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. If you would like to learn more about the program, SIB is hosting a seminar to explain Project FeederWatch and provide support to our members on Monday, December 4, from 4:00 – 5:00 pm. The seminar will be held at the Lake House in the Eagle’s Nest room.
My dad was an avid birder. Most would find that hard to believe since he was color blind and had lost a lot of his hearing as he aged. Actually, really knowledgeable birders use other clues in identifying birds: location, season, amount and type of activity, shape, size and more, all of which require neither a color sense nor good ears.
As a kid, I thought it was a ridiculous hobby. But one day, when he was visiting Bob and me in Reston, VA, Dad set up an old TV tray outside and filled it with birdseed. Within a couple of hours, we had seen probably 20 different species. Bob and I were hooked.
We both worked, however, I with the Federal Government and Bob with his own video production company. That, and raising two kids, left us with little time to pursue birding with much gusto. When the kids left, we got more involved, often traveling to areas of the country where birds were known to frequent.
Then we found Seabrook. There was so much to do here that it was hard to choose. Initially, and for the first seven years or so, I was very involved with SINHG, as treasurer and membership chair and then with reorganizing and expanding its trip offerings. Following that, I was co-editor of the Seabrooker for several years. Also, during this period, I was involved with several other regular and special committees…and on and on.
Bob was into tennis. He and his teammates won several local and regional tournaments. For three years, he ran the Fleming Tournament where he introduced the idea of raising money for a charity. The first year I think his committee donated $5,200 to Hospice of Charleston which at that time was a non-profit organization. (This year, they raised over $40,000 for Respite Care!) And all this time, he had his photography, a hobby he pursued even as a child.
Then we both rested.
In 2015, Charley Moore suggested that he and I should start a birding club. After all, how could you not get interested in birds when there is such a wonderful variety of habitats on this little island? I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Neither Bob nor I is what I would call an avid birder. I don’t even maintain a life list which almost every real birder keeps. I have trouble seeing the birds so I resort to identifying them by ear and that’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know that our cardinals have 53 different songs? I’m glad I helped, however, because I’ve learned a lot and met some wonderful people in the process.
Late Monday afternoon, David Gardner reported a siting of a Western Kingbird in the dunes in front of the chapel at Camp St. Christopher. A Western Kingbird is an eye-catching bird with ashy gray and lemon-yellow plumage, the Western Kingbird is a familiar summertime sight in open habitats across western North America. This large flycatcher sallies out to capture flying insects from conspicuous perches on trees or utility lines, flashing a black tail with white edges.
Note, the description above from Cornell Labs says it habitats western North America. This is not the first time this bird has been seen at Camp St. Christopher as it has been here for a week in several previous falls.
Tuesday morning, Aija and Ed Konrad with Judy Morr visited Camp St. Christopher and were able to see this visitor. David reported he was still there again on Thursday afternoon. The bird has been hanging out in the dunes between the beach and the chapel / cross just down from Pelican Watch Villas.
If you wish to search for the bird, look from the beach or access from the Camp by first registering at the camp’s Welcome Center. The Western Kingbird is not expected to stay on Seabrook all winter but we don’t know how long he will enjoy his vacation in our little paradise.
Even though our South Carolina winters are milder than those experienced by our Northern friends and relatives, many Seabrook Island residents especially enjoy watching birds in our back yards during the winter. It can, however, be a year round activity. To increase the number of feathered friends in your yard, there are various things you can do. The first thought of most people is to install feeders in their yards. Since different birds like different foods, most people know there are a variety of foods available. Maybe not so obvious is that different bird species are prevalent at different times of the year so the feed used may also be varied throughout the year. Information in the Types of Bird Feed section below was gathered from various web sites and provide a description of the various types of bird feed, the common Seabrook Island birds they attract, and when they should be used.
Tufted Titmouse at tray feeder with Safflower Seed – D Morr
American Goldfines on tube feeders in their winter plumage – C Moore
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Dean Morr
Carolina Wren & Downy Woodpecker – Ed Konrad
Tray or Platform Feeders
Hopper or “House” Feeders
Nectar or Hummingbird feeders
In addition to providing feed, birds also need a dependable supply of fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing. Putting a birdbath in your yard may attract birds that don’t eat seeds and wouldn’t otherwise come to your feeders. Again, Cornell Lab’s All About Birds – Attract Birds with Birdbaths provides good descriptions of various types.
As it states, contrary to popular belief, birds often prefer shallow baths close to the ground similar to puddles in nature. A tray as you would put under a terra cotta pot is an inexpensive but effective alternative / addition to the traditional pedestal bird bath.
It is important for birds’ health and pleasure to frequently clean both feeders and water supplies. This may require disposal of feed that is no longer healthy.
Habitat is also important to encourage birds. Wild birds live in a great variety of habitats.
The greater variety or diversity that you create in your backyard can attract more species of wild birds. Wild birds feel more secure if they have shelter to protect themselves from the elements and predators. Trees and large shrubs are welcome as places to raise and protect their young. Also consider plants and foliage that produce berries, seeds, fruits, nuts, sap and nectar for year round food, as well as to provide nesting materials. Shrubs and trees should be selected that are dense enough to support nests, but so birds can move freely among the branches to escape from predators. Native plants are recommended by many sites. Plants with red flowers, of course, are known to attract hummingbirds.
Finally, to encourage desirable birds in your backyard, you need to take care to discourage “bully birds” that scare the other birds away or simply eat all the food before the desirable birds can visit.
On September 3, 2017, SIB received an email from Richard Sidebottom.
“We live in Charleston and are out here often. My in-laws (the kids grandparents) are Jerry and Jenny Reves, who have had a house here since 1995. Jerry is the former Dean at MUSC and writes the wellness column in The Seabrooker.
We arrived out here from town yesterday and the kids saw a dead yellow and black/gray bird on the deck and also noticed the identification band around its leg. My kids enjoy looking at the nature guides (including Audubon / Peterson’s Field Guide) that their grandparents have at the house, so we tried to identify it. We think it may be a female Painted Bunting. It occurred to me this morning as we were trying to figure out how to bury it that we should ask whether someone should know about the band. The band says: OPEN 2721 ABRE, 24834
The two photos below were attached:
Deceased bird with leg bands found on Seabrook Island by the Sidebottom Family.
Closer look at band on deceased bird found on Seabrook Island by the Sidebottom Family.
Nancy also sent a note to Aaron Given, Wildlife Biologist on Kiawah Island, who manages a bird banding station on Kiawah. As she suspected, Aaron responded: “We banded it on 8/26/17 at the Captain Sam’s site on the west end of Kiawah. This is a hatch-year bird because of the buffy edging on the wing coverts therefore the sex is unknown. The most likely cause of death was by window strike.”
When you report a banded bird to the USGS, you will receive a certificate of appreciation, similar to the one below sent to the Sidebottom family.
If you missed any of SIB’s other blogs about banded birds, you can find them by searching on the “Banding” category, or click on this link.
Read the article below to learn more about finding birds with leg bands: