Global Big Day – My backyard observations

Last week, SIB reminded us of Global Big Day on Saturday.  I chose to recognize the day by observing birds in my backyard while my wife scoured the island in an attempt to see the maximum number of birds in a day. 

Armed with my binoculars, a camera and Merlin Bird ID app, I was ready to bird from the comfort of my sunroom and deck.  Early in the morning, I refilled the feeders and bird baths to provide my feathered friends with their favorite treats.  Through-out the day they expressed their appreciation with their visits.

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Dean Morr

For the day, I was able to report 20 species.  The first visitors of the day were the American Crows, but they were quickly followed by Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse and Painted Bunting.  The day ended with two species I was unable to photograph….a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder and the finally, the noisy Chuck-will’s-widow identified only by its sound.

Red-tail Hawk, looking for lunch – Dean Morr

The fun highlight of the day was when I heard a ruckus of several Blue Jays.  I looked out to see they had chased a Red-tailed Hawk to a limb at the corner of the yard.  I literally ran for the camera (always where you are not) and was able to capture him on “film”.   Just as I put the camera away, a “thump” was heard.  The hawk had left its perch and had hit the birdbath in a successful capture of a squirrel. 

Osprey overhead – Dean Morr

Never able to capture it with my camera, I watched it carry its prey from a branch on one corner of the yard to his original perch then finally chased by some crows to a neighbor’s yard.  One less Seabrook Island squirrel trying to find a way to eat the birds’ food.  A Great Egret meandered over the yard in search of a skink but neither he nor I were successful in capturing our prey.  I did get a picture of the Osprey flying over plus several other pictures as seen below.

Patricia Schaefer, Melanie Jerome and Joleen Ardaiolo also shared their backyard finds with SIB.  They were able to report a Common Ground Dove (Patricia), Common Grackle (Patricia), Belted Kingfisher (Joleen), and White-breasted Nuthatch (Joleen) which were not seen by the marathon birders.  Expect to hear more about the marathon birders’ day in another blog.

Submitted by: Dean Morr

A Story of Seabrook Island Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle on Crooked Oaks February 2020 – Bob Mercer

Bald Eagles have been part of the Seabrook scene for  dozen years or so.  It has not been an easy gig for them.  They first started a nest near the 5th tee of the Ocean Winds golf course.  Local Ospreys took exception to the newcomers (sounds like humans with the ‘Not in my Backyard’ attitude) and destroyed it.  A tall pine on the 3rd green of Ocean Winds was the next nesting location and it was successful.  There were several annual raising of two chicks a year — even at least once after the pine had died.  I suspect it has been the same original pair, but they have not said.

When that tree broke off and crashed in a storm, there was a bit of ‘turn about is fair play.’   The eagles took over a nesting site the Osprey had developed near the tee box of Cooked Oaks’ third hole.  They remodeled it into a bigger pad and kept providing us entertainment and young eaglets.  The last three years, there has been only one chick.  Maybe two are too much effort for these now more senior adults.  Remember, these chicks have to be fed enough so that in about 90 days after hatching they are ready to leave the nest.  And, at that age, they weigh more than the adult.  It takes humans about 18 to 30 years of food and what all to become ‘empty nesters’.

Bald Eagle sitting on their nest on Crooked Oaks February 2020 – Bob Mercer

The latest chick spent several days edging out onto adjacent limbs in preparation for departure.  Each night he/she decided it was not time to go (it is a long ways down and no way back if the wings don’t start flapping when you push off).  There is daily retreat to the comfort of the pile of sticks — and having the adults supply the take-out dinner which they had harvested from the countryside.  (Sounds like what we’ve been doing for several weeks now what with the dining establishments having to give up onsite seating.)

Immature Bald Eagle sitting on tree on Crooked Oaks May 2020 – Bob Mercer

Along comes F-1.  The tornado’s visit was much shorter than the COVID-19 virus in duration (about a mile) and time (minutes), but its path was maybe 25 yards from that likely 2,000 pound nest located is the crotch of a 120 foot pine tree.  The three resident Bald Eagles had to be there because the youngster had not yet fledged (left the nesting area).  What a ride!  The tornado took out or damaged beyond saving about a dozen large trees in the area between the parallel third holes of our two golf courses as well as stripping leaves and needles.  This damaged area is diagonally across from the eagles’ nest.  The pine tree and the Bald Eagles all survived.  Golf course superintendent, Sean Hardwick, has confirmed that at least 50 percent of the nest was dislodged from the tree. 

