Join SIB for Beyond your Backyard at Ft. Moultrie

Wednesday  October 05, 2022  8am -10am
Trip to Ft. Moultrie
Location:  Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool (7:00a)or can meet us at the Fort (1214 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482- park at Poe Avenue in the sand parking lot between Battery Jasper and Battery McCorkle)
Max: 12
Cost:  free to members, $5 per guest

Join us in a trip to Ft. Moultrie. This is a well known birding Hotspot among birders and fall migration will be in full swing. We may see many migrant birds passing through. It has many different habitats, including meadow/field, forest and shoreline. We are lucky enough to get Craig Watson to lead this activity.  Craig is a retired  Migratory Bird Biologist at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lives in Mt. Pleasant. He knows Ft. Moultrie very well when it comes to birding.

Ft. Moultrie is the first fort on Sullivan’s Island. It has been rebuilt 3 times since 1776 and played a significant role in the Civil War. Today Fort Moultrie has been restored to portray the major periods of its history. A visitor to the fort moves steadily backwards in time from the World War II Harbor Entrance Control Post to the site of the Palmetto-log fort of 1776. Tour of Ft. Moultrie will not be part of our birding activity, but if you drive there yourself, you are welcome to stay and also tour the fort. They are open 9a-5p and you will need to go to Visitor Center and purchase a $10 ticket. We will be birding the parimeter of the Fort before opening hours.

Be sure to bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, binoculars, camera and a scope if you have one.  

If you are not yet a SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/.

Once you are a member, please complete the information below to register no later than Monday, October 03, 2021.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior to the event.

REGISTER  

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Crows: American vs Fish

American CrowCorvus brachyrhynchos
Length:  17.5″; Wingspan: 39″; Weight: 16 oz.

Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Length:  15″; Wingspan: 36″; Weight: 10 oz.

Fish Crow & American Crow from Cornell Lab of Ornithology website
Fish Crow & American Crow from Cornell Lab of Ornithology website

Probably many people on Seabrook have no idea that there are two kinds of crows here. For most of us, a crow is a crow. Actually, there are two different species on the Island: The American Crow and the Fish Crow. They look so much alike that even the pros find it difficult to distinguish between them but there’s one fool-proof way.

Both crows are very big and black. In general, the Fish Crow is slightly smaller: its beak, its legs and overall. Their ranges of size overlap, however, and those differences are hard to establish in the field. So, size alone is not a safe way to differentiate them

An easier characteristic that is sometimes used to distinguish the two crows is their stance when they call. The Fish Crow often fluffs its feathers, particularly around its neck. The American Crow remains smooth. Note the two pictures below.

To be sure of an identification, however, you have to use your ears. Most people are familiar with the loud Caw-Caw.

The Fish Crow has a similar call, but it sounds as though he has a cold. It’s very nasal.  He also has a two-note call that sounds as though he is responding negatively to a question: Anh Anh.

Crows seem to be everywhere, both singularly and in small groups. They eat a great variety of foods, both animal and vegetable. This includes normal examples as well as carrion, trash, nestlings and eggs of other birds. Their dietary flexibility is one of the reasons they are so successful in so many different habitats which is also why they seem omnipresent.

Crows are very social birds, sometimes forming very large flocks in the hundreds. They are noted for being very intelligent with problem-solving capabilities. Some live into their teens in the wild; the oldest recorded in captivity died at 59 years old.

Crows are noisy birds in general. Occasionally several may join together and make an even larger racket than normal. This can be an example of mobbing which occurs when a group of crows deliberately pester a larger bird, usually a bird of prey such as a hawk or owl. They may even dive bomb the “enemy”. This behavior is not totally understood but it is assumed that the attackers are attempting to force the predator to move on. If you watch, you may see the predator suddenly take flight with the crows in pursuit squawking as they go.

If you would like to learn more about these birds visit:

Article submitted by:  Marcia Hider-resubmitted 9/2022
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.

Ask SIB: Why are owls calling?

