Bear Island is a big back yard

Audabon’s Great Backyard Birdcount didn’t officially begin until Friday February 16, but 10 Seabrook Island Birders started the long holiday weekend early with a visit to a very large ( 12,000 acre) backyard of the Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and then Donnelly WMA (another 8,000 acre).  Both of these WMA are closed from the end of October through February 10 for duck hunting.  It was hoped that a lot of ducks would still be there when the group visited shortly after the season reopened.

The group met while still dark with hopes to reach Bear Island before the Tundra Swans left for the day.  The weather forecast was promising and the group had an indication it may be a good birding day when a gas stop in Jacksonboro was the first massive sighting of the day.  A conservative estimate of 25 Black Vultures and 15 Fish Crows were hovering in and around a tree behind the station.  On to Bear Island for some ducks!

Tundra Swan – Charley Moore
American Avocet – Charley Moore

David Gardner (our fearless leader) recommended we make our first stop at Bennetts Point, just outside the gate to Bear Island.  He had seen reports a Eurasion Wigeon was a recurring resident of that pond.  Shortly after setting up his spotting scope, he saw the red head of the Eurasion Wideon among the 540 American Wigeon.  While counting the ducks, a flock of Tundra Swans gracefully flew in from Bear Island and glided in to the same pond.  Not to be outdone, our first flock of American Avocets also flew in to the area.  In less than a half hour, 26 species were seen.  As we left the area to turn in to Bear Island, a Bald Eagle was seen perched in a tree, as if to assure us we’d only just begun a great day.

The rest of the morning was spent going from impoundment to impoundment of old rice fields along dirt roads.  Minimal walking was required to see the 68 species.  The number of ducks became almost overwhelming with over a dozen species being seen with many in high quantities.  Ducks obviously were not the only species seen with White Pelicans providing an arial show as well as Northern Harrier.  The beautiful American Avocets were seen again in greater numbers.

The final stop of the day was at Donnelly WMA which is between Bear Island and Highway 17.  A good view of Eastern Meadowlarks and Vesper Sparrows may have been the highlight of this stop after seeing so many ducks earlier.  Purple Martins surprised us by going in to their boxes (It’s breeding season already?).

Brown-headed Nuthatch – Charley Moore

A Rusty Blackbird, 4 White-breasted Nuthatch and 7 Brown-headed Nuthatch were also seen.

The final specie sighting of the day were Rock Pigeons on a wire along Highway 17, between CawCaw and the turn on Main Road.  The tired birders were pleased with their day and looking forward to participating in the Great Backyard BirdCount on the weekend.

 

Jacksonboro Gas Station – 2 species

Black Vulture 25
Fish Crow 15

Bennetts Point – 26 species

Tundra Swan 25
Gadwall 40
Eurasian Wigeon 1
American Wigeon 540
Mallard 4
American Black Duck
Mottled Duck 6
Pied-billed Grebe 6
Tricolored Heron 16
Bald Eagle 1
American Avocet 12
Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Mourning Dove 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 3
Tree Swallow 2
Carolina Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
Northern Mockingbird 1
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 11
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Common Grackle 2
Boat-tailed Grackle 1

Bear Island WMA – 68 species

Tundra Swan 31
Blue-winged Teal 4
Northern Shoveler 65
Gadwall 380
American Wigeon 180
Mallard 13
American Black Duck
Mottled Duck 8
Mallard/Mottled Duck 3
Northern Pintail 1
Green-winged Teal 136
Bufflehead 1
Hooded Merganser 7
Pied-billed Grebe 15
Wood Stork 2
Double-crested Cormorant 6
American White Pelican 3
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 11
Snowy Egret 5
Little Blue Heron 5
Tricolored Heron 16
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
White Ibis 3
Glossy Ibis 2
Black Vulture 6
Turkey Vulture 5
Northern Harrier 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 3
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Common Gallinule 5
American Avocet
Killdeer 2
Wilson’s Snipe 6
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Caspian Tern 3
Forster’s Tern 1
Mourning Dove 4
Belted Kingfisher 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 2
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue Jay 10
American Crow 3
Tree Swallow 115
Carolina Chickadee 5
Tufted Titmouse 3
Carolina Wren 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Eastern Bluebird 12
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 2
Northern Mockingbird 2
Pine Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 7
Savannah Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 2
Northern Cardinal 7
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Red-winged Blackbird 120
Common Grackle 80

