SEABROOK ISLAND BIRDERS / “watching, learning, protecting”
Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) are residents, renters and guests of Seabrook Island, SC who have an interest in learning, protecting and providing for the well-being of the incredible variety of birds that inhabit Seabrook Island throughout the year.
Pitt Street Causeway in Mount Pleasant is a small park with limited parking and no facilities, but it is worth a visit at any season.
Almost any species of shorebird occurring along the South Carolina coast might be present on the mud flats here (especially at low tide). The marshes and salt creeks on the north side of the causeway are good for any salt marsh species, including all of the marsh-loving sparrows. You also have a good view of Charleston Harbor.
SIB member Carl Miller lives in Mount Pleasant and will share his experience at this site with the group. The causeway is accessible for those with mobility issues. Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, bug repellant, snacks and water.
Saturday, May 11, 2019 at 7:00am – 11:00 am (roundtrip from Seabrook Island)
Beyond our Backyard – Pitt Street Causeway
Location: Meet at Real Estate Parking lot at 7:00 am to carpool to Pitt St in Mount Pleasant with start there at 8:00am which is time of low tide.
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests
Look up in the sky – it’s a jewel, a small parrot, no it’s SUPERBIRD!
Without a doubt one of the most beautiful and colorful birds on Seabrook Island or anywhere else is the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris). Look for this small to medium sized multi colored finch (about five inches long with an eight-inch wingspan) at your bird feeder and around the edges of dense brush (such as wax myrtles) and thick woodlands.
Painted Buntings nest and breed here from the middle of April through September. Some may stay throughout the winter but most of our birds go south to Florida and to the northwest Caribbean islands. These birds are part of the eastern population that occurs along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Florida. A second western population breeds in northern Mexico to northern Texas and winters in south-west Mexico.
You will have no problem in identifying a mature male Painted Bunting with its vivid blues, greens, yellows and reds that make it look like a small parrot. The male’s head is iridescent blue, its throat and underside are bright red, its back is a brilliant green fading to lighter green on the wings. Females and one-year-old males are a uniform yellowish-green color with a slightly lighter eye ring.
A juvenile Painted bunting with feathers fluffed trying to stay warm on a cold day – C Moore
Female Painted bunting protecting her spot at the feeder – C Moore
These magnificent birds spend most of their time in thick brush and are often seen along woodland edges. They forage on the ground and in shrubs and are primarily seed eaters. They are frequent visitors to Seabrook Island bird feeders and seem to prefer white millet. Although they are basically seed eaters while nesting, they catch, eat and feed insects to their young.
They are fast flyers, darting here and there and are difficult to follow. Males are extremely aggressive and territorial toward other males and often fight over a spot at bird feeders. Their song is a very distinctive continuous series of short high-pitched notes lasting about 2 seconds. Males may sing 9 to 10 songs a minute establishing their territory during spring.
Male Painted buntings may have several mates and females may raise 2 to 4 broods throughout the summer. The nest is built in a bush or tree and is a deep cup of grass, weeds and leaves with a lining of finer grass or hair. Females lay 3 to 5 eggs, incubate them for 11 to 12 days and the young leave the nest in another 12 to 14 days. Males do little in raising the young and frequently are out looking for another mate. A Florida tagging study documented one Painted bunting living in the wild for more than 12 years.
Male birds, because of their bright plumage, are caught and sold as caged birds in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In the late 1800s, John Audubon reported that thousands of Painted Buntings were being shipped to Europe from the United States. Breeding bird surveys by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that the Painted Bunting population has declined by 55% over the past 30 years.
Seabrook Island residents and their guests are fortunate to have one of America’s most beautiful birds. Keep in mind that males only develop their brilliant multi colored plumage in their second year. Most of the Painted Buntings you will see will be the rather nondescript uniform greenish females and first-year males. The best way of spotting a Painted Bunting is to become familiar with their distinctive song, and once you have identified where they are, watch for a flash of red, blue, yellow and green and have your camera ready.
Should you be lucky enough to find a painted bunting nest I would love to know about it. I have never seen the nest although 2 to 4 pairs nest in by backyard each year. What fun it would be to follow and photograph these beautiful birds raising their young.
