SIB Travels: Southern Florida

Not coordinating our schedules, Jackie and Walter Brooks were in Florida the same time as Judy and Dean Morr. We were in different areas so two blogs. Today, the Brooks! The Morr’s trip report to come soon. – Judy Morr

Never ones to pass up an opportunity for a trip, we set off for Miami and our Global Entry interviews with thoughts of seeing all sorts of exotic birds as we extended our trip to include birding and traipsing the Keys.

Burrowing Owl – Jackie Brooks

The 175 acre Brian Piccolo Park is a sports venue located in Cooper City, Florida (Near Fort Lauderdale). It was the chance to see the ever adorable Burrowing Owls that made this stop a must.

Interviews completed, we hit several Miami-Dade hot spots where such creatures as the Red-legged Honeycreeper, macaws of all descriptions, and Red-masked Parakeets had been seen by many. Along with other birders, we waited in excited anticipation. We waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, we left with only ibis, butterbutts, White-winged Doves……oh, and one lone cardinal that I excitedly motioned birders over to see, thinking it was something exotic as it was so red. Color me red!!

Everywhere we went, it was the same story and same birds that we see daily here on Seabrook Island. Iguanas, however, were plentiful. In A.D. Barnes Park, we , with Merlin’s help, heard a Red-masked Parakeet but never saw it. We did see two Egyptian Geese, which are an introduced species.

Messy Osprey nest – Jackie Brooks

We had a little better luck in Key West at Fort Zachary Taylor. No exotic species, but an Osprey who had succumbed to the island attitude with the poorest excuse for a nest I have ever seen.

Sandwich Tern – Waiting to go to rehab – Jackie Brooks

We also watched Royal and Sandwich Terns doing “touch and goes” with a couple of fishermen’s baits. Sure, it was all fun and games until someone gets hurt. In this case, a Sandwich Tern was hooked in the leg. The fisherman went above and beyond to safely reel in the tern, crawling over slippery boulders to bring it to safety. Fortunately, since it was bleeding from the leg, there was a knowledgeable local nearby who offered to take the tern to a local rehab place after letting it rest and calm down a bit.

Some of the easiest birding ever can be spotting the infamous Red Junglefowl of Key West, aka the chickens and roosters. They’re everywhere. As mentioned in an earlier post, this bird is considered Naturalized (in Key West) or Escapee (most other areas).

Leaving the Keys is always a sad thing for us, but we ended up at Homestead and Everglades still hopeful of finding the elusive parrots, parakeets, and macaws. At Frog Pond WMA, we spotted 2 wire birds- a Loggerhead Shrike and , at last, something different, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Of course, it was cloudy and not great for photos. We met a birder from Chicago who was excited to see an alligator. Didn’t have the heart to tell him we had them in our backyard.
After checking out a couple of canals that were supposed to have Smooth-billed Ani, but we had no luck, so we headed back to hotel.

Dreams of going back to the hot spots in Miami- Dade were dashed the next morning when we acquired our only real exotic from the trip-Covid. Cutting our trip short and limping back home, we planned a return trip next January. We will get those parakeets, parrots, and macaws if we have to return multiple times.

Article and photos submitted by Jackie Brooks

SIB Travels: Bucket List Birding – Jackson Hole, Wyoming


It all started around the dinner table one night.  We were at the beach with friends and started talking about travel destinations still on our bucket list when Jackson Hole, Wyoming came up.  Of the four of us, I was the only one who’d been to Wyoming but that was years ago and I really looked forward to the return trip.  

I’m usually more of a warm-weather girl, but there’s something magical about winter in Wyoming.  Snow is measured in feet, icicles hang from every rooftop, and wildlife is all around.  With only six people per square mile in Wyoming (South Carolina averages 154 in case you’re wondering) the quiet, wide open spaces have a way of melting away your stress. 

My husband and friends were excited to see Yellowstone National Park, to go snowmobiling, and of course to see the town of Jackson.  For me, my first thought was birds!  Which birds would be spending the winter in Wyoming that were not yet on my life list?  

We were there only a few hours when I found a new lifer – the Black-billed Magpie.  A combination of black and white, with a blue gloss on the wings and long tail, their flashy appearance was very eye-catching, and they were everywhere!  Like the crows of SC, you didn’t have to look very far to spot one in the trees or along the roadside.  

Day two took us to Yellowstone National Park on a snow coach tour.  Since Yellowstone is closed to cars in the winter, snowmobiles and snow coaches are the best way to see the park.  And I must admit a 12 hour day in 20 degrees is much more comfortable inside a coach.  Bison and coyotes were the first of our wildlife sightings that day and the birds du jour were the Common Raven and Common Merganser.  Raven calls filled the air and soon became a familiar sound.  Two Coyotes ran alongside us for a bit before drifting off through the trees, and a family of bison decided we could stop and wait for them to cross the road.  Yellowstone is a true highlight and well worth the long day.

