SIB Members go Cuckoo for Cuckoo’s

SIB members during "Birding with David Gardner" at St. Christopher's on April 21, 2016. Ed Konrad
SIB members during “Birding with David Gardner” at St. Christopher’s on April 21, 2016. Ed Konrad

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) sponsored our first “Birding with David Gardner” this past Thursday, April 21, 2016.  Although we didn’t get a chance to see all the birds we heard, in total we counted 35 different bird species for the three hours we spent at St Christopher’s.  We were most excited to hear the three Yellow-billed Cuckoos and hope that we’ll see these very elusive birds on a future walk.  The full list of birds is listed below along with the two snakes found on our walk.  Please enjoy the pictures we’ve included in the photo gallery at the end of the article taken by SIB members & photographers: Patricia Schaefer and Ed Konrad.

We’d also like to thank David Gardner, Director of Environmental Education at St. Christopher Camp & Conference Center, for taking time out of his schedule to educate us on the birds, snakes and natural history of Seabrook Island!  If you are interested to visit the grounds of St. Christopher, please follow the instructions found in the Tidelines article:  how-to-visit-camp-st-christopher.
 
We hope you will join SIB for our evening event featuring The Center for Birds of Prey this Wednesday April 27th at 7:00 pm in the Live Oak Room at the Lake House.  You can find a description and registration (if required) for all our future activities on our website under the new “Activities” menu drop-down. (www.seabrookislandbirders.org)
eBird Submission of Sightings
St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, Charleston, South Carolina, US
Apr 21, 2016 8:40 AM – 11:30 AM
35 bird species
Wild Turkey  1
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Anhinga  1
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  2
Green Heron  4
Black-crowned Night-Heron  5
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Laughing Gull  10
Royal Tern  2
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  4
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
White-eyed Vireo  1
American Crow  5
Fish Crow  1
Carolina Chickadee  6
Tufted Titmouse  8
Carolina Wren  6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  12
Northern Mockingbird  1
Hooded Warbler  1
Northern Parula  12
Pine Warbler  10
Yellow-throated Warbler  4
Summer Tanager  4
Northern Cardinal  18
Blue Grosbeak  1
Painted Bunting  3
Red-winged Blackbird  23
Common Grackle  3
2 snake species
Greenish Rat Snake
Eastern Garter Snake
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Help Needed for Audubon Int’l Certification Bird Count

Audubon International LogoAs many of you likely know, the golf courses on Seabrook Island were the first in South Carolina to be certified in the  Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf program.  One of the factors considered was the diversification of the local bird species.  On Thursday, April 28th, a team of birders will be canvassing those courses for a bird count.  The activity at bird houses and feeders on adjacent properties are significant to the count’s results.  Your assistance in filling bird feeders helps us build a count.  In addition, if there are any of you who would like to participate in the survey, please contact George Haskins for more details at dart54golferAgmail.com or 243-0070.

For more information about the certification program, visit  Audubon International.

(Submitted by George Haskins)

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird:
Family – Trochilidae
Species – Archilochus colubris
Length: 3 – 3.75”; Wingspan: 4.25 – 4.5”; Weight: 0.1 oz

(Submitted by Ron Schlidge)

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Bob Hider
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Bob Hider

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only hummer known by most Easterners and has a range that covers most of eastern North America.  Both sexes have glittering green crown and upperparts, and the underparts are grayish to white.  Males have black faces and a deep red to orange-red throat or gorget.  The humming of its wings is clearly discernible from a distance.  Their wings beat up to 75 per second. 

They feed primarily on nectar but take some insects and spiders, also sap from sapsucker drill wells.  In courtship flight, males make a huge 180-degree arcs back and forth, emitting a buzzing sound at its lowest point.  Males often arrive on breeding grounds well ahead of females.  These birds are strongly attracted to the color red as are many other hummers. 

The nest of the hummingbird is very small and made from soft plant down, fireweed, milkweed thistles and leaves.  They are a solitary breeder and generally lay two white eggs the size of a pea with incubation 11 to 16 days by the female. Altricial young stay in nest 20 – 22 days and are fed by the female. They have 1-3 broods per year.

Ruby-throated Hummers feed on red columbine in spring; salvia, trumpet or coral honeysuckle, and bee balm later in the year. They also fed on jewelweed, phlox, petunias, lilies, trumpet creeper, Siberian peatree, nasturtium, cone-shaped red flowers and sugar water.

You can mix your own sugar water by using a  4:1 ratio of water to sugar (ex:  2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar).  Red food dyes added to sugar water may harm birds.  Always replace the sugar water in your feeders at least once a week and maybe more in the hot days of summer.

