Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No time for Shorebirds?

I believe that we should give back to the places that sustain us. Therefore, when the call went out for volunteers to help remove invasive species at the southend of Jekyll, I was there. Jekyll Island Authority's (JIA) Landscape Manager, Cliff Gawron, and Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore were going to remove the Tamarisk. This plant gets a free ride from Europe in the ballast water of boats. What I liked about this kind of work is that we get to know some of the good people who work for the JIA.

Here some photos of us working together.

We were dragging the bushes out to the beach for pick up to be mulched. To insure that the tamarisk does not come back from the roots a root killer was painted on the remaining stems. At one point, I look down the beach and there were shorebirds galore. The American Oystercatchers were teasing me. However, this work will benefit all birds so I turned back to work.

When I got back home, I had a call from, fellow birder, Gene Keferl. There was a Red-necked Grebe in the Andrew Causeway area. So as the sunset John, Marge and I watched this rare visitor to our coast. The Red-necked Grebe, along with a wide variety of shorebirds, ducks and grebe, was a great way to end the day.

To all of you who spend hours working for the birds and nature wherever you are thank you and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Swamp, fog and woodpeckers

Saturday was another Christmas Bird Count Day. This was the Okefenokee Swamp count. Now this is not the birdiest spots but it does have a few great birds. There is a Red-cockaded Woodpecker colony in my area. Annette Bittaker was my partner for the day. She & I marveled at the number of woodpeckers we found. Around noon the woods got very quiet. After that we struggled to find the few birds that were around. Still it was fun to bird with Annette. Plus the swamp is beautiful. See.

We finished our count day with these wild turkeys. It was a great finish to a day of birding in a unique place.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some Christmas color

Some Christmas colors of 2008 Virginia Creeper is very red this year
Today is Christmas Day. We don't get much snow on the Georgia coast. It did snow back in 1989 around Christmas. It froze every bridge along I-95 for four days. We didn't know what to do. I remember walking through the snow to the beach and watching people cross county sky. It is very different right now it is 72 degrees F. There is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker calling in the backyard.

Enjoy some of the colors of the season.

House Finch at the feeder

I am not sure what this is but it was red. Any ideas?











This is Virginia Creeper with grape vines. Nature has amazing patterns.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oysters, mud and shorebirds

On Sunday, Gene Keferl, Mike Chapman, and I joined Chris Depkin in his boat to see if we could relocate the Harlequin Duck that was seen on Friday. The day was such a contrast to the day before. Sunday was a gray day. A cold front blew in. We could see the dark gunmetal gray clouds marching right over us. There was rain and spray. The temperature dropped. We went anyway.


First, we went out where the duck had been spotted. No not there, so we began patrolling the small creeks. Now we never found the Harlequin Duck but there were other birds to see.

The Dunlin, dowitchers, and yellowlegs were feasting on the mud and around the oysters. On one mud bank there were some tiny Least Sandpipers. A few Oystercatchers were hanging out as well.

It is always fair weather when good fellows get together.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Conversations with self

When Don Mumford reran the video he took Saturday. All I heard was my voice saying "wholly moley!" Saturday was the Cumberland Island Christmas Bird Count. Marge Inness & I are assigned the mainland around Crooked River State Park. It is pretty standard birding. This year Don, Debbie's husband, volunteered to take us out into some of the waterways in the count circle. We were looking around Grover Island, a marsh island, when we came up on this dock. It was COVERED with shorebirds. Black-bellied Plovers, dowitchers, Dunlins and a few Western Sandpipers were spread down this dock as far as the eye could see. I was supposed to count these birds. My brain just went, "Wow! you are on your own on this one. You can expect me to help you to draw but this, well I'm out of here." This happens sometime. When my brain decide, "Sorry this ain't happening." I have to take a deep breath and come back with" Ok, let's just take a moment. Can you take one bird?" My brain says, "Well maybe one." With that breath I take a few moments to take it all it. We watch as the bird swirl around and land rearranged on the dock. This wonderful sight of birds as far as the eye can see. At the very end of the video you can hear Don laughing. I enjoy hearing laughter.

video

Friday, December 19, 2008

Interesting birds on Jekyll

Amphitheater pond on Jekyll Island
Thursdays are just fun. I get to explore Jekyll Island. Finding interesting birds is a bonus. Well this Thursday, I found a bird species that is an old friend which I don't see much any more. Years ago I volunteered at California's Point Reyes Bird Observatory for three months. What an experience! I learned to band birds and how to do surveys. One of the surveys was monitoring the house flock of White-crowned Sparrows. The birds were color banded so they had names and we knew their history. It was eye opening to find out about these birds from the notes we had on them. It changed the way I looked at birds. So on Thursday when one popped up on a branch near the dunes, I was thrilled. We follow the bird for a while. I tried to take some pictures but the bird did a good job of staying just out of range.