Question: Tonight on Jenkins Point we can hear four owls stretched in a line from Seabrook Island Road-or thereabouts-to our oak and then on out Jenkins Point with the fourth owl at the very end-I think. All were calling, sometimes solo but sometimes overlapping each other. I assume from their calls they are Great Horned Owls. We hear owls frequently in Spring and Fall, even occasionally in Winter. But never in the summer. Do they migrate or just go inland to deeper woods?
With all the calling back and forth are they looking for mates this time of year or are they just telling each other they are here?
Thanks for enlightening me. – Andy Allen

Answer: What an exciting experience having four owls serenading you. While it is impossible to know exactly what is happening, one can make an educated guess. Owls generally mate for life and a mated pair stays on territory year round. Starting in September, the male owl starts calling as part of his courtship ritual. Owl nest early in January and February to time the heavy growth period for their young to coincide with the fresh production of prey species, i.e. the young and naive. The young hang around through the summer, but come September, just like any good parent, the young get kicked out of the area and need to disburse. This happens most heavily in September. Understanding this, I suspect you encountered a situation where the local owls called to inform the intruders that the territory is full. The intruders called to test the strength and fidelity of the local pair. As you listen, the male sings with a deeper voice than the female. When you hear two mated birds performing a duet, the male and female alternate singing. In a territory dispute, that rigid pattern of male/female may not hold true.

– Bob Mercer, SIB’s “Resident Naturalist”

SIB Travels: Arizona in August

Bob Mercer recently shared the information below about their birding trip to Arizona in August.

Who in their right mind would go to Arizona in August? A birder. I have birded in Arizona on three other occasions. Years ago, my first trip was in mid-September. My second trip happened in March. In 2017, Eileen and I spent 5 weeks exploring the birds in Arizona from mid-September to mid-October. Even after spending that much time, there were still a lot of birds we missed. Apparently, by mid-September many of the birds leave Arizona or go quiet and are difficult to find and March is too early.

So, when a young friend of ours, Rachel, said she was going to go to Arizona at the time the Arizona Audubon Society has their birding festival, Eileen and I decided to spend nine days with her on a birding adventure the second week of August. Several surprises awaited us. First, August is monsoon season in Arizona. Expecting a dog biscuit dry desert, we could see rain and hear thunder every day. Fortunately, we only got caught a couple times. To our amazement, the desert was green!

Being familiar with many of the birding hot spots in Arizona, we decided to forgo the expense of joining the festival groups and set off on our own. For those of you who know me, you may know I keep two life lists. One is the accumulation of over 40 years of birding. The other is the birds I have reported on ebird, something I did not start until I retired and then not seriously until late in 2017 (after our 5-weeks in Arizona).

Our itinerary included Saguaro National Park and Wilcox Lake (our best chance for water birds) the first day. Then we spent 2 nights at Cave Creek Canyon at the base of the Chiricahua Mountains. From there we visited the East Fork of Cave Creek, The George Walker House, and Rustler Park. From there (after a short stop at the Portal Impoundment), we swung down to Sierra Vista Arizona where we visited several locations with hummingbird feeders (Ash Canyon B&B and Ramsey Canyon Inn) and took a few short trails. That night we settled into an Airbnb in Green Valley Arizona. That became our base of action for the rest of the trip. From Green Valley visited the Tubac area, the Patagonia area, Madera Canyon, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, and Mount Lemmon. During this whirlwind trip, we created 45 ebird lists and recorded 146 species of which 31 were ebird lifers and 12 were totally new life birds for me. It is getting really hard to add life birds in North America, so this was outstanding!

The following are some of either my better pictures from the various locations or some of my lifers.

Continue reading “SIB Travels: Arizona in August”

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet  –  Regulus calendula
Length:  4.25″;  Wingspan:  7. 5″;  Weight:  0.23 oz.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – file photo

There are two good ways to identify the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. First, you might see it out of the corner of your eye. That’s because it flicks its wings and hops fairly continuously. You also might recognize it from its very distinctive call. The song sounds like an electric typewriter.

In pictures, he is often shown flaunting his bright red crown but that is much more the exception than the rule and only the male has the crest. Both the male and the female are greenish gray in color with a white eye ring and wing bars that resemble those of a non-breeding Goldfinch. We have those now on Seabrook but they are considerably bigger. It is the kinglet’s small size and jumpy nature that are the most likely to catch your attention.

The Ruby-crowned is a winter bird for us. It migrates primarily to Canada and Alaska to breed but is seen year-round in a few western states.

Cornell Labs lists this bird as one that comes to a feeder but the feeder should probably be in a woodsy or shrubby area. Here is what they recommend to attract them:

Food and feeders to attract Ruby-crowned Kinglets
Food and feeders to attract Ruby-crowned Kinglets

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

Article submitted by:  Marcia Hider/ reposted 09-2022
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad & file photos

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.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill – Platalea ajaja
Length:  32″; Wingspan: 50″; Weight: 52oz.

