SINHG Visits Kiawah Banding Station

Eight Seabrook Island Birder (SIB) members were among the 12 lucky registrants for the Seabrook Island Natural History Group’s (SINHG) fall trip to visit the Kiawah Island Bird Banding on Cap’n Sams Spit.  As the trip description detailed, every August, Aaron Given from the Town of Kiawah Island sets up twenty-five 40’ mist nets on Captain Sam’s Spit where, over the next couple of months, he collects birds for banding, measuring, and weighing. Our trip on October 1, was the peak migration time for all sorts of songbirds including vireos, warblers, catbirds, chickadees, etc.

Our group gathered at Beachwalker Park and enjoyed Sanderlings on the beach at sunrise as we walked towards the Spit.  Aaron Given met us and took us along the meandering paths beside the mist nets.  He removed some birds from the nets as we went and some of us were lucky to hold the bags of the captured birds.

Bagged birds awaiting processing

Once we got to their workstation, Aaron explained the process as each bird was identified, banded, measured, weighed, aged and studied for fat content of each bird.  This data was all recorded in a ledger that would subsequently be entered in a database and shared globally.

While we were there, the following species were identified: Gray Catbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo.

Attaching Band

For banding, a metal ring with a unique number is attached to each bird’s leg.  This is done with a special pliers and the unique number becomes the bird’s “name” in the database.  The metal rings come in different sizes to not disturb the birds.  At the nets, Aaron’s team efficiently pre-sorts the birds as they are placed in the bags which allows the same size bands to be used consecutively.

Measuring Wing

A special ruler is used to measure the length of the bird’s wing. 






Weigh-in

The birds don’t seem to mind being put head down into a PVC pipe to allow the bird to be weighed.  Different PVC pipe sizes are used based upon the size of the bird.

To age the bird, the naturalists examine primarily the wing feathers.  A hatch-year’s feathers are gradually replaced with sturdier feathers.  By examining the feathers, the naturalists can tell which feathers have been replaced and then know if they are hatch-year or after.  If the feathers don’t provide a definitive answer, the head can be misted with water to see how extensive the scull has developed.

The birds can consume a great deal of fat in a single night of migration.  The amount of fat on a bird would vary based upon how much was gained prior to migration, any special conditions the bird faced during migration (wind, weather, etc.).  While they are resting on Kiawah during migration, they eat berries and insects to regain fat to continue their journey.  Some birds may be on Kiawah for only a day, others for a few nights and some for all winter.  To identify the level of fat on a bird, the naturalist blows on the birds chest.  The bird’s skin is rather translucent under the feathers so by blowing on the feathers, the skin is seen and through it, the degree of fat, rated 0 to 5.

Once all these studies are done, the birds are released to eat, gain weight and continue their journey.  If they should fly into the nets again on the same day, they are released immediately rather than subject them to more stress.  If a bird is “recaptured”, its number is recorded and new data is gathered to ascertain how the bird’s health has changed since its previous capture.

Article by Judy Morr and photos by Dean Morr

Learning Together-Crooked Oaks Golf Course

Learning Together on Golf Course-Crooked Oaks Golf CourseMonday, October 18, 2021 8:30am-10:30am
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: 20
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

Each Monday one of the Golf Courses is closed, so join us for a morning of birding by RIDING in golf carts for at least 9-holes on Ocean Winds golf course. 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 Great Crested Flycatchers, Mississippi Kites, Eastern Kingbirds or some of our other summer residents may also have arrived.

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/. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please complete the information below to register no later than Friday October 15, 2021. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Sunday, October 17th.

Heading back to the golf carts so we can travel to the next stopping point. (Jackie Brooks)

SIB’s Article for the October 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 October 2021 SIB article. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page on the left side of the centerfold! The stories this month feature:

  • Why Birdwatching? You hear a lot about it, so what’s all the fuss about? If you aren’t a birder, you may just realize why becoming one can be an exciting new hobby after reading Aija Konrads article and viewing the photos by her husband Ed.
  • SIB’s Shorebird Steward Program including a QR code (this Quick Response code is a bar code which will open a webpage when a phone camera is focused on it.)

