Free Webinar – Who’s Singing?

Cornell Lab recently updated their popular free bird identification app to include song identification. Below is more information from their web site. The webinar promises to be informational but several SIB members have successfully started using this new feature without the webinar.

Who’s Singing? How to Use Merlin Bird ID to Identify Bird Calls
July 27, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern 

Have you ever been mystified when hearing a bird you can’t see? Our Merlin Bird ID app now features amazing Sound ID—join our experts to discover how to use this powerful new tool. During this free webinar, the Merlin team will share how citizen science and machine learning combined to create Sound ID. They’ll also provide practical advice for how to bird by ear. Come join the conversation and learn how Merlin can help you better recognize birds by sound.
Register For Sound ID Webinar

Bird of the Week … The Night-Herons: Similar but Different

There are two species of night heron both of which are found on Seabrook Island and throughout much of the South Eastern United States; the Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Heron. A third species, the Bermuda Night-Heron, was endemic to Bermuda but became extinct about 100 years ago through human activity.

Similarities

Both Night-Heron species are medium sized birds and are one of the smallest herons at about 24 inches high and weighing approximately two pounds. Females are slightly smaller than males.

The adults are easy to distinguish. The Black-crownedNight-Heron has a black crown, black back, grey and white body, red eyes, and short yellow legs. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s body and back are smooth grey-blue, it’s head is black and glossy with white cheeks and a pale-yellow crown that extends from the back of its head between the eyes to the bill. Long thin white feathers extend from the back of the crown of both species during matting season

As their name implies they are both active primarily at dusk and during the night.

They are both found in vegetated areas associated with shallow waters. They seek out both saltwater and fresh water areas such as marshes, lagoons, swamps, streams, lake shores and areas that are regularly flooded.

Foraging mainly at dusk and during darkness, the primary diet of both Night-Heron are crabs, crayfish, other crustaceans, insects, worms and small fish.

They both spend daylight hours perched on tree limbs and bushes generally over the water hidden by foliage.

Both birds nest in trees when available, often in small colonies, with both parents participating in nest building, laying 2 to 6 eggs. The young stay close throughout the breeding season.

Differences

The Black-crowned Night-Heron occurs, breeds and is a year-round resident throughout most of the world. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is found exclusively in the Americas and is a year-round resident only in those areas warm enough to allow for an abundance of crabs, their primary food source.  The breeding range of the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron has recently (1925 – 1960) spread throughout much of the South Eastern United States.

Whereas the Black–crowned Night-Heron is easily disturbed by human activity, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron does not mind living near humans and is frequently found in wooded neighborhoods. In flight the legs of the Black-crowned Night-Heron are hidden and cannot be seen but the Yellow-crown Night-Heron extends it bright yellow legs straight below the tail feathers in flight as with most other herons and can clearly be seen.

Juveniles

The juveniles of both Night-Heron look nothing like their parents, often appearing larger that the adults and are so similar in appearance it is very difficult to distinguish the two species. Juveniles take up to three years to obtain adult plumage.

Black-crowned Night-Heron juveniles often sit hunched over, appear thicker bodied, the wings are brown with large white dots and the bill is a slightly thicker and is dark on top and greenish yellow on the bottom. The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron juvenile appears slender, stands taller, has numerous small white dots on its wings and its bill is nearly black. However, as they are far more similar than different it is very difficult to distinguish the juveniles of these two night herons.

Article & Photographs Submitted by:  Charles Moore

Republished from 2017.

Join SIB to Bird Crooked Oaks Golf Course

Date: Sunday July 18, 2021 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Activity: 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

Seabrook Island Birders will host a birding on Crooked Oaks golf course event on Sunday, July 18, 2021 starting at 8:30 am and finishing around 10:30 am.

Crooked Oaks golf course will be closed for aerification maintenance that week and Seabrook Island Birders has obtained permission from Seabrook Island Club and the Golf Club Operations to take a group of members out on the course. We will RIDE in golf carts (1 4-person and 10 2-person carts) which can accommodate 13 – 24 people, based on the number of people who will share carts.

