Opportunity to Kayak to Deveaux Bank

Our friends at Camp St. Christopher are once again offering their “Outdoor Encounter” kayaking excursion to Deveaux Bank. Although this is not a Seabrook Island Birders activity, we thought our members may be interested in joining this trip scheduled for August 1 at 2:30pm – 5:30pm.

This trip is a three-hour guided kayak tour to Deveaux Bank, located across from St. Christopher. The trip begins on the beach at St. Christopher before crossing the Estuary and landing on the northern tip of Deveaux Bank, which is home to thousands of sea birds. It is the largest sea bird nesting area north of Florida, so much of the island is protected and off-limits, but sections of the island are open to the public where you can observe and identify thousands of sea birds. Binoculars provided. The trip is scheduled so kayak to Deveaux on the outgoing tide, tour the accessible areas of the island during neap tide then returning on incoming tide.

To register, visit Camp St. Christopher’s Outdoor Encounter site.

SIB Travels: The Acadia Birding Festival in Maine

We have participated in many dance and local seasonal festivals over the years,
but we were totally unaware of bird festivals until early this year.

The Acadia Birding Festival in Maine was a spur of the moment idea that morphed into a 3 week, 12 state, 3600+ mile road trip. In addition to the birding, we enjoyed lake life, genealogy, and history. We also added 24 life birds to our list.

Egg Rock Lighthouse, built 1875

For those unaware of birding festivals, this is what The Cornell Lab has to say: “A great way to enjoy bird watching is by going to festivals—they’re organized to get you to great birding spots at a great time of year, and they’re a great way to meet people. Experts and locals help you see more birds, and you’ll meet other visitors who share your hobby.”

Although late registering, we were still able to participate in 4 trips. There were
talks, and a large variety of scheduled activities. You could schedule 2-a-day if
you timed it right—and had the stamina. We were surprised to meet people
from CA, TX, and FL.

(Read more to see photos and details)

Continue reading “SIB Travels: The Acadia Birding Festival in Maine”

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Green Heron

Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Length:  18″; Wingspan: 26″; Weight: 7 oz.

Green Heron on the hunt - Ed Konrad
Green Heron on the hunt – Ed Konrad

A relatively common sight on Seabrook Island, the green heron is a dark, stocky bird that appears to hunch over on slender legs, often at the edge of a pond, marsh or stream. Seen up close or through binoculars, it is a distinctive bird with a velvety green-gray back, a brownish burgundy body and a dark cap often raised into a short crest. Its broad, rounded wings are dark grey, and its legs are a bright yellow. In flight, the green heron’s extended neck gives it a front-heavy, ungainly appearance.

The green heron feeds on small fish, crustaceans, frogs, tadpoles or aquatic insects. Sometimes the bird will ‘bait’ its prey, dropping twigs or feathers on the surface of the water as lures. The bird crouches motionless in the shallow water waiting for its prey to approach, then uses its long, straight dagger like beak to snatch up its food when it is within striking distance.

Green herons prefer to nest as isolated pairs or in small groups. The nesting site is usually in a shrub or tree 5-30’ above the ground, but occasionally herons will nest on the ground. Nests are platforms made of sticks: the male will begin nest construction, and then the female takes over while the male continues to forage for building materials for her.

Female herons will lay as few as 3 and up to 7 eggs at a time. Incubation is by both sexes and lasts 19-21 days. Both parents feed the young by regurgitation. Young herons begin to climb out and around the nest 16-17 days after hatching and will make first test flights at 21-23 days. Herons produce 1-2 broods per year.

Green herons are sometimes difficult to detect because of their dark plumage which helps them to blend into shaded areas and vegetation along the water’s edge. Their harsh call along with slow beats of rounded wings and an ‘unfolded’ neck in flight are good clues to the observer that you have spied a green heron!

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

Article submitted by:  Lyn Magee/resubmitted 2022 by SIB
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.

Stream: “The Secret and Swampy Lives of Wood Storks”

On Tuesday, July 12, 2022, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) hosted an in-person evening program featuring Kristina Ramstad, Associate Professor, Vertebrate Biology Department of Biology & Geology at the University of South Carolina Aiken. Nearly fifty SIB members attended the program at the Seabrook Island Lake House and another dozen viewed from the comfort of their homes in four states. Dr. Ramstad shared how emerging technologies are providing windows into many unknown aspects of Wood Stork behavior and population dynamics.