The White-crowned Sparrow is there you just have to look sorry about that.




Toward the end of the morning it was getting quite warm. In fact, we set a new high for the day. Anyway we were looking at all the night-herons roosting around the Amphitheater pond when I spotted a Roseate Spoonbill. This is the third year that this species has been on Jekyll in December. Will it winter here? I will keep you posted.
This is a picture taken back in January 2008. The bird was in the exact same place on Thursday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Follow up on Shorebirds feeding frenzy

Those shorebirds were really chowing down on whatever. I just couldn't let it go so I emailed Brad Winn our DNR Wildlife Resource Division senior biologist. He has been studying shorebirds on our coast. He had seen a few of these frenzy flocks of shorebirds recently. When he dug around to see what they were after it turned out to be polychaete worms. They must be tasty the way those birds were practically standing on their heads to get to them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Feeding Frenzy

On Friday I did an hour walk down to Jekyll Point which is the very southwest side of Jekyll. It was ok walking out but once we passed through the primary dunes....the wind hit us from the west. It was a cold wet wind. We want to see if there were any American Oystercatchers were gathered so we walk west into the wind. No oystercatcher but what we saw was even better. A frenzied group of Ruddy Turnstone wildly digging down and gobbing up something. The sanderlings were right there with them. The birds were digging down about 1 inches or more. Did they find a cashe of horseshoe eggs? Do horseshoe crabs lay eggs this late? Here a video of what we watched.
video

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sapelo Island and shorebirds

What are those shorebirds eating? With this and a lot of other questions floating around in my head I joined Marge Inness, and John Galvani Saturday to go to Sapelo Island. We were taking part in shorebird workshop. There were educators from all over the state of Georgia to learn about our coast. We were invited to help them with the identification of the shorebirds. But for me I was going to dig in the sand see what these shorebirds were eating. The ferry dock on Sapelo

Sapelo Island is rich in history. The stories of the people who have lived out here is full of tragedy and success. The only way out to the island is by boat. There is a small community on the island, Hog Hammock. Here is what the Sherpa Guides to Georgia website by Richard Lenz says about Hog Hammock, “The Gullah village, with its unique cultural, artistic, and linguistic traditions, is without a doubt the most unusual community in Georgia. Old timers speak geechee, a colorful creole that blends English with a number of African languages, primarily from the western coast.” This village was created by R.J Reynolds who owner most of Sapelo at the time.
The Reynold's Mansion today

After his death the rest of Reynolds’ holding were sold to the University of Georgia’s Marine Institute and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve. To learn more about Sapelo here the link: http://www.sherpaguides.com/georgia/coast/central_coast/sapelo_island.html
We caught up with the teachers and Brooke Vallaster our workshop leader at the Reynolds Mansion. What a place!
We took a peek inside at the mural painted by Athos Menaboni.
Once we all gather it is off to the beach for shorebirds.
We were in luck there were Willets, Red Knots and Dunlins right at the entrance of the beach. The birds were concentrating in the runnels on the beach so we started there. Armed in kitchen strainers and jars, we scooped up coquina clams and Zooplankton. We took these with us back to the lab. On the way to the lab we stop by the community dock to take a dock sample of what kind of creatures might be there. It is some much fun to be with folks who are eager to learn. We were laughing and looking thru microscopes at a tiny world that sustains us and those amazing shorebirds.
Coquina clams beach sample and small shrimp from the dock sample

Friday, December 5, 2008

Quiet day on Jekyll

Looking south from South Dunes beach cross over.


Looking north at the same place.
Well yesterday was a beautiful day on Jekyll. My little group and I went looking for sea ducks. We did not see any but while we were searching we found a good many fun birds. We started on the ocean side and had dowitchers, Dunlins, and Least Sandpipers. There were some Northern Gannets flying out there. You know even though there were no rare birds there were a few stunning look at common winter birds. Stopping to just watch them go about there daily routine is ..... well it is a wonderful experience. It is just you, just being there in the moment watching a tiny bird live.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Birding in Georgia

I got an email the other day asking me about where to go birding along the Georgia coast. It is always fun to know who is traveling down the highway. I miss my years on the road. Finding my next favorite bird just over the next hill was and is a thrill. There are so many wonderful places to go in this country. In Georgia there is a website to help you. It is Ken Blankenship's http://www.wingsoverga.com/ Just click on the map and you can read all about the great places here then make your plans. Thanks Ken for making birding along the Georgia coast easy and fun.

Here is one of my favorite spots - the south west side of Jekyll Island called Jekyll Point.
Always on the top of list of favorites - Wilson's Plover

Monday, December 1, 2008

More about Jekyll Island's tree lighting

Just in case you want to know more about Jekyll Island's wonderful evening of the tree lighting check out Debbie's blog The Beauty that surrounds us. Great pictures.