These are very popular events, so register TODAY if you would like to attend!

We expect to see a large variety of birds including Egrets, Herons, Mississippi Kites 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, including some of our summer residents like Eastern Kingbird and Summer Tanager!

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, mask and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

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.

Please complete the information on the link below to register no later than Friday July 16, 2021. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday July 17, 2021. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Bird of the Week: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Have you seen this bird on Seabrook Island this summer?

Photo of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck taken by Lynn Maney-McIntosh on the roof of her garage on the evening of July 7, 2020.

If not in person, you might have seen the photos that appeared in the July 2020 edition of The Seabrooker (page 13). This is a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and they have been seen this summer at SeaLoft’s Lagoon and at Camp St. Christopher, and as in the photo above on the garage roof of Lynn Maney-McIntosh in the 3100 block of Seabrook Island Road in 2020.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a beautifully marked bird with longish legs and neck, chestnut back and chest, black belly and underwing, electric pink legs and red bill. When it flies you can easily see the bold white stripe on top of its wings. They can nest on the ground or in tree cavities, more recently taking to nest boxes. They are a very noisy waterfowl and do sound like they are whistling. Listen for this noise.

In recent years, their range has been expanding north. This explains why there are more sightings documented in our area in eBird.org, a system which documents bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends through checklist data collected by millions of people across the world.

You should be on the lookout for them perching around shallow ponds; walking in the short grass of lawns and golf courses; and especially in agricultural fields, where these large ducks eat lots of grain. They feed nocturnally, so watch around sunset for large flocks to begin flying out to fields from their roosts. Or just look up on your roof like Lynn did! (Article re-posted from 2020)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck photo taken by Lynn Maney-McIntosh in her backyard on July 5, 2020.

Loons of Mount Desert Island, Maine

Common Loon and chick, taken by Nancy Brown, Maine, summer of 2014

For me, summer normally means traveling to Maine to see family, friends and nature! Growing up, one of my most favorite birds to hear and see was the Common Loon. The sound of a Common Loon can instantly transport me to a lake in Maine. Although I won’t be visiting Maine this summer, I surely enjoyed this video, created by the Laman Family during the pandemic summer of 2020 and published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, about Common Loon families of Mount Desert Island, Maine.

Experience a loon hatchling take to the water for the first time (@1:55), an adult male yodel (@2:35) and loon parents feeding their young (@5:23). While I won’t see the Common Loon this summer, I look forward to our winter here on Seabrook Island, SC, where I can often see them in the ocean just off the shore of our beach.

Learn more about the Common Loon here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Loon/overview

Submitted by: Nancy Brown

Ask SIB: What is this Bird and How Can I Prevent Birds from Flying into Windows?

QUESTION: Hi! This beautiful bird has been visiting at regular times every day for a month. He keeps flying into the same two windows – we’ve tried using reflectors, etc., but he’s undeterred. He usually hangs out with the Northern Cardinals, but oddly, he never joins them at our nearby feeders!

Thanks for any info!

Jenni Hesterman, SIB Member

ANSWER: Hi Jenni – This beautiful bird is a Great-crested Flycatcher. They are not known as a feeder eating bird. See the description below from the app iBirdPro for their feeding and foraging habits.

“Great Crested Flycatcher: Eats variety of large insects, including beetles, crickets, katydids, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies; also eats fruits and berries; forages by flying from a perch to snatch insects from foliage, mid-air, or on the ground.”

Learn more about the Great-crested Flycatcher here: 
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Crested_Flycatcher/overview#

There are many suggestions on how to prevent birds from flying into your windows. Understandably, many of us do not want to give up our views by installing heavy draperies or applying sticky notes every two inches. If you are serious about finding alternatives, there are some less obtrusive solutions. Check out the link below for some ideas and also read the comments from other bird enthusiasts. Some people have had success by simply moving the location of their feeder or not cleaning their windows. Now, that’s a win-win! 

