Help in identifying some confusing winter visitors

When we started Project Feederwatch, Dean was confused trying to identify some of the regular visitors to our backyard. To help him, I created two “cheat sheets”. Each contained information I copied from All About Birds web page.

The first sheet was for those “Little Brown Jobs” often called LBJs.

The second was for what I call the “yellow birds”.

These sheets by no means answers all the questions you may have nor do they cover all the birds you may see in your yards. If it helps someone else get more comfortable in their identification, feel free to print from these PDFs.
Little Brown Jobs
Yellow Winter Birds

I printed, placed in a protective sheet cover and they have served us well for several years. Hope they help you.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Results for Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count

Kiawah Island Biologist Aaron Given coordinates the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the Sea Islands. This CBC circle encompasses Kiawah, Seabrook Island, Wadmalaw and much of Johns Island. The Seabrooker article this month included great pictures and information about SIB’s participation in this event. Aaron recently published the results for the entire circle which are copied verbatim below.

Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count 2022-2023

The 12th Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count occurred on 3 January 2023. The weather during the day of the count was partly sunny with light winds and temperatures ranging from 54° F in the morning to 68°F in the afternoon. Heavy ocean fog blanketed the coastal areas and waterways most of the day with a brief clearing in early afternoon only to return around 4:00pm.

We had a great turnout for the count with a total of 68 participants. All sections within the count circle were covered. We had 18 participants in 8 parties on Kiawah Island, 12 participants in 6 parties on Seabrook Island, 10 participants in 6 parties on John’s Island, 7 participants in 3 parties on Wadmalaw Island, and 2 participants in 1 party on Deveaux Bank. In addition to field parties, we had good participation with feeder watchers too. There were 5 participants at 4 locations on Kiawah, 11 participants at 11 locations on Seabrook, 1 participant at 1 location on John’s Island, and 1 participant at 1 location on Wadmalaw Island.

The Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count team recorded 22,919 individual birds and 162 different species. Kiawah Island recorded 9,863 individuals of the 135 species. Seabrook Island (including the Freshfields territory) reported 4,286 individuals of 117 species. John’s Island documented 4,272 individuals of 114 species, Wadmalaw Island had 3,344 individuals of 105 species, and Deveaux Bank noted 1,154 individuals of 41 species.

Overall bird numbers were below average, however that number can vary wildly from year to year. The dense ocean fog reduced visibility on the beaches and fewer shorebirds, seabirds, and ocean birds were seen as a result. Species diversity has been consistent over the years ranging between 154-159 in most years. This year we finally broke 160 with a total 162 species-our highest ever! Since 2012, we have recorded 194 species.

Two new species were added to the count this year! A Grasshopper Sparrow was discovered by Nate Watkins in the fields behind Freshfields. An Ovenbird was found by Kristin Attinger around the Kiawah Island Banding Station. The Ovenbird was a bird that was banded during the fall and had been recaptured several times throughout November indicating that it might be overwintering out there. Kristin was able to relocate the bird and could even see the band on its leg!

Other Species Highlights: Waterfowl – 16 species! Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, American Woodcock, Roseate Spoonbill, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Vesper Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco. The Bar-tailed Godwit returned to Kiawah in September for it’s second straight winter!

Notable misses: Surf Scoter, Rusty Blackbird, Prairie Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Winter Wren.

I’d would like to thank all the participants and volunteers for continuing to make this event a success. Not only is the bird count fun and educational for participants, but it also contributes valuable scientific data to aid in bird conservation across the country. Looking ahead to next year, the count will fall within the window of January 2-4, 2024.

The details of species by location can be seen here.

SIB’s Article for the February 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 February 2023 SIB article. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page article on Page 4! The stories this month feature:

Seabrook Island Christmas Bird Count – Learn more about Seabrook Island Birders participation in this year’s Christmas Bird Count. Also see posters for upcoming Sea Island Bird Festival and Joining Seabrook Island Shorebird Stewards.

To learn more about volunteering as a Shorebird Steward, look at  our web page or send email to  Sibstewards@gmail.com.

Thanks to author Aija Konrad for her awesome submission. Ed Konrad continues to serve as our graphic designer and created the posters!

SIB Travels: Central Florida for family reunion

We decided to join Dean’s snowbird cousins for a quick afternoon reunion near Bradington, Florida. You know I can’t go anywhere without working in a little birding so I researched what birds were in area so we’d be prepared. I gave Dean my “wish list” of birds so he’d be prepared to help me look and to understand when I yelled “STOP” as we drove down the road. My list included the Nanday Parakeets, Monk Parakeets, White-winged Doves and Black Swans to name a few.

