Saturday, February 28, 2009

Little St. Simons Island

On February 19 a group of Bird Ramblers were going on an adventure. We were exploring another Georgia barrier island, Little St. Simons Island. This small island is north and a little east of St. Simons Island. Little St. Simons Island is a private island with an extraordinary small lodge.
The only way over there is by a ferry. There is a limit to the number of guests permitted on the island at a time so we made our reservations for a birding day trip. What an opportunity! This island is know for the abundant of birdlife Let me quote from the website “Little St. Simons Island and the surrounding Altamaha River delta are recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the American Bird Conservancy and are also recognized as a reserve site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). "
The last part is what our little group is looking forward too. We all wanted to see shorebirds.
Here is the way we got around the island. See Ben on the left, he was our guide.
All the staff is great. Thanks Ben for a great day!
After weeks of rain and cold we finally had good weather. In the morning we visited the south end and looked at a Great Horned Owl nest. There sitting snug in that nest was a big fuzzy owlet. On our walk back to the truck there were a few little birds flitting ahead of us. To our surprise two of them were Brown-headed Nuthatches! Everyone got great looks at these piney woods birds.
After a wonderful lunch we were off to the beach for shorebirds galore, Marbled Godwits, Short-billed Dowitchers, Willets, Piping Plovers, and Red Knots just to name a few. What a day!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Learning about birds

For the last week I have been preparing for the Bird Education Network gathering on Jekyll. This is an amazing conference where I am learning so much from so many folks who are out there making a difference.

In the meantime I thought I would follow up on the shrike banding. Jonathan did band another shrike. What I did not know was this was a lifer event for Teddy Ivey who joined us on this adventure. Teddy is an educator at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC). If you have not visited the GSTC take the time to visit. They are doing amazing work.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Banding Shrikes

On Monday I met Jonathan Gray. I was very curious about his Loggerhead Shrike research. We start out at Gisco Marina Road. This is the road at the beginning of the Jekyll Causeway that winds under the Sidney Lanier Bridge . We spotted a shrike right off the bat. We slowed down and put out the trap and drove down the road, turned around and watch. The bridge was blocking some of the tree but we could see the shrike. Suddenly the bird dropped down and flew off away from the trap. What? We eased up to see a Cooper’s Hawk was sitting in the tree! The shrike was gone. Did the hawk get our shrike? We looked but could not find the shrike.

We tried several places without any luck. Finally at the golf course near the putt golf course, we found two shrikes. Jonathan got permission to go out on the Golf course. And we were set to band shrikes. It did not take long for the bird to see the trap and fly in.
Here Jonathan watching.

Jonathan takes the bird out of the trap.

We prepared to band the bird.

With the band in place, measurement taken, feathers secured the bird was released and a few minutes later it was back on the wire with the other shrike.

Here is Jonathan with the shrike.
It was time for me to get to work so I left Jonathan. I hope he got a chance to band the second one. By the way on my way home later that day, I saw the shrike at the Gisco Marine Road. The Cooper’s Hawk did not have shrike for breakfast thank heavens.

Fascinating work Jonathan. Thanks for letting me tag along.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Teaming Birding with Art for Nature

I have just gotten home from a full day of birds and art. Back a few years ago I suggested to Diane O Shea that we should do an art show and sale to raise money for Tidelands Nature Center. When we got that going, Eric Garvey, and I wanted to do something for birders that were wintering on Jekyll. It was a perfect match so we do the art show and birding around The Great Backyard Bird Count. This was an opportunity to get beginning birders out with good birders in a spirit of learning and counting birds.
Here is my idea. Jekyll Island is eleven miles long and just a few miles wide at the widest point. I divided the island into sections with no overlap of areas. This year four guides volunteered to help, so there were four areas. We met between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. I put up signs about the areas, the guides and the rigor of the field area. The folks choose who they want to go out with to learn. At 9 a.m. the teams are off to count birds. It is important to get an accurate count but it is just important that the beginners learn something from the group. The areas are divided up so there is no rushing around. Take your time to count the birds you see. then talk to each other about the birds and why they are there. Then around noon come back to the Jekyll Island Convention Center to gather around a computer table and see how to enter your data. When we are finished, there are wonderful arts and crafts to look at and take home. We have some incredible artists with wonderful work. It is a great opportunity to take home a little piece of the islands.
My group went down to the south end of the island. It was not as good as Thursday but it was still great. Look!
We carefully counted 710 Dunlin, 55 American Oystercatchers, and 26 American Avocets. To top it off , we had a large pod dolphin just beyond the beach. No not a bad day at all.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Thursday Morning Birding Blast