Thanks again to author Aija Konrad and photographer Ed Konrad for their contributions this month. Ed also serves as our graphic designer!

It was a great excursion to Fort Moultrie

On Sunday, September 26, a lucky group of SIB members enjoyed a fabulous morning birding at Fort Moultrie. Craig Watson led the group and helped us identify 62 species, only some of which are mentioned below.

Before we left the parking lot, we observed a Red-headed Woodpecker, Chimney Swifts and a first of the season Northern Flicker.

Roseatte Spoonbill – Susan Maarkham

As we walked around the “field” behind Battery Jasper, we saw Bobolinks, Prairie Warblers, Palm Warblers, Common Yellow-throated Warbers, an American Kestrel, and a Merlin. A bright pink Roseatte Spoonbill flew over which is unusual for this location. A Red-tail Hawk sat on the spire of Stella Maris Catholic Church undeterred by the ringing bells.

Summer Tanager – Susan Markham

As we were walking into the Sullivan Island Nature Trail, two Osprey and a Peregrine Falcon flew over. A Swainson’s Thrush was hopping in the brush. Soon we saw a gorgeous Summer Tanager up in a tree. As we continued on the trail, we were able to get good views of American Redstarts, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a Worm-eating Warbler.

Northern Waterthrush ready to be released – Susan Markham

As we continued along the path, we encountered the Sullivan Island banding station. A Northern Waterthrush had just been netted so the group was able to see it being measured, weighed and banded.

As we left the Nature Trail, our walk was officially over but a few of us were having too much fun to quit. We went back along the tree line behind Battery Jasper. A Red-tail Hawk was perched, then swooped, then perched again, obviously looking for lunch. We also saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a Yellow Warbler and a House Wren.

All who participated agreed this would be a place we want to visit again.

2021 SC Audubon’s Coastal Stewardship Report

2021 has been an exciting year for birds on Seabrook’s beaches!

  • We welcomed back 4000-6000 Red Knots
  • We have watched American Oystercatchers successfully raise 2 chicks
  • There was the big announcement of 20,000 Whimbrel roosting on Deveaux Bank
  • AND Seabrook Island Birders Shorebird Steward Program completed our first full year.

Our Shorebird Steward program is part of a network of steward organizations that protect shorebirds during their migration and monitor nesting sites all along the South Carolina coast.

Last week, South Carolina Audubon released their 2021 Coastal Stewardship report. The report compiles the experiences of stewards in 10 communities from Huntington Beach State Park in the north to Little Capers island in the south as they educated beachgoers and monitored nesting sites of Threatened and Endangered birds.

SC Audubon leads many of these sites and while our program, like Kiawah’s, is autonomous, we receive valuable training and advice from Nolan Schillerstrom, SC Audubon’s Coastal Program Associate and Alyssa Zebrowski, the Seasonal Coastal Stewardship Coordinator. Our other sponsors are SCDNR, USFWS, the Town of Seabrook and SIPOA. 

Please enjoy reading the report. If you are a Shorebird Steward here on Seabrook, appreciate how your efforts fit into the larger picture. If you aren’t a steward yet, please come join us next spring. Don’t worry if you can’t identify plovers from sanderlings- shorebirds are challenging and we all learn something every day. We’ll announce our goals and training for 2022 in February.

All shorebird & seabird populations are in decline and your help is urgently needed.

Submitted by Mark Andrews

Front cover of report, white background, black text written, Coastal Stewardship 2021 Report

Beyond Our Backyard-Fort Lamar Preserve

Monday, October 4,2021
Location: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool: 6:30 am
Meet at Fort Lamar: 7:15am (Cathy Miller to meet everyone there)
Max: 12
Cost: free to members, $5 per guest

REGISTER NOW

Cathy Miller will lead the Seabrook Island birders to a James Island Birding hotspot, Fort Lamar Heritage Preserve, for a trip targeting fall migrants Monday, October 4. Fort Lamar is a small SC Department of Natural Resources preserve that was the location of one of the most significant battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Seccessionville. This site is highly favored by Fall migrants so be prepared for warbler neck. Some advance preparation in the form of neck stretches and review of Fall plumage of warblers is recommended as all eyes are needed when these birds bounce around the canopy above us. Some species that have been seen here during the months of September and October include: Red-eyed vireo, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Black-and-white warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Veery, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. But this spot usually reveals its treasures to those who are patient and observant. The eBird list of previous sightings goes on and on.

