Songs of Spring

We published this blog in 2017, but felt it was worth repeating!  We hope you agree!

Below are the answers to the nine birds we challenged you to identify on Friday. (Birds with the blue hyperlink will open a previous SIB Blog for that bird)

How did you do?  If you answered:

1 right = Hatchling
2-4 right = Fledgling
5-7 right =Matured
8-9 right = True Bird Nerd

A common question is, “What is your favorite season?” Once again this year, after spending warm days golfing and biking, I still agree with my answer from two years ago – SPRING! My passion for birding is growing exponentially with my ability to identify birds, especially by hearing them. Birds make chip and call notes all year long, but many only sing in the spring when they are trying to attract a mate or defend their territory. With migration now in full swing, I love the challenge of identifying songs I haven’t heard since last spring! And best of all, listening to birds can be done while walking, biking, hanging out in the yard and golfing!  In fact, I even bird while watching golf on TV!  Try it today if you are watching The Masters – I bet you’ll hear many of the same birds you hear on Seabrook Island.

If you’ve gotten this far, then maybe you are interested in how to improve your skills!  In researching this article I realized there are a number of great resources that can help us on our quest!  The first article, Bird ID Skills: How to Learn Bird Songs and Calls, includes five tips for beginning birders:  Watch & Listen, Learn from an Expert, Listen to Recordings, Say it to Yourself and Details – Break it Apart.  As you listen to a song, evaluate the rhythm, pitch, repetition and tone.  Some people find using Mnemonics (like the Carolina Wren’s “Germany Germany“) helpful while others may prefer the visual of a Spectogram of the sound (like the Northern Parula’s below).

northern parula song spectrogram

The second article I found helpful is How To Listen To Bird Song—Tips And Examples From The Warbler Guide.  Although this article focuses specifically on warblers, it provides a common language we can use to describe bird songs like the song quality (buzzy, trilled, clear), pitch trend (rising, falling, steady) and number of sections.

If you are interested in improving your identification of birds using their sounds, try one of these two websites to play fun games to challenge and learn bird songs.

Larkwire
All About Bird Song

Finally, some birders may use their phone to listen to a bird’s song/call while in the field or even to attract a bird in order to see it.  Before attempting to do this, you should understand the proper method for using playback and the pro’s and con’s by reading this article:  Proper use of playback in birding (Sibley).

We hope you are inspired to start increasing the number of birds you can identify by sound!

Submitted by Nancy Brown
Photos by Hider, Konrad, Moore & Brown

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Join SIB for Learning Together at Kiawah River Development – Thursday April 18

Thursday April 18,2019 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Learning Together at Kiawah River Development
Location: Meet at Kiawah River Development Real Estate office to car pool and walk the Development
Max: 12
Cost None for members; $5 donation for guests

Another chance to meet with Jeff Snyder, biologist at the Kiawah River development property, and check out birds that can be found on this varied habitat property. We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Osprey and other birds of prey. If we are lucky, we will see an eagle and osprey duel over a fish.

Yellow-throated Warbler – David Etler

We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals. Hopefully, we will be in the midst of Warbler migration. We will drive to various locations on the property and then walk for better birding observations. Of course ,this also gives us a chance to see this neighboring development.

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

If you are not yet a 2019 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. Alternatively, you could pay a $5 guest fee.

Please  register no later than Tuesday April 16, 2019. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on the day prior the event.

Songs of Spring … Who am I?

We published this blog in 2017, but felt it was worth repeating!  We hope you agree!

You have probably noticed it sounds like a symphony of birds every time you step outside! Some birds you can hear today are just arriving to breed and spend the summer, some will pass-through, a few will be departing and others live here year round.

This Sunday, our article will focus on why birds sing and provide tips on how to improve your ability to identify birds by listening to their calls and songs. Below are the songs of nine common birds you can hear on Seabrook Island today. Can you guess who they are?

