SIB Christmas Bird Count

Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone @ North Beach – Ed Konrad

On January 4, 2021, Seabrook Island Birders participated in our most productive annual Christmas Bird Count ever! A record number 114 species, and we suspect a record number of individual birds with nearly 6,500. We had 10 teams of birders hitting Seabrook Island “hotspots” of Jenkins Point, Palmetto Lake, North Beach, Creek Watch, Camp St Christopher, SIPOA/Club horse pasture and maintenance area, Crooked Oaks and Ocean Winds golf courses, and Bohicket Marina. In addition our team consisted of seven feeder watch homes sighting 65 species and 279 individual birds. We walked 26 miles, drove 3.3 miles and rode in golf carts 9.8 miles for 77 people hours of effort!  Amazing!

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, done annually done Dec 14 to Jan 5 by volunteer birdwatchers, and administered by the National Audubon Society. The first count began Christmas Day 1900, when Frank Chapman, ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History in NY, proposed it as an alternative to hunting birds on Christmas. Audubon and other organizations use data collected to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action. Our Seabrook Island CBC is part of the larger Sea Islands CBC done on Seabrook, Kiawah, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands.

In addition to our CBC being an important contribution to Aubudon and understanding and protecting our birds species…we all had a great time! Here’s some memorable moments from some of the Seabrook Island Birders.

From Judy Morr, “It was a fun day, with the highlight being the sightings of so many Purple Finches on Seabrook.  I had seen them before at Caw Caw but never on Seabrook.  It was fun making sure we had the correct identification versus House Finch.  Another “frustration “ was trying to find the nuthatch when there were so many robins chattering away.”

Nancy Brown was with Judy for the day, and really liked “Hearing and seeing the Red Breasted Nuthatch on Old Wharf Rd. – which is pretty reliable to hear.” It’s also a stunning bird to see if you’re fortunate to spot it! Nancy also commented on the non-stop texting between the teams to see if certain species were found, and asking “I just saw this bird but can’t identify for sure, can anyone help???!!!” 

Patricia Schaefer was “most excited to see both the male and female Baltimore Orioles today because they have only recently started coming again to our feeder after having noticed them being seen in nearby cities. We were glad they showed up for the count!”

Lesley Gore also was thrilled with the Baltimore Orioles – “The day of the CBC, I eagerly waited to see which species would  show up to my bird feeder. At first it was the usual visitors – Carolina Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmouse and Cardinals. Then, a new visitor – with brilliant orange and yellow plumage underside and black and white wings! Yes, a Baltimore Oriole. My first ever time of attracting one to my feeder. So excited to see one! After a few sips of sugar water, a bite of orange she flew away with a beak full of strawberry preserves! My new visitor did not come again that day. There’s always tomorrow!”

Bob Mercer too was amazed at the Robins before heading to Camp St Christopher and the marina. “The morning started with an almost non-stop river of American Robins all headed up the Stono River. The numbers were astronomical and undoubtedly the total count for the day is an underestimate. Wandering around, occasionally lost, in Camp St. Christopher, I kept running across new species. Some of the treasured finds included the Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows, 12 Wood Ducks, and 7 species of warbler. My day ended at the marina watching Marbled Godwits fly up Bohicket Creek.

Aija and Ed Konrad walked 21000 steps on North Beach, and were “out on the beach by dawn on a beautiful morning, greeted by and startled on the boardwalk by a very large buck! Our best moment was seeing over 17 “salty” sparrows on the old inlet. We’ve never quite figured out where they hide on a high tide, and found them in a dry grassy area to the left of the marsh. A thrill to see so many, but it’s a “now you see ‘em, now you don’t bird”, up and back down into the marsh grass in a flash!”

Ed is always entertained looking for interesting photo subjects, and “capturing a Bufflehead and the Red-breasted Mergansers take flight was a fun challenge. We enjoy searching for our Piping Plover winter guests. Today there was a wonderful trio huddled in the sand, and the Great Lakes banded/endangered “Red Yellow” was still with us and staying safe on North Beach!”

Thanks to everyone that participated! You can see what a fun and productive time we all had! Article by Ed and Aija Konrad

Learning Together on Ocean Winds Golf Course

Monday January 18,2021 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course

Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to prior waitlisted & members

SIB birding from Golf Carts – Jackie Brooks

We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe even some of our fall migrants!

