Monday, January 28, 2008

Winter Bird Survey

It is one of those unspoken rules for the Winter Bird Survey. Pick any day at the end of January during the week with the tide high in the middle of the day and it will be the worst day of the year. There is no way to predict the weather for this day is chosen back October/November. But there have been survey days where we have been so wet and so cold and all the optic are useless and still there we are trying to count shorebirds. Now for all that tirade this year was the exception. The sky was a beautiful blue not one cloud could you find for miles. It was a mild winter day with temperatures in the 50’s.
Traditional I am assigned Little Cumberland. Wait! I should back up and tell you about these neat surveys. It started as a Piping Plover survey around the end of 1980’s or early 1990’s. Please excuse my foggy memory I can’t exactly remember when it was started. The idea is to have teams of surveyors out at the same time on all the sandy beaches along the 99 mile long Georgia coast. It needs to be high tide when the birds are pushed out of the marshes and up on the beaches. This insures that there is little if any overlap of birds counted. To sum it up it is a snapshot of the winter birds along our coast.
Now this year I was teamed up with Kate Sparks of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. She is fairly new to our coast, but as we all do, she fell in love with the stunning beauty the coast offers. She moved into this job in October. She is mainly working on marine mammals. Her job keeps her on her toes. For example on Sunday she was examining a whale stranding and today she is taking out a bird crazy person to go count shorebirds.
Kate picked me up at the Jekyll Marina and off we went to the next island south, Little Cumberland. Now Little Cumberland is a private island. It has a good homeowner association and they keep it as natural as they can. There is a land manager who is an outdoors man with a real appreciation for the island. It is always a pleasure getting to talk to him about this little natural jewel of an island.
We got the logistic out of the way and the survey began. This is a small sandy beach so there aren’t a lot of shorebirds but there are a good number of gulls. So with the great weather, good company and a few good birds this was a good exception to the rule.

If I may I would like to say that last Thursday’s ramble was fun. There were American Avocets that we waited for at the southend of Jekyll. I ran into Wes, a winter birder on Jekyll, later in the day. He told me he had been out on the southend around 8 am and had starting to study the birds. He had been watching a Marbled Godwit, the same 31 avocet, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings and the assorted gulls and terns when some of the kids ran through the birds. They all flew off leaving him with a few gulls to watch. That explains why when I got there at high tide falling I had to make my group stand a while for the avocets were not there. About the time the avocets flew back, there was a couple walking toward them. They were going to make the birds flying again. We flagged them over to show them what we were watching.
Today when we were coming back from the survey we went by that southend and sure enough there were lots of kids running through that area. I have an idea that might help us and the birds. It is a docent plan. I have started talking to a few people about this idea. I love some help making this idea happen. It involves just some volunteers who will engage the public about the birds resting. Want to help me? Email me for details and let’s see if we can make this idea a reality.
In the meantime Good Birding!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rainy day

Well it rain all last night. When I got up it was still raining. As I drove to Jekyll it was just pouring. It wasn’t a good day for a ramble so I call it off. I did a quick look around the fields and feeders around the southend. The Eastern Bluebirds were out and about but otherwise it was quiet. It is a good day to get catch up on art.

I couldn’t talk about an art commission I received last year. These pieces were to be Christmas presents. Christmas is over so I can share with you. These creations I call monotype construction. They were a combination of years of work. I do a great deal of sketching in the field as well as just watching the birds. I combine that with my years as a printmaker using my etching press to create embossing. The years I worked as a stencil cutter for a silk screen company to cut and refine the embossings. I pull these pieces together in a combination of print and drawing. It is hard for me to describe the idea but I love to create shadows and light by elevating some of the pieces. It is just the thrill of see these creations come together.