Your choices are:

  • Bird A: Carolina Chickadee
  • Bird B: Carolina Wren
  • Bird C: Eastern Bluebird
  • Bird D: Northern Cardinal
  • Bird E: Northern Parula
  • Bird F: Painted Bunting
  • Bird G: Pine Warbler
  • Bird H: Tufted Titmouse
  • Bird I: Yellow-throated Warbler

Let us know your answers by leaving a comment!  The answers and more will be distributed on Sunday.

Chuck-will’s-widow & Spring Migration

Each spring, migrants fly north, either leaving, passing through or ending their migration on Seabrook Island to breed. One of those birds who spends its spring and summer on Seabrook is the Chuck-will’s-widow.  Even if you have never seen this bird, chances are if you live or spend time in the spring here, you have heard him! Last Thursday, April 4th, was our first recorded identification of the Chuck-will’s-widow by George Haskins.  In fact, it was only a few days after his first “sighting” two years previous.  Below is a blog we have “recycled” from April 2, 2017.


On Friday, we asked if you could identify a bird by its song.  It was first reported on Seabrook Island early last Thursday morning by George Haskins.  The answer:  the Chuck-will’s-widow.  This bird winters as far south as Colombia, Venezuela and the Caribbean and breeds in pine, oak-hickory, and other forests of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. They tend to live in more open areas than the similar Whip-poor-will, which are not common here on Seabrook Island.

Chuck-will’s-widow – Flo Foley

Scientist continue to learn much about the migration of birds, especially with the advancement of technology such as using radar, acoustic, electronic and optical technologies. Spring migration starts as early as January and continues into June.  Birds generally take off shortly after sunset, some flying all night and landing just before dawn the next morning.  Others will fly nonstop for 60-100 hours as they flyover oceans and continents. Some nights there could be hundreds of millions of birds flying over North America.

Citizen Scientists like all of us are a great resource for migration information as we document bird sightings using the Audubon/Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: eBird.org.  This data is also available for anyone to view.  This link will open the eBird page to view the historical bird observations for all species by month for Charleston county.  For example, the Chuck-will’s-widow is shown below to arrive in April and is gone by the end of September.

Chuck-will’s-widow historical frequency sightings by month for Charleston County, SC from eBird.org

You can also drill down to view a map of locations where a bird has been documented, like the Chuck-will’s-widow map below.  Notice the red bubble was a sighting of a Chuck-will’s-widow documented by Aija Konrad on 3/31 near the tennis courts.

Chuck-will’s-widow map of sightings on Seabrook & Kiawah Island, SC from eBird.org

Another great website to learn more about bird migration, including a forecast each week for four geographic regions in the country, is Birdcast.info, a site created by Cornell.  Below is their forecast for the Chuck-will’s-widow for the Gulf Coast and Southeast and it looks like they are right on time!

Migrant Species

Chuck-will’s-widow

 

Begin
Arriving

3/29

Rapid Influx

4/10

Peak

 

4/24

Rapid
Departure

6/25

Last Departure

After Jun 30

Throughout April we will continue to share information related to bird migration including which birds are packing their bags to head north, which birds are arriving to breed and those who are just passing through and utilizing our island for rest and refueling.

In the meantime, check out this great article, Birdist Rule #70: Get Prepared for Spring Migration, by Nicholas Lund on the Audubon website.

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown

You can still join SIB at Beidler Forest on Thursday April 11

We’ve had some cancellations so there are now openings to search for the Prothonotary Warbler at Beidler Forest.  Register now if you would like to join us.

Thursday, April 11, 2019 7:45 am – 2:00 pm (Tour starts at Beidler at 9:30a)
Location: Meet at SI Real Estate Office to Car Pool to Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary (Google maps says 1.5 hour drive)
Min: 7 Max: 15 Cost: $12 per person ($10 if over 65 or Audubon member), $5 Additional Guest Fee

If you have never been to Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary, you won’t want to miss this opportunity – it’s well worth the 70-mile one-way trip! Matt Johnson, Education Director at the facility will be presenting at our SIB evening program on Wednesday March 27. He has offered to lead us on a guided tour while the Prothonatary Warblers are likely to be present. Last year in this same week, Matt’s tours saw 30+ species including not only the Prothonatary Warbler but also Barred Owls, 5 species of Woodpeckers, 3 species of Vireos and 5 additional species of Warblers.

