SIB Christmas Bird Count

Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone @ North Beach – Ed Konrad

On January 4, 2021, Seabrook Island Birders participated in our most productive annual Christmas Bird Count ever! A record number 114 species, and we suspect a record number of individual birds with nearly 6,500. We had 10 teams of birders hitting Seabrook Island “hotspots” of Jenkins Point, Palmetto Lake, North Beach, Creek Watch, Camp St Christopher, SIPOA/Club horse pasture and maintenance area, Crooked Oaks and Ocean Winds golf courses, and Bohicket Marina. In addition our team consisted of seven feeder watch homes sighting 65 species and 279 individual birds. We walked 26 miles, drove 3.3 miles and rode in golf carts 9.8 miles for 77 people hours of effort!  Amazing!

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, done annually done Dec 14 to Jan 5 by volunteer birdwatchers, and administered by the National Audubon Society. The first count began Christmas Day 1900, when Frank Chapman, ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History in NY, proposed it as an alternative to hunting birds on Christmas. Audubon and other organizations use data collected to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action. Our Seabrook Island CBC is part of the larger Sea Islands CBC done on Seabrook, Kiawah, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands.

In addition to our CBC being an important contribution to Aubudon and understanding and protecting our birds species…we all had a great time! Here’s some memorable moments from some of the Seabrook Island Birders.

From Judy Morr, “It was a fun day, with the highlight being the sightings of so many Purple Finches on Seabrook.  I had seen them before at Caw Caw but never on Seabrook.  It was fun making sure we had the correct identification versus House Finch.  Another “frustration “ was trying to find the nuthatch when there were so many robins chattering away.”

Nancy Brown was with Judy for the day, and really liked “Hearing and seeing the Red Breasted Nuthatch on Old Wharf Rd. – which is pretty reliable to hear.” It’s also a stunning bird to see if you’re fortunate to spot it! Nancy also commented on the non-stop texting between the teams to see if certain species were found, and asking “I just saw this bird but can’t identify for sure, can anyone help???!!!” 

Patricia Schaefer was “most excited to see both the male and female Baltimore Orioles today because they have only recently started coming again to our feeder after having noticed them being seen in nearby cities. We were glad they showed up for the count!”

Lesley Gore also was thrilled with the Baltimore Orioles – “The day of the CBC, I eagerly waited to see which species would  show up to my bird feeder. At first it was the usual visitors – Carolina Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmouse and Cardinals. Then, a new visitor – with brilliant orange and yellow plumage underside and black and white wings! Yes, a Baltimore Oriole. My first ever time of attracting one to my feeder. So excited to see one! After a few sips of sugar water, a bite of orange she flew away with a beak full of strawberry preserves! My new visitor did not come again that day. There’s always tomorrow!”

Bob Mercer too was amazed at the Robins before heading to Camp St Christopher and the marina. “The morning started with an almost non-stop river of American Robins all headed up the Stono River. The numbers were astronomical and undoubtedly the total count for the day is an underestimate. Wandering around, occasionally lost, in Camp St. Christopher, I kept running across new species. Some of the treasured finds included the Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows, 12 Wood Ducks, and 7 species of warbler. My day ended at the marina watching Marbled Godwits fly up Bohicket Creek.

Aija and Ed Konrad walked 21000 steps on North Beach, and were “out on the beach by dawn on a beautiful morning, greeted by and startled on the boardwalk by a very large buck! Our best moment was seeing over 17 “salty” sparrows on the old inlet. We’ve never quite figured out where they hide on a high tide, and found them in a dry grassy area to the left of the marsh. A thrill to see so many, but it’s a “now you see ‘em, now you don’t bird”, up and back down into the marsh grass in a flash!”

Ed is always entertained looking for interesting photo subjects, and “capturing a Bufflehead and the Red-breasted Mergansers take flight was a fun challenge. We enjoy searching for our Piping Plover winter guests. Today there was a wonderful trio huddled in the sand, and the Great Lakes banded/endangered “Red Yellow” was still with us and staying safe on North Beach!”

Thanks to everyone that participated! You can see what a fun and productive time we all had! Article by Ed and Aija Konrad

Learning Together on Ocean Winds Golf Course

Monday January 18,2021 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

SIB birding from Golf Carts – Jackie Brooks

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 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 to register no later than January 15, 2021. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday, January 16,2021. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Identifying BBJs: Winter Hawks

Dr. Bill Hilton, who was SIB’s most recent Zoom speaker, has a website for his nature center, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, that includes a weekly blog. The most recent edition, #734, of This Week at Hilton Pond is about BBJs. BBJs are Big Brown Jobbers – or hawks – as opposed to LBJs which are Little Brown Jobbers – or small brown sparrows. Dr. Hilton describes and compares the Red-tailed Hawk, the Red-shouldered Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk. These are four hawks that are frequently seen in our area, but can look very similar from a distance. He has done such a great job of breaking down the differences and describing these raptors that it might be a good idea to print it and take it along on your next birding excursion. 

Enjoy WINTER HAWKS: THE BBJs and check out Dr. Hilton’s other 733 blog topics!

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History


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

Replay of “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America… and Back”

Dr. Bill Hilton, Jr holding a Ruby-throated Hummingbird

For those who missed the latest Seabrook Island Birders Zoom program or for any participant who would like to rewatch a great presentation, we are offering a replay for the next 30 days. On December 2nd Dr. Bill Hilton, Jr. presented “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America…and Back!”

The program highlighted Dr. Hilton’s ongoing international research on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and his continuing ornithological work at his Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York, SC. You can visit its website, hiltonpond.org, to learn about the center or read one of his over 700 blogs on natural history and what’s happening at Hilton Pond. 

Dr. Hilton, a teacher for 40+ years, educated 83 participants from 13 U.S. States and 1 from Canada.   He urged everyone who lived on Seabrook Island and the states with warmer climates to keep their hummingbird feeders up year round for the birds migrating through and for those hummingbirds overwintering here. Additionally, he asked anyone who sees a hummingbird (especially the banded or with a color mark on their chest) to become a citizen scientist and report their sighting through eBird or his website rubythroat.org.

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).