Kiawah Island Banding Station

Kiawah Island is located next door to Seabrook Island, SC.  Did you know the Kiawah Island Banding Station (KIBS) consists of two banding sites located on private lands at the far western and eastern ends of Kiawah Island?

The Captain Sam’s Site located at the western end of the island was established in 2009 by the Town of Kiawah Island with support from the Kiawah Conservancy. The first two years was spent learning and working through the details of operating a banding station, as well as collecting baseline data to help guide future study. In 2011, an effort to standardize protocol and effort was launched. A banding assistant was hired to help with daily operations and we began to build a volunteer base.

In 2015, the Little Bear Site located on the eastern end of the island was created. This site was created as an alternate site in case banding operations on the west end need to be suspended due to development. The second site also provides for interesting comparison between two similar but different habitats. Since 2012, a crew of 4-7 assistants has been hired to ensure that KIBS can be run every day during the fall migration period. It also set the standard course for future seasons to come.

Banding conducted at KIBS will provide valuable data on the species diversity and composition on Kiawah Island.  Bird banding is also a significant tool used to assess the health and demographics of bird populations.  Important information such as productivity, survivorship, and movements of many species can be attained through a banding program.  All banding data collected is submitted to the Bird Banding Laboratory administered by the United States Geological Survey.

KIBS is the only banding station located along the coast of South Carolina, and has grown to become one of the largest banding stations in the southeastern United States, thus providing important information on migrating birds along the South Atlantic Coast.

OBJECTIVES

The major objectives of KIBS are to:

  • Gather baseline information on resident and migratory birds on Kiawah Island.
  • Collect data to enable long-term monitoring (i.e. population tends) of birds on Kiawah Island.
  • Monitor fall migration to determine the importance of Kiawah Island as stop-over habitat.
  • Assess the effects of development on bird populations.
  • Provide data to better manage habitat and guide future development plans.   
  • Contribute high quality data to the North American Bird Banding Program.

This year marks the 12th consecutive year that we have been banding on Kiawah Island during the fall at the Captain Sam’s (CS) site.  The Little Bear (LB) site is in its 6 year of operation.  Across both sites, we have banded 54,732 birds and have had 12,930 recaptures of over 130 species. 

This year’s banding will be a little different as we follow protocols and guidelines related to COVID-19.  One of the more difficult changes this year is that we will not be allowing visitors, volunteers, or educational groups to come out to the banding site.  We rely on volunteers especially on busy days when we need and extra hand or two to help extract birds or scribe data.  We don’t host many groups but we have a few that come out each year, and will surely miss those day teaching people about the birds and the work that we are doing.     
I am looking forward to another successful banding season!

However, be sure to visit our blog throughout this fall to see updates and photos of the birds we band.

Article submitted by Aaron Given, Town of Kiawah Island Wildlife Biologist; Bander-In-Charge (Master Bander)

Banded Black Skimmers on North Beach

Black Skimmer (6)

Janet Thibault, our good friend and partner from SCDNR, was on North Beach Wednesday February 12, 2020, and gave us a heads up on the banded Black Skimmers she had just seen at the point. We quickly headed down the beach to check them out, rarely having seen a banded skimmer. It was a different experience for us to look for the bands…to carefully look at their legs, like we do for banded Piping Plovers but not skimmers. Aija’s usually doing a count of a large skimmer flock and then moving on to spot other shorebirds. I’m usually trying to get a photo of them skimming in the water – opening their bill and dropping the lower mandible, until they feel a fish with their lower beak. We spent a long and patient time that day – with Aija carefully spotting bands in the scope, and me then trying to find and photograph that particular banded skimmer in the flock. Now we know to look more carefully when spotting Black Skimmers! Thanks Janet!

Just wanted to pass along some re-sighting of black skimmer bands I saw while doing a Piping Plover survey at Seabrook. At high tide last week (Feb 12th) I got good looks of a flock of 170 Black Skimmers roosting on the Seabrook side of the inlet right at the far tip. I sent the resights into the Bird Banding Lab (BBL) and also emailed some folks involved in banding skimmers. Turns out two birds were banded as chicks in New Jersey this past summer. One was banded as a chick in New York this past summer. One was banded as a chick in North Carolina this past summer, and one was banded in Massachusetts in 2017 as a chick. Below are the details from the BBL reports and email clips. I just want to pass on the message that Capt. Sam’s is so important for all sorts of seabirds and shorebirds to rest and feed and spend their time. Especially these skimmers spending their first winter down here. Let’s spread the word!