As we stopped at each rest area, we saw the usual suspects…lots of Boat-tail Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, etc. As we drove down the interstate, LOTS of Turkey Vultures seemed to be leading our way. At the Florida Welcome Center, we were briefly excited…could that be one of my target birds, a White-winged Dove? No, it was 5 Eurasian Collared Doves which we often see at Bohicket Marina. We never did see a White-winged Dove which were “common” birds in Central Florida.

Sandhill Cranes – Dean Morr

As we drove state roads between Lakeland and Bradington, we finally saw a “Florida Bird”… a Sandhill Crane. On the return trip, we stopped for pictures of flocks of these large noisy birds. We also saw lots of Cattle Egrets, White Ibis and of course Turkey Vultures.

We had never seen so many Osprey on nests! It seemed like every other power poll had a nest. Some were in the joints of the power poles but some were on the platforms the power companies wisely placed at the top of the poles or sometimes even extra poles installed for no purpose other than to contain a platform for nesting purposes. A Google search told us that the debris (or chicks) falling from poorly placed nests caused power outages so the power companies proactively placed platforms to be used for nesting.

Osprey at New College of Florida – Dean Morr

As we visited with the cousins, we saw American Robins, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. Two hawks were hunting in the leaves of the golf course rough but I couldn’t confirm they were Coopers Hawks.

The New College of Florida campus on the Sarasota Bay looked like a promising eBird site for White-winged Doves and possibly the Nanday Parakeets and Monk Parakeets. We saw Double-breasted Cormorants swimming around fishermen in hip waders, Ring-necked Ducks, Great Egrets and more Osprey but none of the target birds. I MAY have seen a pair of Nanday Parakeets but they flew by too fast to get my binoculars up so I can’t be sure. Nearby, we did briefly stop at a lagoon at the Manatee Convention Center for Mallards, and Common Gallinules.

On the return trip across Florida, we stopped at Lake Morton in Lakeland. This isn’t officially a zoo so I think the birds I saw are reportable but I’m not sure. The city puts caution tape around the Black Swan nests and there are vending machines where you can buy seed to feed the various birds. About 50 White Ibis approached us as we exited the car, begging for food…a good clue they were tame. At this relatively small lake in the middle of town we saw Black Swans, Mute Swans, Muscovy Ducks, and Peking Ducks (aka domestic white ducks). I also saw the Anhingas, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, White Pelicans, Lesser Scaup, American Coot and Osprey which were definitely “wild”.

It was a good visit with cousins but the only “life bird” was the questionable Black Swan. I did learn more about Osprey nesting habits and had a closer look at Sandhill Cranes. I think a return visit is needed for another reunion and better birding.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Length:  13″; Wingspan: 16″; Weight: 16 oz.

Pied-bill Grebe - Ed Konrad
Pied-bill Grebe – Ed Konrad

There are seven species of Grebes, but only four are mapped in Sibley’s as possible visitors to Seabrook Island.  However, only one of the four seems to be common to the Island.  That is the Pied-billed Grebe which may be seen bobbing around in our lagoons and lakes from October to March.  They will not likely to ever be seen on land.  This bird is compact, but shows a long neck.  Their coloration is largely a camouflage mix of brown shades with the darkest feathers being on the upper side of the wings.  While the stout beak is generally a yellowish brown, the male, in breeding plumage, has a silvery bill with a black ring around it.  This multi-colored bill provides the basis for the name Pied-billed Grebe.   These supurb swimmers and divers sit slightly low in the water and have lobed (as compared to webbed) feet.  Because they are more at home under the water’s surface, they are of the now-you-see-em-now-you-don’t sort.   Grebes slip underwater with little or no splash and can stay submerged for significant periods of time.   They don’t usually pop up near where they dove.  In contrast, Loons and Cormorants (both being long-necked swimmers and divers) are much larger and splashier birds.

Our lagoons and lakes, with the vegetated edges, provide favorite habitat.  The diet consists of aquatic insects, small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans.   On the other hand, they do not appear to be on the menu for the local alligator population.  While I have not knowingly heard a Pied-billed Grebe call, the literature says they make a gulping kuk-kuk-kuk sound.  Their summer nesting area extends northward from the Mason-Dixon line and into Canada.

