It’s time to start Project Feederwatch!

Do you enjoy watching the birds in your backyard?  Whether you have feeders or not, you should consider becoming a citizen scientist by joining Project FeederWatch this winter.

What is Project FeederWatch?

Project FeederWatch lets you become the biologist of your own backyard. You identify the birds in your backyard or at your feeders and submit your observations to the Cornell Lab. You can count every week between November—April, or you can count only once all season—the time you spend is up to you! The easy online data entry lets you immediately see all of your counts and view colorful summaries and graphs. Anyone interested in birds can participate; you don’t have to be an expert. All you need is a comfortable chair, a window, and an interest in the birds in your neighborhood.

What has been the experience of some of my neighbors?

The Morr’s participated for the first time in 2017-2018.

  • It was a learning experience in bird identification.  The slower pace of watching them at the feeder often allowed them to observe various characteristics that made future identification easier.
  • It was fun noting the different species that appeared during different periods.
  • American Goldfinch were first seen last year on January 8 and the  high count was 2.  In the first weekend this year, 4 were seen
  • Looking back, it can be noted the American Robins were the highest number seen during one observation period.  They were only seen from mid-December through mid-January.
  • 19 different species were seen for the 2017-2018 season.  In the first two weeks of this season, 13 species have been observed.  Chipping Sparrows and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were new species for them this year.

How do I participate?

Once you sign up you can immediately start collecting data at your feeders. Read the online instructions and use the printable tally sheets to collect your counts. In the meantime, you will be sent a research kit in the mail with your unique ID number; once you have your ID number you can enter your counts online. Kits take a few weeks to arrive, but don’t worry—it will be there soon, and you don’t need it to start collecting data.

What do I get when I register?

The cost to participate is $18 and you will receive:

  • FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions
  • Full-color poster of common feeder birds
  • Bird-Watching Days Calendar
  • The Project FeederWatch annual report, Winter Bird Highlights
  • Digital access to Living Bird magazine

The first day to count birds for the 2018-19 FeederWatch season was Saturday, November 10, 2018 and the season runs through April 5, 2019.  There are already four SIB members who have joined Project Feederwatch for the 2018-2019 winter season.  Let us know if you already are signed up! We hope more members will consider joining! 

Let us know if you have any questions and go to the Project FeederWatch website to Join Now!

Submitted by:  Judy Morr

Photos by: Dean Morr

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Close Encounters of the SIB Kind

Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

Ed and I just returned from a trip to the great state of Washington as part of our Big Year! It was our first trip out to the state and we fell in love with all it’s beauty. Snow capped mountains, fall colors, and water, water, everywhere….how incredible were all the bays and sounds!

1 Semiahmoo Spit WA (Ed Konrad)

We spent 3 of our days at the Semiahmoo Spit, near Blaine, up by the Canada border. I reached out to a dear friend of SIB, David Gardner, who was formerly at Camp St. Christopher. David is now the Adult and Family Programs Manager at the North Cascades Institute. We met up for a great day of birding. I wanted to bird Pt. Roberts Lighthouse, which required us to go into Canada and dip back down to the spit in US waters. It turned out to be David’s first trip to Canada, however brief! (which cannot be said for our return to the US, that took over 30 min at border control…LOL)

2 Aija and David at Pt Roberts (Ed Konrad)

At Pt Roberts we had some great birding with some good seabirds, Pacific and Common Loons, Common Murres, Horned and Red-necked Grebes, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Pigeon Guillemot. One of our target species was the Northern Shrike, which we dipped on, but both found it independently in the next few days. We then returned to the Semiahmoo Spit where we had a wealth of White-winged and Surf Scoters and Harlequin Ducks. It was a great day and fun to reconnect with David. I know that SIB misses David and his love and enthusiasm for birding.

Our 2018 US Big Year adventure continues to go well! I am up to 566 species for the US this year, 66 more than I ever expected to get. We have traveled through 31 states, visited 14 National Parks, driven 25,000 miles, flown many more miles. And we’ve walked and walked a countless number of miles! We’ve been gone from home for 95 days so far this year, with trips to TX, CO/NE, IL/OH, AZ, CO/UT, FL, CA, and WA. Ed has been really enjoying helping me spot, and of course photographing the birds and incredible scenery. It’s been like a giant scavenger hunt across the US, and we are having more fun than we ever expected to have at this point in our lives. Bird on Seabrook!
Here’ the URL for Ed’s Flickr site which chronicles our Big Year.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – a “rare” bird siting

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – Jackie Brooks

Early Sunday, November 4, the SIB members at Charley Moore’s Backyard Birding were “cuckoo” over an extended sighting of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. It stayed around long enough for Jackie Brooks to capture a picture. We all were able to get a good look at the bird and confirm its identification.