Janet Thibault
Wildlife Biologist
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Two of our Seabrook Island Birder members photographed three of these same birds, along with two that Janet hadn’t seen that day.  Two of Janet’s sightings we don’t have photos:

  • Blue H11 (right leg): Was too young to fly when banded in 2019 near Stone Harbor, Cape May County, NJ
  • Orange A0 (left leg): Yes, it’s a Mass bird. A0 was hatched and banded in 2017 on Martha’s Vineyard, MA. Recently, it was seen at Huguenot Memorial Park in FL (160 mi. away, straight line distance) in December 2019, so it’s moving around a bit –Carolyn Mostello

If you happen to see and/or photograph a banded bird, be sure to report it!  Learn how from our website here.

Volunteers Needed: Marsh Sparrow Banding Schedule 2020

If you are looking for an exciting volunteer opportunity, you might want to consider assisting Aaron Given, Wildlife Biologist on Kiawah Island, with the 2020 Winter Marsh Sparrow Banding.

If interested, contact:
Aaron Given

agiven@kiawahisland.org
Wildlife Biologist
Town of Kiawah Island
4475 Betsy Kerrison Parkway
Kiawah Island, SC 29455
(843) 768-9166
www.kiawahislandbanding.blogspot.comwww.wildlifeatkiawah.com

Spring on North Beach – Red Knots and more!

Red Knot, North Beach

Spring is an amazing and important time for our Seabrook Island shorebirds! Migrating Red Knots are here in growing numbers. After wintering with us, Piping Plovers are heading north to breed. Least Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, and other shorebirds are getting ready to mate and possibly nest on North Beach. It’s a time to enjoy the splendor of our shorebird residents and guests. And to be extra careful when on the beach – give them space to rest, feed, and nest, and follow our beach rules for dogs.

Our SC DNR and USFWS partners have been active monitoring the Red Knot flock to plan for their banding and research. We’re seeing flocks of 300 to 1,500 feeding and resting all along the shore – left of Boardwalk 1, on the sandbars, in the Critical Habitat, at the point, and back on the old inlet. There was a recent sighting of 4,000 knots on the far end of North Beach!

The knots are turning into their beautiful reddish breeding colors. It’s a spectacle when they fly, a large flock darting through the sky with a tint of red as they turn! From late March to early May they move between Seabrook, Kiawah, and Deveaux Bank. In past years Aija and I have seen over 5,000 knots on North Beach at their peak in late April. SC DNR has concluded we have the largest single flock of Red Knots on the East Coast!

Red Knot flock of 300, North Beach Critical Habitat

Red Knot population has declined 85% since 1980, and they’re a “Federally Threatened” species. Knots have the longest migration of any bird, 18,000 miles round trip from the tip of South America to the Arctic where they breed. From SC DNR’s research and geolocator data retrieved on Seabrook and nearby beaches, they’ve determined that 2/3 of our Red Knot flock migrate directly from here to the Arctic to breed, and do not make the usual stop at the Delaware Bay. This discovery makes Seabrook Island a critical stop for the knots before their remaining 3,000-mile journey to the Arctic.

Red Knot flock. North Beach point

To learn more about SC DNR Red Knot research, visit http://www.dnr.sc.gov/news/2018/jun/jun7_shorebirds.html

Mark in blue shirt, Seabrook Island SC DNR Red Knot Stewardship

Mark Andrews, a Seabrook Island Birders’ member and Seabrook Island resident, is working on a new project with SC DNR this spring to help protect Red Knots. Mark is spending considerable time on North Beach, observing the size and location of the Red Knot flock, and educating Seabrook residents and guests about the knots. Mark’s project is to promote awareness to help our Red Knots rest and refuel for their long migration north to breed. Look for Mark on North Beach and learn about the knots!

Piping Plover flock, high tide resting in Critical Habitat, soon to head north to breed

In April we say bon voyage to our Piping Plovers (PIPL), some having wintered with us since late July. We’re seeing the last of the PIPL now, but in larger flocks of 12 or more as more southern wintering PIPL are stopping here as they head north. Piping Plovers breed in the North Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Great Plains regions. Atlantic and Great Plains PIPL are Federally Threatened, Great Lakes PIPL are Federally Endangered.

This tiny bird, now with a dark breeding color breast band, can be anywhere on North Beach – left or right of Boardwalk 1, in the dogs off lead area, feeding in the Critical Habitat low tide mud flats, or resting in the high tide rack. They need our help for the final bit of rest before heading north. The Great Lakes banded PIPL pictured above, in the flock of 12 PIPL we recently spotted, is one of only 70 breeding pairs remaining from that region.