Check out this short video of the Pied-billed Grebe

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

Article submitted by:  George Haskins
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.

Join SIB: Birding Beyond Our Backyard – Hollings ACE Basin

Description: Saturday, February 4, 2023 7:30am – 4:00 pm (roundtrip from Seabrook Island)
          Leave Seabrook Real Estate: 7:30 am
          Hollings ACE Basin: 8:30 am – 11:30 am
          Lunch: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
          Bird Roxbury Park: 1:00 – 3:00pm

Location:  Meet at Real Estate Parking lot at 7:30 am to carpool to Hollings ACE Basin
Max:  12            
Cost: None for members; $10 donation for guests

The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge is a 11,815-acre portion of the larger ACE Basin area, and the only portions that are federally protected. The wildlife refuge is divided into two units: the Edisto River unit and the Combahee River unit.  We will be visiting the Edisto River unit which has portions closed in the winter to provide a safe resting area for the ducks during the hunt season.  The ducks therefore may be at a distance.   Although it was closed already when visited in November, 44 species were seen including Blue Winged Teals, Gadwalls and Shovelers.  A pair of nesting American Eagles are on the nest at the facility in the area open.  Expect to walk approximately 3 miles on flat terrain.  There are restrooms on the property but whether they will be open or not is unknown as the drive closer to the restrooms is closed on weekends.  

You may pack a lunch to eat at either Hollings ACE Basin or Roxbury Park or you can join the group eating at Roxbury Mercantile (http://roxburymercantile.com/).  This previous country store now has both inside and outside dining offering “Lowcountry cuisine”.

In the afternoon, we will make the short trip to from Roxbury Mercantile to Roxbury Park.  Roxbury Park is owned and managed by the Town of Meggett, SC.   What makes Roxbury Park such a special place is the diversity of it’s ecosystem.  Visitors to the park can see and experience eight distinctively unique habitats that attract and support an amazing variety of wildlife. ​ The park is open year round but only on Saturday and Sunday.  There is a portable restroom located in the parking area.

Participants may opt only the morning at Hollings ACE Basin or both.  If you wish to only do Hollings ACE Basin, we ask you just let us know and provide your own transportation.

Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, hats, sunscreen, bug repellant, snacks and water.  

If you are not yet a 2023 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/ or we request a $10 donation to SIB.

Once you are a member, register no later than Thursday February 2, 2023.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event.

SIB Travels: Southern Florida

Not coordinating our schedules, Jackie and Walter Brooks were in Florida the same time as Judy and Dean Morr. We were in different areas so two blogs. Today, the Brooks! The Morr’s trip report to come soon. – Judy Morr

Never ones to pass up an opportunity for a trip, we set off for Miami and our Global Entry interviews with thoughts of seeing all sorts of exotic birds as we extended our trip to include birding and traipsing the Keys.

Burrowing Owl – Jackie Brooks

The 175 acre Brian Piccolo Park is a sports venue located in Cooper City, Florida (Near Fort Lauderdale). It was the chance to see the ever adorable Burrowing Owls that made this stop a must.

Interviews completed, we hit several Miami-Dade hot spots where such creatures as the Red-legged Honeycreeper, macaws of all descriptions, and Red-masked Parakeets had been seen by many. Along with other birders, we waited in excited anticipation. We waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, we left with only ibis, butterbutts, White-winged Doves……oh, and one lone cardinal that I excitedly motioned birders over to see, thinking it was something exotic as it was so red. Color me red!!

Everywhere we went, it was the same story and same birds that we see daily here on Seabrook Island. Iguanas, however, were plentiful. In A.D. Barnes Park, we , with Merlin’s help, heard a Red-masked Parakeet but never saw it. We did see two Egyptian Geese, which are an introduced species.

Messy Osprey nest – Jackie Brooks

We had a little better luck in Key West at Fort Zachary Taylor. No exotic species, but an Osprey who had succumbed to the island attitude with the poorest excuse for a nest I have ever seen.

Sandwich Tern – Waiting to go to rehab – Jackie Brooks

We also watched Royal and Sandwich Terns doing “touch and goes” with a couple of fishermen’s baits. Sure, it was all fun and games until someone gets hurt. In this case, a Sandwich Tern was hooked in the leg. The fisherman went above and beyond to safely reel in the tern, crawling over slippery boulders to bring it to safety. Fortunately, since it was bleeding from the leg, there was a knowledgeable local nearby who offered to take the tern to a local rehab place after letting it rest and calm down a bit.

