Volunteer to Bird Your Backyard on Monday January 4th, 2021

Each year starting on December 14th and continuing through January 5th, people across the country are participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  Each count takes place on a specific day in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. Seabrook Island is part of the Sea Island SC count organized by Aaron Given, Wildlife Biologist at Kiawah Island. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) will again support this year’s 121st annual CBC on the designated day of Monday January 4, 2021.  

This past year, on January 3, 2020, 19 SIB members contributed to the 2019 -2020 CBC. A total of 98 different bird species accounting for more than 3,000 birds were sighted by our volunteers during more than 80 equivalent hours in backyards, on the beach, at the marsh and beyond.

This year we are looking for all available “backyard birders” to assist with the count. All birds observed within a 24hr period on that day can be counted.   If interested, sign up here, and we will send you detailed instructions on how to record your observations throughout the day  to reduce the chance of double-counting the same individuals.  Please read the instructions carefully and if you have any questions, please let us know. 

This winter is an irruption year for northern finches.  That means that certain species that normally are not found in the south are here this winter in search of food.  The normal food crops that they would have fed on up north did not produce well so the birds are forced to find food elsewhere.  Some example of these species include Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches.  Evening Grosbeaks have been seen as far south as NC and northern GA.  Purple Finches and House Finches are be hard to identify as they look very similar.  Here is a couple of resources that I found that might be helpful in determining if you have House Finches, Purple Finches, or both.  If you are having trouble, try to get a photo.   

https://www.thespruce.com/house-finch-or-purple-finch-387318

https://www.sdakotabirds.com/diffids/house_purple.htm

Other more uncommon species that are notable and can be found at backyard feeders include hummingbirds,  Baltimore Orioles, and Painted Buntings.  Don’t assume all hummingbirds are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  During the winter, it is not uncommon for western species such as Rufous Hummingbirds, Black-chinned Hummingbird, or others to make their way to the east coast.  If you have a “different” looking hummingbirds please try to get a photo of it so that it can get identified.    

Please enjoy the photos taken by several SIB members during the day a couple years ago.  If you are interested to participate in the 121st Christmas Bird Count on Seabrook Island on Monday January 4, 2021, register today!


Photographs Submitted by:  Charles Moore, Patricia Schaefer

Happy Holidays

Seabrook Island Birders would like to wish all our friends near and far a very Happy & Healthy Holiday Season!

American Robin – Ed Konrad

And, if you are on Seabrook Island ,you may notice many large flocks of birds flying about. There are several possible species, including Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles and Cedar Waxwings. However, most likely the are the American Robins that invaded Seabrook several weeks ago. To learn more about them, check out a couple of our previous blogs on the topic!

SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Robin, published January 8, 2017

Ask SIB … American Robins, published January 29, 2018

Learning Together on the Golf Course-Ocean Winds

“Birding Together” on the golf course – participants viewing from the golf carts – Jackie Brooks

Monday December 21, 2020 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course

Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to prior waitlisted & members

We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe even some of our fall migrants!

To keep everyone safe, we will ask people to social distance and wear a face mask. When you register, if you are not joined by a family member, please let us know if you are open to riding with a non-family participant or if you prefer to be in a cart alone.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2020 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.

Please complete the information below to register no later than Friday December18, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday December 19, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

SIB December Movie Matinees

SIB will continue our “Virtual Movie Matinee” series using Zoom through the end of 2020. Join us on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays in December. And the best part is you don’t even have to be on Seabrook Island to join!

Once you register, we will send you a link the day prior to each event to allow you to access our Zoom live video. We will open each event with introductions and a little social time, watch the show together (generally an hour), and finish with a short discussion to get your feedback and answer questions.

Sign up for one or both here and then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

Earthflight is a British nature documentary that shows a flight from the view of the wings of birds across six continents, showing some of the world’s greatest natural spectacles from a bird’s-eye view. The BBC series was created by John Downer and narrated by David Tennant with six episodes. We will show two each month for the remainder of 2020.

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZSkitrLE34

Earthflight – Episode 5 Asia & Australia, December 8, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm
Japanese cranes dance in the snow, swallows and swifts visit the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, lorikeets, cockatoos and budgies form giant flocks in Australia, pigeons guide us through India, and geese fly miles above the Himalayas.

Earthflight – Episode 6 Flying High on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm
A behind-the-scenes look at how EARTHFLIGHT was made, including the extraordinary relationships between people and birds. Microlights, paragliders, drones, and camera-carrying birds and much more helped along the way.