Immature Bald Eagle flying above Crooked Oaks May 2020 – Bob Mercer

The young eaglet has since fledged.  On May first, I observed him three times.  Once sitting in a tree and seeming to be eating, once flying overhead, and a third time when he landed (apparently with something in his talons) on the golf course in from of me.  The wings did work.  The bird is learning to find food.  We have mid-wived another addition to the growing number of Bard Eagles in the world.  That process has come a long ways since the scourge of DDT nearly rendered them extinct.  On May 2nd, an adult eagle flew by me on the course, so they are still around.

Bald Eagle high in a Pine Tree on Crooked Oaks in January 2020 – Bob Mercer

Another bit of eagle news is about the discovery of a nesting pair of Bald Eagles in a large cactus tree in Arizona.  This is the first known nesting of eagles in that state in many years.  Now there is an example of of our newest catch phrase — ’social distancing’.   COVID-19 will not lead us toward extinction as DDT did to the Bald Eagles (and Eastern Bluebirds), but it has created a hole in our social fabric.  Stay safe.  Only then can each of us continue to enjoy our feathered friends.

Article Submitted by:  George Haskins 
Photos by: Robert Mercer

Have You Seen This Bird on Seabrook Island?

Although most people’s wings have been clipped, our feathered friends can still be seen migrating on their journey north to breeding grounds! One of these beautiful birds is rarely seen on Seabrook Island only during the spring migration – the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Several of our SIB members have reported seeing either the male or female grosbeak.

We had both male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeak at our feeder today. They Loved the cylinder suet food.  I imagine going after the cranberries. The Red-winged Blackbirds kept chasing them away. I did get pictures of both of them. 

Patricia Schaefer

Thanks Patricia for sharing your beautiful photographs!

Have you seen a Rose-breasted Grosbeak on Seabrook Island? If you are interested to learn about other birds you might see migrating through Seabrook Island, refresh your memory by reading this blog from three years ago!

SC reports largest number of wintering orioles for sixth year in a row

The article below was written and distributed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Click here to subscribe to updates from SCDNR.

An adult male and an immature Baltimore oriole look as if they’re talking about a sweet treat from a feeder in North Charleston. (Photo by David Ramage)

South Carolina’s 2020 Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey reported the largest number of orioles wintering in the United States for the sixth year in a row.

Those results were recorded during the sixth annual Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey, conducted by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Feb. 14-17, 2020.

SCDNR’s survey was held in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Tapping into this long standing citizen-science project allowed SCDNR to get a better picture of the status and distribution of this beautiful songbird wintering in the Palmetto State.

Survey participants in South Carolina submitted 88 reports and recorded 401 orioles. The number of reports was South Carolina’s highest number to date, and the number of orioles recorded was the third highest to date. The number of participants this year was South Carolina’s highest number to date, and 60% of those were new to the survey.

Weather this year was a little more seasonable than in recent years. A weather system moved through the state during the survey period, and likely caused oriole activity to increase at the feeders.

Participants counted and reported the largest number of orioles they could see at one time, on one, two, three or all four days of the survey period. When possible, the age and sex of the orioles were recorded as well. Participants were also encouraged to report the absence of orioles, when they have had them in past winters and the largest number they have seen at one time so far, during the winter months, (December, January and February). Reporting the absence of orioles is just as important to the survey as the number of orioles seen.

This year, orioles were reported from 14 of the 22 South Carolina counties that have been reported to date. Two counties, Anderson and Greenwood, had a report for the first time during the survey. Orioles ranged from the Midlands and throughout the coastal plain, from North Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head. Charleston County had the most reports and recorded the largest number of orioles, reporting 38% of the total number of orioles in the state. Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties were the top reporting counties for participants and orioles seen. This tri-county area made up 68% of the reports and 67% of orioles seen.

