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

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Introducing: Ask SIB

SIB would like to introduce a new feature called “Ask SIB.” Please email us your bird related questions along with any photos. One of our experts, including our resident ornithologist Carl Helms, will research the question and provide an answer. We will also publish on our blog to educate all our members!  Below is our first “Ask SIB.”

Dear SIB,

We have had this bird at our feeder and wondering if it is a mutant or some other kind of chickadee. The white on his tail and breast and back is really white, it is not just blown out. He is a very fast flyer and gets chased by the other birds but comes to the feeder a lot. I don’t think we have seen him the last day or two but was there pre storm and during the storm. Not great pictures but I wanted you to see the white. What do you think? 

Patricia Schaefer

Hi Patricia

Thanks for your question and photos.  I suspect this is a leucistic Carolina Chickadee.  They can be nearly all white to patches of white.  It is the same type of situation as our piebald deer, but different from Albinism.  Below is a more detailed description of bird color variation from the Project Feederwatch website.

Thanks for sending your question!

Nancy

ALBINISM AND LEUCISM

Albinistic Rock Pigeon by Maria Corcacas, Middletown, New York

Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin (but not other pigments). Some colors come from pigments other than melanin, such as carotenoids. Albinism only applies to an absence of melanin; consequently, it is possible for a bird to be albinistic and still have color, although most consider true albinism to be an absence of all pigment.

Leucistic Dark-eyed Junco, by Gary Mueller, Rolla, Missouri

Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin and other pigments from being deposited normally on feathers, resulting in pale or muted colors on the entire bird.

Albinistic birds have pink eyes because without melanin in the body, the only color in the eyes comes from the blood vessels behind the eyes. It is possible for a bird to be completely white and still have melanin in the body, as when a white bird has dark eyes. In this case the bird would be considered leucistic because the mutation only applies to depositing melanin in the feathers, not the absence of melanin in the body.

Pied Northern Cardinal by Anne Page, Broad Run, Virginia
A third type of mutation that results in pied birds–birds that have white patches–is called partial albinism by some and leucism by others. The white patches are caused by an absence of pigment in some feathers.

Carolina Chickadee with white tail feathers, probably from a close call with a predator. Feathers likely will be replaced with feathers of a normal color during next regular molt. Photo by Vincent Smith, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
To further confuse things, occasionally a bird will lose feathers in a close call with a predator. When this happens the new feathers sometimes grow in white and then change back to the normal color at the next regular molt. This kind of white coloring looks like leucism but is not and most frequently happens in the tail, causing a bird that lost its tail feathers to a predator to have an all white tail.

Source:  Project Feederwatch – Color Variants (https://feederwatch.org/learn/unusual-birds/)

Gathering at a Salt Marsh

Attached is a shot I took on Monday of Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, and what appears to be a Snowy Egret, gathered together around a salt marsh pond near the Stono River just north of Johns Island.

Submitted by Shaun Sullivan

Spoonbills, White Ibis & a Snowy Egret enjoying the salt marsh near the Stono River – Shaun Sullivan

Have you seen this Great Egret?

While photographing wading birds in our beautiful marshes, I noticed a Great Egret with a transmitter about the size of a small TV remote on its back and a metal band with numbers on its left leg. Have you seen this bird?

Great Egret with GPS transmitter on Seabrook Island – Glen Cox

I posted a couple pictures of the bird on NextDoor and received a response suggesting this was the Great Egret named Edward who I learned is tagged and being monitored by the New Jersey Audubon Society.

This began a search for the origin of this bird. I contacted the NJ Audubon folks and learned their bird “Edward” was hanging out at Staten Island and had been in the area for a couple of weeks during the time period I spotted the egret. They did say he winters in the Hilton Head area so maybe we’ll see him this fall.

My research took me to organizations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland and Florida. All of the personnel I spoke with were more than generous with their time in helping to track down who might have tagged and banded this egret. 