For those wishing to carpool, we will meet at 6:30 am at Seabrook Island Real Estate. Cathy Miller will meet us at Fort Lamar at 7:15 am. Be sure to bring binoculars, camera, bird guide, hats, sunscreen, water, and snacks. We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated. Please be aware that there are no facilities on site and you may want to plan a restroom stop at one of the Harris Teeters (Maybank & Folly Roads or Oak Point & Folly Roads) en route to the preserve.

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.

Once you are a member, please register no later than Saturday, October 2,2021. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Ask SIB: Which spotting scopes for birding?

Question: I would like to give my daughter a “spotter” for Christmas. Any recommendations of best brands, etc.?
Thanks,

Lee Hurd, SIB Member

While binoculars are great for viewing birds “up-close”, a spotting scope will allow you to find and distinguish field marks on more “distant birds.” You will also be able to view plumage you cannot see through binoculars on “close-up” birds. Some spotting scopes can be adapted to attach your smartphone or digital camera.

Spotting Scopes are not astronomy telescopes; they are medium range telescopes. They are either “fixed” magnification where you change eyepieces or single zoom eyepieces with magnification power, usually between 15x and 60x. Zoom eyepieces are recommended for birding as they allow scanning at low power and a convenient shift to higher power to view details. Make certain your spotting scope is waterproof.

Quality spotting scopes are made with HD (high density) or ED (extra-low dispersion) glass. These allow better brightness and image clarity over standard glass. Light gathering capacity is indicated by the size of the lens furthest from the eyepiece, usually between 50mm and 100mm. Larger “objective lenses” provide brighter images but are slightly heavier to carry. Like most binoculars, choose a spotting scope with adjustable “eye relief” mechanism for eyeglass wearers.

Spotting scopes are configured for either straight thru viewing or 45-degree angled eyepieces. Straight-thru viewing is preferred by people who wish to “stand up straight” when viewing and easily locate and follow a bird. Birders, however, generally favor 45-degree eyepieces as they allow for shorter tripods (more stable) and are more convenient if you are sharing with a group of people of different heights. Look for a rigid, sturdy tripod with flip-locks on the legs to adjust easily on uneven ground. The importance of the right tripod should not be ignored when making your decisions.

In summary for birding, look for a zoom eyepiece lens and a “objective lens” of at least 60mm to provide a bright image; 85mm if you plan on attaching your smartphone or digital camera. A spotting scope with these specifications will generally weigh around 4lbs. I researched Vortex 20-60×85 scopes online and found a good quality scope will cost around $500. If you are willing to spend $1,000-$1,600, you can purchase an excellent quality spotting scope. Your tripod choice needs to be light enough to carry but sturdy enough to withstand wind conditions and not move. With the spotting scope and tripod, you will be carrying between 8lbs to 12lbs of equipment.

Since this is a major purchase, spend some time on the internet researching your options for both scopes and tripods. A Google search on “Spotting Scopes for Birding” will find not only features to consider but vendors and makes available. Just a few are:

Seabrook Island Birders has a donated Leupold 15-45×60 straight thru viewing spotting scope that you can borrow and try out. While out birding with others, ask to look thru their scopes and perhaps volunteer to carry their scopes and tripod around to get a feel for the weight of the combined unit you will be carrying.

Submitted by: Dean Morr

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
Length:  7″; Wingspan: 13″; Weight: 1.1 oz.