Final Reminder: Register for “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America … and Back! “

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are likely the most common hummingbird species in the world, but there is much to be learned about their life history—especially with regard to what they do the six months of the year when they’re not at our feeders and flowers in the eastern U.S. Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., principal investigator for “Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project,” is the only scientist studying these hummers on the OTHER end of their migratory path in Central America. During his hour-long Zoom presentation, Dr. Hilton will share some of the exciting results of his 30-plus citizen science hummingbird expeditions to the Neotropics, followed by time for questions and answers about these amazing little birds that break all the rules.

Date: Wednesday December 2, 2020
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 PM

Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: FREE

Meet the Speaker:

Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, York, SC

DR. BILL HILTON JR. was twice named South Carolina Science Teacher of the Year and was honored as the state’s Outstanding Biology Teacher. In December 2008 Discover magazine cited him as one of “50 Best Brains in Science” and one of ten top amateur scientists in America. Based at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York SC, Dr. Hilton is an life-long educator-naturalist with a keen interest in all things in nature. An active field researcher, Hilton has banded more than 71,000 birds of 127 species during 39 years just at Hilton Pond. He is one of only about 200 people authorized to capture wild hummingbirds and has banded and released more than 6,600 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the Center since 1984, with 3,000-plus captured elsewhere. He also investigates other aspects of natural history, from pollination to predation and ecological succession to environmental change.

Replay Available for “River of Rapters”

More than sixty people joined Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) on October 21, 2020, for our evening Zoom program “River of Raptors.” The team from Audubon South Carolina did a fabulous job in helping us learn the difference between a Red-tailed Hawk vs a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Turkey Vulture vs a Black Vulture, and the Cooper’s Hawk vs a Sharped-shinned Hawk.

If you missed the event, or want a refresher, you can watch it now!

About the Program: Many species of raptors make their home in South Carolina for at least part of the year, and even more pass through during their perilous diurnal seasonal migration. Join Audubon South Carolina’s Emily Davis and Jen Tyrrell to learn how to identify South Carolina raptor species as well as explore their migration habits, behavior, and conservation issues they face.

UPDATED – Learning Together on Golf Course-Crooked Oaks

We are resending this notice as we included an incorrect link for registration. If you already signed up, you are all set. If you are interested in attending, we still have eight seats available.

SIB birding from Golf Carts – Jackie Brooks

Monday November 23, 2020 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Crooked Oaks Golf Course

Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to prior waitlisted & members

We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe even some of our fall migrants!

To keep everyone safe, we will ask people to social distance and wear a face mask. When you register, if you are not joined by a family member, please let us know if you are open to riding with a non-family participant or if you prefer to be in a cart alone.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2020 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.

Please complete the information below to register no later than Friday November 20, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday November 19, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

REVISED: Special Captive Reared Piping Plovers Seen on Seabrook Island North Beach

Article by Mark Andrews, photos by Mark Andrews and Ed Konrad

“Joe” – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC, by Mark Andrews

Over the years, Seabrook Island Birders have written many articles to highlight the importance of our island’s beaches for federally Endangered/Threatened Piping Plovers. In the September 2020 edition of The Seabrooker, we explained that Seabrook Island hosts many migrating and winter resident Piping Plovers, and featured the life stories of some of those birds.

Most of the banded Piping Plovers on Seabrook are part of the Atlantic coast or the Great Lakes nesting stocks. The Great Lakes birds are the most endangered with only 60-70 nesting pairs remaining. While these numbers are so low that researchers have named many individuals to track them, they represent a 5-fold increase from the 12 breeding pairs found in 1990! Achieving these gains has required intensive efforts by biologists to monitor the progress of each nest and to step in to save eggs and chicks when it appears that a nest might be lost to high water or the loss of a parent. This process is referred to as Captive Rearing. There were 39 captive reared chicks incubated, raised, and released by the Great Lakes program in 2020.

“Big VB” – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC, by Ed Konrad

Since August, we have observed eight banded Great Lakes Piping Plovers on North Beach. Three of these are from this group of 39 special captive reared chicks. Mark Andrews told the stories of the first two, “Joe” and “Big VB,” in a Seabrook Island Birders blog post in September. But then a third captive reared Piping Plover was seen here in October. In an incredible moment, these three very special birds were seen together on October 11, 2020! We call this third Piping Plover “Red Yellow” from the bands on its leg. 

We learned from Alice Van Zoeren, Researcher with The Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, “You’ve found yet another of the 2020 captive-reared chicks. Of,RY:X,Y/O came from a nest at Grand Marais, MI. This summer we had many more adult females than males and, in several instances, females began nests without pairing, with males that already were paired and had nests to attend to. This was one of those instances. A plover can’t successfully incubate eggs alone, so when it was clear that she was giving up on incubation the eggs were collected and captive reared. This chick was released on 8/5 near the south boundary of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.” 