Nancy Brown & Joleen Ardaiolo, SIB Board Members

“Discovery on Deveaux Bank!” – SIB’s July 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 July 2021 page 14. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page. The story this month:

  • Enormous Whimbrel Flock Discovered on Deveaux Bank!Learn about the the incredible discovery of nearly 20,000 migrating shorebirds on this beautiful estuarine island seen off the coast of Seabrook Island.

Thanks to Judy Morr and Joleen Ardaiolo for editing the SCDNR press release published on June 15, 2021, and to photographer Ed Konrad for sharing his photos of Whimbrel taken on Seabrook Island and serving as our graphic designer of the page.

If you have not yet watched the video about this spectacle produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, take ten minutes to watch it now!

And don’t forget, to learn more about SIB’s Shorebird Steward Program, open up this QR code (this Quick Response code is a bar code which will open a webpage when a phone camera is focused on it.)

SIB Movie Matinee – July 13th via Zoom

Movie Matinees

Movie Matinee | The Spinal Column

As we continue to social distance, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) has scheduled a “Virtual Movie Matinee” series using Zoom on the second Tuesday of each month. If you would like to join us for a Seabrook Island Birder’s “Virtual Movie Matinees” you must REGISTER to attend. Then we will email you the Zoom link the day prior to the event. 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  then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

July Movie – Register Here

Tuesday July 13, 2021 at 4:00 – 5:00 pm
David Allen Sibley – “What It’s Like To Be A Bird”

A birder since childhood, Sibley is an ornithologist and the award-winning author and illustrator of perhaps the most comprehensive avian field guide available, The Sibley Guide to Birds. His new book, geared for novice and younger birders as well as more experienced naturalists, is a beautiful large-format volume that focuses on more than 200 species, ranging from familiar backyard visitors like blue jays, nuthatches, and chickadees, to seashore favorites such as the Atlantic puffin. In each entry Sibley answers frequently asked questions, presents details about behavior that have not previously been gathered in one place, and provides precise, colorful drawings—some reproduced in life size—of birds in action.​

Produced by Tom Warren

You are invited to a Zoom meeting. 
When: Jul 13, 2021 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIsf-CvqzItGNOCTfBfTt96IxXhuFLpvTwV

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Mark your Calendars for our Upcoming Movies

Tuesday August 10, 2021 at 4:00 – 5:00 pm – TBD

Tuesday September 14, 2021 at 4:00 – 5:00 pm – TBD

Free Webinar featuring Scientific Illustrator Liz Clayton Fuller

Photo by Liz Clayton Fuller
In the Studio with Scientific Illustrator Liz Clayton Fuller
July 9, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern 

Join a virtual visit to the studio of Liz Clayton Fuller, a friend of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a professional artist. Liz is known for her ornithological illustrations along with her sketchbook-style studies of bird species. Spend an hour with Liz as she works in her sketchbook and talks about her process—from concept, to sketch, and finally to painted work. This free webinar features audience Q&A. Whether you’re simply curious about the artistic process, a fan of Liz’s work, or a master artist yourself, sit back and enjoy watching how Liz works

Register For Virtual Studio Session

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Kites: Mississippi vs Swallow-tailed

Mississippi Kite – Ictinia mississippiensis
Length: 14″ Wingspan: 31″ Weight: 10 oz

Swallow-tailed Kite – Elanoides forficatus (endangered in South Carolina)
Length: 22″ Wingspan: 51″ Weight: 12 oz

Living at a beach community, I’m sure many people are accustomed to looking at kites in the sky along the beach – you know, the kind that Ben Franklin used.  But have you ever looked up to see either of these birds?

Mississippi Kite (left) & Swallow-tailed Kite (right) - Ed Konrad
Mississippi Kite (left) & Swallow-tailed Kite (right) – Ed Konrad

Both of these birds, the Mississippi and the Swallow-tailed Kites, can be seen on Seabrook Island and we (Flo & Nancy) have seen both within the past two weeks!  We’ve seen a Mississippi Kite pair flying over both Crooked Oaks and Ocean Winds golf courses on at least three occasions and we saw a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites flying over Bohicket Marina just a week ago!( This is a re-post, but Mississippi Kite have been spotted on Seabrook this week.)

