Saturday, April 18, 2015

Plover Patrol at Georgia Sea Turtle Center

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center attracts over 100,000 people to come to Jekyll annually. On Thursday April 9 and Friday, April 10 around 1200 people came to their spring event called Shell-a-brate.
For the past few years, I have had the Operation Plover Patrol booth at this event.  The idea is to teach visitors to the beach about the birds those birds on the beach. This year, we did something different. 
This year we decided to create signs for the nesting shorebirds on our coast. Painting is fun and a good way to engage the public in helping these birds. It wasn’t my idea. I took the idea from Walker Golder, the North Carolina Audubon Director. Since we were on Jekyll and we have a rope line at the south end with nesting Wilson’s Plover, we focus on Wilson’s Plovers.

We talked about why the rope line was up.  We showed pictures of Wilson’s Plovers as family groups. One of those pictures showed the adult in plain sight and the chick blended into the wrack and vegetation. We ask people to find the chicks. It was fun to watch them search and find the chicks.

We had decided to have three slogans to build their sign designs around. Those slogans were “Help the Wilson’s”, “Share the Beach,” and “Protect our nests.”  I had a simple way to draw a bird to show our young artists. 

The young people were very amazing at coming up with ideas on their own. Here are a few of the signs.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Back on the Beach

March 30, 2014, it has been a year since that day.  I had joined a group of birders on Little St. Simons Island.  My hip had been giving me problems but ignored it.  “Just a pinched nerve,” I thought.  The First beach was at the north end of the island.  There we were going to see a Long-billed Curlew.  This is a large shorebird who feeds on worms in the soft mud of our salt marsh creeks.  If you are from the Pacific Ocean Coast, you are probably saying we see 100’s of Long-billed Curlew, big Deal. But here in Georgia, there are just a few that winter here.  Little St. Simons Island is the place to see them.

Carl Runge & I at Glory Boardwalk
I was really looking forward to seeing this bird so I slogged through the mud with my heavy scope to see it.  There it was the tall, stately brown bird with a long bill that was almost as long as it body was long.  I was in heaven. But my heaven soon turned into hell.  I slogged out of the mud back to the sandy beach only to have my hip screaming at me.  I could barely move.

The next stop was the center beach.  There was a large group of terns way out on the sand bar.  I would have to walk out on that soft sand.  I couldn't do it.  There were those terns waiting for me to walk out to them.  Sandwich Terns, Royal Terns Caspian Terns, Forster’s Terns, and Common Terns, I love terns and I couldn't walk out to see them.  It broke my heart.  What was wrong?

Lourdes Page and I at Glory Boardwalk
Well, that was a year ago.  Since then, I have been cooked, cut and fried but the doctors, my friends and I, we beat that cancer.  So on April 3, 2015, I walked on the beach on Jekyll. Carl and Lourdes joined me to walked almost the whole southern half of Jekyll's beach. We conducted the first of the spring season's International Shorebird Surveys.  It felt great to be out there looking at Willets, Dunlins, Sanderlings and six Short-billed Dowitchers.  They were beautiful.  Of course, the Wilson’s Plover came out from the wrack to give me a high five and welcome back.  We saw 4 pairs and there could be 2 more pair tucked way back in the sandy dunes.  I look forward to helping them as they settle into nest.  Yea! More to come...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What a Surprise!

February 21 was the evening for the third year for Jekyll Island's Green Screen. Ben Carswell created this wonderful event.  Each year, I bring a poster for my Operation Plover Patrol.   This year the Plover Patrol keep me excited through the worst of the nasty chemo.  Even when I was so weak I could barely move, one of my volunteers would send me a report and I could keep going.  Giving the birds a voice was more important than any treatment.  Also, there were lots of friends sending me notes.  These notes helped me.
      Abby Sterling is studying Wilson's Plovers on the Georgia Coast.  She spent the summer near Barrow, Alaska.  This is one place I really would love to visit.  She sent me pictures from Barrow.  It lifted my mood. 

Here is Abbey Sterling with me at the poster.  This year's poster was put together by Katie Higgins.  It was peach so it popped!   It was so much fun to see all the conservation work going on here on the Georgia Coast. There was one poster that showed how much the south end of Jekyll has grown and change.  The work used a shrimp boat that went down in June of 1996.  Fascinating, I wish I could have looked at it a little longer but there was so much to see and people to talk to around the room.  

    Of course, there was the main event the movie.  Angel Azul is a beautifully filmed story of the coral reef and the people who are working to save it.  But before the film began I got a huge surprise.  I was honored with a Certificate of Appreciation. 

I was floored & humbled. I had no idea that they were going to do that.  Abby told me that they wanted to thank me for the bird conservation work I am trying to do.  It is hard work getting people to listen to these creatures who live with us on this planet and I love giving the birds a voice.   Britt Brown donated her photo of 3 Wilson's Plover chicks.  Hatched then color banded in June 2013.  These chicks were resighted as fledglings.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine Day's Great Backyard Bird Count Woodbine

Woodbine  is a lovely community 35 miles south and west of Jekyll Island.  It has converted it old railroad tracks into a Greenway.  The Woodbine's Women Club adopted this trail.  They put up bird feeders, so it is a natural place to invite a new birder to go birding.  So on Saturday February 14 Coastal Georgia Audubon (CGAS) with the Woodbine's Women Club invited the community to go birding. 

