A great week of North Beach birding!

Article by Aija Konrad
Photos by Ed Konrad

Beach birding is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates…”you never know what you’re gonna get!” It can be a feast, with too many birds to count, or famine, with a long walk to the end of the spit and few results. This week has been a gluttonous feast!

1) North Beach at high tide – Terns, Skimmers, Gulls – Ed Konrad
2) Tri-colored Heron with good catch, North Beach low tide – Ed Konrad

Our favorite time to bird North Beach is at high tide and as the tide falls. (Photo 1) The birds are usually gathered in a high tide roost, rather than far out on sand bars. We observed large numbers of terns, skimmers, pelicans, and gulls on the North Beach shore at the tip of the turn toward Captain Sam’s. Also at low tide on North Beach, Tri-colored Heron often fish at the tip of the inlet as the tide pools form. (Photo 2) Although we did not see the Reddish Egret this time, you can often it see here.

The protected area behind the yellow signs on North Beach had large numbers of Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings and peeps roosting in the dry sand. There are always a few Piping Plovers mixed in. (Photo 3) We also saw a great assortment of resting birds on the back side along the old inlet, towards Captain Sam’s mouth. (Photo 4) All of these areas are among our favorite spots to bird North Beach.

5) Piping Plovers on North Beach, 3TV banded this summer on Fire Island National Seashore NY – Ed Konrad

Since the Piping Plovers have begun to return for their winter migration, we’ve spotted them all along the shore anywhere from to the right of the Property Owner boardwalk #1 to the far end of North Beach. (Photo 5) Ed and I have been searching for banded birds and submitting photos to researchers for the Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast breeding regions. So far this season we have found and submitted 8 banded birds. We’ve learned these have migrated from Fire Island NY, Rhode Island and NJ beaches, from islands north of Nova Scotia, and from the Great Lakes. The researchers appreciate updates on where their birds have been spotted, and it’s exciting for us to know where our Pipers are coming from and their journeys!

6 Piping Plover hatched and banded on North Manitou Island summer 2017 – Ed Konrad

The cherry on top of the cake was learning from Alice Van Zoeren, our researcher friend with the Great Lakes Piping Plover Conservation Team, that a Piping Plover we sighted had hatched on North Manitou Island, Sleeping Bear Dunes MI this summer. Alice banded and watched over this chick, and was excited her chick had made its way to Seabrook! (Photo 6)

Black Skimmers are gathering in large numbers, over 200 each day. (Photo 7) Caspian Tern numbers are growing with 8 spotted. We had eight Marbled Godwits, and three Oystercatchers, including our resident U5. (Photo 8) We hit a bonanza with Black-bellied Plovers, over 70 on the edge of the old inlet, with some still showing black bellies! (Photo 9) An exciting addition on Tuesday was ten Red Knots…the first of the fall season for us. Two were still showing the remains of their rusty bellies. (Photo 10) Short-billed Dowitchers also made an appearance, as did Western and Least Sandpipers.

Warblers are also starting to come into the area, with Aaron Given having some great banding this week, including his first Canada Warbler for Kiawah banding station! His blog is outstanding (http://kiawahislandbanding.blogspot.com) and so much fun to follow, with some great pictures. We saw a few warbler species at Mingo Point on Monday…several Prairie’s, a Black-and white, and several American Redstarts. So far on Seabrook we have had Prairie, American Redstarts, Yellow-throated and a Northern Waterthrush. Palmetto Lake is a good place to look for them, as is the parking spot area at Six Ladies trail and the trail itself and the Bobcat dunes boardwalk. It can be challenging in the fall because there are no songs, bird colors are drab, but it’s a fun challenge. Mosquitos have been ferocious!

The night roost at Old Wharf Road at Jenkins Point has been crazy, with hundreds of egrets, herons, and ibis. The noise is quite a cacophony!!! I have not tried counting them yet…there are simply too many. Sadly, a dead deer is in the lagoon, adding a bad aroma!

So that’s the story for a week of fun birding. Keep your eyes and ears open…fall migration has begun!

(Editor’s note:  This article was written prior to Hurricane Irma, so as we all know, conditions and the environment are always changing.)

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Don’t Miss the Second Annual Zugunruhefest!

Zugunruhe (zu – gun – rue) is a German word derived from Zug (move, migration) and Unruhe (restlessness). This state of restlessness is commonly noted in migratory animals, especially birds.

As fall approaches and instincts prevail, birds are compelled by this silent call to take flight to their wintering grounds. As part of the Atlantic Flyway, the Lowcountry serves as a predictable thoroughfare for migrating raptors and shorebirds during fall migration passage. Exploiting the Center for Birds of Prey’s strategic location, Zugunruhefest will afford numerous opportunities for observers, both novice and advanced, to experience fall migration from an exceptional vantage point.