Donnelly WMA – 58 species

Blue-winged Teal 4
Gadwall 6
Ruddy Duck 1
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 3
Little Blue Heron 2
Tricolored Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
White Ibis 1
Black Vulture 2
Turkey Vulture 3
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Clapper Rail 1
Sora 1
Common Gallinule 12
American Coot 1
Killdeer 25
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Mourning Dove 3
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 2
Pileated Woodpecker 2
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 12
American Crow 6
Purple Martin 2
Tree Swallow 10
Carolina Chickadee 7
Tufted Titmouse 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
Brown-headed Nuthatch 7
Marsh Wren 1
Carolina Wren 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Eastern Bluebird 22
American Robin 9
Northern Mockingbird 1
Pine Warbler 11
Yellow-rumped Warbler 7
Chipping Sparrow 28
White-throated Sparrow 1
Vesper Sparrow 30
Swamp Sparrow 4
Eastern Towhee 6
Northern Cardinal 8
Eastern Meadowlark 120
Red-winged Blackbird 47
Rusty Blackbird 1
Common Grackle 2

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Photos by: Charley Moore

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SIB Member Profile: Melanie & Rob Jerome

Rob & Melanie Jerome

Before Match.com, eHarmony and okCupid there were blind dates, and that’s how Melanie and Bob Jerome met more than thirty years ago. Both are Buckeyes and raised their two sons in Ohio. Rob had a career in data processing and programming. Melanie’s nursing and business degrees coalesced into a fulfilling position as a case management supervisor which she still does remotely from home.

Rob’s father was an outdoors man and imparted that avocation to him along with a familiarity of birds. Being the only boy in the family no doubt helped to build their bond. Melanie was self-taught when she wanted to learn more about the birds that visited the couple’s backyard in Ohio.

They share their love of nature and chose the best of Lowcountry living with their villa at Creek Watch. They look out over Sam’s Creek and the bountiful marsh leading up to the Atlantic; wildlife abounds. Continue reading “SIB Member Profile: Melanie & Rob Jerome”

Join SIB for a Global Bird Count for The Year of the Bird

The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place worldwide, February 16 to 19

New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON—The 21st Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will take place February 16 to 19—in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches. This global event provides an opportunity for bird enthusiasts to contribute important bird population data that help scientists see changes over the past 21 years. To participate, bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org.
The Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) has scheduled five events over two of the days to support the GBBC efforts.  Please sign up to join us!  Free for SIB members and children 12 and under.
  •  Sunday February 18, 2018:  Great Backyard Bird Count
    – Equestrian Center / Maintenance Area – 8:00 AM
    – North Beach – (High Tide 9:46am) – 10:00 AM
    – Palmetto Lake – 2:00 PM * Plus a Special Kids Program *
    – Jenkin’s Point – 3:30 PM

  • Monday February 19, 2018:  Great Backyard Bird Count on the Golf Course
    – Ocean Winds Golf Course – 9:00 AM

“The 2018 GBBC again promises to provide an important snapshot of bird occurrence in February,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “Some stories to watch in North America are mountain birds moving into lowland valleys and east to the Great Plains, crossbills on the move across much of the continent, and many eastern birds responding to extremes as the winter temperatures have oscillated between unseasonably warm and exceptionally cold.”

eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in community science,” says Dr. Gary Langham (@GaryLangham), vice president and chief scientist for the National Audubon Society. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”

In 1998, during the first GBBC, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2017. Over the four days of the count, an estimated 240,418 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 181,606 bird checklists reporting 6,259 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.

To learn more about what scientists discovered the past 21 years and how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, visit birdcount.org. The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.The 21st GBBC is additionally notable because it is the February call-to-action for the Year of the Bird, a 12-month celebration of birds to raise awareness of how people can help birds by taking simple actions each month. The Year of the Bird is led by National Geographic, the National Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 participating organizations. Learn more about Year of the Bird at www.birdyourworld.org.

Downy Woodpecker

Female Downy Woodpecker – Kathy Woolsey

The stillness of the morning is broken by the high pitched, yet soft whinny of what sounds like a miniature pony.  Our smallest woodpecker has an unmistakable vocalization. In my early days of bird watching, I had a difficulty telling the calls of one woodpecker from another. Most woodpeckers have a rapid series of calls which sound like laughter and so it is with the little Downy Woodpecker.  I remember watching a Downy Woodpecker with some other birders and one of them turned to me and said, “Doesn’t it sound like a miniature pony whinnying?” Ever since then I have had no problem recognizing the Downy’s whinny call. Downy Woodpeckers also have a soft single “peek” call note. Woodpeckers do not have songs like many other birds. Rather they are the percussion section of the garden sound track.

