Monday, May 28, 2007

May 24, 2007 Bird Ramble and Wilson’s Plover Signs

Jekyll Island is becoming known as a wonderful place to get married and honeymoon. I had the pleasure of taking newly weds Kim and Dale today. I asked them how they were enjoying their week. They said it was great. Jekyll Island was exactly what they were looking for in a retreat. They had been mostly relaxing. They had gone out the day before kayaking with Tom at Tidelands Nature Center. And today they were out with me.

Of course Kim wanted to see a Painted Bunting. She did see her Painted Bunting in fact she saw several Painted Buntings. She saw so much more. They were amazed by the Wood Storks and their chicks at the Amphitheater. The chicks are spending a lot of time flapping their downy wings. They are so cute. Walking on from the first out look to the second I found two late nesting Wood Storks. They are stoic while they are sitting on eggs. The Anhingas appear to have lost their nest. Will they try again? While we were enjoying the Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Dale was learning that he could take pictures through my scope. He had some great photos.

We do see other kinds of wildlife.

After the Ramble I met Gene Keferl to put up more Wilson’s Plover nesting area signs. We put up four signs north of the Glory Boardwalk. While Gene was hammer the
pole into the sand, a female Wilson’s came out to lead us off. This indicates we have one pair that is doing ok. I think the pair at 4-h west has failed for we saw the pair out in the morning. These birds looked at us and flew off not a good sign.

The next place we went to put out the signs was on the Southwest corner of Jekyll. This area is called Jekyll Point. We were lucky to see the female Wilson’s there as well. Keep your fingers crossed that Jekyll’s special families raise young this year.

We could not pass up looking over the flock of birds. .

There were three Sandwich Terns and one Least Tern that were not there in the morning. In fact it was a tern afternoon. On my way off Jekyll Island I stopped at the corner of Gisco Marina Road and the causeway to look over the shorebirds that had gathered on the mud flat. Whimbrels and Willets were stalking along in the Salicornia. Sweeping past them I set my binoculars on the mud I was treated to a Gull-billed Tern. Scanning that whole flat, there were eight Gull-billed Terns. I sure hope they will stay there for the summer. They are elegant birds.
With Jekyll’s birds on my mind
Good Birding!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

May 20, 2007 Sunday Morning shorebirds

We finished the shorebird workshop on Jekyll. We met at the Welcome Center and watch some birds out on the mud flats. There are some many good choices but finally we decided to go to the south end of Jekyll. Sanderlings were the main shorebird there to study. It is a good time to study them for some are still in basic plumage some are in alternate plumage and some in between. There was one female Wilson’s Plover out at the edge of the dune line on watch. We have our fingers crossed that they success in getting the young raised this year. It was a wonderful end to a great weekend for of course I love shorebirds.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Shorebird Workshop Saturday May 19, 2007

Shorebirds! I love Shorebirds. I live here because of shorebirds. So when Lisa Hurt invited me along to the Atlanta Audubon Society Shorebird Workshop I jumped at the opportunity. We meet up at the Midway Georgia area. There were sixteen of us in three boat and head out to St. Catherine’s Sound. There on a small sand island so small it didn’t have a name. Oh My! There were horse crabs thick around the edges of this small island. Low and behold the shorebirds were as thick. Semipalmated Sandpipers, Red Knots, Sanderlings, Dunlins, Willets, Short-billed Dowitchers, Rudy Turnstones, Marble Godwits, are all scrambling for the bounty of green eggs. Brown and White Pelican stood by stoically. It was an amazing sight. It was right here on our richly nature Georgia coast.
Enjoy the pictures.

In the afternoon we spent so time at Altamaha Wildlife Management Area. There were Mottled Ducks with ducklings. A few Lesser Yellowlegs were still hanging on. But the stars here were nesting Black-necked Stilts. Elegant birds were patiently waiting for new chicks. Purple Gallinule surprised us by flying up and then disappearing into the cut grass

Monday, May 21, 2007

Friday Morning Bird Ramble May 18,2007

This is a Friday Ramble on Jekyll Island. It has been planned for a few months now. Thursday was awful because the winds were out of the west. The day was very smoky I was a little worried about Friday. But the skies were blue. There was a slight chill in the air. “Perfect” I though!