In addition to onsite vendors and activities, the festival will include three days filled with naturalists, ornithologists, and educators leading bird walks, flight demonstrations, informative lectures, programs, and more.

EVENT DETAILS

When: Thursday, September 28th – Saturday, September 30th

Where: Avian Conservation Center/Center for Birds of Prey, 4719 North Highway 17, Awendaw, SC 29429. Bird walks, field trips and excursions will take place in additional locations throughout the Lowcountry.

Admission: Fees vary depending on activities chosen. For a complete schedule of activities with pricing, please visit the Center for Birds of Prey website or call 843.971.7474 ext. 0 with questions.

Tickets are now available.

Solar Eclipse 2017 – How will Nature React?

Diagram showing the Earth-sun-moon geometry of a total solar eclipse. Not to scale: If drawn to scale, the Moon would be 30 Earth diameters away. The sun would be 400 times that distance. (credit: NASA.gov)

Hey everyone! Cross your fingers we have clear skies on Monday, August 21!!!  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the United States will experience a total solar eclipse from coast to coast for the first time in 99 years.  June 8, 1918, was the last time this occurred.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and Earth, blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow onto Earth. Keep in mind that the next total eclipse through the USA is on April 8, 2024, and crosses 13 states (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine), but will not be seen here on Seabrook Island.  We certainly struck it lucky this time, as those of us who will be on Seabrook Island are in the path of almost totality (99%).

Most of us understand what’s going to happen on August 21st, but animals have no idea as they don’t watch the news or read the papers. For animals, the eclipse could be a bewildering experience.  

During past eclipses, there have been observations of owls and bats emerging, cows returning to the barn, insects and frogs chirping as in their night time routines, some songbirds went silent and even some Egrets, Ibis and Geese getting so fooled they stop feeding and go to roost.  People have seen bees withdraw to their hives, gray squirrels running into their nests, and mosquitoes and midges starting their evening swarms.  

Did you know that during the 1994 solar eclipse in Mexico, observers found that colonial orb-weaving spiders dismantled their webs within one minute of totality and rebuilt them when the sun’s face was revealed.  Off the coast of Venezuela during a total eclipse in 2008, Brown Pelicans and Frigatebirds that had been busy foraging over the water before the eclipse left the bay 13 minutes before the totality and didn’t return until 12 minutes after the entire sun was revealed.  

Wild Birds Unlimited published these reactions by birds and wildlife that have been reported to occur during previous total eclipses:

Birds

  • Confused Crooners – Songbirds have been noted to decrease their singing as an eclipse progresses, often to a point of total silence during the maximum darkness of totality. Speculations is that the darkening sky triggers the birds’ night-time behaviors.
  • Out of Sync Singers – Observations show that some birds may also be confused by the re-emergence of the sun and a “dawn chorus” of bird song might be heard just as it would be during a morning sunrise.
  • Day or Night? – Numerous bird species have been reported to return to their night-time roosting locations as the total eclipse progresses. Starlings have been noted to return in large flocks to their roosts and display agitated behavior until the light returns to normal.
  • Night or Day? – Nocturnal birds such as owls, whip-poor-wills and nighthawks have been reported to either become active, take flight or call during total eclipses.
  • Fowl Rowel – Domestic fowl and pigeons have been observed to quickly return to their roosts or coops as the eclipse darkens the sky.
  • Savvy Shorebirds – Anecdotal observations seem to imply that in general, shorebirds seem to display very limited reactions to total solar eclipses.

Other Wildlife

  • Early Chirpers – Crickets have been widely observed to start “chirping” as the sky darkens and then fall silent upon the re-emergence of the sun. Katydids have also been reported to demonstrate this same behavior.
  • Silent Cicadas – Cicadas have been noted to end their shrill day-time calling and fall silent as the eclipse progresses.
  • Moving Mosquitos – During the darkest portions of an eclipse, mosquitos have been noted to emerge in mass.
  • Hustling Honeybees – Honeybees have been observed to return in swarms to their hives as the eclipse darkens.
  • Dream Weavers – Orb-weaving spiders, which generally re-weave their webs every night, have been observed to dismantle their old web during the darkness of an eclipse.
  • Busy Bats – Bats have been noted to emerge from their roost as the sky darkens and then return with the re-emergence of the sun.
  • Sly Skunks – Skunks, which are largely nocturnal, have been reported to come out and start foraging as it grows darker during an eclipse.
  • Sleepy Squirrels – Squirrels are reported to retreat to their nests during a total solar eclipse.