What’s up with the yellow SC DNR nesting signs in the Critical Habitat? Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers are beginning to mate and hopefully nest! Look up into the sky and you’ll see and hear the racket of the small white terns chasing each other with fish. From a distance, look for the Least Tern courting behavior either inside the nesting area or on the shore. It’s a hoot. The male presents a gift of fish to a female, female considers to accept or reject, and like with all guys, she will often reject the gift and dart away, leaving the male – fish still in mouth – looking very foolish.

If you look carefully in the nesting area, not getting too close to signs, you may spot a couple of Wilson’s Plovers, at times chasing each other with aggressive mating behavior. Or possibly hunkered down in some rack in the dunes. Last June, Aija and I spotted Least Tern juveniles and Wilson’s Plover chicks in this habitat. A first for us in 12 years of birding and photography on North Beach! Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers are SC Threatened Species, so they need our help to nest and thrive.

Our resident pair of American Oystercatchers, one banded U5, may also be hopefully mating, along with others. We’ve been seeing U5 and its mate on North Beach for many years, they’re old friends! SC DNR thinks the Oystercatchers have nested on North Beach, although we haven’t observed nests or chicks. We’ve also been seeing the Willets in aggressive mating behavior, and they have nested here too.

Lots of activity in the Spring! Please make a difference when you’re on North Beach by following these simple steps:

  1. Keep away from birds.  When you see a flock, large or small, give them space.
  2. Don’t force the birds to fly. How close to a bird is too close?  If birds react — calling loudly or taking flight — step back immediately.  A good rule is to stay at least 50 yards away, or half the length of a football field.
  3. Respect posted nesting and feeding areas.
  4. Follow Seabrook’s beach rules for dogs. Shorebirds will be anywhere on the beach including the dogs off leash zone. Please don’t have your dog chase any birds! Our shorebirds’ survival is not a game.
  5. Be a good steward. Learn about our shorebirds and their needs and share the word. Shorebirds are one of the many natural treasures of Seabrook for us to understand, enjoy, and most importantly protect.

Note that the Town of Seabrook, working with USFWS and SC DNR, is in the process of improving our signs. The large buoys that washed away have been reordered. These will mark to start of the dogs off lead area, and the start of the Critical Habitat/no dog zone. There are temporary signs up now at the start of the Critical Habitat until the buoys arrive and can be installed. April is such a critical month for shorebirds, and our signs are missing or faded. So some immediate clarification was needed.

Also, please remember that the Critical Habitat line extends from the No Dogs metal sign at the high tide line straight out to the ocean. The beach and sandbars continuing past this visual line are part of the Critical Habitat and no dog zone. This is especially important in Red Knot season as knots will rest and feed on the sandbars that can be accessible at low tide.

So, when walking North Beach, look around you, observe and enjoy these incredible shorebirds. Just like 20 Seabrook Island Birders did on a recent bird walk on North Beach, tallying 40 species!

Article and Photos by Ed Konrad

WANTED: Banded Painted Bunting Sightings

Screen Shot 2019-04-19 at 12.37.35 PM

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
agiven@kiawahisland.org or call (843) 768-9166.

Paid Position to Re-Sight Banded Red Knots (April-May)

Below is an email request from Felicia Sanders, SC DNR, on our interest in having someone on the beach this spring to look for and report banded Red Knots on Seabrook and Kiawah Islands, and do some stewardship on Red Knots while on beach. It’s a paid position, $10/hr for April through May. Interested people can either contact SIB or Felicia directly.

6Red Knots, North Beach, April 2016
Red Knots, North Beach, April 2016 – Ed Konrad

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received a small grant to help protect Red Knots. It may be too late to implement this spring but thought I would see if you know the perfect candidate. We have some money to hire someone to re-sight banded knots at Kiawah and Seabrook. They would also speak to the public about not disturbing the knots while they are on your beaches (a Red Knot steward). Please read the details below. If you know of someone that would be interested, please have them contact me asap. If we find someone, we will make certain they work with local people already on the beach re-sighting and working on shorebird conservation.

Thanks,

Felicia


SC Department of Natural Resources is seeking one field technician to assist in a re-sighting study of Red Knots in South Carolina. This is an incredible opportunity to study a species of high conservation concern on the beautiful barrier islands. Responsibilities include accurately re-sighting color bands and alpha-numeric flags of Red Knots, determining flock size of knots, some foraging observations, and data entry and proofing. This effort will primarily be on Kiawah and Seabrook Islands where thousands of Red Knots gather in the spring before they fly to Arctic nesting areas. Educating beach goers about shorebird conservation is also part of this job. This job can be full time, part time or even just on weekends. Employment ASAP (prefer April 1) to June 1, 2019.

