Recent SIB Birding Activities

Last week SIB held two fabulous birding activities on Seabrook Island.  One included a walk for several hours and the second was on the marsh near the crab dock and boat launch.  If you are interested to join one of our birding activities, please be sure to check out our website for future events.

Last Thursday, November 10 was a beautiful morning to take a walk and bird!  Thank you to the five SIB members (especially David Gardner) for joining the walk.  We all would agree it was great fun!  During three hours and two miles of walking, we saw a total of 45 species.  At the Lake House and Palmetto Lake, we enjoyed many wading birds like Herons & Egrets, Anhinga and Pied-billed Grebes.  In the woods near the lake including the SINHG nature trail we observed several species of warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a Coopers Hawk.  Then on to the SIPOA/Club Maintenance area and peaking into the Water Treatment pond we counted as many as 29 Hooded Mergansers, 14 White Ibis and as many as 50 Tree Swallows.  Finally we walked through the Equestrian Center and found a number of sparrows including White-throated, Song and Swamp.   Below are the consolidated three bird lists.  You’ll see with the diversity of habitat we ventured through we found a diversity of birds!

A big thank-you goes out to Melanie and Rob Jerome for once again hosting us for an enjoyable birding at the crab dock and marsh tower along with their back deck on Saturday November 12th for our second SIB activity of the week.  Seven members enjoyed a morning that started with a little nip in the air but rapidly became warmer.  The Clapper Rail was heard several times but only one brief glimpse was seen as it flew from one part of the marsh to the other.  The morning focus seemed to be on Tricolor Herons as they continually were flying from one portion of the marsh to another.  Several were seen at various areas of the marsh at one time, hence the final count.  In total, 24 species were seen plus some warblers we couldn’t identify quick enough (palm versus yellow rump) and gulls that were too far away.  See below for the complete list of species.

Bird Walk with David Gardner – November 10, 2016
A = Palmetto Lake 80 min 0.5 m
B = SIPOA/Club Mtc Area 80 min 1.5 m
C = Palmetto Lake 10 min 0.1 m
Species A B C
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Hooded Merganser 29
Wood Stork 2 1 2
Double-crested Cormorant 1 1
Anhinga 2 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Little Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1 3
White Ibis 1 14 2
Black Vulture 10 2
Turkey Vulture 2 2
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
Least Sandpiper  1 12
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 3 3
American Crow 6 5 3
Tree Swallow 25 57
Carolina Chickadee 2 4
House Wren 1 1
Carolina Wren 3 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 2
Eastern Bluebird 8 23 3
Hermit Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 1 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 2
Palm Warbler 9
Pine Warbler 1 15
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9 45 3
Yellow-throated Warbler 1
White-throated Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2 2
House Finch 2 1
Total Species 45

 

Backyard Birding – November 12, 2016

4 Bufflehead
3 Wood Stork
2 Double-crested Cormorant
1 Brown Pelican
4 Great Blue Heron
12 Great Egret
12 Snowy Egret
2 Little Blue Heron
10 Tricolored Heron
1 Green Heron
3 Turkey Vulture
2 Osprey
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
1 Clapper Rail
6 gull sp.
1 Belted Kingfisher
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 American Crow
8 Tree Swallow
5 Carolina Chickadee
4 Tufted Titmouse
2 Carolina Wren
1 Northern Mockingbird
1 Pine Warbler
3 warbler sp. (Parulidae sp.)
3 Northern Cardinal
24 Species
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SIB “Bird of the Week” – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Length:  7.1-8.7″; Wingspan: 13.4-15.7″; Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Ed Konrad
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has a red cap but not the nape. It has a striped face and a prominent white stripe on side. It’s black bib, patterned underparts also distinguish it from the red-bellied woodpecker.

20-yellow-bellied-sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

As the name indicates, sapsuckers rely on sap as a main food source. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker licks the sap from these holes, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old. Then, after the tree leafs out, the sapsucker begins making shallower, rectangular wells in the phloem, the part of the trunk that carries sap down from the leaves. This sap can be more than 10 percent sugar. These phloem wells must be continually maintained with fresh drilling, so the sap will continue to flow. Sapsuckers tend to choose sick or wounded trees for drilling their wells, and they choose tree species with high sugar concentrations in their sap, such as paper birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple, and hickory. They drill wells for sap throughout the year, on both their breeding and wintering grounds. In addition to sap, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also eat insects (mostly ants) and spiders, gleaning them from beneath a tree’s bark like other woodpeckers. And at times they perch at the edge of a tree branch and launch after flying insects to capture them in midair, like a flycatcher. Sapsuckers are also attracted to orchards, where they drill wells in the trees and eat fruit.

