Fall Bird Migration with David Gardner at St. Christopher

SIB members Flo Foley, Aija Konrad, Lydia McDonald and Marnie Ellis joined David Gardner in searching for migrating warblers on Thursday 9/29. - N. Brown
SIB members Flo Foley, Aija Konrad, Lydia McDonald and Marnie Ellis joined David Gardner in searching for migrating warblers on Thursday 9/29. – N. Brown

Six SIB members gathered on each of the mornings of Thursday September 29th and Friday September 30th for three-hour birding sessions with David Gardner at St. Christopher.  Although we were hoping for a few more migrating warblers each day, we were pleased to have seen (or heard) 34 species of birds on Thursday and 38 on Friday (see complete list below.)

Of most interest on the first day were the great views we got of the many American Redstart, Red-eyed Vireo’s and White-eyed Vireo’s.  On the second day we enjoyed seeing two migrating birds of prey, the Merlin and a Peregrine Falcon.  We even caught a glimpse as we heard a Bobolink pass overhead as it was heading south for winter.

If you are interested to join SIB on a future birding activity, check out the events on our website:  https://seabrookislandbirders.org/bird-walks/

Birds Thursday 9/29 Friday 9/30
Wild Turkey X
Anhinga X X
Brown Pelican X X
Great Blue Heron X
Great Egret (American) X X
Little Blue Heron X
Green Heron X X
Black-crowned Night-Heron X
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron X X
Osprey X X
Red-shouldered Hawk X X
Laughing Gull X X
Caspian Tern X
Sandwich Tern X
Mourning Dove X
Chimney Swift X
Ruby-throated Hummingbird X X
Belted Kingfisher X X
Red-bellied Woodpecker X X
Downy Woodpecker X X
Pileated Woodpecker X
Merlin X
Peregrine Falcon X
Empidonax sp. X
White-eyed Vireo X X
Red-eyed Vireo X X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X X
Carolina Chickadee X X
Tufted Titmouse X X
Carolina Wren X X
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher X
Swainson’s Thrush X
Gray Catbird X X
Northern Mockingbird X X
Common Yellowthroat X X
American Redstart X X
Northern Parula X
Palm Warbler X X
Pine Warbler X
Northern Cardinal X X
Painted Bunting X X
Bobolink X
Common Grackle X
House Finch X X
TOTAL 34 38

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis 
Length:  8.5″; Wingspan: 11″; Weight: 1.3 oz.

Gray Catbird - Ed Konrad
Gray Catbird – Ed Konrad

If you struggle with learning bird songs and calls, try starting with the “catty mew” of the Gray Catbird.  Just the sound of it makes you think of a cat which will help you remember its name!

These birds are migratory, but you can hear and see them all year round on Seabrook Island.  They are a medium-sized, slender songbird with a long, rounded, black tail and a narrow, straight bill. Catbirds are fairly long legged and have broad, rounded wings.  They give the impression of being entirely slaty gray, however, look closely and you’ll see a small black cap, blackish tail and a rich rufous-brown patch under the tail.

The Gray Catbird diet consists mostly of insects and berries. Especially in early summer, it eats many beetles, ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, true bugs, and other insects, as well as spiders and millipedes. Nestlings are fed almost entirely on insects. More than half the annual diet of adults may be vegetable matter, especially in fall and winter, when they eat many kinds of wild berries and some cultivated fruit.  To attract Gray Catbirds, plant shrubs in areas of your yard near young deciduous trees. Catbirds also love fruit, so you can entice them with plantings of native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry.

It belongs to the genus Dumetella, which means “small thicket.” And that’s exactly where you should go look for this little skulker.  Look for Gray Catbirds in dense tangles of shrubs, small trees, and vines, along forest edges, stream-side thickets, old fields, and fencerows.  On Seabrook, catbirds are regular in the myrtles leading to the beach and along estuaries and the edges of woods (the Nature Trail, etc.). If you listen for their cat-like meow you will be more likely to find them.

Like its larger cousin the Northern Mockingbird, not only does the Gray Catbird have a similar look, but they can have a large repertoire of melodies and sounds.  Watch this video to hear it imitate many other bird species and even a frog!

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

Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown
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.

SIB Members Volunteer at the Hawk Watch in Awendaw

Eight SIB members traveled to the Center for Birds of Prey on Friday September 23rd, to volunteer as observers during the annual South Carolina Coastal Raptor Migration Survey.  They joined shift leader Stephen Schabel to count migrating hawks from the observation platform on site.  During the three hour observation period, the group documented the following migrating raptors:

Osprey  3
Bald Eagle  3
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Merlin  1
Unidentified 1

Although we didn’t see the volume of raptors as can be seen at places like Hawk Mountain in PA, the group was thrilled to spend time assisting Stephen and learning from his extensive knowledge of  Accipiters, Buteos, Falcons and Ospreys.  And of course we enjoyed the resident Vultures – both Black and Turkey.