The California Academy of Sciences has launched a nationwide citizen scientist project, calling on participants to closely monitor the behavior of birds, animals and plants during the upcoming eclipse and record their observations using an application called iNaturalist. Because total solar eclipses don’t happen very often, there is little historical data.  Hopefully this year, many “citizen scientists” will observe their surroundings before, during and after the eclipse and document what they see and hear. Flo Foley and Nancy Brown, trained as Master Naturalists through the Charleston County Parks & Recreation program in 2016, will be volunteering to do just that at Caw Caw Monday afternoon. If you are interested in being a citizen scientist on Monday, visit www.iNaturalist.org to learn how you can document your observations of birds, animals and plants.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that we have clear skies on Monday to watch this rare astronomical event and observe how nature reacts!

 

Backyard Birding Q & A’s

Male Painted Bunting – C Moore

Feeding birds and attracting them to your yard inevitably leads to questions — about feeders, birdhouses, bird baths, baby birds, and more. In this free guide from Birdwatching Magazine, they answer 27 questions about birds in your backyard, including:What types of feeders are best?

  • How can I attract orioles?
  • Are decorative birdhouses as good as regular birdhouses?
  • What should I feed hummingbirds?
  • Why are birds’ eggs different colors?
  • How can I stop a woodpecker from drumming on my house?

And many more!

Backyard Birding Q & A’s from Birdwatching Magazine

Piping Plover Migration: From the Great Lakes to Seabrook Island

Piping Plover adult male, Sleeping Bear Dunes MI, July 17, 2017 – Ed Konrad

A few weeks ago, on July 17, Ed and I visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, where the Great Lakes race of the Piping Plovers nest. We were so excited to see where these special little birds that visit us at Seabrook come from. We also had the pleasure of meeting up with Alice Van Zoeren, who has been monitoring the plovers for the University of Minnesota since 2004. We have been corresponding with Alice through the years, sending her pictures of banded Piping Plovers that we see in winter migration at Seabrook, and she reports back to us where the PIPL have been banded. This information is so important to researchers, to know where the birds are moving.

The Piping Plovers have 3 different “races”…the Great Lakes, the Northern Great Plains and the Atlantic Coast. The Great Lakes group breeds on the beaches of the Great Lakes region from May to early Aug. They lay 4 eggs in a small depression in the dry sand and these eggs are incubated for about a month. The Great Lakes population was once at nearly 800 pairs and has now declined to about 70 pairs that breed in the area. In 1986, the Piping Plovers were placed on the Federal Endangered Species list.

We met up with Alice on the plover breeding grounds on the edge of Lake Michigan. It was a beautiful day and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the US! Alice had counted over 16 plovers that day, including one very tiny young bird that we were lucky enough to see. He was probably 2 weeks old and had so much spunk! Alice said they are independent very quickly. They can run and feed themselves within hours of hatching. By 28 days they have a complete set of flight feathers and are accomplished fliers.

Most of the female adults had already begun migration when we were there, and Alice estimated that they could be in Seabrook well before us. The males will be the next and after that, the chicks. Ed photographed many of the banded birds so we would have a record of them so we can be on the lookout for them when they pass through Seabrook!

We arrived back at Seabrook this past Thursday night, and spotted 3 Piping Plovers on Friday AM, and 4 on Saturday, on our beach!!! Two were banded, one was a Great Lakes bird. We are waiting to hear from Alice in Michigan about it’s origin. 

What a thrill it was to see where it all begins!!! Keep an eye out for Piping Plovers at our beaches, beginning now!

Article by Aija Konrad
Photos by Ed Konrad

SIB Member Profile: Charley Moore

Charley Moore

Yes, I am a certified tree-hugger. I have always considered myself an environmentalist, naturalist, and biologist. Growing up in the 1950’s on a small Kentucky farm that included at one time or another nearly every animal that has ever been domesticated, I obtained an early appreciation for animals and the value and satisfaction of growing one’s own food. Fishing and hunting small game was a way of life and much of my time was spent in the woods. Being dyslectic, reading was always a chore and most learning in school was through osmosis. Needless to say, until college I was never a very good student.

