Join SIB for Spring Migration at Camp St. Christopher

Register Now!

Green Heron by Michael Audette

Sunday March 22, 2020 9:00 – 11:00 am
Spring Migration @ St. Christopher Camp & Conference Center
Location: Meet at the Bus Parking Lot at St. Christopher
Max: 10 walkers, 3 in cart

Explore the property at St. Christopher with one of the Camp’s environmentalists providing a cart for 3 birders with mobility issues. This event will visit the feeders near Susannah’s House then continue along the roads with walking birders accompanying those in the Camp’s vehicle. Spring should have begun, so we should see all the usual suspects, but will also hopefully get looks at our some of our more elusive resident breeding songbirds…Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Parula, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Painted Bunting.

Early April is the start of migration for a number of species, so we may be lucky to see a few migrant warblers (Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat), Scarlet Tanagers and Blue Grosbeaks.

Bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, water and binoculars. 

If you are not yet a 2020 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 Friday March 20, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday March 21st. 

Seabrook Island Birders-Shorebird Walk on North Beach

1-red-knot-flock-of-700-north-beach-east-of-boardwalk-1-1Tuesday, March 17, 2020 2pm-5pm
North Beach, boardwalk #1
Location: Meet at Property Owners’ beach parking lot, boardwalk #1.
Max: 20
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

Bob Mercer and Mark Andrews will lead several Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) Shorebird Beach Walks at North Beach this spring. We’ll be looking for shorebirds of all types, but watching especially for the very special visitors; the Piping Plovers and Red Knots. The Red Knots that are our guests every March – May, stop at Seabrook Island to rest and refuel on their long migration from South America to the Arctic to breed. Flocks of 1,000 knots are expected during this time, growing to 5,000 or more as in past years. Wilson’s Plovers are being seen in the critical habitat getting ready to mate and nest. Overall, we hope to spot a nice variety of shorebirds as we work our way to the North Beach inlet.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats, sunscreen, water and snack.

If you are not yet a 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please complete the information below to register no later than Sunday March 15,2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday, March 6th.

USC Students to Study Red Knots on Seabrook and Kiawah Beaches

Sara Padula and Jenny Linscott counting red knots and finding flags.

Seabrook and Kiawah Islands will be hosting University of South Carolina (USC) graduate and undergraduate students for the next few months. These students are studying the Red Knots as they use our beaches as a stopover during their long spring migration. The students will be on the beach two days weekly from March through May, mostly likely on Friday and Saturday. As students survey the beach, you may recognize them by their bright yellow vests, tripods and scopes. If you find them looking through the scopes, it is important not to approach them or cross through their line of sight as looking for flags requires concentration and patience.

Luckily, the Seabrook Island Birders new Shorebird Steward Program began last Friday, March 6th. The goal of this new program is to have someone on the beach four hours a day with information, binoculars, and a birding scope for anyone who is interested in observing and learning more about our shorebirds. We will also have a Shorebird Steward accompany the USC student(s) as an intermediary in the event visiting beach goers are curious about their research project. 

Objectives of the USC Red Knot Project: 

During their annual migrations, rufa Red Knots depend on stopover sites along the Atlantic coast of the U.S to rest and refuel. In the past, most research concerning Red Knots has concentrated on Delaware Bay, which may host 50-80% of the Red Knot population. However, observations and counts by SCDNR and other colleagues in the region suggest that the coast of South Carolina, specifically Seabrook and Kiawah Islands, are of great importance for knots. The research will quantify the knots use of the area during spring migration. 

The objectives of the study are: 

  • Conduct weekly resighting efforts from Feb-May 2020 to identify individually marked Red Knots along the coast of Seabrook and Kiawah Island, SC. Resighting is an activity where an observer, using a high powered spotting scope or by photography, reads identification codes on the colored bands previously placed on the legs of Red Knots by researchers. It is a tough job to read tags on moving Red Knots!
  • Obtain robust estimates of the proportion of the rufa Red Knot population utilizing the study area and total stopover duration using  a research technique called mark-recapture sampling. This method statistically compares data obtained from banded birds to the number of unbanded birds to make an estimate of the total population and how long they stay.
  • Train two undergraduate students from the University of South Carolina (USC) to contribute to field work and data analyses. 
  • Support SCDNR shorebird conservation efforts through the provision of robust data. 

Lodging Needed

To allow the students to spend more of their limited time closer to the beach, the program would like to find lodging on Friday nights for the students. If anyone on Seabrook Island would be interested in providing a room for a student one weekend during the next few months it would be a tremendous help to them. If interested please fill out this form and someone will contact you within a few days.  