The two species look quite different from each other and are quite unmistakable from other birds.  Swallow-tailed Kites are large but slender and buoyant raptors. They have long, narrow, pointed wings, slim bodies, and a very long, deeply forked tail. The bill is small and sharply hooked. Swallow-tailed Kites are a sharp contrast of bright-white head and underparts and gleaming black wings, back, and tail. From below, the wing linings are white and the flight feathers are black. Its most unique characteristic is the elongated, forked tail (hence its name).  This large raptor is built like a glider with huge wings and small streamlined bodies. They rarely flap their wings; instead soar effortlessly, changing course with minute adjustments of their distinctive forked tails.  The species is now listed as endangered in South Carolina.

Mississippi Kites are a slender and much smaller raptor with long, pointed wings. The tail is fairly long and square-tipped. The strongly hooked bill is small and delicate.  They are an inky mix of gray and black, lightening to pale gray-white on the head and in the secondaries of the wings. The wingtips and tail are black. Juveniles are streaky, with brownish chests and underwings, and banded tails. Though known for their graceful, acrobatic flight, Mississippi Kites also spend time foraging on the ground and in shallow water.

Both species of kite feed on the wing, snatching dragonflies and other insects out of the sky and eating them while still in flight. They may also feed on small amphibians such as frogs, large insects, crickets, small birds and small mammals including bats. Swallow-tailed kites inhabit mostly woodland & forested wetlands near nesting locations. Nests are built in trees, usually near water. Both male and female participate in building the nest. Sometimes a high-pitched chirp is emitted, though the birds mostly remain silent.  Mississippi Kites breed in scattered areas of the southern and central United States, using very different habitats depending on the region. East of the Mississippi River, they nest in mature, diverse, low-lying forest—especially tracts that are large and unbroken but have nearby open habitat, such as pasture, cropland, waterways, country roads, or small lakes. They nest in almost any tree species, as low as a few feet off the ground to more than 115 feet high.

Both kites are creatures of the air, spending most of their day aloft and rarely flapping their wings. They tend to circle fairly low over trees as they hunt for small animals in the branches. At times they soar very high in the sky, almost at the limits of vision.

Swallow-tailed Kites once nested in 21 States. By 1940 after a sudden decline the Kite’s range shrunk to 7 States, from South Carolina to Texas. The species nesting habits have made the swallow-tailed Kite difficult to study. Researchers must come to them and climb high in Loblolly pine to observe nests. Nesting adults and their young are subject to predation by Great Horned Owls. They migrate North in the Spring across the Gulf of Mexico and can be swept off course by storms. During migration they may form large flocks.  Read this fabulous article featured in the April/May 2016 issue of Nature Conservancy.

If you see kites – researchers want to know about it. You should always document your bird sightings in eBird.  In addition, The Center for Birds of Prey, located in Awendaw, SC manages & tracks log sightings of the Swallow-tailed Kite. Visit www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org for more info. The website guides you through a series of questions about the location, number and activities of the bird or birds sighted.

A group of kites has many collective nouns, including a “brood,” “kettle,” “roost,” “stooping,” and a “string” of kites.

Look for both species of Kites in South Carolina during the spring and summer breeding months over swamps, marshes and large rivers. Besides Seabrook Island, Caw Caw Interpretive Center is a great location to view kites.  They nest high in the loblolly pines.

(See the range map following the photographs below.)

If you would like to learn more about these birds visit:

Notes from photographer Ed Konrad:  “These photos were taken at Skeen’s Farm, Glenville GA, which is an incredible place to see the Kites up close and in action. A very memorable photographic day. We see Kites at Caw Caw, and on the way to Seabrook in Allendale SC and at a cattle farm outside of Augusta. But not up close as at this farm.”

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.

(Re-post from 2016)Submitted by Nancy Brown with information from Janice Watson-Shada.
Photographs compliments of Ed Konrad