Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Surprise Black-headed Gull

Well I left you with a little tease about this gull that was in the last picture.

Here the bird again from my grainy image

Here is a first-cycle Bonapart's Gull I saw on April 28, 2009 on the southend of Jekyll. It is the one sitting down.

During the morning of shorebird watching on May 9, Brad Winn had his boat on the other side of the little no-named island. Looking at all those shorebirds, sorting them out and just enjoying the moments we were sharing was unbelievable. Toward the end of our time there, Brad came around and pointed out this little gull. I got a couple of images but we were leaving. This "little" gull was buoyant as I watched it in water. Thanks to Brad's skill as photographer and his camera we were able to have a better look.

Both the Bonapart's and Black-headed gulls are delicate gulls. But the Black-headed gull is larger. The bill is slightly longer and stouter. It is two-toned reddish at the base and dark at the tip.

And when it flies......
You can see the white wedge on the wing and the contrasting dark wedge that help identify it as a Black-headed Gull not a Bonapart's Gull. What a thrill!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Horseshoe crabs and shorebirds

Dawn asked me about the horseshoe crabs and shorebirds. There are so many connections to the nature world. It is an amazing balancing act perfected over hundreds of thousands of years.
This past weekend I was helping with an Atlanta Audubon Society's shorebird workshop. Saturday, the group met up with Brad Winn, Clay George and Adam MacKinnon of Georgia Department of Nature Resource, Wildlife Resource Division. They took us out in boat to see hundreds of shorebirds feasting on horseshoe crab eggs.
The place is a tiny no-named sand spit. Here are two of the workshop boats.
It was a mind boggling experience. The horseshoe crab lays thousands of eggs enough to continue this ancient species and provide the necessary fuel for the migrating shorebirds.
This is the undersides of the horseshoe crab. These creatures have been crawling up on land since the time of the dinosaurs. So when the shorebirds started their long jumps from the winter ground to the nesting grounds, they learned to time it with the nesting of the horseshoe crabs. It happens every spring. Delaware Bay is famous for this spectacles of horseshoe crabs and shorebirds but it also occurs right here on the Georgia coast as well. See
This is an overview of some of the shorebirds with one of the boats in the background.
This picture shows Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, some Sanderlings and a few Semipalmated Sandpiper and along with one Forster's Tern.

We even had a surprise gull, more on that gull later. In the meantime, I would like to thank Art and Lisa Hurt for putting together this shorebird workshop. Wow!

Friday, May 8, 2009

On Monday April 27, I posted about the horseshoe crabs laying eggs. Thursday May 7th I was out on my Thursday Morning Bird Ramble and watched in fascination as shorebirds feasted on these eggs.

Here are a bunch of Sanderling.
There were lines of Sanderlings, Dunlins, Willets, Ruddy Turnstones and a few Red Knots.

This is a Sanderling with three Dunlins Here a Red Knot enjoying the group.

They would crowd around and eat, then they would all run to the water edge splash around then run back to continue feasting. What a sight!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Nesting Enclosures

Driving over the Jekyll Island causeway you will see these mounds of dirt with a wire enclosure over the top. There is grass planted on these dirt mounds.
What are they you ask?
Well I talked to Stefanie Ouellette the Marine Field Programs Coordinator for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC). She told me that these were artificial nesting sites for the Diamond-backed Terrapin. This is special type of turtle that lives in salt and brackish marsh. It is a species of concern. Why? Every year from May through July the females are looking for high ground to lay their eggs. Well guess where the highest place is in our marshes? If you said the causeways and roadways, you would be right. For two years now the GSTC has been watching these turtles. Last year alone 300 turtles were found dead or seriously injured on the Jekyll causeway. The GSTC staff also monitor where the turtle were crossing. They pinpointed these hot spots. This year they are putting up these nesting mounds at these hot spots so the females will crawl up these and lay their eggs. This keeps them from getting on the road. Also just like sea turtles, the nestlings will go down the mound and into the marsh and away from the road. The wire cage over the top is to keep predators like raccoons out. This project is funding by a grant. In this time when funding is short, it is comforting to know that there are projects like this are still funded on the Georgia Coast.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sea Net update

Today was a beautiful day. Where was I? I was inside in a windowless room. Wait! It was a good thing for I learned more about the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network SEANET for short. This was the second meeting to organize a volunteer force for the Georgia coast. Go back in my blog to February 3rd to find out about our first meeting. It was good to see Dr. Julie Ellis again. This time Julie went over forms and guideline for the surveys.

Here is Julie point out what to look for on the beach

Here is Rebecca Bell of Little Cumberland Island and Julie Ellis talking about the surveys.

We also talked about who was surveying which island.
Here are Stacia Hendricks and Gene Keferl look at the Google Earth and where he will survey.

Jekyll has plenty of coverage with the GA Sea Turtle Center and Jekyll Island 4-H doing the surveys. But what about St. Simons Island. It has a beach. I could walk that beach in under an hour. St. Simons’ East Beach area is a very popular beach. Lot of dogs running around, people thrown Frisbees or playing on this beach and it also has a lot of birds, it is very different from Jekyll and truly different from the more remote barrier island. I wondered about what I will find. This fits nicely into my year of exploring and discovering.

During the afternoon, I got to talk to Marie Procopio of the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. Here is Marie looking at one of the forms. Also in the picture Theresa of Little St. Simons Island and Stefania of the GA Sea Turtle Center
Tybee beach is much like St. Simons beach. There is a causeway out to Tybee Island. There are lots of beach going people. I think we can learn from each other. This kind of communication is so important.

I want to thank both Stacia Hendricks and Terry Norton for bringing us all together.
By the way we did get outside on the beach.