On the drive back to Jackson we saw two elegant Trumpeter Swans swimming in a nearby river.  Unfortunately, there was no time to take a picture but a good look at them from the car gave me another addition to my life list.  

Gros Ventre was the next area to explore.   We spent seven hours on snow mobiles riding through pristine trails surrounded by the Gros Ventre mountains and only saw three other people all day.  Total and complete silence – we were definitely off the grid. We passed several private ranches and realized life is very different here.  Satellite phones and internet are the primary forms of communication and calling 911 gets you a helicopter, weather permitting, and maybe even Harrison Ford!  He lives in the area and generously volunteers with local emergency rescue teams.  Can you imagine Indiana Jones coming to your rescue?!    As for the wildlife, sheep and rams clinging to the sides of mountains were the order of the day and the only bird we saw was a magnificent Golden Eagle circling over the river.  It was another new lifer for me so I was thrilled. 

Our last full day included a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge.  An estimated 6000 elk were wintering on the refuge the day we were there and while they’re wary of people they completely ignore the horse drawn sleighs, making it a convenient way to see them up close.  As for the feathered residents we saw Common Goldeneye ducks, the ever-present Ravens, and two Bald Eagles, who kept a close eye on us from a nearby tree.  

If you find yourself in the area be sure and stop by the National Elk Refuge & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.  The naturalists and park rangers who work there are a wonderful resource and even offer free nature tours of the area during the winter.  Garrett Moon is the birding expert and was extremely helpful in giving us information about the best places, and times, to find local birds.  Here’s a tip – the best time to see migrating birds in Wyoming is mid May. 

Our long weekend flew by and it was soon time to come home. Was I disappointed that I didn’t see more birds? Not really. We were blessed to have beautiful weather, to spend time with good friends, and thankful to see as much as we did.   And now I have a good excuse to go back in May.

To learn more, check out this link for the Visitor Center.
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/national-elk

Submitted by: Gina Sanders
Photes by: Gina Sanders

SIB Travels: Christmas Birding in Frigid Ohio

This year’s visit to Ohio for Christmas was COLD to say the least. The HIGH temperature on Friday, December 23 was -1 degrees with 30 mile per hour winds. Not good conditions for birding. I was able to work in some birding by car before the front came through and continued birding from the comfort of my sister-in-law’s great room.

American Tree Sparrow (All About Birds)

As we drove into town on Wednesday, we detoured through the St. Mary’s State Fish Hatchery. I was able to get a group of American Tree Sparrows at this known site. I had seen them here on prior years but had not seen them anywhere in 2022 so it was a good sighting. The fish hatchery is at the end of Grand Lake St. Mary’s, a feeder lake for the Miami Erie Canal. Last year, when the temperature was a warmer 50 degrees with open waters, I got a Trumpeter Swan on one of the ponds. The frozen ponds this year only yielded the expected hundreds of Canada Goose. (I conservatively reported 250).

As I drove through the flat country, I was able to get the expected Red-tailed Hawks, European Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. I’m still surprised when I frequently see Great Blue Herons, Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls. The gulls seem to like the Walmart parking lot in addition to lake banks.

Horned Lark (Monica Hall Photography)

After finishing my Christmas shopping, I drove the south side of the lake, stopping at each of the local hot spots. It had started to mist as the front approached so there wasn’t much visible. When I stopped at the Mercer Wildlife Management Area, I again encountered primarily Canada Goose (this time I reported 300 but was probably closer to 500). My highlight was when a flock of Horned Larks flew into the area. These were also the first of the year for me. Unlike last year, there were no Bald Eagles, White Pelicans or Sandhill Cranes.

At the Montezuma Boat Ramp, a group of Mallards were hanging out. There was also a domestic white duck and two mystery ducks. They looked very similar to the Mallards but their chests were white rather than the usual chestnut. Since I couldn’t identify, I initially didn’t report them. After I got home and was reading Mom’s Birds and Bloom, there was a brief article (https://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/bird-species/ducks-and-geese/domestic-mallard-ducks/) with a picture of a duck just like I saw….a hybrid of a domestic duck and a Mallard. So I was correct in not reporting it.

House Sparrows in Bush (Dean Morr)

By Christmas day, the temperature had warmed to a “comfortable” 15 degrees. The bushes at the end of the street had numerous House Sparrows looking like ornaments on a Christmas Tree. When we got to my sister-in-law’s house, she reported her feeder had been busy. At one point, I counted 27 House Finch on or below her feeder. A Downy Woodpecker was in the nearby tree. I was happiest when the four Dark-eyed Junco visited the ground below the feeder. My pictures through the window were worthy of the trash bin but at least I was able to enjoy them from the warmth of her home.