Some of the easiest birding ever can be spotting the infamous Red Junglefowl of Key West, aka the chickens and roosters. They’re everywhere. As mentioned in an earlier post, this bird is considered Naturalized (in Key West) or Escapee (most other areas).

Leaving the Keys is always a sad thing for us, but we ended up at Homestead and Everglades still hopeful of finding the elusive parrots, parakeets, and macaws. At Frog Pond WMA, we spotted 2 wire birds- a Loggerhead Shrike and , at last, something different, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Of course, it was cloudy and not great for photos. We met a birder from Chicago who was excited to see an alligator. Didn’t have the heart to tell him we had them in our backyard.
After checking out a couple of canals that were supposed to have Smooth-billed Ani, but we had no luck, so we headed back to hotel.

Dreams of going back to the hot spots in Miami- Dade were dashed the next morning when we acquired our only real exotic from the trip-Covid. Cutting our trip short and limping back home, we planned a return trip next January. We will get those parakeets, parrots, and macaws if we have to return multiple times.

Article and photos submitted by Jackie Brooks

Ask SIB: What do I post in eBird?

Question: I’m preparing for a trip to Florida and I’m confused about which birds should be posted in eBird and which should not. Some of the birds that led to my confusion are Monk Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet and Black Swans? Can you give me some guidance? – Judy Morr

Answer: The question above was sent as a text to my eBird experts, Aija Konrad, Bob Mercer and Nancy Brown. Several texts later we decided it merited a blog…possibly only interesting to bird nerds like me.

eBird’s Frequently asked questions starts with: eBird is intended for observations of wild, living birds. Please do not report dead or captive birds (e.g., do not include birds in a zoo exhibit or pheasants on a farm). I knew about living bird idea but some of the other aspects took more study. (Note: Italics below are all quotes from eBird web pages.)

Captive birdsdo not include caged or pinioned birds. You may report wild birds you see at outdoor zoos, but birds that are part of a zoo or collection should not be reported. Do not report free-roaming pets, such as birds used in falconry, or birds that return to a pen or cage regularly. I already knew that I shouldn’t report chickens I see or hear in someone’s yard. That white “domestic” duck I saw at Christmas, I didn’t report. The peacock (aka Indian Peafowl) I saw at Magnolia Gardens was considered “captive” and Keith McCullough correctly told me to delete from a list submitted. The Great Blue Herons, American Cardinals, etc. I reported in the same list were valid as they weren’t captive. Similarly, the Indian Peafowl I saw roaming down River Road one day was a valid submission.

Captive Species: Indian Peafowl (aka “peacock”) photographed at Magnolia Gardens by Bob Mercer

Exotic Species – are any species that occurs somewhere as a direct result of transportation by humans. These are further broken down into three subcategories: Naturalized, Provisional and Escapee. All should be reported in eBird but some may not count on some reports. This gets trickier (and some interesting considerations).

Naturalized: this exotic population is self-sustaining, breeding in the wild, persisting for many year and and not maintained through ongoing releases (including vagrants from naturalized populations). These count in official eBird totals and, where applicable, have been accepted by regional bird records committee(s). Examples of this are House Finch, Eurasian Collared Dove and European Starling. They are commonly seen here but still will have a black asterisk when you later look at checklist in eBird. For my trip to Florida, the Monk Parakeet and Nanday Parakeet will fall into this category.

Provisional: Provisional is often used for species that are established (i.e., occurring in substantial numbers in the wild for many years) but have not yet been declared Naturalized by a local ornithological authority. Provisional species count towards your eBird life list and appear in all public outputs, including Alerts. If on my trip to Florida I saw an Indian Peafowl (as someone reported on January 4) that would fall into this category. It appears on eBird with a rust asterisk.

Escapee: This is really the fun one. Escapees are exotic species known or suspected to be escaped or released, including those that have bred but don’t yet fulfill the criteria for Provisional. Escapee exotics do not count in official eBird totals. They are also not included in ABA countable birds for Big Year, etc. There is a whole list of escapees I hope to see in Florida: Graylag Goose, Black Swan, Swan Goose, Black-necked Swan, Red Junglefowl. If found, these will appear on my eBird checklist with a rust background around a white asterisk. Aija knows of a town in Georgia where the Red Junglefowl is ABA countable…so the category the bird falls into is dependent upon geography. Note, this nuance applies to all categories as my Indian Peafowl sited on River Road wasn’t even flagged as Provisional or Naturalized.