I was referred to Dr Kenneth Myer, Executive Director of Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Gainesville Florida. I provided him with the pictures and the partial band number. Dr Meyer responded and stated the bird is possibly one of the 80 Great Egrets banded and tagged in Louisiana and South Carolina from 2 September 2010 to 23 February 2011.  The birds were banded and tagged to gauge effects of the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig spill that occurred on 20 April 2010.  The partial band number I provided matched the lot numbers of bands used for this group of egrets.  Dr Myer stated the GPS-enabled satellite transmitter appears to be the same model used for the study. In order to gain more information about this individual egret, Dr Meyer will need the complete band number.  

I last saw the egret just this week in the marsh nearest Deer Pointe and Marsh Gate Drive. The challenge now is to get the remaining numbers of the band so we can learn more information from this bird. 

If anyone else has photographs of this bird, please contact me or let SIB know so we can close the loop!

And if you are interested to learn more about migrating birds and how scientists are tracking them to learn more, we hope you will attend our SIB Evening Program with Dr. Sidney Gauthreaux this Wednesday night at 7:00 pm at the Lake House on Seabrook Island.  Click here to learn more and register!

Article & Photo Submitted by:  Glen Cox

Meet Dr. Sidney Gauthreaux at SIB’s Evening Program on Wednesday September 27

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 –Sidney Gauthreaux: New Ways of Studying Bird Migration

Registration & Social:  7:00 pm
Program Starts:  7:30 pm
Location:  Live Oak Hall at the Lake House
Members FREE and Guests $5 Donation to SIB
Purchase Raffle tickets to win a new Bird Feeder for your home!
To help us plan for the number of chairs, snacks and wine, please register now!
(see below for additional information)

 

“New Technology for Studying Bird Migration”

Satellite tracking of large migratory birds has been around for a few decades, but within the last decade new technological advancements have enabled the tracking of small migratory birds. In this presentation I will review results of migration studies using the new technology to track individual birds (miniature GIS devices, light measuring geolocators, Avian NanoTags and the MOTUS network) as well as the detection of large scale movements of migrating birds with recent technological upgrades to Doppler weather surveillance radar.

About Dr. Gauthreaux …

Dr. Gauthreaux retired from Clemson University where he was a faculty member from 1970-2006 and taught ornithology, animal behavior, and behavioral ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences. He still maintains a research presence at Clemson. He was a part-time employee of GeoMarine, Inc. (Plano, Texas) as Senior Scientist in the area of Remote Sensing and Technology from 2006-2012, and currently works as an independent consultant. He is also a part-time faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where he works on the assessment of avian radars with Dr. Edwin E. Herricks’s group.

Research emphasis on bird migration throughout the United States and particularly across the Gulf of Mexico using combinations of radar and direct visual techniques to study the characteristics and geographical patterns. Research in applied ornithology includes

1) studies to reduce instances of aircraft colliding with migrating birds
2) assessing the risks of migrating birds colliding with man-made structures such as transmission lines, towers, and wind turbines
3) the attraction of migrating birds at night to different types of lighting on towers and other structures (e.g., tall buildings and offshore platforms).

Below is a YouTube production with Dr. Gauthreaux speaking about our neighboring ACE Basin.

A great week of North Beach birding!

Article by Aija Konrad
Photos by Ed Konrad

Beach birding is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates…”you never know what you’re gonna get!” It can be a feast, with too many birds to count, or famine, with a long walk to the end of the spit and few results. This week has been a gluttonous feast!

1) North Beach at high tide – Terns, Skimmers, Gulls – Ed Konrad
2) Tri-colored Heron with good catch, North Beach low tide – Ed Konrad

Our favorite time to bird North Beach is at high tide and as the tide falls. (Photo 1) The birds are usually gathered in a high tide roost, rather than far out on sand bars. We observed large numbers of terns, skimmers, pelicans, and gulls on the North Beach shore at the tip of the turn toward Captain Sam’s. Also at low tide on North Beach, Tri-colored Heron often fish at the tip of the inlet as the tide pools form. (Photo 2) Although we did not see the Reddish Egret this time, you can often it see here.