If you want to learn more about the students and their research please visit their university’s website: http://www.sennerlab.com/people.html 

Thank you to everyone for your support of this important study.

Sara Padula and Cameron Wise. Undergraduate students from the University of South Carolina.

Updated Registration Link – Join SIB for a Youth Bird Walk at Palmetto Lake

Please sign up using the updated link below:

Register today for the Youth Bird Walk at Palmetto Lake

IMG_8059

Description: Join the Seabrook Island Birders and the Seabrook Island Youth Group for a leisurely walk around Palmetto Lake. Beginners and experienced birders are welcome. We can teach you birding and how to use binoculars. We will provide binoculars, but if you have your own, please bring them. Spring Migration will have just started, but maybe the ducks will still be there. We will see our usual songbirds and shorebirds. We will have to look to the skies for hawks and bald eagles too. Daylight savings time is March 8th. We will have plenty of light left for our stroll. Members welcome without children.

Dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes and bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, water and binoculars.

Revision: This event will be free to all who attend. If you would like to join Seabrook Island Birders, the annual fee is $10/person aged 17 and older. Just visit us at our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/ to find the membership form or bring $10 to the next event you attend.

Register by completing the information below by Friday March 13.

SIB Excursion to Bear Island & Donnelley WMAs

On Saturday, Feb 29, a group of 12 SIB birders made the trek down to Bear Island and Donnelley WMA in the ACE Basin. It was a beautiful sunny day, but very windy and quite cold. We all persevered and did well, despite the gusty winds. Mary’s House Pond at the entrance to Bear Island was drained low and filled with hundreds of shorebirds. There were many beautiful American Avocets feeding in the water, which we continued to see all morning long.  Some were even beginning to have hints of their tan breeding colors. Glossy Ibis made an appearance several times and 2 Osprey were busy tending to a nest.

As we began our caravan through the property, Brown-headed Nuthatches gave us great views.  Belted Kingfishers rattled their call several times during the day. Throughout the property, we saw hundreds of ducks, mostly Gadwall and Northern Shovelers, with both Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal mixed in. Tree Swallows worked all the impoundments. A perched Bald Eagle gave great looks at Hog Island. We had a total of 7 Bald Eagles for Bear!

At Donnelley it was fairly quiet in the afternoon. Seven Roseate Spoonbills sat huddled from the wind in a tree. We had great looks at a Blue-headed Vireo and ended the day on a high note with a beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker perched against the blue sky, which our leader Bob Mercer was able to even get into the scope for all of us! A great finish for a group of tired and happy birders!

We tallied 65 species for Bear Island and 61 for Donnelly. Links to the checklists are at:

Bear Island WMA https://ebird.org/checklist/S65310562  

Donnelley WMA. https://ebird.org/checklist/S65299367

Article by Aija Konrad

Spring – an important time for Seabrook shorebirds!

Migrating Red Knots will be arriving. Piping Plovers will head north to breed. Least Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, and other shorebirds will mate and possibly nest on North Beach. It’s a time to enjoy their splendors, understand their challenges, and be extra careful when on the beach – give them space to rest, feed, and nest, and follow our beach rules for dogs.

1 Red Knot-North Beach
Red Knot-North Beach – Ed Konrad

Red Knots are amazing – flying 18,000 miles roundtrip from the tip of South America to the Arctic to breed. When knots arrive at Seabrook they’ve traveled 5,000 miles on this journey, sometimes flying six days straight over open ocean. They’re exhausted from using their fat reserves, and stay to feed along Seabrook, Kiawah, and Deveaux beaches to restore their strength. Adequate food and undisturbed opportunities to feed are essential for their long journey north, successful breeding, and survival. Red Knot populations have declined 70% in the last 20 years, and they’re Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Here’s an analogy. Imagine when you’re hungry, each time you sit down at your favorite restaurant to eat, the fire alarm keeps going off. You’re disturbed time after time, never get to finish your meals, and are exhausted from running outside with the constant fire alarms. That’s what it’s like when we spook a flock of Red Knots, who need those meals and their rest to travel north to breed. Think about it next time on the beach!

6Red Knots, North Beach, April 2016
Red Knots, North Beach- Ed Konrad

Our partners at SC DNR will be continuing their Red Knot research on our large Seabrook flock, usually between 4000-8000 knots. In past years nanotags were placed on knots, transmitting the birds’ location to towers along the migration route. From this data SC DNR discovered that all the knots were not flying to Delaware Bay to feed on their way to the Arctic as had been thought. Many were stopping here, and then going directly to the Arctic. This proved Seabrook is a very critical “staging” beach.