 

If you are like me, when you first heard someone mention Yellow-billed Cuckoo, you thought the person was jerking your chain about some fictitious bird. (I’ll write some other time about Snipes). I looked on eBird and its descriptions says, “Brown above and white below with yellow bill. Long tail with black-and-white spots on underside. Wings flash rufous in flight. Stealthy and shy as it moves through dense forests and riparian areas. Favors tent caterpillars. Winters in South America.” So the bird exists!

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo – Charley Moore

In April 2016, David Gardner heard a “Yellow-billed Cuckoo” on one of SIB’s Camp St. Christopher walks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear it and it was too hidden in the trees to see. I still wasn’t convinced it was a real bird. Then in June 2016, Charlie Moore reported a stunned Yellow-billed Cuckoo was hanging out front of the Lake House. It stayed around long enough for him to get a picture.

I finally caught a glimpse of one at Caw Caw in August 2016 but still none on Seabrook Island for me! Fast forward 2 years, and I saw one on the SIB trip to Bear Island and Donnelly Wildlife Area on October 27. Still not on Seabrook Island!  Then, last week I began receiving “Charleston County Rare Bird Alerts” for Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Research said this alert was due to the frequency normally seen in Charleston County.

After Melanie Jerome posted our eBird list for Sunday morning, we also were included on the “Rare Bird Alert”. The eBird reviewers were quick to “Confirm” our siting with the assistance of Jackie’s picture. So now I have to put a different bird on my list to find.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Photos by: Jackie Brooks and Charley Moore

A Week in the Life of a Novice Birder

If anyone sees me riding my bike, walking my dogs, or walking on the beach they will notice that I am generally looking up to the skies, over the marsh, or out towards sandbars. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before I suffer some type of bird watching injury because I am never paying attention to where I am walking, only to the flashes of colors or sounds of bird calls. I have always been interested in birds, but my new home in the low country offers so many new species to watch.

I sign up for almost every activity that the Seabrook Island Birders offer. Being newly retired, I have been one of their most loyal groupies since the spring. And, now that I have a couple of the members’ phone numbers, I will readily text them to see if they think I might have heard a Clapper Rail at the crab dock or seen a Great Horned Owl at the beach. Hopefully, this is not too annoying for them. 

This week started on Sunday at 8 a.m.  A “Backyard Birding” event at the Hurd’s garden on Loblolly. It was the first cool morning for a while and, even though there were not many species seen, it was still an enjoyable fall morning talking to neighbors about what they had spotted in their yards.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

The highlight for me was seeing what I had thought was a woodpecker and finding out that it was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Now I have been spotting a pair in my yard all week. The rest of Sunday I spent agonizing over what type of bird feeders I should order from Amazon to start attracting more birds to my own yard. 

On Wednesday, I was out for a run. As I am heading down Marsh Haven Road towards SI Road, I look across the marsh towards the fire station. I think I see four ducks bobbing in the water, but cannot see them well enough to identify them. I am running and texting Judy Morr to let her know, just in case she may be interested, since ducks are just beginning to make their way back to the island for the winter. She gets to the marsh to check it out before I could even get back to my house, but missed seeing the ducks. No worries, I hop on my bike and meet her at the SI maintenance pond for an impromptu two and a half hour walk that netted Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills , White Ibis, Killdeer, a Red-tailed Hawk, and a Belted Kingfisher. This area is a hidden birding goldmine!

Bald Eagle @ Bear Island
Chris Correale

Finally, on Saturday, a group of six women met at 6 a.m. and set off to Bear Island for sunrise and a day of birding there and at Donnelly Wildlife Management Area not far from Edisto in the ACE Basin. I was expecting to see several species of ducks, but was totally unprepared for what we did see. So many and many types of ducks, and incredibly so many shore birds, Bald Eagles, Roseate Spoonbills, woodpeckers, warblers, and on and on. We saw hundreds and hundreds of birds at Bear Island and Donnelly WMA, with a total of 73 species for the day. I was asked if I saw any new bird species to add to my life list. Yes! Too many to count, but from the top of my head, the White Pelicans and American Avocet. I’ll be studying the E-Bird list that was compiled during our trip. And, I do realize this is a nerdy way to spend an evening. Being it was almost a nine hour round trip day, I was exhausted, but so euphoric from the experience. 

If you are a newcomer to Seabrook or even a long time resident looking for an enjoyable pastime, you might consider the Seabrook Island Birders. The group is always so welcoming and eager to educate new members and even Island visitors who want to participate in just one event. SIB offers so many types of activities, from lectures to short walks around Palmetto Lake to a slow sixteen mile bike ride on the West Ashley Greenway. If you decide to check out this group, I guarantee you, too, will start noticing your surroundings and experiencing the same thrill I do when I see that Pileated Woodpecker working the pine tree in my yard. 