The Wednesday before CGAS President, Marge Inness teamed up with Janice of the Woodbine Women's Club and went into to the elementary school and the Head Start Program and did programs on birds.  Marge and Janice invited the young people out to the gazebo on Saturday to join in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  We had 17 young people come.  What fun it was.    Here are some pictures of the young people's activities.

 Kids had their hands full of pine cone feeders, Learning how bird build nests as well as learning to use binoculars.


 This was our youngest birder who had her very own bird book and binoculars.  She went out with the adults birding.
This Chipping Sparrow was very helpful and allowed everyone to see it.

                                                                                                        This event wasn't just for the young people there were adults that wanted to know about the birds.

Thank you all for coming out.  We had a perfect day for it.  The sky was clear.   It was chilly but this is winter.  The birds were all around us.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

While out birding, I encountered a flock of American Avocets.  They were feeding in deep water.  It was fascinating to watch them.

                                                                                                                Here one avocet that is walking through the mud to join the flock. 

 These pictures were taken at Overlook Park at the east end of Gloucester Street in Brunswick.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Book Review, The Scarlet Kingfisher

Last summer, I need a good read since I was stuck dealing with nasty chemo to get rid of cancer.  It came in the book, The Scarlet Kingfisher by Robert Henry Benson.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Most mysteries I read of this type are good but predictable.  To my surprise, this one is a page turning mystery. Robert Benson hooks you right from the start.  The book starts out with a bang when you wonder “How in the world is this guy getting away with this?”   But it continues with the introductions to the maligned hard working ornithologist just trying to complete his field work.  This book has so many twists that it was hard for me to put it down.  Most books like this take you way out in left field leaving the science unbelievable.  Robert Benson is a retired avian researcher and long-time birder. 

I let my friend who is an avid reader and loves good mysteries borrow it.  She said she just couldn’t put it down.  She is a retired US Fish and Wildlife biologist.  In her opinion, the book is rooted in science and packed with adventure.  

Is it possible to still discover a new species of kingfisher in the United States?  How can that be especially since the kingfisher is scarlet?  What else is going on that ranch?  So on the cold winter days ahead why not pick up a copy of The Scarlet Kingfisher and settle in for an indoor adventure.
The publication date was August 26, 2014 and it is now available on 

Here a taste of the adventure from the book jacket.
“Nothing could excite Dr. Beach O’Neill more than the possibility of discovering an unknown species of bird.  Some day he hoped to travel to exotic rain forests where he could fulfill this childhood dream.  His world is flipped out of control when a south Texas ranch foreman reports seeing a strange red bird on the banks of an isolated river where O’Neill is conducting research. Things turn bad when Beach discovers the mutilated body of the foreman. The county sheriff thinks O’Neill is the killer but doesn’t have enough evidence to prove it.

Thus begins a reckless contest between Beach O’Neill and an array of despotic villains who wish to be the first persons on Earth to possess the “Scarlet Kingfisher.”  Unsavory characters, both local and global, want Beach and his botanist girlfriend Rebecca Schroeder, out of the way and off the trail of this unique avian rarity.  O’Neill is torn between his obsessive desire to capture the bird and present it to science and Becky’s wish to let it remain in its river home as nature intended.  Will this red kingfisher and two different world views tear apart their relationship?  Will disparate forces have their way?”

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Marsh Sparrow Banding

Nelson Sparrow on the left   Salt Marsh Sparrow on the right
Breast cancer taught me not to miss life happening around me.  Winter our marshes are loaded with unique sparrows.  We have Seaside Sparrows year around but in the winter the northern race Seaside Sparrow are here.  There are two other sparrows that winter here.  There is the Salt Marsh Sparrow from the northeast.  There are two races of Nelson’s Sparrows.   Breast cancer taught me not to miss life happening around me.  Winter our marshes are loaded with unique sparrows.  We have Seaside Sparrows year around but in the winter the northern race Seaside Sparrow are here.  There are two other sparrows that winter here.  There is the Salt Marsh Sparrow from the northeast.  There are two races of Nelson’s Sparrows

This week the tides are super high.  These sparrows are on the edges of the marshes instead of spreading out across the vast marsh.  We need to know about these sparrows that use out marsh as their winter home.  How does that happen?  

The scientists have to get to know them so they go out to meet them.  To learn more they band the birds.  That is what I went out to watch on Thursday.  I am not able to get in the thick of things because the chemo has weakened my feet and hands.  Now that does not stop me for I can take photos and report this interesting process. 

First they must gather the birds.  They walk out into high marsh with a line.  This high marsh is safe to walk.  (Sidebar: Not all of our marsh is not safe to walk don’t try it by yourself.)  

The birds fly into the special nets.  Everyone is there to get the birds safely into holding bags for trainer master banders.  

The bands they use are from the US Geological Service Banding Lab.  They are light-weight aluminum bands with numbers stamped into the band.  Each number is unique.  These numbers are stored at the banding lab. Here is Tim Keyes preparing to band these birds.  

The two target species are studied carefully.  Then they are photographed with the unique number to study even further. 

It was a fun morning.  I even helped by record the information when they need skilled people to help at the nets.  Life is too short to miss watching these talented scientists at work.  They help us see that the salt marsh is more than a sea of grass.