The protected area behind the yellow signs on North Beach had large numbers of Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings and peeps roosting in the dry sand. There are always a few Piping Plovers mixed in. (Photo 3) We also saw a great assortment of resting birds on the back side along the old inlet, towards Captain Sam’s mouth. (Photo 4) All of these areas are among our favorite spots to bird North Beach.

5) Piping Plovers on North Beach, 3TV banded this summer on Fire Island National Seashore NY – Ed Konrad

Since the Piping Plovers have begun to return for their winter migration, we’ve spotted them all along the shore anywhere from to the right of the Property Owner boardwalk #1 to the far end of North Beach. (Photo 5) Ed and I have been searching for banded birds and submitting photos to researchers for the Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast breeding regions. So far this season we have found and submitted 8 banded birds. We’ve learned these have migrated from Fire Island NY, Rhode Island and NJ beaches, from islands north of Nova Scotia, and from the Great Lakes. The researchers appreciate updates on where their birds have been spotted, and it’s exciting for us to know where our Pipers are coming from and their journeys!

6 Piping Plover hatched and banded on North Manitou Island summer 2017 – Ed Konrad

The cherry on top of the cake was learning from Alice Van Zoeren, our researcher friend with the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, that a Piping Plover we sighted had hatched on North Manitou Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes MI this summer. Alice banded and watched over this chick, and was excited her chick had made its way to Seabrook! (Photo 6)

Black Skimmers are gathering in large numbers, over 200 each day. (Photo 7) Caspian Tern numbers are growing with 8 spotted. We had eight Marbled Godwits, and three Oystercatchers, including our resident U5. (Photo 8) We hit a bonanza with Black-bellied Plovers, over 70 on the edge of the old inlet, with some still showing black bellies! (Photo 9) An exciting addition on Tuesday was ten Red Knots…the first of the fall season for us. Two were still showing the remains of their rusty bellies. (Photo 10) Short-billed Dowitchers also made an appearance, as did Western and Least Sandpipers.

Warblers are also starting to come into the area, with Aaron Given having some great banding this week, including his first Canada Warbler for Kiawah banding station! His blog is outstanding (http://kiawahislandbanding.blogspot.com) and so much fun to follow, with some great pictures. We saw a few warbler species at Mingo Point on Monday…several Prairie’s, a Black-and white, and several American Redstarts. So far on Seabrook we have had Prairie, American Redstarts, Yellow-throated and a Northern Waterthrush. Palmetto Lake is a good place to look for them, as is the parking spot area at Six Ladies trail and the trail itself and the Bobcat dunes boardwalk. It can be challenging in the fall because there are no songs, bird colors are drab, but it’s a fun challenge. Mosquitos have been ferocious!

The night roost at Old Wharf Road at Jenkins Point has been crazy, with hundreds of egrets, herons, and ibis. The noise is quite a cacophony!!! I have not tried counting them yet…there are simply too many. Sadly, a dead deer is in the lagoon, adding a bad aroma!

So that’s the story for a week of fun birding. Keep your eyes and ears open…fall migration has begun!

(Editor’s note:  This article was written prior to Hurricane Irma, so as we all know, conditions and the environment are always changing.)

Solar Eclipse 2017 – How will Nature React?

Diagram showing the Earth-sun-moon geometry of a total solar eclipse. Not to scale: If drawn to scale, the Moon would be 30 Earth diameters away. The sun would be 400 times that distance. (credit: NASA.gov)

Hey everyone! Cross your fingers we have clear skies on Monday, August 21!!!  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the United States will experience a total solar eclipse from coast to coast for the first time in 99 years.  June 8, 1918, was the last time this occurred.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and Earth, blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow onto Earth. Keep in mind that the next total eclipse through the USA is on April 8, 2024, and crosses 13 states (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine), but will not be seen here on Seabrook Island.  We certainly struck it lucky this time, as those of us who will be on Seabrook Island are in the path of almost totality (99%).