Roseate Spoonbill - Ed Konrad
Roseate Spoonbills – Ed Konrad

Hey everybody, did you see the flamingo in the marsh near the fire station? Fooled again! What you probably saw was the beautiful Roseate Spoonbill. Their bright pink coloring confuses many people who think they have spotted a Pink Flamingo. Flamingos are larger and have a short, thick, hooked bill and black on its wings.

If you are lucky enough to get a closer look at a Roseate Spoonbill, check out the long, flat, spoon shaped bill. Spoonbills feed by walking in shallow, muddy bottom water and tidal ponds foraging by sweeping their bill from side to side with it slightly open to sift up small fish, shrimp, mollusks and snails. To locate prey, Roseate Spoonbills have sensitive nerve endings and touch receptors in their bill, which they then snap closed to pull the prey out of the water. Similar to flamingos, Roseate Spoonbill’s pink color comes from the food it eats.

Spoonbills are very social birds and spend most of their time with other Spoonbills or in the company of other wading birds.  It is an unusual looking large wading bird with pink plumage, a long flat grayish spoon-shaped bill and an un-feathered greenish gray colored head which becomes golden buff during breeding. The neck, chest and upper back are white and the adult has beautiful red wing coverts. They have long red legs adapted to walking and wading in wetlands. They also have red eyes. Their nostrils are located at the top of the bill, making it possible for the bird to breathe while the bill is under water.

Roseate Spoonbills nest in colonies with Ibises, Storks, Cormorants, Herons and Egrets. Males and females pair off for the breeding season and build a nest together as the female builds the nest with material brought to her by the male. Their nests are built in trees typically 6-15 feet above the water. The nest is built of sticks lined with grass and leaves with a deep hollow in the center. The female lays 2-4 eggs, whitish with brown markings, and the chicks hatch in about 3 weeks. The new chicks fledge in 35-42 days and are fed by mom and dad until they are about 6-8 weeks old. Young birds have white feathers that have a slight pink tinge on their wings. They reach maturity at 3 years of age. The beaks of chicks are straight and the spoon-shape grows as the chick develops.  Nestlings are many times attacked and killed by Turkeys, Vultures, Bald Eagles, Raccoons and even Fire Ants.

Unlike herons, Spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched as you can see in the pictures below.

They reside along coastal Southeast US and West Indies through Mexico and Central America.

Plume hunters almost eliminated Spoonbills in the 1800’s when the wings of this beautiful creature were made into fans and their feathers for hats.  It’s ironic that they were hunted for their plumage: their feather color fades rapidly, so the colorful fans and hats made from their feathers didn’t last very long.  The biggest threat to Roseate Spoonbill population today is the loss of their habitat.  Due to increased human population, wetlands have either been drained or polluted forcing these birds to nest/live in much more vulnerable sites.  In addition, some populations show high levels of pesticide levels in their eggs but they do not appear to be significantly impaired by egg shell thinning at this time.

The oldest wild Roseate Spoonbill was discovered in the Florida Keys in 2006. The bird had been banded in 1990, and was an amazing 16 years old. The previous known longevity record for the species was 7 years.

A group of Roseate Spoonbills are collectively known as a “bowl” of Spoonbills.

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

 

Article submitted by: Flo Foley
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.

SIB’s Article for the September 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 September 2022 SIB article. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) contributed a full page article on Page 4! The stories this month feature:

How Birds Use Their Senses to Survive – Learn more about birds’ senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch are used .

Thanks to author Mary Wilde and photographer Ed Konrad for their awesome submission. Ed also serves as our graphic designer!

Bird of the week-Meet the Yellow-throated Warbler

Photo by David Etler

The Yellow-throated Warbler, Setophaga Dominica, is a common warbler in this area year round and breeds west to Texas and north as far as Illinois. They are part of the family of Wood Warblers or Parulidae.

If you are lucky enough to spot this stunning warbler, it is an easy bird to identify.  It has a bright yellow throat and chest with sharply contrasting black triangles through and below the eyes and bright white eyebrows. The back and top of head are gray with a white under-belly and two white wing bars. The Yellow-throated Warbler, besides having colorful markings, is also distinctive because of its stockier body and longer, sharp, black bill. The male and female are similar in appearance with the female being slightly duller. 

The Yellow-throated Warbler’s song is a clear series of down whistles with a rising note at the end as .  The male will actually establish his territory during breeding season with his song. 

These warblers will most likely be spotted in this area by looking higher up in a pine, live oak, or palm tree. They actively forage by quickly creeping in and out along branches and spiraling up and down trunks of trees. They probe deliberately into crevices, pine needles, pine cones, and Spanish moss looking for insects. This bird will creep instead of fluttering as some warblers do. In palm trees they might be spotted in the crowns or hanging upside down among the leaves. 