Eastern Bluebirds - Charley Moore
Eastern Bluebirds – Charley Moore

Slightly smaller than its cousin the Robin, this bird is distinctive in its rusty red colored breast and white belly with a sky blue head, back and tail. The female shares the rusty red breast and white belly but is grayer with faint blue tails and wings. The song is a three part song that sounds like chur-lee chur chur-lee.

You will see these beautiful Eastern Bluebirds commonly perched on mailboxes alongside the roads of Seabrook Island and in the surrounding tree branches. They like open woodlands, meadows and fields and are year round inhabitants of this area. This was not always the case due to competition from other birds for their nesting holes and also the occasional cold spells that we have had that killed them off in large numbers. Their population declined by more than 90 % in the 20th century but thanks to efforts from bird lovers who have placed many bird houses in the area, their population is returning. There is also an increase in their population in winter when migrants from the north return to this area. If you are thinking of putting a birdhouse up, you should do this in early May to attract these migrants to stay. When you locate the birdhouse, try to keep it a discrete distance from other bird feeders so there is less activity to scare off new nesting birds.

Bluebirds enjoy a peanut butter corn meal mixture but really love live mealy worms which you can buy from Wild Birds Unlimited. They should be placed in an open bowl type feeder.

Their breeding habits are monogamous and they breed in pairs and small groups. The incubation period is 12 to 14 days and the young stay in the nest for 15 to 20 days. They usually brood 2 to 3 times a year with typically 2 to 7 light blue or white eggs.

Did you know that we have a Bluebird Society on Seabrook Island? It is run by Melanie Jerome with many volunteers. 71 bluebird boxes on 4 “Bluebird trails” around the island. There are boxes on the front and back nine of the Crooked Oaks course and the front nine of Ocean Winds. The other boxes are around the Lake House.  The bluebird nesting season has ended for 2021. We had 309 eggs with 259 bluebird hatchlings. 253 fledged.  That is a 97% fledge rate. These stats are reported to the Environmental Committee and the SC Bluebird Society. If you are interested in joining the Bluebird volunteers next spring, please go out to Seabrookislandbirders.org to let us know. No prior experience is necessary to join either group, just a love of birds and nature.

Article submitted by:  Ron Schildge, resubmitted from 2016/07/31
Photographs provided by:  Bob Hider & Charley Moore

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.

Watch: To the Ends of the Earth: Birds of East Africa

Do you love birds and nature? Are you interested to learn more about the birds of Africa? Recently, the Seabrook Island Birders offered a movie matinee found on PBS called, “To the Ends of the Earth: Birds of East Africa. All of the participants watching this one-hour documentary agreed it was spectacular!

Read the description and take time to stream this program!

Introduced by esteemed conservationist Jane Goodall and narrated by National Geographic’s Bill Jones, this documentary focuses on what humanity has in common with other species. Wildlife photographer Todd Gustafson captures stories of competition, courtship, family, hunting and flight to illustrate the hidden life of East African birds.

To the Ends of the Earth: Birds of East Africa is a local public television program presented by CPTV and distributed nationally by American Public Television.

Watch Recorded Program “All About Vultures”

Vultures have often been feared and reviled since they are in the business of death. But these intelligent and surprisingly clean birds have a crucial role to play in human health and cultural history around the world. Learn about their significance in history, culture, and ecology with Jen Tyrell, Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator, Audubon South Carolina! 

If you missed the live presentation of this program on September 15, 2021, you can now view the recorded event! As always, Jen educated our members in a fun and interesting way, sharing her knowledge about “Vulture Culture,” differences between the New World vs Old World vultures, their adaptations, misconceptions and reality, the ecology of vultures and which vultures are in peril and why.

Don’t miss out on watching this hour long program! You will truly have a new respect for these fascinating birds!!!

Meet the Speaker:

Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell, Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator

Jen is a Master Bird Bander and an expert in bird biology, with a B.S. from Coastal Carolina and a Master’s degree from the College of Charleston. Before joining Audubon, Jen worked with Wild Birds Unlimited and the Center for Birds of Prey. Today, Jen spreads the word about bird-friendly communities and the benefits of native plants, and also manages bird banding and Painted Bunting research.