Most of us understand what’s going to happen on August 21st, but animals have no idea as they don’t watch the news or read the papers. For animals, the eclipse could be a bewildering experience.  

During past eclipses, there have been observations of owls and bats emerging, cows returning to the barn, insects and frogs chirping as in their night time routines, some songbirds went silent and even some Egrets, Ibis and Geese getting so fooled they stop feeding and go to roost.  People have seen bees withdraw to their hives, gray squirrels running into their nests, and mosquitoes and midges starting their evening swarms.  

Did you know that during the 1994 solar eclipse in Mexico, observers found that colonial orb-weaving spiders dismantled their webs within one minute of totality and rebuilt them when the sun’s face was revealed.  Off the coast of Venezuela during a total eclipse in 2008, Brown Pelicans and Frigatebirds that had been busy foraging over the water before the eclipse left the bay 13 minutes before the totality and didn’t return until 12 minutes after the entire sun was revealed.  

Wild Birds Unlimited published these reactions by birds and wildlife that have been reported to occur during previous total eclipses:

Birds

  • Confused Crooners – Songbirds have been noted to decrease their singing as an eclipse progresses, often to a point of total silence during the maximum darkness of totality. Speculations is that the darkening sky triggers the birds’ night-time behaviors.
  • Out of Sync Singers – Observations show that some birds may also be confused by the re-emergence of the sun and a “dawn chorus” of bird song might be heard just as it would be during a morning sunrise.
  • Day or Night? – Numerous bird species have been reported to return to their night-time roosting locations as the total eclipse progresses. Starlings have been noted to return in large flocks to their roosts and display agitated behavior until the light returns to normal.
  • Night or Day? – Nocturnal birds such as owls, whip-poor-wills and nighthawks have been reported to either become active, take flight or call during total eclipses.
  • Fowl Rowel – Domestic fowl and pigeons have been observed to quickly return to their roosts or coops as the eclipse darkens the sky.
  • Savvy Shorebirds – Anecdotal observations seem to imply that in general, shorebirds seem to display very limited reactions to total solar eclipses.

Other Wildlife

  • Early Chirpers – Crickets have been widely observed to start “chirping” as the sky darkens and then fall silent upon the re-emergence of the sun. Katydids have also been reported to demonstrate this same behavior.
  • Silent Cicadas – Cicadas have been noted to end their shrill day-time calling and fall silent as the eclipse progresses.
  • Moving Mosquitos – During the darkest portions of an eclipse, mosquitos have been noted to emerge in mass.
  • Hustling Honeybees – Honeybees have been observed to return in swarms to their hives as the eclipse darkens.
  • Dream Weavers – Orb-weaving spiders, which generally re-weave their webs every night, have been observed to dismantle their old web during the darkness of an eclipse.
  • Busy Bats – Bats have been noted to emerge from their roost as the sky darkens and then return with the re-emergence of the sun.
  • Sly Skunks – Skunks, which are largely nocturnal, have been reported to come out and start foraging as it grows darker during an eclipse.
  • Sleepy Squirrels – Squirrels are reported to retreat to their nests during a total solar eclipse.

The California Academy of Sciences has launched a nationwide citizen scientist project, calling on participants to closely monitor the behavior of birds, animals and plants during the upcoming eclipse and record their observations using an application called iNaturalist. Because total solar eclipses don’t happen very often, there is little historical data.  Hopefully this year, many “citizen scientists” will observe their surroundings before, during and after the eclipse and document what they see and hear. Flo Foley and Nancy Brown, trained as Master Naturalists through the Charleston County Parks & Recreation program in 2016, will be volunteering to do just that at Caw Caw Monday afternoon. If you are interested in being a citizen scientist on Monday, visit www.iNaturalist.org to learn how you can document your observations of birds, animals and plants.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that we have clear skies on Monday to watch this rare astronomical event and observe how nature reacts!