After meeting with Georgi, Sharon, Joan and Pricilla we walk over to the convention center to get Pricilla her life Gray Kingbird. He was right by his tree standing guard over his nest. What a stately bird.

From there we went to the Beach Deck area near the Days Inn. I always want to check out the beach there. While we were watching Sanderling scurrying around the edge of the surf a woman came up to us. It turned out that Emilie had been looking for us and wanted to join us. The group just took her right in. This was Emilie’s first time to bird. She told us that if she just learned one or two birds that would make her happy. Well, OK we were off to the Welcome Center where the tide was already come in but we walk around to the east side and found shorebirds in summer plumage. The Black-bellied Plover was stunning. The Dunlin was a dandy. But the Whimbrel was the showcase bird.
I wanted to wait for the tide to fall before going to the beach so the next stop was the Campground Sanctuary. We got there around 9:30. This place is wonderful. We had both male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Painted Buntings were in and out of the feeders the entire time we were there. A female Black-throated Blue Warbler came into the bird bath a few times. But the real treat was the male American Redstart that popped in to check out the drip. Emilie was hooked when she saw the male Painted Bunting but it was over the top when she learned about the tiny wood warblers like the redstart. What a treat to see someone enjoy watching birds!
The real cap for Emilie and all of us was the Amphitheater Pond. There is just something about babies Wood Storks. Yellow-crowned Night-herons and growing Great Egrets chicks were a plus.
We dropped off Emilie for she had an appointment that her husband had made for her. Did I say this was her birthday? Yes, she wanted to going birding for her birthday. She left very pleased saying she learned a lot more than just one or two birds. A New Birder! Yea.
We finished the morning with Royal Terns, Black Skimmers, and Wilson’s Plovers at the south end of Jekyll. We decide to continue the fun with a lunch at Sea Jays. On the way there a surprise Mississippi Kite flew over the van. Man could it get any better but at Sea Jay’s we were serenaded by a Yellow-throated Warbler. No better way to spend a morning than with good people and beautiful birds. At the very end after I told the group bye I ended my Jekyll Bird Ramble with two Gull-billed Terns. This is the second time I’ve seen Gull-billed Terns in the area around the Gisco Marina Drive. Stay tuned I’ve got my fingers crossed that these birds will hang around here during the summer.
With Jekyll Birds on my mind., good birding.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Whimbrel Watch, May11, 2007

As the old song goes “Standing on the corner watching all the …..” That is what happens for Whimbrels at Gould inlet from the middle of April into May. Before I write about this wonderful show of Whimbrels let me get you oriented. Gould’s Inlet is on St. Simons Island. It is created by Postel and Rainbow creeks coming together and pouring into the Atlantic Ocean these two creekd are what separate Sea Island from St. Simons Island. The fact that these creeks are tidal and wash over drifting sand flats is the reason the gulls, terns, shorebirds and other water birds gather here.

A while back Brad Winn discovered that in the spring Whimbrels gather here in the evening in good numbers. These Whimbrels seem to use this area like a gathering point something like a bus stop. In the evening they would fly in to preen rest. They waited to almost too dark to see them then they would all leave at once. Brad thought they were flying off to roost on sand bars and small treeless island in the mouth of the Altamaha River. The Altamaha River spreads out into a delta area just north of St. Simons, Sea, and Little St. Simons Island. It is a rich diverse area. It is an area you can only see by boat. Egg Island Bar is one of four bird islands just set aside for birds to rest and nest. These sand bars and island are treeless too far out for the relentless predator, the Great Horned Owl.

The really neat aspect of Gould’s Inlet is you can drive right up for there is a small parking area. There are benches to sit on in other words it is very easy for any one to and watch this show. So I suggested as a Coastal Georgia Field trip. We meet here at 7:30 p.m. I was there at 7:20 and people were already there. It is a dream come true when I can drive up to an area and see birders. Scopes and binoculars at the ready folks are looking through them and chatting about the glories of past birding days or the next trip they are planning. Years before when I spent a little over a year just traveling to see birds there would be times when I would see no birders. Then I would turn into some famous birding spot and there the birders would be all line up scopes point in one direction. Birders were whispering, pointing and smiling as the special bird someone had spotted. So here I was getting out of my van and seeing quite a few birders. Man it just did my heart good. Grabbing an arm load of books I walked over to the group. It is important to me that everyone is included from beginners to experts, so I always try to bring bird books to share.