To keep everyone safe, we will ask people to social distance and wear a face mask. When you register, if you are not joined by a family member, please let us know if you are open to riding with a non-family participant or if you prefer to be in a cart alone.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2021 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. You may bring the form and your dues to the event. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please complete the information to register no later than January 15, 2021. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday, January 16,2021. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

January Movie Matinee

SIB will do a repeat of our “Virtual Movie Matinee” of December, Earthflight: Flying High-Behind the Scenes on January12,2021 4:00-5:30 pm.

Once you register, we will send you a link the day prior to each event to allow you to access our Zoom live video. We will open each event with introductions and a little social time, watch the show together (generally an hour), and finish with a short discussion to get your feedback and answer questions.

Sign up here and then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

Earthflight is a British nature documentary that shows a flight from the view of the wings of birds across six continents, showing some of the world’s greatest natural spectacles from a bird’s-eye view. The BBC series was created by John Downer and narrated by David Tennant with six episodes. We will show two each month for the remainder of 2020.

Watch the trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZSkitrLE34

Earthflight – Episode 6 Flying High
A behind-the-scenes look at how EARTHFLIGHT was made, including the extraordinary relationships between people and birds. Microlights, paragliders, drones, and camera-carrying birds and much more helped along the way.

Register Today

Volunteer to Bird Your Backyard on Monday January 4th, 2021

Each year starting on December 14th and continuing through January 5th, people across the country are participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  Each count takes place on a specific day in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. Seabrook Island is part of the Sea Island SC count organized by Aaron Given, Wildlife Biologist at Kiawah Island. Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) will again support this year’s 121st annual CBC on the designated day of Monday January 4, 2021.  

This past year, on January 3, 2020, 19 SIB members contributed to the 2019 -2020 CBC. A total of 98 different bird species accounting for more than 3,000 birds were sighted by our volunteers during more than 80 equivalent hours in backyards, on the beach, at the marsh and beyond.

This year we are looking for all available “backyard birders” to assist with the count. All birds observed within a 24hr period on that day can be counted.   If interested, sign up here, and we will send you detailed instructions on how to record your observations throughout the day  to reduce the chance of double-counting the same individuals.  Please read the instructions carefully and if you have any questions, please let us know. 

This winter is an irruption year for northern finches.  That means that certain species that normally are not found in the south are here this winter in search of food.  The normal food crops that they would have fed on up north did not produce well so the birds are forced to find food elsewhere.  Some example of these species include Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches.  Evening Grosbeaks have been seen as far south as NC and northern GA.  Purple Finches and House Finches are be hard to identify as they look very similar.  Here is a couple of resources that I found that might be helpful in determining if you have House Finches, Purple Finches, or both.  If you are having trouble, try to get a photo.   

https://www.thespruce.com/house-finch-or-purple-finch-387318

https://www.sdakotabirds.com/diffids/house_purple.htm

Other more uncommon species that are notable and can be found at backyard feeders include hummingbirds,  Baltimore Orioles, and Painted Buntings.  Don’t assume all hummingbirds are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  During the winter, it is not uncommon for western species such as Rufous Hummingbirds, Black-chinned Hummingbird, or others to make their way to the east coast.  If you have a “different” looking hummingbirds please try to get a photo of it so that it can get identified.    

Please enjoy the photos taken by several SIB members during the day a couple years ago.  If you are interested to participate in the 121st Christmas Bird Count on Seabrook Island on Monday January 4, 2021, register today!


Photographs Submitted by:  Charles Moore, Patricia Schaefer

Identifying BBJs: Winter Hawks

Dr. Bill Hilton, who was SIB’s most recent Zoom speaker, has a website for his nature center, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, that includes a weekly blog. The most recent edition, #734, of This Week at Hilton Pond is about BBJs. BBJs are Big Brown Jobbers – or hawks – as opposed to LBJs which are Little Brown Jobbers – or small brown sparrows. Dr. Hilton describes and compares the Red-tailed Hawk, the Red-shouldered Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk. These are four hawks that are frequently seen in our area, but can look very similar from a distance. He has done such a great job of breaking down the differences and describing these raptors that it might be a good idea to print it and take it along on your next birding excursion. 

Enjoy WINTER HAWKS: THE BBJs and check out Dr. Hilton’s other 733 blog topics!

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History


Happy Holidays

Seabrook Island Birders would like to wish all our friends near and far a very Happy & Healthy Holiday Season!

American Robin – Ed Konrad

And, if you are on Seabrook Island ,you may notice many large flocks of birds flying about. There are several possible species, including Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles and Cedar Waxwings. However, most likely the are the American Robins that invaded Seabrook several weeks ago. To learn more about them, check out a couple of our previous blogs on the topic!