A group of Hummingbirds has many collective nouns, including a “bought”, “glittering”, “hover”, “shimmer” and a “tune” of hummingbirds.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common on Seabrook in the summer. They can be seen over the beach, amid the dunes, and in the myrtles along the boardwalks.  They are also around the estuaries and edges wherever they may find nectar-producing plants and small insects.  If you have a home you might try a feeder – they will come.  A very few might spend the winter.  A feeder in winter might also attract other vagrant species such as the Rufous Hummingbird or Black-chinned Hummingbird.

(See the range map following the photographs below.)

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting – Passerina ciris
Length:  5.5″; Wingspan: 8.75″; Weight: 0.54 oz.
Submitted by:  Charley Moore

Male Painted Bunting - C Moore
Male Painted Bunting – C Moore

Without a doubt, this bird is one of the most beautiful and colorful birds on Seabrook Island or anywhere else.  Look for this small to medium sized multicolored finch at your bird feeder and around the edges of dense brush (such as wax myrtles) and thick woodlands.  It is here from the middle of April though September.  Some may stay throughout the winter, but most of our birds go south to Florida and to the northwest Caribbean Islands.

You will have no problem in identifying a mature male Painted bunting with its vivid blues, greens, yellows and reds that make it look like a small parrot.  The males head is iridescent blue, its throat and underside is bright red, its back is a brilliant green fading to lighter green on the wings.  Females and yearling males are a uniform greenish color with a slightly lighter eye ring.

Painted buntings naturally forage on the ground and in shrubs and are seed eaters.  They are frequent visitors to Seabrook Island bird feeders and seem to prefer white millet.  Although they are not typically insect eaters, they catch and feed insects to their young.  They spend most of their time in thick brush often along woodland edges.

They are fast flyers, darting here and there and are difficult to follow. Males are extremely aggressive and territorial toward other males and often fight over a spot at bird feeders.  Their voice is a very distinctive continuous series of short high-pitched notes lasting about 2 seconds.  Males may sing 9 to 10 songs a minute establishing their territory during spring.  Click here to listen to their song.

Painted buntings are polygynous raising 2 to 4 broods on Seabrook Island throughout the summer.  The nest is built in a bush or tree and is a deep cup of grass, weeds and leaves with a lining of finer grass or hair.  Females lay 3 to 5 eggs, incubate them for 11 to 12 days and the young leave the nest in another 12 to 14 days.  Males do little in raising the young and frequently are out looking for another mate.

Seabrook Island is fortunate to have one of Americas most beautiful birds.  Keep in mind that males only develop their brilliant multicolored plumage in their second year.  Most of the Painted Buntings you will see will be the rather non-descript uniform greenish females and young-of-the-year males. The best way of spotting Painted Buntings is to become familiar with their distinctive song and once identifying where they are, watch for a flash of red, blue, yellow and green.

A group of Painted Buntings are collectively known as a “mural” and a “palette” of buntings.

(See the range map following the photographs below.)

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Sign-up For SIB Bird Walks

In case you missed the emails from SIB, Tidelines or SIPOA, and are having trouble using the links (or even finding the links), use the links below to sign-up for our two next bird walks.  Spaces are filling up so register today!

Thursday April 21, 2016 – Birding with David Gardner – Join SIB from 8:30 – 10:30 am for a fun hike through the maritime forest, dunes and beach, building our skills in bird identification with a local resident bird expert, David Gardner, Director of Environmental Education at St. Christopher Camp & Conference Center. We welcome all levels of birding experience.  Please note that although there are few hills of any size on Seabrook, we?ll be walking a total of about 1.5 miles.  Bring sun block, bug spray, a hat, water and binoculars. Max 12 people.  Donation:  $5.00 to Camp St. Christopher.  You must be a member of SIB to participate.  Please click here to register no later than Tuesday April 19, 2016.
Saturday April 30, 2016 – Learning Together: Birding on the Beach – On Saturday, April 30, 2016, SIB is sponsoring another member activity by hosting a “Learning Together: Birding on the Beach” a casual walk on North Beach of two miles (or more) for approximately 1 1/2 hours to view birds common to the beaches on Seabrook Island.  The walk will leave the parking lot of North Beach Boardwalk #1 promptly at 8:30 am.  Please bring water, sunscreen, bug repellent, hat and if you have them binoculars and/or a camera.  Limit 20 people.  You must be a member of SIB to participate and it is FREE.  Please click here to register no later than Thursday April 28, 2016.
Be sure to visit our calendar at any time to learn what activities are being offered by SIB or other organizations.
SIB Members on North Beach - Dean Morr
SIB Members on North Beach – Dean Morr

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Confusing Big White Birds

This is an exciting time of year at Seabrook Island as we see many “Big White Birds” starting their courtships and nesting throughout the island.  But are you still trying to figure out the difference between a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and a White Ibis?  Have you ever seen a Snowy Egret to only be later told it was a Cattle Egret or an immature Little Blue Heron?