The Downy Woodpecker is our smallest woodpecker. It is a common visitor to bird feeders and like all woodpeckers loves eating suet and peanut butter. In the winter, they are often found foraging with other small garden birds such as Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatches and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Male Downy Woodpecker – Ed Konrad

The Downy Woodpecker has a reputation as a diligent forager. They often start at the top of a tree on the smaller branches and work their way around the limb slowly moving down the tree. Sometime they start on the trunk and move out slowly to very small branches. They check every loose piece of bark and every crevasse for insects. Their diet is 75% tree eating insect such as borers, carpenter ants, caterpillars and beetles. They thrive in young forests and orchards where other large woodpeckers do not venture. They have a very long barbed tongue to reach deep in borer holes to pluck out insects. They are considered the friend of the orchardist and tree farmer because they consume so many tree damaging insects. With their small pointed bill, they do very little damage to trees.

Downy Woodpeckers can be found in any type of forest from Miami to Fairbanks in 49 states. They forage in trees, shrubs, and tall weeds. Nest cavities are usually made in limbs with dead or diseased wood. Nest holes are 1 ½ inches wide and round. Where trees are few and far between, they will nest in old fence posts and bluebird boxes.

Early last spring, I noticed the opening of the bluebird box had been enlarged. I set up a wildlife camera on a tripod a few feet away and soon discovered a female Downy was the guilty party. She did not stay long and moved to another nest site. I do not know if my presence made her leave the box or maybe she found some fault with the old Bluebird box.

Keep an eye on trees in your garden this winter; with no leaves it should be easy to spot some of our common woodpeckers.   

They enjoy suet/peanut butter cakes along with sunflower seeds and other seeds in the winter.

Article submitted by Kathy Woolsey
Photographs by Kathy Woolsey & Ed Konrad

Winter Backyard Birding on Loblolly

SIB’s Backyard Birding at Lee Hurd’s Home on Loblolly Lane.

This past Saturday, seven SIB members braved a brisk morning with temperature hovering around 40 degrees for our second Backyard Birding event at the home of Lee Hurd on Loblolly Lane.  Our first visit was in the heat of July, so it was interesting to view the different species found during our cold winter!

What bird has the nickname “Butter-butt?”

On Saturday, the group observed the 18 species listed below, ten of which were not seen last summer.  Can you identify twelve of those birds in the slide show below? (Answers are below)

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Thank you Lee for hosting us again! Thank you Dean for the great photos!  Thank you Russ, Dean and Christina for “leading” this SIB learning together event!

Be sure to visit our website to view our upcoming birding activities and sign up to let us know you will join us!

  • Hooded Merganser  1 (C)
  • Anhinga  2 (G)
  • Brown Pelican  1 (B) *
  • Black Vulture  1
  • Bald Eagle  1
  • Mourning Dove  3 *
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  1 *
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1 (A)
  • Blue Jay  3 (I) *
  • Carolina Chickadee  4 (K) *
  • Tufted Titmouse  5 (E) *
  • Carolina Wren  1 (H) *
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2 (F)
  • Northern Mockingbird  2
  • Pine Warbler  2 (D)
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler  18 (J) – Also known as a “Butter Butt”
  • Northern Cardinal  2 (L) *
  • House Finch  1 

* Designates species seen at this location July 2017

SIB Flies into 3rd Year with The Center of Birds of Prey

Two year old Spectacle Owl – Valerie Doane

’Twas a four-course celebration on this second anniversary of the initial Seabrook Island Birders members’ meeting in 2016. There was a migration (birding term) of SIBers and guests into The Lake House for a sold out event with 140 attendees — the first of five SIB evening programs scheduled for 2018. The first course attraction (an activity comparable to the current flow of American Robins stripping trees of red berries on the Island) was an extensive array of cookies, cakes, and carrots which could be washed down with wine.    

This was followed by Charley Moore, outgoing chairman of the SIB Executive Committee, initiating a brief annual business meeting. The 2018 Executive Committee members were noted as well as the proposed slate of committee officers. By motion and apparent unanimous voice vote, Chair Dean Morr, Vice Chair Nancy Brown, Treasurer Judy Morr,  Secretary Melanie Jerome, and Chair Emeritus Charley Moore were elected.  Dean Morr then recognized and thanked those who were leaving the Committee — Donna Lawrence, Charles Russo, Lydia McDonald, Flo Foley, and Marcia Hider. Following comments about the upcoming SIB birding events, he presented Charley Moore with a gift certificate recognizing his SIB co-founding efforts and two years of excellent leadership.

Stephen Schabel, Director of Education at The Center for BIrds of Prey, speaking to 140 SIB members and guests – Glen Cox

Now for the entree. Stephen Schabel, Director of Education at the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw was introduced for the evening’s presentation. Among his opening comments he said that changes in the global environment, whether it be of climate, human activity, or habitat, tends to affect our birding population first. Birds cannot effect what happens, but they must adapt to those changes or perish. The list of those species which are extinct is long and many more are currently endangered. Then he began his introductions of the five caged birds which he had brought with him.  