To watch the event, only available until August 13, 2022, watch it on our Seabrook Island Birder YouTube Channel.

SIB Travels: Summer at Camp in Maine

Last year, while spending time late summer/early fall in Maine, we purchased property on a lake near Bangor, where I grew up. We are so excited to be able to spend “summah upta camp!” The nights are cool, the air has been dry (NO humidity), and even on the hot days, a breeze comes off the lake and keeps us very comfortable as we sit on the screened porch or on our lawn listening and watching our birds.

Last week while talking with Flo’s sister, I said, “I gotta go, a Woodcock just flew into our yard!” It was just before 7pm and we found it huddled in the wet wooded area between our camp and the next. I grabbed the “big” camera and took photos of the American Woodcock.

American Woodcock, Pleasant Lake, Stetson, Maine – Nancy Brown

According to Sibley Birds, the American Woodcock: “Status and Habits – Uncommon and secretive on damp ground under dense cover within woods, where it is rarely seen except when flushed at close range. Displaying birds emerge into open grassy fields at dusk in spring. Secretive and solitary; rarely seen in daylight and never mixes with other shorebirds”. Guess we were lucky to spot him.

My family always called these birds the “Timberdoodle.” According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website “All About Birds,” the woodcock is also known as the Labrador twister, night partridge, and bog sucker.

The following night while taking our dog out for one last walk, I caught another glimpse of the bird in the same general area. In fact, as it moved, I could observe their interesting walk. Cornell reports, “The American Woodcock probes the soil with its bill to search for earthworms, using its flexible bill tip to capture prey. The bird walks slowly and sometimes rocks its body back and forth, stepping heavily with its front foot. This action may make worms move around in the soil, increasing their detectability.” Watch a fascinating video of an American Woodcock here.

We sure do love life at our camp on the lake! I hope to have more Maine birding experiences to share with you this summer.

Submitted by: Nancy Brown

Commentary: Declining red knots need our help

Nolan Schillerstrom of Audubon South Carolina recently wrote an opinion piece in The Post and Courier, mentioning Seabrook Island. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Red Knot populations have declined significantly due to several factors. U.S Fish and Wildlife Service/provided

Ask SIB: What is going on with recent reports of dead birds?

Question: A friend recently asked if we have heard of reports of dead birds on Seabrook Island Beaches. They have heard reports of at least 9 dead birds on Kiawah recently. Do you know what could be causing this? – Anonymous

Great Shearwater – eBird

Answer: Seabrook Island Birders has not heard of any increase in dead birds on Seabrook Island. I did notice several reports on my daily “Rare Bird Report” I receive from eBirds of rare birds in Charleston County. One recent report had Kiawah Island Biologist (and eBird reviewer) Aaron Given reporting Great Shearwaters on Kiawah. His siting on eBird stated: “Three alive and alert Great Shearwaters found while driving the beach. Picked them up and transported them to the far eastern end of the island. Also picked up 3 dead Great Shearwaters.”

I reached out to Aaron and asked if he had any insight into what was going on. His response: This is a cyclical thing that happens with Great Shearwaters. There was another mortality event since my time here but I can’t remember the exact year – at least 10 years ago. Most of the birds found dead are emaciated. I don’t think we really know the cause of it but it probably has something to do with a historically predictable food source not being available and causing the birds to starve.

Here’s a link to a paper published in 2013 about it: https://seanetters.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/grsh_mortality.pdf. In summary, my interpretation is that the causes of this apparent increase in strandings are unknown but may be due to an increase in reporting effort over the past two decades combined with changing oceanographic conditions in the South Atlantic Ocean, leading to large-scale mortality of emaciated Great Shearwaters along the east coast of the United States.

A later eBird siting by another observer stated: 1 deceased on beach near ocean course; appeared to have been washed up with the tide. 3 others resting on beach at far end, pointed out to us by DNR. One of the three seemed to be doing slightly better than the others but all were alive. My take away from this is that not only is Aaron aware but so is DNR.

Honestly, before seeing these reports, I had never heard of a Great Shearwater. Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds states Great Shearwater is: A common seabird off our Atlantic Coast, seldom coming close to shore except during storms. Since I haven’t been off shore and luckily I haven’t seen the stranding birds, I shouldn’t be surprised they weren’t on my life list of birds seen.

After I wrote this blog, someone forwarded Judy Drew Fairchild’s blog on Great Shearwaters are Unusual Guests on our Beaches. It has more good information.

