by Mark Andrews

Front cover of report, white background, black text written, Coastal Stewardship 2021 Report

Join SIB for October Big Day / World Migration Day

Each year, Cornell Lab designates a Saturday in October as October Bird Day . The purpose is to celebrate birds near and far. Canada and South America also have named October 9 as World Migratory Day to educate people on birds and their migratory patterns. Seabrook Island Birders will recognize the day with a series of birding activities around the island. You can participate in the “Bird my Backyard” to record your observations even if you are not on Seabrook Island.

Register Now

Saturday October 09, 2021 9:00am – 6:30 pm
October Big Day on Seabrook Island
Location: Various locations around Seabrook Island
Max: 10 Cost: No cost to members, $5 to non-members

Join us in participating in eBird’s October Big Day. The event will involve walks at various locations throughout the day. The schedule below allows for individuals to sign up for a portion of the day if the whole day is not of interest. We request you register for all sections you will be attending so we know if we should wait for you at any individual location.

We will limit attendance for each activity to 10 people in recognition of COVID recommendations. We will also ask masks be worn if social distancing cannot be maintained. Unfortunately, use of scopes will also be limited if at all.

We have added a “virtual” activity this year when people can bird in the comfort of their own homes and share their findings with the group.

  • Bird my backyard – Bird your own property for as long as you want, as many times as you want through-out the day. Keep a list and share your findings with SIB. “Your own property” can be a golf course, a camp ground or an interstate highway….wherever you happen to see birds, share your observations.
  • Equestrian Center / Maintenance Area – 9:00 – 10:30 PM
    Starlings and Cowbirds plus numerous other birds can be expected. A large number of birds will likely be seen near the parking area but then a walk along the horse trail to the maintenance and garden area may be added to see a different variety of birds.
  • North Beach – (High Tide 11:05 am) – 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
    The group will walk the 2 miles to Captain Sam’s Inlet. (Tides permitting). Those unable to walk the entire distance may turn around at any time. The group will work together to identify those hard to distinguish plovers and sandpipers. The walk is scheduled around the falling tide when the birds will be consolidated on a narrower beach while avoiding the worst of the tides. Meet at the Owners Beach Access Parking Lot at Boardwalk 1.
  • Jenkin’s Point – 2:30 – 4:30 PM
    We will be exploring the birds seen along Jenkins Point lagoons and streets, including ducks, wading birds and shorebirds. We will go from location to location via car or bike. Since this event can be primarily by car, it is appropriate for members with mobility issues. Meet at Jenkins Point Ct, the street after the first pond on the left.
  • Palmetto Lake – 5:00 – 6:30 PM (Sunset 6:54 pm)
    Join us to explore the birds around the Lake House and the walks of Palmetto Lake. This is less than one mile of flat, paved walk around the lake. Recently, White Ibis, Cattle Egret, Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets have come in to roost at dusk so we hope they continue to provide a show. Meet at the Lake House parking lot.

For all events, bring masks, sun block, bug spray, a hat, water, snacks and binoculars.

If you are not yet a SIB member, you must first become a member for $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/, or you may join each session for a Guest Fee of $5.

Register Now

Ask SIB: Which spotting scopes for birding?

Question: I would like to give my daughter a “spotter” for Christmas. Any recommendations of best brands, etc.?
Thanks,

Lee Hurd, SIB Member

While binoculars are great for viewing birds “up-close”, a spotting scope will allow you to find and distinguish field marks on more “distant birds.” You will also be able to view plumage you cannot see through binoculars on “close-up” birds. Some spotting scopes can be adapted to attach your smartphone or digital camera.

Spotting Scopes are not astronomy telescopes; they are medium range telescopes. They are either “fixed” magnification where you change eyepieces or single zoom eyepieces with magnification power, usually between 15x and 60x. Zoom eyepieces are recommended for birding as they allow scanning at low power and a convenient shift to higher power to view details. Make certain your spotting scope is waterproof.

Quality spotting scopes are made with HD (high density) or ED (extra-low dispersion) glass. These allow better brightness and image clarity over standard glass. Light gathering capacity is indicated by the size of the lens furthest from the eyepiece, usually between 50mm and 100mm. Larger “objective lenses” provide brighter images but are slightly heavier to carry. Like most binoculars, choose a spotting scope with adjustable “eye relief” mechanism for eyeglass wearers.

Spotting scopes are configured for either straight thru viewing or 45-degree angled eyepieces. Straight-thru viewing is preferred by people who wish to “stand up straight” when viewing and easily locate and follow a bird. Birders, however, generally favor 45-degree eyepieces as they allow for shorter tripods (more stable) and are more convenient if you are sharing with a group of people of different heights. Look for a rigid, sturdy tripod with flip-locks on the legs to adjust easily on uneven ground. The importance of the right tripod should not be ignored when making your decisions.

In summary for birding, look for a zoom eyepiece lens and a “objective lens” of at least 60mm to provide a bright image; 85mm if you plan on attaching your smartphone or digital camera. A spotting scope with these specifications will generally weigh around 4lbs. I researched Vortex 20-60×85 scopes online and found a good quality scope will cost around $500. If you are willing to spend $1,000-$1,600, you can purchase an excellent quality spotting scope. Your tripod choice needs to be light enough to carry but sturdy enough to withstand wind conditions and not move. With the spotting scope and tripod, you will be carrying between 8lbs to 12lbs of equipment.