Thanks to the Babe-breasted Warblers the team of women birders who inspired the art. This team of five women spent 2006 doing a Georgia Big Year birding together. They learned so much about birds. Toward the end of the year they started thinking of birds names that suited them. Becky was named the Black-crowned Night-heron. Nita was named the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Lynda was named the Common Eider. Darlene was named the Yellow-breasted Chat. Cheryl was named the Blue-headed Vireo. So each piece has these five birds plus their name and the number they got to by the end of 2006.
Darlene posted the photos of the art at

To add a little to this story these five women have become Birding Ambassadors. On January the tenth when we were looking for the Snowy Plover Becky and Darlene saw a person looking for the bird. They did there best to help him. He did see the bird. He was so charmed by these helpful ambassadors that he came into Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop to tell how much he enjoyed meeting them.
Here is the team with me in Feb 2006

Please enjoy the art and yes I can do a special monotype construction for you. Plus I would love to hear your birding stories.
Here are the Babes with me in August 06
Good Birding in 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bird Ramble January 10, 2008

What a difference a week makes. Last week we were bundle up and freezing. This week we were shedding clothes. I was out to do a plover sweep as well see Avocets and Oystercatcher because the tide was high. Well we walked from the 4-h boardwalk to the point and back. We did see the avocets, one Piping Plover, one Black-bellied Plover and two Wilson’s Plover but no Snowy Plover. Darlene had traveled all the way from Atlanta to Jekyll that morning to join our ramble group. She came to see the Snowy Plover. So where was the Snowy Plover? We tried St. Andrews Picnic Area. The tide was just too high to go south. We settled for very good looks at a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Still on the quest for oystercatcher, we went on to the north end and Clam Creek. Again, the tide was very high so the area where the oystercatchers hang out was flooded. We did see Buffleheads bouncing out in the river. By this time it was getting close to noon so we finished the morning at Amphitheater. This is a wonderful area to find both night-herons and the Anhingas. The Wood Storks were hanging out in their traditional trees. For several weeks there have been Roseate Spoonbills hanging around the pond. There was one there.

Darlene and Becky keep right on birding while the rest of us went and had a nice lunch. I enjoy my mornings with the winter people who come to Jekyll. They give me such insights into what is going on around the country. There is nothing like good birds and good company. After lunch, I took off to the St. Andrews Picnic Area. I really enjoy looking at shorebirds. This Snowy Plover is an interesting bird. Why is it here? Consequently, I took off south on the beach, about half way down the beach I found Becky and Darlene looking at the Snowy Plover. It was about in the same spot as last week. Although the banded Piping Plover was near by the Snowy Plover chased it. It seemed to own its a wet sand patch with a field of tube worms. Darlene was in photo heaven. She had positioned herself to try to capture that perfect image. Going for the perfect image is something as an artist I can understand. I like to say I am an image junky.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Glynn County Christmas Bird Count St. Simons Island

Saturday was our Glynn County Christmas Bird Count. Carole Lyons & I were assigned the area from Gould’s Inlet around through the St. Simons Village to the west side up through Epworth Areas. It also included my home neighborhood.

We arrived at Gould’s Inlet just passed high tide.
It was wonderful. There were lots of shorebirds, gulls and terns were gathered up right in the inlet. There were 32 American Oystercatchers, over 400 Dunlins and one banded Piping Plover. The Piping Plover followed us down the beach.

It was a nice warm day which made up for the cold one on Thursday. Slowly we made our way around the outer edges of St. Simons.
The day was capped off when an Ovenbird popped up on a log giving me a brief look right at the end of our birding. We had sixty-nine species. I found out that St. Simons Island really does have a few great areas to find birds.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cold plover

It was cold very very cold. It didn’t help to read the forecast for the day. It said something like 32 degrees feels like 21 degrees. What made it worst for me was just a couple of days before it had been 80 degrees. But it was Thursday Morning so I piled the clothes on and headed for Jekyll. My little group showed up so we were off.

We got to the southend of Jekyll with the tide going out. Ordinarily that would be a bad thing but today we were lucky there were something that kept the birds feeding in the surf.