Red Junglefowl, taken in Key West, FL by Nancy Brown, April, 2011

If you want to know more about all this, you can find detailed descriptions at: https://support.ebird.org/en/support/solutions/articles/48001218430-exotic-and-introduced-species-in-ebird and
https://www.aba.org/aba-area-introduced-species/

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Watch: SIB Launched 2023 with Worldwide Bird Migration, author, naturalist and ornithologist 

Scott Weidensaul was the guest speaker, via Zoom from his home in New Hampshire, at the first gathering of Seabrook Island Birders for 2023.  We met at the Oyster Catcher Community Center for some social time and discussed his book “A World on the Wing” published in 2021. We had 37 people present in-person and  21 via Zoom. Scott joined early enough to hear Bob Mercer update us on the activities of our own Shorebird Steward Program and then he presented a 50 minute program on worldwide bird migration. This was followed by questions on the use of technology in monitoring migration, the physiological changes in birds around migration and if there will be information gathered that can be applied to human medicine, and whether we understand how a young bird learns to migrate. 

Scott is a naturalist and ornithologist involved in many projects researching bird migration.  He is also a writer, having published many books and articles on birds and the migratory process.  The recording of the program is available on our YouTube Channel for one month if you are interested in viewing it.  If you prefer, SIB will feature Scott’s presentation during our next Movie Matinee (only virtual) at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, February 14, 2023. Register to watch it with us on Zoom.

During the program, Scott Weidensaul mentioned a few websites you may want to explore:

  • www.motus.org – The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) is an international collaborative research network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to facilitate research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. Motus is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with collaborating researchers and organizations.
  • https://www.projectsnowstorm.org/ – Dedicated to the study and research of the movement of Snowy Owls

Additional information on Scott, his prior publications, interviews and his current activities is available on his website, scottweidensaul.com.

Join Seabrook Island Birders and be the first to know about our upcoming programs and activities, seabrookislandbirders.org.

Join SIB to Bird Beyond our Backyard: Nemours Plantation

Tuesday, Jan. 31 9:00 am– 4:00 pm
Trip to Nemours Plantation and Bailey Road Tidal Impoundments
Location:  Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Carpool at 7:00 am
                  Meet at Food Lion, Hwy 17 in Ravenel at 7:45 am to carpool to Nemours Plantation
Max: 18             
Cost:  free to members, $10 per guest; donation to Nemours Wildlife Foundation suggested

Guided birding tour at Nemours Plantation followed by picnic lunch & afternoon side trip to  eBird hotspot Bailey Tidal Impoundment with possible visit to the Old Sheldon Church ruins.

Important Note:  All participants must sign the liability waiver prior to entering the Nemours Property.  We will have the waiver form available for signing at our carpool meet-up locations .

Join SIB for a guided tour of Nemours Plantation followed by a picnic lunch andthen afternoon birding at the close-by eBird hotspot, the Bailey Road TidalImpoundments.  The Nemours Plantation is a 10,000+ acre site in the ACE River Basin owned and managed by the Nemours Wildlife Foundation.  We will ride in an open trailer through rich, diverse habitats consisting of remnant rice fields, brackish and fresh water marshes, upland and bottomland hardwood forests, pine forests, and cypress & tupelo forests. We hope to see waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds along with sparrows, wintering warblers, woodpeckers and other passerines.  The Nemours Foundation has become an important center for conservation research and environmental education.  We will learn more about how they achieve this mission during our guided birding tour.  After visiting Nemours, we will eat a picnic lunch.  Following lunch, we will bird the nearby eBird hotspot Bailey Road Tidal Impoundments where we hope to find a variety of waders, shorebirds, terns and gulls.  Here you can bird from the roadside or the dikes overlooking the tidal flats.  Uneven ground and some muddy conditions are possible here. TheOld Sheldon Church ruins are quite close and are worth a quick look for those interested. 

As always, bring your binoculars/cameras/scopes, bird guides, hats, sunscreen and bug spray.  Bring plenty to drink & a picnic lunch.  If you wish to leave after visiting Nemours Plantation, plan your carpooling accordingly. Restroom facilities will be available at Nemours.  We ask that you wear a mask when unable to social distance if you are not vaccinated.

If you are not yet a 2023 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $15 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 $10.

Please register no later than January 29.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on January 30.  If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

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