Article submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo
Photo credits to Ed Konrad & Chris Correale

Forecasts Can Now Tell You When Birds Are Headed Your Way

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 9.27.17 AM
As reported in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology newsletter. Sign up on their website.

With fall migration heating up, it’s time to take advantage of BirdCast. Using a combination of weather forecasting and long-term data sets, our BirdCast team can predict which nights migrants will be on the move—which spells good birding for the morning after. Check out our primer on using BirdCast, or go straight to the current 3-day forecast.

 

 

 

2018 Eastern Bluebird Trails Summary

The Seabrook Island Bluebird Society was started on Seabrook Island to help the Eastern Bluebird (see our “Bird of the Week” blog from 2016 to learn more about the Eastern Bluebird). The 2018 nesting season has come to an end.

If you didn’t know, the Eastern Bluebird is a small member of the thrush family that inhabit fields and clearings. Although pesticides and competition from house sparrows in the early and mid-20th century negatively impacted bluebirds, they have recovered well in recent years and are stable or increasing both as breeding birds and wintering birds. Much of this recovery is thanks to concerned citizens who put up bluebird boxes in their fields for these birds to nest in.

Seventy-three bluebird boxes were installed and are located along Crooked Oaks and Ocean Winds golf courses, the Lake House and Sunset Pier. Melanie Jerome took over the leadership of the Bluebird Society in 2018 from Dean Morr. The  main focus is to monitor nesting of bluebirds and any other bird species using the boxes. This is done from March through August by a group of 13 hard working volunteers. They check the boxes once a week, keeping track of activity of all birds documenting by box the number of eggs laid, hatched and fledged. Once fledged, the boxes are cleaned of all nesting material so they available for another brood of birds.

The 2018 statistics for our Seabrook Island Eastern Bluebirds are:

  • 99 nests built
  • 389 eggs laid
  • 246 eggs hatched
  • 226 fledged

This is a 58% fledge success. We also have had 21 nests from Carolina Chickadees, with 74 eggs laid, and 55 fledged. We had a predation problem from snakes and raccoons this year and the 2019 goal is to obtain baffle guards on some of the poles to prevent the predation issue.

To compare to results from previous years, see the chart below:

Trail Name Bluebird Carolina Chickadee
2018 RESULTS # Boxes No Activity Nest
Attempts
Eggs Hatched Fledged Nest
Attempts
Eggs Hatched Fledged
2018 Totals 73 6 99 389 246 226 21 74 55 55
2017 Totals 73 5 89 318 183 175 26 98 82 82
2016 Totals 73 3 99 386 360 359 28 126 106 106
2015 Totals 73 7 76 318 259 259 39 136 104 102
2014 Totals 67 10 63 252 219 203 28 113 85 83

I would like to thank all of our volunteers for their help, we couldn’t do it without you. If you are interested in helping with the bluebirds, please contact Melanie at seabrookbluebirds@gmail.com.

Article submitted by:  Melanie Jerome
Photos provided by:  Nancy Brown

Birding & Biking the West Ashley Greenway

On Saturday September 8th, shortly before the onslaught of news of Hurricane Florence, five SIB members met to bike the 7-mile West Ashley Greenway from Johns Island to the Windermere Plaza.  Two additional members where unable to catch up with us, but also spent a beautiful morning biking and birding.

The larger group documented 38 bird species along the way.  One of the most exciting sightings for the group were a pair of female Summer Tanagers who chased each other near the “tree of shoes.”  Our final new species of the day was a flyover pair of Roseate Spoonbills was spectacular!

The two additional SIB members who biked and birded the Greenway saw 36 species, but interestingly they saw at least six species not seen by the first group: three types of warblers, two types of vireos and a Loggerhead Shrike.

Below is the full list from the larger group. Let us know if this type of trip is of interest to you and we will try to plan another later in the fall.

Canada Goose  24
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  85
Mourning Dove  15
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Clapper Rail  3
Killdeer  10
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Laughing Gull  25
Wood Stork  10
Anhinga  1
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  12
Snowy Egret  3
Little Blue Heron  4
Tricolored Heron  3
Roseate Spoonbill  2
Black Vulture  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Belted Kingfisher  6
Downy Woodpecker  2
Merlin  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Blue Jay  14
American Crow  4
Fish Crow  1
swallow sp.  5
Carolina Chickadee  7     It
Tufted Titmouse  6
Carolina Wren  5
Eastern Bluebird  12
Gray Catbird  3
Northern Mockingbird  7
House Finch  3
Boat-tailed Grackle  5
Summer Tanager  2
Northern Cardinal  3
House Sparrow  2