According to the GBBC and the SCDNR survey, a total of 302 reports and 976 orioles were recorded this year in the United States. South Carolina had the second largest number of reports in the United States and the largest number of orioles seen. Orioles were reported from New Hampshire to Florida and along the Gulf coast to Texas. There was also a report of an oriole in Newfoundland this year. Coastal states, from Virginia to Florida, had 95% of the total number of reports and 98% of the total orioles seen.

Baltimore orioles are neotropical migrants, normally wintering in South and Central America and migrating to North America to nest. During the last several decades, however, this species has begun wintering annually in the Southeast. Though scientists are not sure why these birds have begun overwintering in growing numbers, the birds respond well to the popularity of backyard bird feeding.

Orioles by nature have a “sweet tooth” and will eat nectar from flowers, wild fruits and insects. Their favorite bird-feeding food by far is grape jelly. Orange halves can be offered, but most orioles tend not to eat them much. People often put oranges out to attract the orioles to the feeding area. Other items orioles will eat are suet products (homemade, cakes, bark butter, logs, etc.), sugar water (they will drink from hummingbird or oriole nectar feeders), seed mixes (seem to prefer nut and fruit mixes), sliced grapes and mealworms (live or freeze-dried).

“We would like to thank everyone that participated in the survey,” said Lex Glover, wildlife technician with the SCDNR Bird Conservation Program. “Your time and efforts are greatly appreciated.”

Next year’s SCDNR Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey and Great Backyard Bird Count will be Feb. 12-15, 2021. If you have orioles frequenting your feeders during the winter months, (December, January and February), or know someone who does, SCDNR would like for you to participate in the survey. For more information on the Baltimore Oriole Winter Survey or to receive this year’s survey results, contact Lex Glover at GloverL@dnr.sc.gov.

Lex Glover, wildlife technician, SCDNR Bird Conservation Program

MORE INFORMATION 

Look Hoo We Found!

Early in January, several diehard members of Seabrook Island Birders were able to find a pair of Great Horned Owls and their potential nest at the conservancy lot on Cat Tail Pond Road on Seabrook Island, SC.  In the past several months, the owls have been re-sighted by a number of people, both from the conservancy lot and from the golf course. Then in early April, Joleen Ardaiolo & Bev Stribling were thrilled to see an owlet peaking out from the nest as they did their weekly Eastern Bluebird Box monitoring on the golf course!

Even in the times of coronavirus and quarantines, it can be exciting to view the beautiful nature of Seabrook Island!

Bath Time

On January 28, 2020, we were delighted to see Eastern Bluebirds checking out our nest boxes and drinking from our birdbaths along with many Cedar Waxwings in our backyard on Deer Run Drive, Seabrook Island.

JANICE WATSON-SHADA

If you have bird encounters you would like to share with Seabrook Island Birders, go to Report a Bird Sighting on our website.

“Life on the Beach”

Mixed Shorebirds on North Beach – Bob Mercer

Monday, January 20, was a cool day for Seabrook Island with a brisk wind. Despite that, on impulse, I took a late afternoon walk on North Beach. The wind blowing into my face quickly ate through my light jacket, but the mass of birds feeding along the water and sitting on the beach pulled me farther away from the parking lot and warmth.

Bob Mercer, SIB Member & Retired Director/Naturalist, Silver Lake Nature Center, Bristol, PA

To read Bob’s full account of his day on North Beach, visit his blog Mercer’s Musings.

FOS – Hooded Merganser

Hooded Mergansers – photo taken by Glen Cox

On Sunday morning, Glen Cox notified several members of SIB’s executive board of his “First of Season” (FOS) sighting of Hooded Mergansers.  He spotted them at the marsh on Captain Sams Road near the fire station on Seabrook Island. You can learn more about this beautiful bird by reading our blog from two years ago comparing the Hooded Merganser vs the Bufflehead.

Our winter birds are returning, so be sure to let us know when you see FOS birds on Seabrook Island so we can let our members know who is arriving and where they can be seen!

Use this link to Report a Bird Sighting and if possible, send a photo to our email:  seabrookislandbirders@gmail.com.