The Berlin wall resulted in my spending a couple years in the Army. I then attended Eastern Kentucky University majoring in Chemistry and Biology. Seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time during spring break my Junior year, resulted in wanting to become a marine biologist. Following graduate school at the University of Delaware the next 9 years were spent studying Chesapeake Bay fish populations in the vicinity of coal fired and nuclear electric power plants for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Moving my family (wife, Marty and two children, Wendy and Joe) to Charleston in 1977, I began my career with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as a fisheries manager. Over the next 28 years I worked to establish many of South Carolina’s current state laws dealing with marine fisheries, including establishing a saltwater fishing license. I was the Stewardship Coordinator for the ACE Basin and the National Stewardship Representative for the Estuarine Research Reserve System with reserves in all 22 coastal states.

Having worked in South Carolina’s coastal area for nearly 30 years, there was only one place I planned to retire – Seabrook Island. In preparation for retirement, in 2004 we sold our cut-your-own Christmas Tree farm which we had operated for the past 18 years on Young’s Island and moved to Seabrook Island. I retired form DNR in 2005.

The past thirteen years have been Marty’s and my best years – Seabrook Island is our idea of heaven. Where else is nature such an integral part of a neighborhood. Simply walking out your front door or taking a short walk on the beach provides a vast array of birds and other wildlife that call Seabrook Island home.

Seabrook Island’s wide variety of birds and wildlife has resulted in revitalizing my interest in photography. I have been active on the Environmental Committee for the past ten years, chaired the Deer Management Task Force, written “Wild Things” articles for the Seabrooker, grown my own vegetables, chaired the community vegetable gardens and currently serve on the Board of the Green Space Conservancy.

In October 2015, Marcia Hider and I placed a notice in the lobby of the Lake House for residents to indicated if they would be interested in forming a birding group and if they would be willing to help organize it. In two weeks seventy residents had replied positively and seven agreed to help organize such a group. Two-months later the first Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) membership meeting was held with 130 residents attending. Today, SIB with the moto “Watching, Learning and Protecting,” has over 230 members and continues to grow. I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as the Board Chairman during this period.

Submitted by:  Charles Moore

SIB Learning Together at Crooked Oaks Golf Course

On a warm Saturday morning on July 15th, sixteen Seabrook Island Birders enjoyed a Learning Together “Bird Walk” on Crooked Oaks Golf Course which was closed for annual summer maintenance.  The Club graciously gave us access to not only the course but also use of carts for the outing, which helped to beat the heat of the July morning.  Due to the size of the group, the Birders split in to two groups with one going forward on the course and the other going backwards.  Each group had members with cameras to capture some of the birds seen.

The two groups met on the eleventh green where the Red Headed Woodpeckers have a nest in a dead pine. Each of our photographers captured the birds for prosperity while Charley Moore was able to catch them in their mating dance.

Since both groups were on the course at the same time, it would be expected the sited species would be very similar.  The group starting on the first hole saw 21 species.  The group starting on 18 saw 25 species. Only 15 of these species were the same for a total of 31 species.  Even with seeing so many birds on a  warm morning, neither group saw some common birds such as Turkey Vultures, Painted Buntings or Mourning Doves.  It proves that birding is always an experience in being at the right place at the right time.

Mississippi Kite – Glen Cox

A highlight for both groups was the Mississippi Kites which perched for the group and continued to fly by so we could see their grace as they dove to catch insects while in flight.

It must have been breakfast time for the birds as in addition to the Kite, an Osprey was seen eating a fish and a proud Eastern Bluebird had a lizard.

It was a great morning to Learn Together and enjoy some of the wonders of Seabrook Island.  Thanks to the Seabrook Island Club for making this possible.

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Article Submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photos taken by:  Marie Wardell, Glen Cox and Charley Moore

Group starting on first hole:

1 Double-crested Cormorant
25 Brown Pelican
1 Great Egret
1 Tricolored Heron
4 Green Heron
3 Osprey
4 Mississippi Kite
2 Laughing Gull
1 Red-headed Woodpecker
2 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Great Crested Flycatcher
2 Blue Jay
3 American Crow
3 Fish Crow
1 Barn Swallow
3 Carolina Chickadee
2 Tufted Titmouse
2 Carolina Wren
4 Eastern Bluebird
1 Northern Mockingbird
2 Northern Cardinal

Group starting on eighteenth hole:

4 Wild Turkey
1 Anhinga
20 Brown Pelican
1 Great Blue Heron
2 Snowy Egret
3 Green Heron
2 Osprey
3 Mississippi Kite
1 Red-tailed Hawk
2 Laughing Gull
1 Belted Kingfisher
2 Red-headed Woodpecker
2 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Pileated Woodpecker
10 American Crow
2 Fish Crow
3 Carolina Chickadee
3 Tufted Titmouse
4 Carolina Wren
11 Eastern Bluebird
6 Northern Mockingbird
7 Northern Cardinal
2 Red-winged Blackbird
2 House Finch