We have found a great article for you to read!  It is an excerpt from Better Birding: Tips, Tools & Concepts for the Field, by George Armistead and Brian Sullivan (Princeton University Press).  The new book is not a field guide—it’s an exploration of the fine points of identification that anyone can learn with some patient study of similar species. The full volume contains 24 chapters, each focusing on a different group, from sparrows to swans and hawks to cormorants.

Take a few minutes to read the article and review the pictures here!

Another resource to review is our own SIPOA Wildlife Portal page focused on this same subject.  Click here for a quick comparison.

We really think these two sites will help you feel more comfortable next time you see those “Big White Birds.”

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Update Gallery with pictures and range map

 

Sightings of Banded Birds on Seabrook Island

(As reported in the April edition of The Seabrooker ; with additional follow-up notes at the end of the story)

Spring is here and the birds are returning in force to our feeders, woodlands and beaches.

Recently Patricia Schaffer noticed a green flag on the leg of a Red Knott she had photographed at North Beach on January 31. By enlarging the photograph, she was able to read the tag number (25-P). Soon after reporting her sighting Patricia received a Certificate of Appreciation and letter from the North America Bird Banding Program informing her of when and where her bird was tagged, how old it was and other related information.

Melanie Jerome, of Creek Watch Villas reported that a Mocking bird with a silver leg tag was regularly visiting her yard during the first week of March.

Bob and Marcia Hider frequently see Painted Buntings with brightly colored leg bands at their bird feeder at Green Heron Drive.

Recently I accompanied Janet Thibault, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist, on a survey of Piping Plovers at North Beach. We observed several Red Knots and one Wilson’s Plover with leg tags and one multi-banded Piping Plover.

An estimated 60 million birds representing hundreds of species have been banded in North America since 1904 and more than 4 million have been reported or recovered.

Information obtained from banded bird recoveries help researchers study the dispersal, migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth of many species of birds.

There are many types of bird bands, the most common are small silver or colored bands placed on various locations on a leg, but flags attached to a leg or wing are also utilized. Bands are typically engraved with an identification number and may have information as to how and where to report a sighting.

There are numerous federal, state, university and private foundations that band birds. All bird banding is regulated by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, or transport any migratory bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

Permits for banding birds are issued by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The Bird Banding Laboratory was established by USGS in 1936 and is located at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Patuxent, Maryland.

REPORTING A BAND BIRD

Sightings of a banded bird (or should you find a dead bird with a band) should be reported to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory at www.reportband.gov or you may call 1 (800) 327-BAND (2263).

Banded shorebirds on Seabrook Island beaches may be reported directly to SCDNR at waddingbirds@dnr.sc.gov.

You may also want to report your sighting to the Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) at www.seabrookislandbirders.org .

Submitted by:  Charley Moore
Environmental Committee & SIB President

Follow-ups to the story:

Patricia Schaefer wrote to SIB:  “I spotted an oystercatcher with a leg band today (4/3) and I took pictures and reported it.  I got the record on the bird and this is the 3rd time I reported him. First on 12-28-13, then 1-17-15 and now today. In between the last signing he was spotted in Altamaha Sound Georgia on 9-21-15. He was first reported on in 2008.

On Tuesday, April 5, Nancy Brown & Flo Foley spent a few hours as part of their Master Naturalist course with Aaron Givens, Town of Kiawah Biologist, learning and assisting with the banding of Marsh Sparrows.   Along with their two instructors and nine other students, they flushed sparrows from the high shrubs in the marsh at Kiawah River bridge into nets.  In total they recorded information about eight birds, seven Seaside Sparrows and one Saltmarsh Sparrow.  Four birds had previously been tagged by Aaron and four received a band.  Learn more about bird banding at Kiawah:  http://kiawahislandbanding.blogspot.com

Charley Moore reported his first sighting of the Painted Buntings at his feeders on Tuesday, April 5.  Be on the lookout for these beautiful birds!

A multi-banded Piping Plover, a threatened species protected by the Endangered Species Act, scurries along North Beach on March 9th feeding on small invertebrates in the sand. (Photo by Charley Moore)
A multi-banded Piping Plover, a threatened species protected by the Endangered Species Act, scurries along North Beach on March 9th feeding on small invertebrates in the sand. (Photo by Charley Moore)
2)Several Red Knots, including three with green leg flags feed along the waters edge at Seabrook Island’s North Beach. (Photo by Charley Moore)
2) Several Red Knots, including three with green leg flags feed along the waters edge at Seabrook Island’s North Beach. (Photo by Charley Moore)
A male Painted Bunting with four brightly colored leg bands. (Photo by Bob Hider)
A male Painted Bunting with four brightly colored leg bands. (Photo by Bob Hider)