Yellow-belled Sapsuckers perch upright on trees, leaning on their tails like other woodpeckers. They feed at sapwells—neat rows of shallow holes they drill in tree bark. They lap up the sugary sap along with any insects that may get caught there. Sapsuckers drum on trees and metal objects in a distinctive stuttering pattern. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet elevation. Occasionally, sapsuckers visit bird feeders for suet.

Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Sapsuckers are common on Seabrook in winter but are less noisy and may be less obvious than other woodpeckers. They are “common but inconspicuous.” Look for their “wells” – drilled holed lined up around the trunk and marking trees to see where they feed.

Check out this cool YouTube video of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker eating from the already drilled holes in a tree:

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

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad

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.

Bird of the Week … Who am I???

As you may know, every Sunday we publish a weekly “Bird of the Week” blog.  Today we’d like to test your knowledge by asking if you can guess what bird winters on Seabrook Island and creates holes in trees that look like this?

What bird makes these types of holes in a tree?
What bird makes these types of holes in a tree?

Leave us a comment if you want to make a guess – and watch for the full article on Sunday morning!

 

Record Number of Birds sighted by SIB at Bear Island WMA

Five members of SIB left Seabrook Island at 6:30 am on Friday October 28th along with David Gardner, director of environmental education at Camp St. Christopher, to drive to Bear Island Wildlife Management Area about an hour south along Highway 17.  Our plan was to arrive for sunrise at about 7:35am and spend a few hours birding this beautiful area.   I think all the participants will agree it was well worth the 60-mile one-way trip! Part of the ACE Basin, this area is perfect habitat for birds with ponds, rivers, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, mudflats mixed pine-hardwood forest and farmland.

Bear Island closes for hunting from November 1 – February 9 each year, so this was the last chance to visit before spring.  Most of the birding was done by car with stops to get out and take short walks for viewing. Some of the winter waterfowl had returned including a few Gadwalls, Blue-winged Teals, Mottled Ducks and Pied-billed Grebes, but there were no signs of the Tundra Swan yet.

What a fabulous day!  Below is the full list of 81 species with counts submitted to eBird.  Some of the highlights included:  Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, American White Pelicans, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs and a special treat was identifying the four Stilt Sandpipers.  David also heard a brown-headed nuthatch but I did not record it as no one else heard the bird.
Now we can’t wait for Bear Island to open again in February!
Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown
Photographs taken by:  Flo Foley
Mute Swan  1
Gadwall  3
Mallard  2
Mottled Duck  20
Blue-winged Teal  25
Pied-billed Grebe  45
Wood Stork  70
Double-crested Cormorant  12
Anhinga  9
American White Pelican  19
Great Blue Heron  10
Great Egret  45
Snowy Egret  80
Little Blue Heron  25
Tricolored Heron  35
Black-crowned Night-Heron  5
White Ibis  90
Glossy Ibis  5
Roseate Spoonbill  12
Black Vulture  20
Turkey Vulture  32
Osprey  2
Northern Harrier  2
Cooper’s Hawk  2
Bald Eagle  5
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Common Gallinule  10
Semipalmated Plover  12
Killdeer  1
Stilt Sandpiper  4
Dunlin  6
Least Sandpiper  38
Western Sandpiper  1
Short-billed Dowitcher  1
Wilson’s Snipe  1
Greater Yellowlegs  25
Lesser Yellowlegs  15
Laughing Gull  20
Gull-billed Tern  1
Caspian Tern  5
Forster’s Tern  18
Royal Tern  3
Mourning Dove  2
Belted Kingfisher  4
Red-headed Woodpecker  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  4
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  5
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker  3
American Kestrel  1
Eastern Phoebe  5
Blue Jay  38
American Crow  6
Fish Crow  14
Tree Swallow  30
Tufted Titmouse  6
House Wren  1
Marsh Wren  3
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
Eastern Bluebird  10
Gray Catbird  2
Brown Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  3
Common Yellowthroat  4
Palm Warbler  23
Yellow-rumped Warbler  45
Chipping Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  15
Swamp Sparrow  20
Eastern Towhee  7
Northern Cardinal  4
Painted Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  32
Eastern Meadowlark  15
Common Grackle  53
Boat-tailed Grackle  12
House Finch

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Anhinga vs Double-crested Cormorant

Anhinga                                                    Double-crested Cormorant 
Anhinga anhinga                                                   Phalacrocorax auritus
L: 35″   WS: 45″  Wt: 43.3 oz                    L: 33″   WS: 52″   WT: 59.2 oz
When walking the Palmetto Lake trail, you often see a large, black bird perched on the Osprey platform or the alligator ramp with it’s wings spread. Most times, it is a Double-crested Cormorant, which are very common birds for Seabrook Island. But sometimes, you are lucky enough to see an Anhinga.
Male Anhinga drying wings - E Konrad
Male Anhinga drying wings – E Konrad

Anhingas roost in trees over water or on platforms, and on Seabrook, they are often solitary. They are about 35″ long and have a 45″ wing span. They are sometimes called the “snake bird” since they swim completely submerged with only their head exposed. They spear fish with their very pointed, long, thin and straight bill. They have a long, fan-shaped tail when perched, long pointed wings and a long neck. The most striking part about them is the whitish-silvery upperwing pattern which makes them look like they are wearing a snazzy jacket! If you see this pattern on the back of a large dark bird, it’s an Anhinga. The females have a velvety-buff upper body, as do the juveniles (until the 3rd year). The Anhinga has a striking blue-green eye ring in breeding plumage. Anhingas nest in small colonies, often with herons or egrets. They eat fish, frogs and often newly hatched alligators.

Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings - E Konrad
Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings – E Konrad

Double-crested Cormorant are nearly the same size, 33″ long  with a 52″ wing span. They are very common birds on Seabrook, often perched on the lake platforms or in large groups swimming in the inlet at North Beach. They may form large flocks and when we see them in flight, often flying in a large “V” formation. Their bills are orange, curved, hooked shaped, and thicker than an Anhinga. They use them to scoop and grasp their prey. Juveniles can also have buffy breasted color variations. Cormorants have a striking crystal like blue eye and a yellow-orange face patch. Cormorants nest in large colonies and are fish eaters.

Both birds do not have oil glands so their feathers are not water repellent. This lets them move more easily underwater for foraging.  That’s also why you often see them drying their non-waterproof wings spread open, when perched. Both birds make low nasal frog-like grunts. So a quick tip is this:

  • Slender, long-necked with a straight, pointy bill, wearing a snazzy jacket = Anhinga.
  • Shorter necked , hooked, curved and orange bill, wearing basic black = Cormorant!

If you would like to learn more about these birds visit:

Article submitted by:
Photographs provided by:

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.

Bird of the Week … Who am I???

As you may know, every Sunday we publish a weekly “Bird of the Week” blog.  Today we’d like to test your knowledge by asking if you can guess what birds are shown by the silhouettes below:

Leave us a comment if you want to make a guess – and watch for the full article on Sunday morning!

 

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Length:  4.3–5.1”; Wingspan: 5.9 – 7.9″; Weight: 0.3–0.4 oz

Common Yellowthroat - Ed Konrad
Common Yellowthroat – Ed Konrad

The Common Yellowthroat is one of the most easy-to-spot warblers during spring and summer in Seabrook Island, and in much of North America. These songbirds dwell in open habitats such as marshes, wetland edges and brushy fields. The male’s “witchety-witchety-witchety” song is distinctive and easy to recognize. The male is also known for his black ‘bandit’ mask that contrasts to his showy bright, lemon-yellow throat and breast. The female Common Yellowthroat is, like her male counterpart, small and compact, and her coloring is mostly dull olive-gray overall. This bird has a very short neck and a small bill.

Common Yellowthroats spend much of their time flying low to the ground in dense thickets and fields, searching for insects and spiders. They favor small grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, beetles, grubs, caterpillars, and other small bugs and also eat a few seeds. While they gather food mostly on foliage and through ground foraging, they occasionally make short flights to catch insects in mid-air.

Male Yellowthroats court females by flicking their wings and tail, following females closely and performing flight displays. In pairs, these birds prefer to nest low (less than 3’ up) on piles of briars, weeds, grasses or shrubs, or among cattails and bulrushes in the marsh setting. The nest is typically a bulky open cup shape, built by the female, and sometimes includes a partial roof of weeds, grass stems, dead leaves and bark that is attached to the rim of the nest. Common Yellowthroats usually produce 2 broods per year, and typically lay 3-6 eggs at a time. The eggs are creamy white with brown and black spots and are incubated by the female only for a period of 12 days. The male feeds the female on the nest during incubation and the young, once hatched, are fed by both parents. The young leave the nest after about 8-10 days.

The Common Yellowthroat winters throughout Central America, northwestern South America, extreme southern US and most of the Caribbean islands.

Certain subspecies of Common Yellowthroats are at risk of decline, largely from wetland degradation and conversion to agricultural and urban landscapes. Because they are insectivores and often live in wetlands, Common Yellowthroats are also susceptible to poor water quality and to pesticides and other pollutants. Cowbirds will occasionally ‘brood parasitize’ the Yellowthroat nest (lay their eggs in the host nest, forcing the parents to abandon the nest). Given these threats and risks, Yellowthroat populations seem to be holding steady rangewide across the United States.

Yellowthroats are naturally inquisitive birds and a little backyard investigation can often bring them out into the open for observation. Listen for their husky, low chuck coming from undergrowth. When you hear one calling, look low in the bushes and trees for a quick, small bird with olive wings and a yellow breast. Try making a ‘pishing’ sound. This often will draw the curious Yellowthroat out into the open to see who is making the sound, and you will be able to spot this small, pretty songbird!

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

Article submitted by: Lyn Magee
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad

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.