Dark-eyed Junco (Project FeederWatch)

Overall, the trip wasn’t a great bird experience but it was productive considering the inclement weather. If you have a birding experience while traveling, please share with us so we can enjoy vicariously.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

SIB Travels: Hammock Coastal Birding Festival

As previously reported, several SIB members are always on the look-out for birding festivals. The Hammock Coastal Birding Festival recently was brought to our attention. This inaugural festival is scheduled for the weekend of February 10 – 12, 2023 in nearby Georgetown.

The festival includes speakers plus opportunities to bird Brookgreen Gardens, Huntington Beach, Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center and Hobcaw Barony. It should be a good weekend.

Although this is NOT a Seabrook Island Birders activity or sponsored event, we think other members may be interested in the event. Several members have already registered. Let SIB know if you plan to attend as we can share car pool arrangements.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Beyond Our Backyard-College of Charleston’s Stono Preserve

Saturday, October 15,  2022     7:30 am – 2:30 pm
Birding at College of Charleston’s Stono Preserve
Location:  Meet at Seabrook Island Real Estate to carpool at ­­­­6:30 am
                  Meet at Publix on Main Road and Hwy 17 at 7:05 am to carpool to Stono Preserve
Max:  14          
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests 

Join SIB to bird at the Stono Preserve of the College of Charleston.  This beautiful 981-acre property along the Stono River and the Intracoastal Waterway provides a natural, outdoor laboratory for a variety of disciplines at the College of Charleston.   For more information on this property, be sure to visit the link above. In the morning, we will enjoy a tour of this property led by Dr. Melissa Hughes, Professor in the Biology Department, in which she will take us birding through a variety of habitats.  In the morning, we will walk along lowland forest bordering the Stono River, passing open marsh and both brackish and freshwater ponds; depending on time, we may also walk along open fields. We should see a variety of wading and shorebirds (depending water depth in the brackish pond), raptors (Osprey and Bald Eagles both nest on the site; American Kestrels are also common and both Great-horned and Barred Owls have been spotted during the day by following the commotion of crow and jays), woodpeckers (the site hosts all SC species except the Red-cockaded) and wintering warblers and sparrows.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars/cameras, hats, sunscreen and bug spray.  Bring plenty to drink and a picnic lunch to eat on the property.  There is water on the property but we have been advised that it may not taste very good because the pipes are infrequently in use.  We have also been warned that the Dixie Plantation Road leading to the site is a dirt road that may not be in great shape so drive with caution. We will have access to bathroom facilities and the beginning of our tour and during lunch.  After our morning tour, we will picnic on site in the screened porch/classroom or on the outdoor deck.  Following lunch, Melissa will suggest some areas where we can do additional birding.  We ask that all participants wear a mask when unable to social distance if they are not vaccinated.

If you are not yet a 2022 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 REGISTER no later than Thursday, October 13, 2022.  All registrants will receive a confirmation letter the day prior the event.  

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 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 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

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

Beyond Our Backyard-Edisto Nature Trail

Beyond Our Backyard – Edisto Nature Trail 

Saturday, April 30, 2022 8:00am-12:00pm
Location: 17038 Ace Basin Pkwy
Carpool: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool at 7:00am, drive is approximately 50 minutes to the nature trail’s parking lot
Cost: Free for SIB Member; $5 Guest Fee

Come join us for spring migration, Beyond Our Backyard, at the Edisto Nature Trail. This park, within the ACE Basin on Highway 17, is both a migrant hot spot and a known nesting area for a number of sought after bird species. The park, adjacent to the Edisto River, has a variety of habitats along its one point five (1.5) mile looped trail. As you walk the park in search of its birdlife you will move through a pine and maritime forest habit into, adjacent the Edisto River, a cypress-tupelo swamp. In prior years, because of this varied habit, we have encountered a vast array of wildlife and plant life inside the park boundaries.

Some of the bird species we will endeavor see, and have encountered in prior years, includes such Warbler Species as Prothonotary, Worm-Eating, Black and White, Swainson’s, Kentucky, Hooded, Black Throated Blue, Yellow-Throated, and Northern Parula. Other possible bird species include, but are not limited to, Veery, Scarlet Tanager, Blackburnian Warbler, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Blue-Winged Warbler, Warbling Vireos, and a variety of raptors.

This nature trail has a number of board walk cross overs to assist in traversing potentially wet areas. Appropriate foot ware is recommended, even during dry spells, so that all participants are able to maximize the enjoyment of their experience. Participants should also consider these other items to maximize the comfort and enjoyment: binoculars, bug spray, sunscreen, hats, layered clothing to adjust to the mornings weather, field guides if print is your preference, eyeglass – lens cleaner, water, snacks, camera, and a pack or shoulder bag for your needs.

If you are not a member of Seabrook Island Birders you may do so by following this link : https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/ Or by going to our web page under the Contact tab and clicking on Join SIB.

Please complete the form below to REGISTER prior to April 27th, 2022. You will receive a conformation letter the day prior to the event.

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