As the walk ends between 12:00 and 12:30, participants may want to bring a lunch, snacks and beverages to “picnic” at the Center prior to their return to Seabrook Island as Matt reports there are limited number of restaurants in the area. Also be sure to bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, binoculars, camera and a scope if you have one.

If you are not yet a 2019 SIB member, you must first become a member by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. Otherwise you may pay an additional $5 Guest Fee.

Once you are a member, please register. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

Eastern Bluebird Houses for a Good Cause

My grandson’s 4th grade project is to raise money for the homeless people of Charleston. He is selling Eastern Bluebird houses in the Riverland Terrance neighborhood. My grandson, Leo, says this way we are providing shelter to both birds and people.

So far we have built eight in my shop. We have sold five and made an additional three for use on Seabrook Island for the Bluebird Society.

If anyone is interested in purchasing a bluebird house, please contact me using the link below.

Photos and Article Submitted by: Carl Voelker

 

Meet the Yellow-throated Warbler

Photo by David Etler

The Yellow-throated Warbler, Setophaga Dominica, is a common warbler in this area year round and breeds west to Texas and north as far as Illinois. They are part of the family of Wood Warblers or Parulidae.

If you are lucky enough to spot this stunning warbler, it is an easy bird to identify.  It has a bright yellow throat and chest with sharply contrasting black triangles through and below the eyes and bright white eyebrows. The back and top of head are gray with a white under-belly and two white wing bars. The Yellow-throated Warbler, besides having colorful markings, is also distinctive because of its stockier body and longer, sharp, black bill. The male and female are similar in appearance with the female being slightly duller. 

The Yellow-throated Warbler’s song is a clear series of down whistles with a rising note at the end as teeew-teeew-teeew-teeew-tew-tew-twi . The male will actually establish his territory during breeding season with his song. 

These warblers will most likely be spotted in this area by looking higher up in a pine, live oak, or palm tree. They actively forage by quickly creeping in and out along branches and spiraling up and down trunks of trees. They probe deliberately into crevices, pine needles, pine cones, and Spanish moss looking for insects. This bird will creep instead of fluttering as some warblers do. In palm trees they might be spotted in the crowns or hanging upside down among the leaves. 

The diet of the Yellow-throated Warbler is mostly insects. They are insectivores and feed on beetles, moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, mosquitoes, ants, aphids, and spiders. However, they will also come to your backyard feeders if you have the feeders in an area that is a desirable habitat for them and perhaps have a feed mix that includes fruit and/or dried mealworms. 

Once the male locates his territory and his mate, the male and female stay monogamous during the nesting season and produce two broods per year. The nest, prepared mostly by female, is either in a clump of Spanish moss or at the outer edge of a high pine branch. In the Spanish moss the female will form a pocket and line it with grasses, weeds, and feathers. On the pine branch, she will weave together weed stems, bark strips, and grasses to form a cup and then line it with plant down and feathers. She will lay 3 to 5 pale gray-green eggs with dark specks that are less than an inch long. Both the male and female incubates the eggs and feed the nestlings. The eggs incubates for 12 to 13 days and the young leave the nest in about 8 days. 

61851B67-94EC-482D-9B04-EF07A58767F4
Photo by David Etler

The new family will stay together during the breeding season and then become part of a mixed species flock with Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, and other warblers during non breeding season. 

Luckily for us, the Yellow-throated Warblers have increased their population by 50% between 1966 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight, and at this time are not a conservation concern.

Article Submitted by Joleen Ardaiolo