“Red Yellow” – photographed on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC, by Ed Konrad

You can help us in our efforts to observe and record the bands on Piping Plovers and other seabirds and shorebirds. This activity, called resighting, is what links the birds back to the researchers and requires many hours of careful and accurate observations. We cannot be out on the beach all the time; the more eyes we have on these birds the better. In the Seabrook Island Birders story below, we review the steps we take to protect birds while we work near them. If you’d be interested to learn about helping with resighting on North Beach, email us at seabrookislandbirders@gmail.com and Mark Andrews will be in touch with you.

We would like to share the stories of two of the 39 captive reared chicks seen on North Beach this fall. Read the Seabrook Island Birders’ September full blog story.

Read more about these special birds, in an article published in the Sierra Club magazine, including Joe’s sighting on Seabrook Island. Remember when you read the article that “Big VB” is the grand-chick of footless “Violet.”

Read the September 2020 Piping Plover article written by Ed & Aija Konrad in The Seabrooker (see page 5).

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have returned

Several Seabrook Island Birders have reported the return of another winter resident …the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Listen for their “mew” call as you travel around the island.

Below is a blog originally posted in November 2016.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Length:  7.1-8.7″; Wingspan: 13.4-15.7″; Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Ed Konrad
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has a red cap but not the nape. It has a striped face and a prominent white stripe on side. It’s black bib, patterned underparts also distinguish it from the red-bellied woodpecker.

20-yellow-bellied-sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

As the name indicates, sapsuckers rely on sap as a main food source. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker licks the sap from these holes, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old. Then, after the tree leafs out, the sapsucker begins making shallower, rectangular wells in the phloem, the part of the trunk that carries sap down from the leaves. This sap can be more than 10 percent sugar. These phloem wells must be continually maintained with fresh drilling, so the sap will continue to flow. Sapsuckers tend to choose sick or wounded trees for drilling their wells, and they choose tree species with high sugar concentrations in their sap, such as paper birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple, and hickory. They drill wells for sap throughout the year, on both their breeding and wintering grounds. In addition to sap, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also eat insects (mostly ants) and spiders, gleaning them from beneath a tree’s bark like other woodpeckers. And at times they perch at the edge of a tree branch and launch after flying insects to capture them in midair, like a flycatcher. Sapsuckers are also attracted to orchards, where they drill wells in the trees and eat fruit.

Yellow-belled Sapsuckers perch upright on trees, leaning on their tails like other woodpeckers. They feed at sapwells—neat rows of shallow holes they drill in tree bark. They lap up the sugary sap along with any insects that may get caught there. Sapsuckers drum on trees and metal objects in a distinctive stuttering pattern. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet elevation. Occasionally, sapsuckers visit bird feeders for suet.

Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Sapsuckers are common on Seabrook in winter but are less noisy and may be less obvious than other woodpeckers. They are “common but inconspicuous.” Look for their “wells” – drilled holed lined up around the trunk and marking trees to see where they feed.

Check out this cool YouTube video of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker eating from the already drilled holes in a tree:

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

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad

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.

Register for “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America … and Back! “

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are likely the most common hummingbird species in the world, but there is much to be learned about their life history—especially with regard to what they do the six months of the year when they’re not at our feeders and flowers in the eastern U.S. Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., principal investigator for “Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project,” is the only scientist studying these hummers on the OTHER end of their migratory path in Central America. During his hour-long Zoom presentation, Dr. Hilton will share some of the exciting results of his 30-plus citizen science hummingbird expeditions to the Neotropics, followed by time for questions and answers about these amazing little birds that break all the rules.

Date: Wednesday December 2, 2020
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 PM

Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: FREE

Meet the Speaker:

Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, York, SC

DR. BILL HILTON JR. was twice named South Carolina Science Teacher of the Year and was honored as the state’s Outstanding Biology Teacher. In December 2008 Discover magazine cited him as one of “50 Best Brains in Science” and one of ten top amateur scientists in America. Based at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York SC, Dr. Hilton is an life-long educator-naturalist with a keen interest in all things in nature. An active field researcher, Hilton has banded more than 71,000 birds of 127 species during 39 years just at Hilton Pond. He is one of only about 200 people authorized to capture wild hummingbirds and has banded and released more than 6,600 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the Center since 1984, with 3,000-plus captured elsewhere. He also investigates other aspects of natural history, from pollination to predation and ecological succession to environmental change.