You know sometime birding is just down right fun. Thursday's bird ramble certain was just that- a blast. We just hit every place at just the right time. At the Welcome Center the tide was perfect for all the shore birds to start to gather. Barb spotted a Clapper Rail right out in front of us. Priscilla finally got her long satisfying look. We all did.

Moving on to the south end beach we had 3 Wilson's Plovers. They were right where they had nested last year. There were a ton of Dunlin. Carl did a count for us and there were 430 Dunlin.
Moving toward the point, the American Oystercatchers were banked up and resting. Dolphins were playing in the water off the point. Just when we were getting ready to turn around 40 American Avocets flew in. What a impressive gathering of birds. From the beach we went up to the Bird Sanctuary in the campground and there was a Pine Warbler on the feeder. When it was all tallied up we had seen 62 species for the morning.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Exploring and Discovery begins

Thursday was a blur. The Bird Ramble was blast. I will write about that later.
Right now, it is what I did late Thursday and Friday morning that has me excited. I have begun to explore the connection between our coastal habitats and shorebirds. In November and December, there were several events that helped me to decide I could do this. Taking Trish Rugaber’s Botany for Artists workshop introduced me to the Digital Dissection Microscope. I found I could capture images to draw! Then I helped with a teachers workshop and while following along behind some Red Knots and digging around in the sand I discovered amphipods.

Several other trips out in the marsh peaked my curiosity's.

I do have help.
Georgia Graves is a gifted environmental educator. If you want to know how our beaches work take one of her workshops. I am thrilled to know that Georgia Graves who is going to help me explore. So yesterday about 4:30 in the afternoon we met at East Beach on St. Simons Island. I thought we would have to walk up to the birds to start looking. No, Georgia told me we could start anywhere on this sandy beach. We walk over to a ridge of sand and the dug our sieves down in and plopped it in the container. I had my sample.
Friday morning we met at Science Lab at Coastal Community College. Trish helped me set up. The time melted away as we found tiny creatures called amphipods and a couple of live coquina clams.

An amphipod as captured by the microscope

Same amphipod backlite
Gene Keferl, a birder and a retired professor, joined us for a little while. As we watch an amphipod, he told us the Sanderlings are actually eating these creatures. Following the birds you will see the bills just scrape the surface of the sand for a meal of amphipods. Amazing! It was eye opening. Just think, there is a whole world right under your feet.
A live coquina under the microscope. There is the transparent foot pushing the shell around in the water.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sunday afternoon find

On Sunday, I met a group of parents with their young children for a walk at East Beach on St. Simons Island. It was a beautiful afternoon. The children were having a blast. We discovered a few cannonball jellyfish
but the fascinating find was a small pair of wings with orange stubby legs and feet attached. There was aluminum band on one of the legs. I took the band and told them I would let them know about the bird. Not too many years back, I would have written a letter with the banded number then mailed it to the bird banding lab and waited .
Here we are talking about the find on the beach.
We now live in the 21st century and it is so easy to find out about the bird from the band.
Just go to the bird banding website. Click on Report a bird band and follow the directions. In less than fifteen minutes I knew that the bird was a Forester’s Tern. It was banded in Wisconsin on June 19, 2006. I sent the information on to a couple of the families. One family got out the map and found Wisconsin. They got to see how far this one bird had traveled. Wow! How cool is that!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

a rare bird

For most of the eastern United States the White-breasted Nuthatch is a regular at birdfeeders. Here on the southern end of the Georgia coast it is a rare bird. If you want to see this bird in Glynn County you should go Paulk's Pasture. On a whim John, Marge, Carole and I decided we were going to find the birds. We got to Paulk's Pasture mid-afternoon and it was real quiet. Still I enjoyed the quiet stillness of the area. We walked the road finally the birds came alive and there was our little nuthatch. What a thrill not just for the bird but this cypress swamp as well.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friday was a little warmer