SIB “Bird of the Week” – American Robin, published January 8, 2017

Ask SIB … American Robins, published January 29, 2018

Learning Together on the Golf Course-Ocean Winds

“Birding Together” on the golf course – participants viewing from the golf carts – Jackie Brooks

Monday December 21, 2020 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course

Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to prior waitlisted & members

We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe even some of our fall migrants!

To keep everyone safe, we will ask people to social distance and wear a face mask. When you register, if you are not joined by a family member, please let us know if you are open to riding with a non-family participant or if you prefer to be in a cart alone.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: https://seabrookislandbirders.org/contact/join-sib/. You may bring the form and your dues to the event. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please complete the information below to register no later than Friday December18, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday December 19, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Replay of “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America… and Back”

Dr. Bill Hilton, Jr holding a Ruby-throated Hummingbird

For those who missed the latest Seabrook Island Birders Zoom program or for any participant who would like to rewatch a great presentation, we are offering a replay for the next 30 days. On December 2nd Dr. Bill Hilton, Jr. presented “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America…and Back!”

The program highlighted Dr. Hilton’s ongoing international research on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and his continuing ornithological work at his Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York, SC. You can visit its website, hiltonpond.org, to learn about the center or read one of his over 700 blogs on natural history and what’s happening at Hilton Pond. 

Dr. Hilton, a teacher for 40+ years, educated 83 participants from 13 U.S. States and 1 from Canada.   He urged everyone who lived on Seabrook Island and the states with warmer climates to keep their hummingbird feeders up year round for the birds migrating through and for those hummingbirds overwintering here. Additionally, he asked anyone who sees a hummingbird (especially the banded or with a color mark on their chest) to become a citizen scientist and report their sighting through eBird or his website rubythroat.org.

SIB December Movie Matinees

SIB will continue our “Virtual Movie Matinee” series using Zoom through the end of 2020. Join us on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays in December. And the best part is you don’t even have to be on Seabrook Island to join!

Once you register, we will send you a link the day prior to each event to allow you to access our Zoom live video. We will open each event with introductions and a little social time, watch the show together (generally an hour), and finish with a short discussion to get your feedback and answer questions.

Sign up for one or both here and then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

Earthflight is a British nature documentary that shows a flight from the view of the wings of birds across six continents, showing some of the world’s greatest natural spectacles from a bird’s-eye view. The BBC series was created by John Downer and narrated by David Tennant with six episodes. We will show two each month for the remainder of 2020.

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZSkitrLE34

Earthflight – Episode 5 Asia & Australia, December 8, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm
Japanese cranes dance in the snow, swallows and swifts visit the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, lorikeets, cockatoos and budgies form giant flocks in Australia, pigeons guide us through India, and geese fly miles above the Himalayas.

Earthflight – Episode 6 Flying High on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm
A behind-the-scenes look at how EARTHFLIGHT was made, including the extraordinary relationships between people and birds. Microlights, paragliders, drones, and camera-carrying birds and much more helped along the way.

Final Reminder: Register for “Hummingbirds: From Your Yard to Central America … and Back! “

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS are likely the most common hummingbird species in the world, but there is much to be learned about their life history—especially with regard to what they do the six months of the year when they’re not at our feeders and flowers in the eastern U.S. Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., principal investigator for “Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project,” is the only scientist studying these hummers on the OTHER end of their migratory path in Central America. During his hour-long Zoom presentation, Dr. Hilton will share some of the exciting results of his 30-plus citizen science hummingbird expeditions to the Neotropics, followed by time for questions and answers about these amazing little birds that break all the rules.

Date: Wednesday December 2, 2020
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 PM

Location: Zoom Virtual Video
Fee: FREE

Meet the Speaker:

Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, York, SC

DR. BILL HILTON JR. was twice named South Carolina Science Teacher of the Year and was honored as the state’s Outstanding Biology Teacher. In December 2008 Discover magazine cited him as one of “50 Best Brains in Science” and one of ten top amateur scientists in America. Based at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York SC, Dr. Hilton is an life-long educator-naturalist with a keen interest in all things in nature. An active field researcher, Hilton has banded more than 71,000 birds of 127 species during 39 years just at Hilton Pond. He is one of only about 200 people authorized to capture wild hummingbirds and has banded and released more than 6,600 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the Center since 1984, with 3,000-plus captured elsewhere. He also investigates other aspects of natural history, from pollination to predation and ecological succession to environmental change.