Qualifications:

Applicants must be able and willing to spend long days in the field, often walking several miles along the beach, and spending many hours observing birds through spotting scopes. Applicants should be willing to learn about Red Knots and other shorebirds of the east and be excellent at speaking with the public. The candidate must be able to drive to Kiawah and Seabrook so a reliable car and location near Charleston is preferable.

Salary:

Salary will be $10/hour

How to Apply:

Send inquiries to Felicia Sanders SandersF@dnr.sc.gov.  Position will be filled as soon as a qualified applicant is found.

Kiawah Island Banding Station – 2017 Fall Migration Summary

As you may know, there is an active bird banding station on our neighboring island.  The following information is a summary of what Aaron Given, Wildlife Biologist, provided on his Kiawah Island Banding Station blog, where you can read the full report.

From left to right: Paul Carroll, Michael Gamble, Kristen Oliver, Brandon Connare, Hannah Conley, Aaron Given, Mattie VandenBoom

2017 Fall Migration Summary

The 2017 fall migration banding season at the Kiawah Island Banding Station (KIBS) ended on Thursday, November 20, 2017. We banded at two sites on Kiawah Island again this fall:  Captain Sam’s and Little Bear.  This was the 9th consecutive year of fall migration banding at the Captain Sam’s site with banding occurring daily during the last 6 years.  This was the 3rd season for the Little Bear site which we initiated during the fall of 2015.  The two sites are located at each end of island about 8 miles apart (Captain Sam’s on the west end, Little Bear on the east end).  Both sites are situated in coastal scrub/shrub and high marsh habitats, however, the Little Bear site is in an earlier stage of succession. Collectively, we banded 8,393 birds and had 1,845 recaptures of 93 different species at both sites.

Top 10 Species Banded at Captain Sam’s
1.  Common Yellowthroat (1,314)
2.  Yellow-rumped Warbler (704)
3.  Gray Catbird (685)
4.  Red-eyed Vireo (265)
5.  American Redstart (229)
6.  Palm Warbler (192)
7. Northern Waterthrush (146)
8.  Painted Bunting (128)
9.  Ruby-crowned Kinglet (125)
10.  Prairie Warbler (121)
Top 10 Species Banded at Little Bear
 1.  Common Yellowthroat (948)
2.  Gray Catbird (624)
3.  Palm Warbler (326)
4.  Yellow-rumped Warbler (273)
5.  Northern Waterthush (132)
6.  Painted Bunting (119)
7.  Prairie Warbler (114)
8.  Red-eyed Vireo (113)
9.  American Redstart (108)
10.  House Wren (83)
Again, you can read the full report here.

Another Traveling Red Knot

Red Knot seen in Florida and banded on Seabrook Island, SC

SIB recently received the note below from SCDNR Wildlife Biologist Felicia Sanders.

Pat Leary photographed this Red Knot, which we tagged at Seabrook Island on April 29, 2017, at Corrigan’s Reef, Cedar Key Florida on November 18, 2017. This bird probably went to the arctic to nest and now is wintering in Florida or headed farther south and just stopping a while in Florida. He saw another knot we tagged at Seabrook and one we tagged at Deveaux Bank in April 2012. 

Thanks again to everyone for helping with Red Knot trapping, which is helping us figure out their migration patterns!

Felicia

If you are interested to learn more about protecting birds on the beaches of Seabrook Island, please contact us:  seabrookislandbirders@gmail.com.

Ask SIB: What to do if You Find a Bird with a Band?

The Sidebottom children, from left to right Reves (5), Ella (5) and Wesley (4), holding the deceased first year Painted Bunting.

On September 3, 2017, SIB received an email from Richard Sidebottom. 

“We live in Charleston and are out here often. My in-laws (the kids grandparents) are Jerry and Jenny Reves, who have had a house here since 1995. Jerry is the former Dean at MUSC and writes the wellness column in The Seabrooker. 