If you have a question about a bird, submit a question via email to seabrookislandbirders@gmail.com or our Ask SIB web page.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Join SIB for Learning Together on Crooked Oaks Golf Course – Sunday July 17

Sunday July 17, 2022 8:30 am – 10:30 am
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: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to prior waitlisted & members

Register Now

The Seabrook Island Club will be closing Crooked Oaks Golf course for aeration and allows Seabrook Island Birders to use golf carts to travel the course with our members to bird. Join us for a morning of birding by RIDING in golf carts for at least 9-holes on Crooked Oaks golf course. We expect to see a large variety of birds including Egrets, Herons and birds of prey. We will also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and some of the many warbler species. Since it is summer, we can also expect to see Eastern Kingbirds, Great-crested Flycatchers, Orchard Orioles, Summer Tanagers, Mississippi Kites and more!

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2022 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.

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

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo
Length:  46″; Wingspan: 64″; Weight: 259 oz.

A strutting tom turkey tries to attract a mate. C. Moore
A strutting tom turkey tries to attract a mate. C. Moore

Residents are reporting an increase in sightings of Eastern Wild Turkeys on Seabrook Island. The domesticated version of this large native game bird is well known because of its role each Thanksgiving day. Millions of turkeys are drawn from an outline of the hands of elementary children prior to Thanksgiving each year.

The turkey would have been our national bird if Benjamin Franklin had had his say. He thought the eagle was beautiful but a lazy thief as it frequently stole its dinner from the industrious Osprey.

Native Americans first domesticated the wild turkey hundreds of years ago. Spanish explorers took turkeys domesticated by the Aztecs back to Europe around 1500. The pilgrims brought turkeys across the Atlantic to the New World only to find them already here. These European settlers called them “Turkey birds” because they looked like African guinea hens from Turkey and the name stuck.

The wild turkey population in the southeastern U.S. was decimated from 1900 to the 1950’s due to hunting, pesticide usage (DDT) and habitat loss. During this period, the only wild turkeys remaining in South Carolina occurred in the Francis Marion National Forest and along the Savannah River.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the National Wild Turkey Federation launched one of the nation’s most successful conservation restocking programs during the 1950’s. Descendants of these few remaining turkeys abound today in all of South Carolina’s 46 counties and in every Southeastern state. Wild Turkeys are hunted in 49 of the 50 states with Alaska being the only exception.

Large males are called toms, weigh between 10 and 24 pounds and mature females, called hens, weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. Mating behavior begins in early spring with Toms attracting potential hens through gobbling and strutting about with their feathers puffed out, tail feathers spread, wings dragging on the ground and making low “drumming sounds”. The gobbling may be heard more than a mile away. A dominant Tom may attract eight to 10 hens to his harem.

Turkeys nest on the ground in shallow dirt depressions surrounded with woody vegetation. In South Carolina, laying of eggs begins in March and a clutch may contain as many as 18 eggs.  Eggs hatch in 28 days and the hatchlings are out of the nest looking for food within 24 hours. Hatchlings are called poults and adolescents are jakes

Turkeys sleep in trees but spend most of their time on the ground searching for food. They can run nearly as fast as a human track star at 25 miles an hour and may fly distances up to half a mile reaching speeds up to 50 miles an hour.

Wild turkeys are omnivores eating seeds, nuts, roots, berries, grasses, insects, small amphibians and reptiles. They are most active and feed primarily in the early morning and late afternoon.

Foxes, opossums, raccoons, skunks, snakes and many other animals pray on the eggs and poults. Predators of adult wild turkeys include foxes, coyotes, bobcats and large raptors such as eagles, owls and hawks.

Domestic turkeys are genetically distinct from wild birds. Ever wonder why domestic turkeys are white? Domesticated turkeys are bred to have white feathers because their pinfeathers are less visible when the carcass is dressed. Whereas, domestication has resulted in bigger, heavier birds with more breast meat, their natural survival skills have been greatly diminished. The wild turkey is a savvy, very wary, and intelligent bird whereas their domesticated relatives, well lets say, their elevators don’t go all the way to the top.

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

Article submitted by:  Charles Moore
Photographs provided by:  Charles 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.

The Dakotas…Potholes and Prairies

Note: This article appeared in the July 1 Seabrooker. It’s been updated for SIB blog.