We hope you will join the Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) for an evening program focused on our special bird on Wednesday May 29, 2019 in the Live Oak Room at the Lake House. Dr. James Rotenberg will present: “The Conservation Status of the Atlantic Coast population of Painted Bunting,” with the social (wine and snacks) beginning at 7:00 pm and the lecture starting at 7:30 pm. Sign up to attend here: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/sib-evening-programs/
SIB is pleased to announce our next evening program will feature Dr. James Rotenberg, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, at UNCW (University North Carolina at Wilmington), to speak on “The Conservation Status of the Atlantic Coast population of Painted Bunting”
Jamie is an environmental ecologist and ornithologist in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Jamie is known as the “bird guy” in his department. His main research interest focuses on using birds as environmental indicators of habitat change and condition. The Painted Bunting Observer Team Project, or “PBOT” is one of the main projects Jamie carries out here in North and South Carolina. He also works on research projects in the country of Belize in Central America. The project in Belize includes research on the bird community of southern Belize as well as Harpy Eagles, migratory Wood Thrush, and rainforest sustainability using cacao (chocolate) agroforestry.
Date: Wednesday May 29, 2019
Registration & Social: 7:00 pm
Program Starts: 7:30 pm
Location: Live Oak Hall at the Lake House on Seabrook Island
Fee: Members $5 and Guests $10
SIB will provide beverages including wine and coffee. We ask everyone to RSVP no later than May 27, 2019 so we will know how much wine to purchase and how many chairs to set up.
For only $10, you may join or renew your 2019 SIB membership the night of the event.
Don’t miss this chance to have another fun filled evening with our flock of Seabrook Island Birders!
On May 4, Cornell Lab and eBird sponsor Global Big Day. Will you join more than 30,000 others and become a part of Global Big Day? You don’t have to commit to birding for 24 hours—an hour or even 10 minutes of watching birds makes you part of the team. Visit your favorite spot or search out someplace new; enjoy a solo walk or get some friends to join in the Global Big Day fun. As part of this day, Seabrook Island Birders will conduct two Learning Together plus offer you an opportunity to request someone to bird with you at your favorite location..
The morning will start at 7:00 am with a Learning Together at the newly renovated Bob Cat Trail with an extension to Six Ladies Trail. Along this trail we should see our local favorite Painted Bunting who likes to hang out at the end of Bob Cat Trail. Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Towhee and Gulls and Egrets should also be seen. I’m still hoping to see some migratory warblers. Register for Learning Together on Bob Cat Trail here.
This form can also be used to suggest another location and time you would like to have a friend (old or new) to join you to bird. SIB will send an email to the Google Group of all these suggested times and places for people to gather.
Saturday, May 4 7:00 am – 8:30 am
Global Big Day – Learning Together at Bob Cat Trail
Location: Meet at Owners Parking Lot near entrance to Boardwalk 1
Cost None for members; $5 donation for guests
Also, on this day, SIB member Arch McCullum will lead a SIB Learning Together bird walk at North Beach. Arch was a professor of Ornithology at College of Charleston and also leads bird walks for Audubon of South Carolina. He’s never birded Seabrook’s beaches so it will be a learning experience for all. We’ll again be looking for the Red Knots that are our guests in April and May, stopping at Seabrook Island to rest and refuel on their long migration from South America to the Arctic to breed. Flocks of 1000 knots have been seen to date, growing to 5000 or more as in past years. Wilson’s Plovers are being seen in the critical habitat getting ready to mate and nest. Overall, we hope to spot a nice variety of shorebirds as we work our way to the North Beach inlet. We’ll meet in the Property Owners’ beach parking lot at 10:00am. This will get us to the beach a couple of hours before the rising tide which brings the Red Knots and other shorebirds closer to the shore. Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, water, snacks, and maybe lunch if you plan to go the entire way to the inlet. Of course, you can head back at any time. Register for Learning Together at North Beach here
Saturday, May 4 8:30 am – 11:00 am (shorter or longer as you wish!)