On Friday, it began to warm up just in time for the annual Weekend for Wildlife.
This is a weekend put on by our Georgia’s Department of Nature Resources, Wildlife Division Nongame program. This state group watches over our Painted Buntings, shorebirds as well as other migratory birds and animals. The Georgia car tag with a Bald Eagle or hummingbird is one funding source. The other funding source is the great weekend. The Environmental Resources Network, TERN for short, helps puts on the event at Sea Island’s Cloister Resort. I enjoy being part of the weekend by contributing art for auction and by helping lead a Friday birdwatching outing. This year we had a nice size group.
The first bird we all watched was a Piping Plover but a Bald eagle stole the show. This bird landed on the beach scattering the Double-crested Cormorants, gulls and shorebirds.
We finished the day at the Jekyll amphitheater looking at the collection of egrets, herons and even an alligator. It has warmed up!

A little cold

Well since Monday, it has rained and cleared up. A wicked wind blew out of the northwest making it very, very cold. It was too cold for some people, others tried anyway. On Wednesday, I hosted a Coastal Georgia Audubon Society's lawn chair birding event at Wild Birds Unlimited on Jekyll Island. The birds huddled on the bird feeders as a few hardy souls huddled on the porch.
Just a few of the hardy souls that ventured out to birdwatch on Wednesday
From left to right is Carl, Lynn, Len and John.

We ended up going inside and watching from the window.

Unabashed endorsement: Please stop by and visit Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop, Jekyll's "natural" shopping destination. We are proud to be able to give you the latest Jekyll birding information. I am generally there on Wednesdays. I love to meet you and hear about the birds you are seeing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More on SeaNet

Sarah from SEANET just emailed. She has a blog on what SEANET is doing. It got lots of good information in it. "Way Cool!" I plan to visit it often. Here is the address Scroll down to SeaNet goes to Georgia to see her blog about the day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

SeaNet comes to Coastal Georgia

Monday, I did something that was fun but also one more positive step for the shorebirds and ocean birds here on the coast. Stacia Hendricks of Little St. Simons Island invited a group of coastal barrier island people to a SeaNet workshop at the Georgia Turtle Center. We had a good group of folks from Tybee Island in the north all the way down to Cumberland Island in the south. Our guest speakers were Julie Ellis, PhD, DVM and Sarah Courchesne DVM from Tufted University and Kevin Keel from UGA CVM. Julie told us about the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SeaNet). They followed that with a group discussion of how to proceed with these surveys along our coast. This is going to be a long-term collaborative effort. We decided we would start small. We could cover the beaches of Tybee, St. Catherines, Little St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and Cumberland. We will commit to doing surveys of the live and dead birds on these beaches at least twice a month. I was so honored to be included in this group of committed people. To find out more about SeaNet please visit the website .

Here is our group

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

January 31 was Coastal Georgia Audubon Society’s annual field trip up to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Ten people went despite the cold. John Galvani, our president, wanted to see if the Fox Sparrow was still at the entrance area. He had seen three on his visit in December. We walk around to the spot and the sparrow popped right up.
What a lovely sparrow.
Please forgive these pictures. I tried to take pictures all day with only minimal luck.

See, the Fox Sparrow in the tangle.

Well any way we all saw some very nice birds.

Like this Black & White Warbler

Here is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that was being very still.
Here we are looking at the Black & White Warbler and the sapsucker.
The Wilson's Snipe won the prize of the day for it was a challenge to find. We had stopped to watch some Ruddy Ducks. Marge's goal is to get photos of plants and animals to use as flash card for her teaching. She aimed her camera at a bird. She said, “That was a snipe!”
The bird very well camouflaged. We all looked. We could not see it, well until it moved.
Yep, it was a snipe all right.

Do you see the snipe? It is near the middle coot.

Here it is out in the open.

We finished the field trip and tallied up the birds seen. It was a nice list of 62 species. Great day of good birding