After all the stops and starts of travel during Covid, we had an itch to get on the road again! You may wonder, why the Dakotas? They happen to be wonderful places for birdwatching, particularly in June and July. The birds are plentiful, the weather is wonderful, and the scenery is spectacular. We drove from Atlanta to Fargo, ND, then west across the state, south into SD, and back east across SD to Sioux Falls. A grand total of 5,000 miles!

Common Merganser, Eared Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Western Grebe

The Dakotas are part of an area called “potholes and prairies.”  The potholes are shallow depressive wetlands of glacial origin that hold water from snow melt and rains. In the summer, they’re a haven for breeding waterfowl and other birds. North Dakota is sometimes called the “duck factory”  of the Midwest because it supports more than 50% of our nation’s migratory waterfowl. Many of the ducks that we see at Seabrook in the winter go to the Midwest to breed in the summer. There is nothing like seeing a breeding plumage Ruddy Duck, who is so plain for us at Seabrook in the winter, but has a shocking blue bill and rusty plumage in the summer. Another highlight was breeding Western Grebes, sometimes colonies of over several hundred. Seeing them doing their synchronized mating dance was a first for us! Another striking grebe was the Eared Grebe, in breeding plumage Eared Grebe with its “maraschino cherry” eye. We saw a Common Merganser with adorable striped ducklings. In the wetland areas are Yellow-headed Blackbirds, with shocking yellow heads and voices that sound like a fax machine from back in the day! 

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Phalarope

Another of our passions is birding the grasslands of the Midwest. There are several national grasslands in North and South Dakota, and they harbor a wonderful population of birds. We enjoy the drives along miles of dirt roads, with no one around but an occasional farmer waving hi, as we look for Upland Sandpipers sitting on fence posts. It is awe inspiring to see the vast expanses of farmland and meet some of the people that farm it…truly American’s breadbasket. And how out of place and fun to see some of our Seabrook shorebirds in the grasslands of the Midwest – many Marbled Godwit, Black Terns and Willet in the fields and on the roads. Another striking shorebird, the Wilson’s Phalarope, also breeds in the grassland areas.

Other western grassland birds were the Chestnut-collared Longspur, a bird we had seen in previous trips, but never quite as good as on this one. Western Kingbirds dotted the fences everywhere, as did Lark Buntings with striking black plumage and white wing patch. Horned Larks called with their tinkling chirps. Bobolinks in distinctive breeding colors, and their little bubbling “Martian-like” song gave us great looks.

Chestnut-collared Longspur, Western Kingbird, Lark Bunting, Horned Lark, Bobolink, Lark Sparrow

Teddy Roosevelt National Park is a hidden treasure. It has impressive scenery, a herd of bison and beautiful birds – like the Lark Sparrow with its harlequin face pattern, and the stunning Lazuli Bunting. In South Dakota we drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Parkway where we found one of our favorite birds, the American Dipper. It is the only songbird that regularly swims and submerges in fast running streams, looking for aquatic insect larvae. It was like finding a needle in a haystack, but we were able to spot one and saw it’s diving behavior! Western woodpeckers are always fun to find, and we found a Red-naped Sapsucker at higher elevation in SD.

Bison, Lazuli Bunting, American Dipper, Red-naped Sapsucker

As always in our travels, I am always looking to add another life bird to my list of US birds. While searching for a Golden Eagle nest, we had an up close look at a Ferruginous Hawk, a life bird for me, as it devoured its prey in a prairie dog town. Another life bird was a Gray Partridge, which we expected to find on the prairie, but instead found it in a downtown city park in Fargo! The park had done an excellent prairie restoration in the center of the city, and it was a great habitat for this elusive bird. We ended our trip with a very special Burrowing Owl, who nests in abandoned prairie dog holes. We drove a long way on dirt roads in Ft. Pierre National Grasslands and it did not disappoint! Two were sitting up by their nest holes late in the day. And a trip to SD would not be complete without its state bird, the Ring-necked Pheasant!

Ferruginous Hawk, Gray Partridge, Burrowing Owl, Ring-necked Pheasant

Along with all the beautiful birds we saw, the scenery in the Dakotas is magnificent. The Badlands are spectacular, and Needles Highway is a 17 mile drive of majestic views of rock formations. Custer State Park has a herd of over 1,000 bison, many had calves and they roam freely through the park. We also caught a great look at a coyote and hundreds upon hundreds of prairie dogs. So, if you have a chance, you may want to venture to the Dakotas!

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

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