The diet of the Yellow-throated Warbler is mostly insects. They are insectivores and feed on beetles, moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, mosquitoes, ants, aphids, and spiders. However, they will also come to your backyard feeders if you have the feeders in an area that is a desirable habitat for them and perhaps have a feed mix that includes fruit and/or dried mealworms. 

Once the male locates his territory and his mate, the male and female stay monogamous during the nesting season and produce two broods per year. The nest, prepared mostly by female, is either in a clump of Spanish moss or at the outer edge of a high pine branch. In the Spanish moss the female will form a pocket and line it with grasses, weeds, and feathers. On the pine branch, she will weave together weed stems, bark strips, and grasses to form a cup and then line it with plant down and feathers. She will lay 3 to 5 pale gray-green eggs with dark specks that are less than an inch long. Both the male and female incubates the eggs and feed the nestlings. The eggs incubates for 12 to 13 days and the young leave the nest in about 8 days. 

61851B67-94EC-482D-9B04-EF07A58767F4
Photo by David Etler

The new family will stay together during the breeding season and then become part of a mixed species flock with Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, and other warblers during non breeding season. 

Luckily for us, the Yellow-throated Warblers have increased their population by 50% between 1966 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight, and at this time are not a conservation concern.

Article Submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo

Reposted from 2019

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Confusing Big White Birds

This is an exciting time of year at Seabrook Island as we see many “Big White Birds” starting their courtships and nesting throughout the island.  But are you still trying to figure out the difference between a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and a White Ibis?  Have you ever seen a Snowy Egret to only be later told it was a Cattle Egret or an immature Little Blue Heron?

We have found a great article for you to read!  It is an excerpt from Better Birding: Tips, Tools & Concepts for the Field, by George Armistead and Brian Sullivan (Princeton University Press).  The new book is not a field guide—it’s an exploration of the fine points of identification that anyone can learn with some patient study of similar species. The full volume contains 24 chapters, each focusing on a different group, from sparrows to swans and hawks to cormorants.

Take a few minutes to read the article and review the pictures here!

Another resource to review is our own SIPOA Wildlife Portal page focused on this same subject.  Click here for a quick comparison.

We really think these two sites will help you feel more comfortable next time you see those “Big White Birds.”

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.

Update Gallery with pictures and range map

 

SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Redstart

American Redstart  –  Setophaga ruticilla
Length:  5.25″;  Wingspan:  7.75″;  Weight:  0.29 oz.

American Redstart (male) - Ed Konrad
American Redstart (male) – Ed Konrad

While the American Redstart is a wood-warbler and part of the Parulidae Family, it is the only warbler species in the Setophage Genus.  David Sibley, in his Field Guide to Birds index, does not list it among the warblers, but alone under Redstart.  They do migrate, in treed habitats, along the SC coast line.  My only sightings have been in New York and Massachusetts.  This is a very colorful, mid-size warbler with what The Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls “a fairly long, expressive tail.”

An adult male could be described as a Halloween bird.  It has a black head and back with splashes of orange on the wing tops, along the sides under the wings, and, in a unique pattern, on the tail.  The colors are similar to the Baltimore Oriole, but in a very different pattern of orange on a bird that is 3.5 inches longer than the redstart and weighs 1.2 ounces.  An adult female American Redstart has a gray head and the color splashes are more yellow.   The larger Blackburnian Warbler also displays orange, but only on the throat.

Typically, warbler behavior is to always be on the move.  This makes it difficult to differentiate among those of similar coloration.  The flashier redstart is incredibly active as it darts about, colorful tail fanned. to flush insects from their hiding places.  The insects are then chased in short flights and plucked from the air.  Their winter habitat (Central America, Cuba, and the northern countries of South America) is tropical and at lower to middle elevations of woodlands.  In migration, they tend to stay within protected treed areas as opposed to the open coastal plain.  The breeding habitat, which extends from inland South Carolina to Canada, would normally be somewhat open wooded areas of primarily deciduous trees.

The Seabrook Island chart of bird species shows the American Redstart as an occasional visitor.  Our live oaks would seem to fit their habitat preference.  Local experience indicates there’s a better chance of observing them from late August through October (fall migration).  We saw them at Palmetto lake last fall and SIBirder Joleen Ardaiolo saw one at the lakehouse last week.

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

Article submitted by:  George Haskins originally Oct, 2016(reposted)

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.

%d bloggers like this: