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!

 

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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.

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 you can hear on Seabrook Island that sounds like this.

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

 

Birds & Hurricanes

Birds have been dealing with hurricanes for millions of years and have developed a remarkable ability to survive. Whether it is a type of ESP (extra sensory perception) or not, birds process acute sensory perceptions and sensitivities to changes in air pressure, vibrations and low frequency sound waves that alert them to weather changes such as a coming hurricane. Sensing a storm, birds either hunker down and ride it out, or flee. In some instances, they move in the wrong direction getting trapped inside a hurricane’s eyewall. Here they are forced to move with the storm until it losses strength or they become exhausted and land to ride out the remainder of the storm.

A couple weeks prior to Hurricane Matthew I watched in amazement a Ruby-throated Hummingbird alternately sitting on a small tree branch and flying back and forth to its feeder in 20 to 25 MPH wind. Hummingbirds, as with other song and woodland birds have specially adapted toes that automatically tighten around their perch. This enables them to hold on to branches when they sleep and in high wind. Birds also have the ability to fluff their feathers adding additional protection from the rain and cold. Woodpeckers and other cavity nesting birds may ride out storms in their cavities. However, in the high winds and driving rain of a hurricane such adaptations and behavior may help but can’t explain how they survive. Two days after Hurricane Matthew visited Seabrook Island. the same or perhaps another Rudy-throated Hummingbird was waiting on the same branch watching me put the feeder back up. Had he hunkered down somewhere close-by or flown out of harm’s way?

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - C Moore
Ruby-throated Hummingbird – C Moore

One of the most written about instances concerning a birds encounter with a hurricane is the story of Machi, a Whimbrel. Fitted with a satellite tracking tag in 2009, Machi had been followed for two years while making seven 2,000 mile trips between her breeding grounds near Hudson Bay to her wintering grounds in the Caribbean Sea. She had traveled a total of over 27,000 miles. Prior to being shot by a Guadeloupe hunter in 2011, Machi on her last trip was tracked traveling hundreds of miles out of her normal migration route as she skirted Tropical Storm Irene.

A tagged gannet approaching the southern shore of New Jersey as Hurricane Sandy made landfall there, made a sharp U-turn and headed back north toward Long Island and out to sea along the continental shelf where it waited out the storm. However not all birds go around a storm. In 2011 another tagged whimbrel, nicknamed Hope, was tracked flying through Tropical Storm Gert off the coast of Nova Scotia, entering at 7 MPH and emerging at nearly 90 MPH.

Shore and ocean-faring birds have been detected in recent years by polarization radar that were trapped in the center of a hurricane. Trying to fly away from the higher winds of such storms these birds enter the back edge and work their way to the calmer center. Here they become trapped, being forced to fly long distance without food or rest. Becoming exhausted, these birds are often forced to take refuge from the storm landing, particularly as the storm passes over a large lake or other water body, and ride-out the rest of the storm.

As Hurricane Hermine made landfall along Florida's Gulf coast, radar detected an interesting phenomenon: birds trapped flying inside the calm eye of Hermine. The red shaded area on the image to the right shows the birds swirling inside Hermine's eye just before landfall.
As Hurricane Hermine made landfall along Florida’s Gulf coast, radar detected an interesting phenomenon: birds trapped flying inside the calm eye of Hermine. The red shaded area on the image to the right shows the birds swirling inside Hermine’s eye just before landfall.

Called “hurricane birds”, these birds may be transported great distances. Coastal shore birds may be transported hundreds of miles inland and Caribbean Island species may flee to coastal areas of the United States. Birders frequently take advantage of this phenomena and search for new bird sighting following a hurricane. Many first area records occur at such times however unfortunately many of these translocated birds do not survive.

The most important impact of a hurricane on birds may be its impact on the environment. Flooding by a saltwater surge and/or freshwater flooding from accompanying rain may have dramatic short and long term impacts on vegetation. Beach erosion may destroy critical feeding and nesting areas of shore birds. Forest vegetation may be flattened and stripped of leaves making it uninhabitable to many birds. Fruits and berries, nuts, acorns, and other food sources may be lost. Many cavity dwelling birds such as woodpeckers and owls may lose nesting trees as they frequently snap off at the cavities.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo resulted in the loss of nearly 60% of the remaining population of the endanger Red-cockaded woodpecker as a result of an estimated 90% of the trees with nesting cavities within the Francis Marion National Forest being flattened. The same storm resulted in the loss of 40% of all the known American eagle nests in South Carolina.

Hurricanes do kill birds and change the ecosystem, however, one animal’s loss is another’s gain and healthy populations do survive. Tree top dwelling birds may lose much of their habitat but those requiring lower, shrubby level vegetation such as the whip-poor-will will flourish. Fallen trees, branches and stripped leaves result in increased light and photosynthesis on the forest floor. As the fallen vegetation rots it fertilizes and simulates new growth creating important food sources. Fallen vegetation also creates millions of new nooks and crannies that will become home for many bird species and numerous other forest creatures.

Submitted by:  Charles Moore