Looking over to the expose sand bar, there weren’t any Whimbrels yet. The group was enjoying watching the Red Knot in their summer finery. There were Semipalmated Plover, Sanderlings, Willets, and Rudy Turnstones to look at as well. I point to the sand bar and the group looked over there and because there were no Whimbrels there yet they went back to the terns, skimmers and other water birds. A few minutes later the Whimbrels started quietly gather. The group was amazed at how quickly these fairly large shorebirds just came in. In the end we had about one hundred or so Whimbrels on the sand bar. As the light was fading around 8:30 pm the Whimbrels all opened their wings and flew off. It appeared choreographed. They flew in a line across the tip on Sea Island before gaining height. As they gained altitude they bank left and disappeared into darkness.
With Georgia’s Wildlife on my mind, Happy International Migratory Bird Day!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Windy Birding Day

May 10, 2007

Sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday a weather system formed out beyond the Gulf Stream. This system had a classic circular cloud movement like a tropical storm. It was heading south and west. It crossed the Gulf Stream and it picked up strength. It was named sub-tropical storm Andrea. Andrea was heading toward Jekyll just in time for my Thursday Morning Bird Ramble. Even with the wind, birding was going to be fun. I warned Carole and Anna that we were going to be bouncing around to find birds.

Well the storm didn’t turn out to be an event but we still had fun looking at some interesting birds. The beach near the shopping center was windy and so
only the sandpipers were working in the runnels and surf. The Sanderlings were becoming brick red hooded birds. They were piling up in bunches rushing up and down the surf. A little higher on the beach Least Sandpipers were working the runnels. Runnels are depressions formed by wave action at high tide then at low tide these depressions hold water. All these birds were nervous. At one point I had some Semipalmated Sandpipers. But they didn’t stay long the wind and surf keep them scurrying.

We ended south to the 4-H center and walking around the south end of Jekyll. We found we were shelter from the wind. Gulls, terns and skimmers were taking a break from the wind as well. One Wilson’s Plover briefly came out of the dunes to watch us then turned and ran right back in. We were rewarded for walking all the way to Jekyll Point for there were Red Knots in their summer plumage as well as a brilliant Rudy Turnstone. A lone Snowy Egret was working the surf. Watching the knots and egret a duck appeared. A Lesser Scaup was drifting along just behind the courting Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls.

As we turned to go back to the car a family came out to the beach with their dog. I was about to say that it was good they had the small terrier on a leash when the boy turn loose of the leash. The terrier took it and began shaking it. Then it ran in circles. My heart sank. I know that education is the key to preventing the killing of birds by our own beloved pets. But who could do this education? Jekyll is perfect place for education. Is there any funding out there for this? Let me know.

Moving on we made a few more stops as we headed to the campground. The sanctuary in the Jekyll Campground is a wonderful place to visit. The squirrels are busy scoffing up all the seed on the ground. The bird drip is attracting all kind of birds. A little female Common Yellowthroat works it way through the under bush to the bath first. Then to our delight a male Black-throated Blue Warbler jumped into the pool. A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird is working the feeders. Every once in a while he would flash his ruby throat at us. There were several female Painted Buntings and one male Painted Bunting at the feeders.

Late in the morning we finished at the Amphitheater. The wood storks seemed unaffected by the winds in fact there were little head peaking over the top of the nests. Baby Wood Storks are so cute. They look like fuzzy stuffed toys. Now we are waiting for the Anhinga babies. Stay tuned…..
With Georgia’s wildlife on my mind, Good Birding1