Turkey & Black Vultures - N Brown
Turkey & Black Vultures – N Brown

The annual survey runs September 1st through November 30th and SIB has arranged for its members to volunteer on two additional dates.  Please sign up and see additional details using the links below:

Additional Bird Sightings during our morning Hawk Watch:

Wild Turkey  4
Wood Stork  2
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Anhinga  6
Great Egret  2
Cattle Egret  5
White Ibis  1
Black Vulture  11
Turkey Vulture  37
Forster’s Tern  1
Mourning Dove  3
Belted Kingfisher  2
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  2
Carolina Chickadee  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Painted Bunting  4

Turkey Vultures - N Brown
Turkey Vultures – N Brown
Immature Turkey Vulture - N Brown
Immature Turkey Vulture – N Brown
Turkey Vultures - N Brown
Turkey Vulture – N Brown

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:

  1. See throughout the year on Seabrook Island
  2. Has been one of the top three species banded by the Kiawah Island Bird Banding Stations each fall according to Aaron Given
  3. And it sounds like this.

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” – Crows: American vs Fish

American CrowCorvus brachyrhynchos
Length:  17.5″; Wingspan: 39″; Weight: 16 oz.

Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Length:  15″; Wingspan: 36″; Weight: 10 oz.

Fish Crow & American Crow from Cornell Lab of Ornithology website
Fish Crow & American Crow from Cornell Lab of Ornithology website

Probably many people on Seabrook have no idea that there are two kinds of crows here. For most of us, a crow is a crow. Actually there are two different species on the Island: the American Crow and the Fish Crow. They look so much alike that even the pros find it difficult to distinguish between them but there’s one fool-proof way.

Both crows are very big and black. In general, the Fish Crow is slightly smaller: its beak, its legs and overall. Their ranges of size overlap, however, and those differences are hard to establish in the field. So, size alone is not a safe way to differentiate them

An easier characteristic that is sometimes used to distinguish the two crows is their stance when they call. The Fish Crow often fluffs its feathers, particularly around its neck. The American Crow remains smooth. Note the two pictures below.

To be sure of an identification, however, you have to use your ears. Most people are familiar with the loud Caw Caw sound of the American Crow.  The Fish Crow has a similar call but it sounds as though he has a cold. It’s very nasal.  He also has a two-note call that sounds as though he is responding negatively to a question: Anh Anh.

Crows seem to be everywhere, both singularly and in small groups. They eat a great variety of foods, both animal and vegetable. This includes normal examples as well as carrion, trash, nestlings and eggs of other birds. Their dietary flexibility is one of the reasons they are so successful in so many different habitats which is also why they seem omnipresent.

Crows are very social birds, sometimes forming very large flocks in the hundreds. They are noted for being very intelligent with problem-solving capabilities. Some live into their teens in the wild; the oldest recorded in captivity died at 59 years old.

Crows are noisy birds in general. Occasionally several may join together and make an even larger racket than normal. This can be an example of mobbing which occurs when a group of crows deliberately pester a larger bird, usually a bird of prey such as a hawk or owl. They may even dive bomb the “enemy”. This behavior is not totally understood but it is assumed that the attackers are attempting to force the predator to move on. If you watch, you may see the predator suddenly take flight with the crows in pursuit squawking as they go.

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

Article submitted by:  Marcia Hider
Photographs provided by:  Bob Hider & Charley Moore

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 are we???

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 who are these two birds? 

Who are these two birds?
Who are these two birds?

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” – Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Length:  15.7 – 19.3″; Wingspan: 26 – 29.5″; Weight: 8.8 – 12.3 oz.

Who remembers this theme song?

Did you realize the character of Woody Woodpecker was based on a Pileated Woodpecker?

This bird is the largest woodpecker on Seabrook Island with a long neck, mostly black with white stripes on the face and a flaming-red triangular crest that sweeps off the back of the head. The bill is long and chisel-like, about the length of the head. Males have a red stripe on the cheek. In flight, the wings are broad and the bird can seem crow-like.

Pileated Woodpeckers feed mostly on ants and other insects, but also will eat fruits and nuts. Carpenter ants may be up to 60% of diet and they also eat other ants (rarely digging into anthills on ground), termites, larvae of wood-boring beetles and other insects. About one-quarter of the diet may be wild fruits, berries, and nuts.  They also like to feed on suet, as you can see from this video below:

Pileated Woodpeckers drill distinctive rectangular-shaped holes in rotten wood to get at carpenter ants and other insects. They are loud birds with whinnying calls. They also drum on dead trees in a deep, slow, rolling pattern, and even the heavy chopping sound of foraging carries well. Their flight undulates like other woodpeckers, which helps separate them from a crow’s straight flight path.

The Pileated Woodpecker is common to Seabrook Island and is said to be seen often pecking on the dead branches of the live oak behind the POA office.  They are also frequently seen and heard along the golf courses.

A group of Pileated Woodpeckers are collectively known as a “crown” of woodpeckers.

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

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photographs provided by:  Charles Moore & 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.