We arrived out here from town yesterday and the kids saw a dead yellow and black/gray bird on the deck and also noticed the identification band around its leg. My kids enjoy looking at the nature guides (including Audubon / Peterson’s Field Guide) that their grandparents have at the house, so we tried to identify it. We think it may be a female Painted Bunting. It occurred to me this morning as we were trying to figure out how to bury it that we should ask whether someone should know about the band. The band says:  OPEN 2721 ABRE, 24834

Thanks, 

Richard Sidebottom

The two photos below were attached:

Nancy Brown, the SIB Communications Chair, corresponded with Richard and provided the USGS link to report banded birds so he could officially report the condition of the bird.
https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/bblretrv/index.cfm

Nancy also sent a note to Aaron Given, Wildlife Biologist on Kiawah Island, who manages a bird banding station on Kiawah.  As she suspected, Aaron responded:  “We banded it on 8/26/17 at the Captain Sam’s site on the west end of Kiawah.  This is a hatch-year bird because of the buffy edging on the wing coverts therefore the sex is unknown. The most likely cause of death was by window strike.” 

When you report a banded bird to the USGS, you will receive a certificate of appreciation, similar to the one below sent to the Sidebottom family.

USGS Certificate of Appreciation

If you missed any of SIB’s other blogs about banded birds, you can find them by searching on the “Banding” category, or click on this link.

Read the article below to learn more about finding birds with leg bands:

Continue reading “Ask SIB: What to do if You Find a Bird with a Band?”

The Travels of Red Knot “9CV”

What we now know about Red knot 9CV:

Felicia Sanders from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC-DNR) recently received updated information about Red Knot 9CV. This bird was recaptured Seabrook Island on April 29, 2017.

9CV Day Banded on Cape Romaine

Felicia is the Shorebird Lead for SC-DNR. On June 28, 2017, she presented to Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) a program of photos and narratives of the fabulous shorebirds that spend time on our beaches. That  program included a discussion on Red Knots. Red Knots, a Federally Threatened shorebird species, use our beach during spring migration as a stopping point on their 18,000 mile roundtrip journey from their winter home on the southern tip of South American to the Arctic Circle where they nest. She mentioned, this spring, the largest known flock with 4,000 Red Knots enjoyed our beautiful and bountiful beaches to rest and feed before their 3-day direct 1,400 mile flight to James Bay in Canada. This is pretty amazing considering there are only an estimated 25,000 Red Knots remaining on the planet! Felicia emphasized the significance of our Seabrook flock, and the partnership with Seabrook Island Birders as we assisted SC DNR in April in tagging Red Knots and placing transmitters for important tracking on their journey.  Red Knot 9CV was one of those birds on Seabrook Island.

9CV Travel Map 2015-2016

Here is a map of that Red Knot’s migration. SC-DNR captured it in Cape Romain NWR at Marsh Island on Oct 16, 2015. A picture, as seen below, was taken at that time and a geolocator was placed on the bird as well as the banding tag.  9CV spent the winter at Cape Romain NWR and then left SC on May 24, 2016 and flew directly to James Bay shore (at the N 50 on the map), arriving the next day! It then continued on to above the Arctic Circle where it stayed for 44 days but did not seem to nest.  On July 16, 2016 it returned to James Bay and was spotted by Canadian researchers! Then, on July 30, it arrived in New Jersey and stayed 55 days. On September 24, 2016 it returned to South Carolina until it was captured on Seabrook, SC on April 29, 2017.  At that time, the geolocator was removed so the data could be analyzed and the bird was released. Ed Konrad was able to take pictures of the bird as it was being released. Felicia wanted to thank Ron Porter who interpreted the geolocator data.  She also wanted to thank the many others, who worked on this project!!

The above photos were taken by Ed Konrad as the bird was being released on April 29th, 2017.

Although this bird spent the winters of 2015 and 2016 in South Carolina, similar information from other Red Knots confirms some birds travel from the tip of South America to the Arctic Circle each year. Their time on Seabrook Island is a time to rest and renourish. As Felicia reminded us in June, human disturbance is one of the top threats to nesting, migrating, and wintering shorebirds. Please remember:

Let Birds Feed & Rest: Resting and feeding are key to the survival of migratory and wintering birds on our beaches. Give them plenty of space. If birds run or fly, you are too close!

Respect Posted Areas: Keep out of posted areas. Disturbances to nesting birds can cause nests or entire colonies to fail. Never walk into the dune areas – Wilson’s Plovers are nesting on Seabrook Island in these areas!

Be a Bird Friendly Dog Owner: Keep your dog on a leash when you see flocks of birds on the beach. Never allow your dog(s) or children to chase birds as it is extremely stressful to birds. And please abide by the “no dogs allowed” past the sign on North Beach. The Piping Plover winter migration is ongoing now.

Please take time to learn and help educate your family, friends, and visitors to Seabrook Island on the importance of protecting and sharing our beach with our wildlife!

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photos submitted by: Ed Konrad