3 Piping Plover 2K-North Beach
Piping Plover 2K, North Beach – Ed Konrad

In late April our Piping Plovers, who have wintered with us since last July, will head north to their breeding regions. We’ve been seeing 4-8 Piping Plovers each time we’re on North Beach this winter. Soon we may see over 20 at a time – as plovers from southern beaches stop at Seabrook to rest and feed as they move north. Look for the plovers feeding in the Red Zone – along the large tidal pool shore, and along the beach to the left of Boardwalk 1. They can be in the Green Zone too. In past articles we’ve shared “personal” stories about our banded Piping Plovers. We’re hoping black flag 2K, our guest the last two years from Prince Edwards Island, Canada, returns safely north, and hooks up with the same mate again to successfully breed.

Recent studies have shown negative impacts of human disturbance on Piping Plovers on their non-breeding grounds where they “winter”. Plovers were monitored to determine health and behavior. Those in disturbed areas were significantly lighter, due to not getting enough food. Given poorer body condition, it’s no surprise that birds in these disturbed areas had lower survival rates. Relate these disturbances to Piping Plover population sizes: Threatened Atlantic breeding region – less than 2000 breeding pairs. Endangered Great Lakes breeding region – less than 75 breeding pairs, where there once were 800 pairs. If every person on a beach on a given day can help shorebirds feed or rest, these many small impacts can begin to add up to help increase the population sizes.

On North Beach we have a responsibility to protect our Piping Plovers for the nine months they’re here – so they can feed and rest to be strong for the 1000-1500 mile journey to their breeding regions. At Seabrook we’re fortunate that (1) our Piping Plovers and other shorebirds have an incredible and mostly protected critical habitat, (2) the Town of Seabrook and SIPOA – with their many priorities to manage for our residents, guests, and beautiful island – feel it’s important to protect our shorebirds, (3) Seabrookers overall have an appreciation and respect for the wildlife that resides on our beautiful beach. The job isn’t done, but thanks all!

To help protect our shorebirds, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) has initiated a Shorebird Stewards Program from March to May. We’ll focus on migrating Red Knots, wintering Piping Plovers, and nesting Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers. SIB’s goal is for our Stewards to educate beach walkers on the challenges our shorebirds face, how important our critical habitat is, and how people should interact with shorebirds to keep them safe.

SIB’s Shorebird Stewards Program will also help Seabrook’s commitment to USFWS and SC DNR agencies that allowed the inlet relocation, in part because we agreed to protect Piping Plovers and Red Knots. Seabrook’s efforts to protect these two species has an “umbrella” effect on helping to protect other North Beach shorebirds at risk with declining populations – American Oystercatcher, Willet, Black Skimmer, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling. Check the Seabrook Island Birders website about becoming a Shorebird Steward volunteer.

Last point – Seabrook Island Birders’ March 25 Evening Program will feature Benjamin Clock – field biologist, nature photographer and videographer – whose passion is documenting the wonders of wildlife & their habitats to help conserve wild places. Benjamin will speak about how his beautiful imagery can be a powerful tool to educate, inspire, and change the conservation of birds & habitat. He’ll share his worldwide adventures & stunning photos, plus highlight his work to protect Red Knots that feed and rest on SC beaches. SIB members and non-members can register at Seabrook Island Birders website. Hope to see your there!

Article by Ed and Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad

(As published in the March issue of The Seabrooker)

Seabrook Island Birders-Shorebird Walk on North Beach

Register today for the walk on North Beach this Saturday!

1a-north-beach

Saturday, March 7th 3pm-6pm
North Beach, boardwalk #1
Location: Meet at Property Owners’ beach parking lot, boardwalk #1.
Max: 20
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests

Bob Mercer and Mark Andrews will lead several Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) Shorebird Beach Walks at North Beach this spring. We’ll be looking for shorebirds of all types, but watching especially for the very special visitors; the Piping Plovers and Red Knots. The Red Knots that are our guests every March – May, stop at Seabrook Island to rest and refuel on their long migration from South America to the Arctic to breed. Flocks of 1,000 knots are expected during this time, growing to 5,000 or more as in past years. Wilson’s Plovers are being seen in the critical habitat getting ready to mate and nest. Overall, we hope to spot a nice variety of shorebirds as we work our way to the North Beach inlet.

For those who are interested in learning about or becoming part of our new Shorebird Steward Program, you may meet us at 1:30 pm at the Oyster Catcher Community Center for an hour of classroom training prior to the walk. To learn more about this program click here.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats, sunscreen, water and snack.

If you are not yet a 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please register no later than Thursday, March 5,2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Friday, March 6th.