Global Big Day – Learning Together at North Beach
Location: Meet at Owners Parking Lot near entrance to Boardwalk 1
Cost None for members; $5 donation for guests
Wednesday May 1st at 6:30pm-8:30pm – The Haul Over
Location: 2445 The Haul Over
Cost: None for 2019 members; $5 donation for guests
Come join us in Annalee Regenburg’s backyard. Her house backs up to the Great Egret Rookery. The females sit on their nests all day and the males come into the nests in the evenings. We plan on observing this wonderful, sometimes noisy event. I’m sure we will see some Snowy Egrets and Green Herons, plus some night herons, all tucked in there too. As always, be sure to bring your water, binoculars, hats and sunscreen.
If you are not yet a 2019 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. If you were a 2018 member but have yet to renew for 2019, you may renew following the instructions above or renew the day of the walk. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.
Register no later than Wednesday April 29, at 10am. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Tuesday April 30th.
During the summer of 2017 and 2018, adult male Painted Buntings were
fitted with geolocators (a light-level tracking device) on Kiawah Island.
The birds were banded with an aluminum band on the right leg and either
a yellow or pink on the left leg. To retrieve the valuable data stored on the
geolocator, we need to recapture these birds and take off the device. If
you happen to see a Painted Bunting with a yellow or pink color band
coming to your bird feeder, please contact Aaron Given at email@example.com or call (843) 768-9166.
At the March 13, 2019 SC DNR Shorebird/Seabird workshop, Melissa Chapman from U.S. Fish & Wildlife discussed sharing a bird’s “life story” as a better way of connecting people to birds. Make it personal vs. just the data. Here’s a good example of a very personal Seabrook Island Piping Plover “life story.”
Some background: When Aija and I spot banded Piping Plovers (PIPL) on North Beach, I take photos and we send to our biologist friends we’ve gotten to know: Alice Van Zoeren (Great Lakes Region), Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, University of Minnesota; Meryl Friedrich (Atlantic U.S. Region), Virginia Tech Shorebird Program; and Dr. Cherri Gratto-Trevor (Atlantic Canada Region), Prairie and Northern Wildlife Research Centre, Saskatoon Canada.
Alice, Meryl, and Cherri like to get immediate feedback and photos on where their PIPLs are during wintering, and they reply back to us with interesting information on the PIPL’s travels. Aija and I have developed email relationships with these researchers through the years. We even met Alice two years ago when we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in MI, where the Great Lakes Region PIPLs breed. A fascinating visit!
So, here’s the story… We spotted and reported to Alice this Great Lakes Area banded PIPL in November 2018 and again March 2019. Orange flag means Great Lakes.
Alice wrote back this week “This plover spent the winter on Seabrook. You met her before during November 2018. We don’t know when or where she hatched since she wasn’t banded as a chick, but she bred in 2018 at Grand Marais, MI and was banded at that time. She spent August 2018 at Cumberland Island, GA and then settled for the rest of the winter at Seabrook. She’ll soon be headed to the upper peninsula. We’re expecting our first plover at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore any day now!”
So here’s the point. Great Lakes Region Piping Plovers are Federally Endangered. The Great Lakes were once home to nearly 800 pairs of Piping Plovers. Today, about 75 nesting pairs remain in the Great Lakes population. Just 75 nesting pairs. This tiny banded Piping Plover bred and then flew 1000 miles south to Georgia in August. She hung around Georgia awhile until heading 150 miles north to Seabrook Island. Good choice little PIPL! Upon arriving last November, maybe she thought “this looks like a cool place to be, lots of space for foraging, big wide beach, protected critical habitat, the people seem friendly, they care about the birds and SC DNY and USF&WL are involved, they try hard to follow the dog rules. I think I’ll stay for the winter!”
So now, with our help, this little gal is about to head north to breed again. And hopefully she’ll be successful, as she’s so important as one of only 75 Great Lakes female PIPLs needed to keep this endangered population going.Pretty cool. Well done Seabrook Island for helping her rest and get strong for her long trip back north to bred! If she comes back to winter with us later this this year, maybe we should give her a name. Any ideas?