We headed out the path at the pink house as soon as we got to the beach we turned left. Heading east to where I had seen the plover on Monday. It was ok there were lots of gulls and a few terns around. No plovers though well there were a few Black-bellied Plovers but they weren’t Piping Plovers so we turned around. There was one group of gulls that were very actively feeding. The Herring Gulls were walking around scooping up tiny fish and the Ring-billed & Laughing Gulls were fluttering around and dipping into the surf. One of the reasons this area is so good is very often lunch or bunch is right at the birds’ feet.

Well we rounded the bend and headed north on the riverside. If we were going to suffer this miserable cold at least we could see a Piping Plover. I had seen the banded Piping Plover along this stretch of beach over the last month. Sure enough the banded Piping Plover was there so we headed north. Scanning a couple of times I happened to see a guy striding down the beach and what did I see scurrying along just in front of him? Was it a Sanderling? No there was something odd. So I set my scope up and low and behold it was the Snowy Plover making a bee line right for us. We stopping and waited. The little birds shifted a little to the right and the man kept going. This left the little plover right in front of us. My three companions were thrilled to see this bird which was a life bird for them all. We watched as the Piping Plovers did their little patter pick feeding move. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with Snowy Plovers so I was pleasantly surprised to watch the Snowy doing the same move. We enjoyed them for a while and then headed off to continue our ramble for birds.
We moved up the river side of Jekyll through the historic district looking at shorebirds feeding in the mud of low tide. At the airport we had Eastern Bluebirds, Pine Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warbler feeding under a live oak trees. We finished the morning at the Amphitheater. Of course there were lots of night-herons, Anhingas and there was one Roseate Spoonbill. There have been up to six spoonbills resting in this area all last month. The morning had been cold but the birds made it worth the experience.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Snowy Plover search on Jekyll

On New Years Eve I worked at Wild Bird Unlimited Nature Shop on Jekyll Island. Before I went to open up the shop I did a too quick search for the Snowy Plover. I didn’t find it. It is amazing the riot of emotions that you go through when you look for rare birds. I went the path hopeful and I came back the path out bummed. I missed it. Gary and Janie Smith are great folks. They own this shop. Back in the summer we agreed that I would help with the shop. I became their Chief Naturist and Artist in Resident. It has been interesting seeing what kind of folks visit the shop as a sample of those who visit Jekyll.

When I told them my sad tale of missing the bird, Gary jump right in and relieved me so I could run down and see the bird. This time I was lucky. The bird was there! Elation & excitement Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then panic for as soon as I found the bird of course there was a dog off leash running right into the plover group. No No No! It couldn’t be. Were the birds gone? Then I saw the bird in the dunes. Yea!!!!!!!!!!!! In my joy of moment, I signaled at a group of people coming toward me. They had binoculars. “Come see this bird.” They must have thought I had gone mad for they were a little unsure whether not to approach this idiot with the big grin. They reluctantly came closer. “There a Snowy Plover! I got it in my scope. Come see.”

They were relieved to find I was sane.

Perfect! It makes it even better when you can share the rare bird moment with someone. I then told them about the large flock of skimmers and the 15 American Avocets. They seemed pleased and
I floated back to the shop. There, I shared the picture I took of the birds. . Thanks Gary for letting me sneak away and to Walt Chambers for finding and reporting this bird.
This bird puts a good ending to a whirl wind year.

December Zoomed by

Well I can see that I am way behind on this blog so here is a December summary.
There were two surveys of the little pocket marsh on the north end of Jekyll. Sedge Wrens were the stars of those surveys along with some great woodpeckers. Sorry but those Sedge Wrens were to fast to get an image but please enjoy these

There were three Christmas Bird Counts Harris Neck, Cumberland (mainland) and Okefenokee that were exciting and time consuming.

There was work at Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop on Jekyll Island. This gave me a chance to gage the understanding of the nature of Jekyll.
The rambles were fun. Roseate Spoonbills are still here.

The month was filled with birds, people and last & always there was the work that I do for the Georiga's Colonial Coast Birding and Nature Festival.

Good Birding!