Stephen Schabel with the Harris Hawk – Glen Cox

The first was a Harris Hawk — a bird native to the Southwest and Mexico, but this one had been born in captivity. He noted, as the bird was flying around the room, the typical hawk characteristics of grasping feet (talons), curved beak with overbite, and bi-molecular eyesight. The eyesight is ten times better than that which we enjoy as humans. Female hawks are usually larger than the males and often there is little difference in coloration of feather between males and females. In response to a question, Stephen said all birds have extremely high metabolism and must consume between ten and twenty percent of their body weight in food daily. For this bird, the food in the wild is small mammals. The hawk was encouraged to return to his cage when his dinner, a small dead chicken, was tossed inside.

American Kestrel held by Stephen Schabel – Patricia Schaefer

The second bird, an American Kestrel (formerly known as a sparrow hawk) is the smallest (about four ounces) of our falcons. The three native falcons — also the Merlin and the Peregrine — are very colorful and are fast fliers.  Males and females are similarly colored. The Kestrel often perches on utility lines in areas with open fields as they search for the primary food of insects. That requires good eyesight. Because of their small size, they are also subject to being prey. Cooper’s Hawks will take Kestrels. As part of their protective camouflage, the Kestrel has two black spots, simulating eyes, on the back of their head. Amazing what Mother Nature provides to protect her own. What she cannot do, however, is assure a continuing habitat of open fields for feeding. Therefore, this species is declining in numbers. The Kestrel never left Steve’s hand.

The Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (a cousin of our Turkey and Black Vultures) was led to the stand and eyed the audience. These birds grow to full size in seven weeks, but are not mature adults until three years of age  — a long adolescent period. Vultures are world-wide scavengers whose diet is road kill and the remains of creatures which have otherwise met their demise. Feathers on their head would get in the way of their food gathering habit, so Mother Nature provided that they have no feathers on their heads. Ugly, but appropriate. Vultures have an exceptional sense of smell which is essential in their search for food. Our bird was in flight around the room and then found a roosting spot on the edge of one of the ceiling light fixtures. It took Stephen several minutes and two or three different tricks to get him down to be recaged. It was mentioned that vultures in general are not doing well because they are apparently being killed by lead poisoning and other ingested items. We should appreciate them. They are one of nature’s cleaners

Our fourth visitor was a Spectacle Owl which is a native of South America. Owls are nocturnal hunters with special eyesight who tilt their heads to make full use of the cones and rods within the eyes in their search of small mammals. All owls fly silently due to the particular feather patterns on their wings and thus are able to sneak up on their prey. This bird had free flight around the room and many felt the movement of air as he swooped near their heads in flying from one stand to another. Stephen recalled as he saw our poster advertising the event that this same owl was just a few weeks old on her first visit to Seabrook Island nearly two years ago. As he caged the owl, Stephen reminded us that he had said he brought five birds, but had shown only four.  

Release of the reabilitated Barred Owl by Stephen Schabel – Glen Cox

The fifth bird represented our fourth course — dessert. A young Barred Owl had been brought to the Center after being injured when hit by a car. The bird’s extensive rehab had progressed to a point where it could be released back into the wild. Stephen had brought her with him for that purpose. We were invited to go outside, toward Palmetto Lake, while he retrieved the bird from the Live Oak Hall closet. When he returned, the bird was cradled in his arm and covered with a towel or small blanket. After a few comments during which he invited youngsters in the group to come closer and touch the owl’s tail feathers for good luck, he moved toward the Lake and forward of the anxious crowd. Then he uncovered the Barred Owl and held it aloft.  The bird was motionless for a bit as if meditating. Then, ever so silently, she joined the Seabrook Island community of birds.  

Awesome experience and a wonderful way to complete a fabulous evening of birding.

Submitted by George Haskins
Photos by Glen Cox, Valerie Doane, Charley Moore & Patricia Schaefer

Standing Room Only!

Stephen Schabeld, Director of Education from The Center for Birds of Prey, demonstrating the flying skills of the Harris Hawk

What a fabulous evening we had last night when 140 SIB members and guests joined us to learn about The Center for Birds of Prey and spend time with four beautiful birds and witness the release of a rehabilitated owl behind the Seabrook Island Lake House.

Watch for the full article and photos of the event that will be published in a couple days.  We will also share the Facebook Live video.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, be sure to complete our SIB 2018 Survey!

Sign-up for our upcoming SIB Bird activities, including backyard birding (limited walking), walks and rides in a golf cart around the golf course!