May 8th Painted Buntings

May 8, 2007,
There is a chill in the air as I head out to Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge. It reminds me more of Maine spring morning than of coastal Georgia. I am going to a meeting with the Georgia Colonial Coast Birding and Nature Festival steering committee. Every month we meet and hammer out all the details of this wonderful festival. There is a huge amount of work that goes into a festival this size. The coast is lucky to have this dedicated group of hard workers meeting and spending hours on end working on this festival. Today we are trying to find those loose ends.
So I am in my van driving across the wide expanse of salt marsh. It never ceases to amaze me with it stunning beauty. An osprey rises up along side of the van. It has a fish and is heading back to it’s nest where if mate is waiting. We both have our jobs and go in different direction.
Harris Neck is a magical spot on the coast. Parking I grab my Leica binoculars and walk to the side of the Welcome Center. The caged feeder is filled and there are Painted Buntings all around it. The males so colorful and the females a delightful green. While standing there an Eastern Pewee calls and then there is a solid blue bird at the feeder. A Blue Grosbeak is there. I turn to go in and glance at the hummingbird feeder and there is a little Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Never a dull moment at Harris Neck. That goes for the meeting as well. We are still going strong after two and half hours. But we have our marching orders and are happy to know that we are helping to build this wonderful festival. Just so you know the dates are October 12-14, 2007.
That evening I am invited to dinner with old and dear friend on Jekyll. Sitting in their den before dinner I am enterained by their feeder. It has Painted Buntings feeding away on the millet. In the bushes there is an Ovenbird just strolling around. It was a nice day with the birds.
With Georgia’s birdlife on my mind- good birding

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A day of Roseate Spoonbills and warblers

May 3, 2007

Well after finally getting over a cold that knocked my off for a week, I am headed birding!

Rob and Robin Ostermann joined me. I have been talking to Rob for several months as they planned their trip to our area from north east Oregon. They arrived at the meeting place beside the Jekyll Island Pharmacy at 8 am. I felt like I knew them.
Actually I have Sheila Willis to thank for this nice couple. When they were looking around for a place to go, they called Sheila. Sheila, with her exuberance for all birds and especially birds of this South Georgia area, told them they needed to stay on Jekyll.

Finally here they were. Naturely I ask what birds they wanted to see. Robin jumped right in with a Clapper Rail and Roseate Spoonbill. “What no Painted Bunting?” I ask. “Oh that would be nice but we have been enjoying them at the bird feeders at Tidelands Nature Center. We have had two males and a few females there.” Both Rob and Robin agreed that any bird would fine. Well for me it was set. We were going to look for the rail and spoonbill.

Out to the causeway we went. The stop at the Welcome Center was OK, The birds were a bit too far out. I drove to the roost but I could tell it wasn’t right so I turned around and headed for Gisco Marina Road.

Now there we hit the jackpot! I drove right to the mitigation pools. Low and behold while we were gazing at some Semipalmated Plovers, a Clapper Rail sauntered out and crossed the little creek. It walked past the plovers up the mud threaded through the thin grass. It stay in view for quite a while. Robin had her rail in fact it was a thrill for me as well. Rails are not the easiest to see, so anytime I get a chance to watch I watch!

Turning around and heading back to the causeway I stopped to help them with heron identification. Rob was working along the row of Wood Storks, Snowy and Great Egrets when he said, “There is something out there that is pink.” Sure enough a Roseate Spoonbill was working up and down the little creek. The bird even came out of the creek in plain view sat up on a branch and began to preen. We watched and were amazed when a second one joined it.

The place was magic. Each time I started to leave a new bird would fly in. We laughed and rack up the species.

I had to swing by and see the Loggerhead Shrike who was on his territory before heading to the south end of Jekyll. Gulls, tern and skimmers entertained us. The Wilson’s Plovers were not going to be left out. There were at least three showing off in the dunes.
Time was flying by. It was getting late but I had two more places to go. First was the campground. It was great. Warblers were the highlight. We saw a good many Black-throated Blues most of these were females but there were a couple males around to balance things out. American Redstarts and one Ovenbird made their appearance at the bird drip along with the resident North Parula. With the drought this bird drip is invaluable to the birds.
We finished the morning at the Amphitheater. We were able to see a Common Yellowthroat bouncing between the palmetos. We spied on the nesting birds. Everyone was sitting tight on eggs. . Stay tuned the Wood Storks should have babies soon!
I did find out that Rob and Robin did get to go out with Sheila on Saturday. Sheila led them on a bird walk at Stephen Foster State Park on the west side of the Okefenokee Swamp. Then they were off to see Red-cockaded Woodpeckers before head home. I do hope they enjoyed the wonderful birds of the Georgia Coast.
With Jekyll birds on my mind, good birding! Lydia