Since this is a major purchase, spend some time on the internet researching your options for both scopes and tripods. A Google search on “Spotting Scopes for Birding” will find not only features to consider but vendors and makes available. Just a few are:

Seabrook Island Birders has a donated Leupold 15-45×60 straight thru viewing spotting scope that you can borrow and try out. While out birding with others, ask to look thru their scopes and perhaps volunteer to carry their scopes and tripod around to get a feel for the weight of the combined unit you will be carrying.

Submitted by: Dean Morr

Join SIB to bird at Ft. Moultrie

REGISTER NOW

Sunday, September 26, 2021 8:00am-11:00am
Birding Beyond your Backyard- Ft. Moultrie
Location: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool (7:00a)or can meet us at the Fort (1214 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482- park at Poe Avenue in the sand parking lot between Battery Jasper and Battery McCorkle)
Max: 12
Cost: free to members, $5 per guest

Join us in a trip to Ft. Moultrie. This is a well known birding Hotspot among birders and fall migration will be in full swing. We may see many migrant birds passing through. It has many different habitats, including meadow/field, forest and shoreline. We are lucky enough to get Craig Watson to lead this activity. Craig is a Migratory Bird Biologist at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lives in Mt. Pleasant. He knows Ft. Moultrie very well when it comes to birding.

Ft. Moultrie was the the first fort on Sullivan’s Island. It has been rebuilt 3 times since 1776 and played a significant role in the Civil War. Today Fort Moultrie has been restored to portray the major periods of its history. A visitor to the fort moves steadily backwards in time from the World War II Harbor Entrance Control Post to the site of the Palmetto-log fort of 1776. Tour of Ft. Moultrie will not be part of our birding activity, but if you drive there yourself, you are welcome to stay and also tour the fort. They are open 9a-5p and you will need to go to Visitor Center and purchase a $10 ticket. We will be birding the parameter of the Fort before opening hours.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats, water and sunscreen. We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated.

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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
Length:  7″; Wingspan: 13″; Weight: 1.1 oz.

Eastern Bluebirds - Charley Moore
Eastern Bluebirds – Charley Moore

Slightly smaller than its cousin the Robin, this bird is distinctive in its rusty red colored breast and white belly with a sky blue head, back and tail. The female shares the rusty red breast and white belly but is grayer with faint blue tails and wings. The song is a three part song that sounds like chur-lee chur chur-lee.

You will see these beautiful Eastern Bluebirds commonly perched on mailboxes alongside the roads of Seabrook Island and in the surrounding tree branches. They like open woodlands, meadows and fields and are year round inhabitants of this area. This was not always the case due to competition from other birds for their nesting holes and also the occasional cold spells that we have had that killed them off in large numbers. Their population declined by more than 90 % in the 20th century but thanks to efforts from bird lovers who have placed many bird houses in the area, their population is returning. There is also an increase in their population in winter when migrants from the north return to this area. If you are thinking of putting a birdhouse up, you should do this in early May to attract these migrants to stay. When you locate the birdhouse, try to keep it a discrete distance from other bird feeders so there is less activity to scare off new nesting birds.

Bluebirds enjoy a peanut butter corn meal mixture but really love live mealy worms which you can buy from Wild Birds Unlimited. They should be placed in an open bowl type feeder.

Their breeding habits are monogamous and they breed in pairs and small groups. The incubation period is 12 to 14 days and the young stay in the nest for 15 to 20 days. They usually brood 2 to 3 times a year with typically 2 to 7 light blue or white eggs.

Did you know that we have a Bluebird Society on Seabrook Island? It is run by Melanie Jerome with many volunteers. 71 bluebird boxes on 4 “Bluebird trails” around the island. There are boxes on the front and back nine of the Crooked Oaks course and the front nine of Ocean Winds. The other boxes are around the Lake House.  The bluebird nesting season has ended for 2021. We had 309 eggs with 259 bluebird hatchlings. 253 fledged.  That is a 97% fledge rate. These stats are reported to the Environmental Committee and the SC Bluebird Society. If you are interested in joining the Bluebird volunteers next spring, please go out to Seabrookislandbirders.org to let us know. No prior experience is necessary to join either group, just a love of birds and nature.

Article submitted by:  Ron Schildge, resubmitted from 2016/07/31
Photographs provided by:  Bob Hider & Charley 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.

Watch: To the Ends of the Earth: Birds of East Africa

Do you love birds and nature? Are you interested to learn more about the birds of Africa? Recently, the Seabrook Island Birders offered a movie matinee found on PBS called, “To the Ends of the Earth: Birds of East Africa. All of the participants watching this one-hour documentary agreed it was spectacular!

Read the description and take time to stream this program!

Introduced by esteemed conservationist Jane Goodall and narrated by National Geographic’s Bill Jones, this documentary focuses on what humanity has in common with other species. Wildlife photographer Todd Gustafson captures stories of competition, courtship, family, hunting and flight to illustrate the hidden life of East African birds.

To the Ends of the Earth: Birds of East Africa is a local public television program presented by CPTV and distributed nationally by American Public Television.