Friday, January 28, 2011

Picture of the day

Here is a photo taken by Bill Flatau. It is the Common Eider that was seen last year off of Sea Island. Thanks Bill for sharing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day two; Water bird count & sparrow hunt

Day two intense birding continues:
The Sunday evening I got home just in time. My friend Paul Lehman was coming into town. He was on a ticking mission. What is a ticking mission? Well, Bird Ticking is a game birders play. The idea is to get at least 50% of the birds possible in each of fifty state and the Canadian Provinces. It means you get to know the birds well and see the habitat. Paul goal here was the Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, and Harris's Sparrow.
Paul & I met many years ago when I lived on the road. He was traveling too so we often ran into each other. Over the years, I have camped at his home. Now, I was returning the favor.

Monday Morning, we were at the Harris's Sparrow field at first light. The Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area just south of Darien, GA is managed for wildlife. There are lots of grassy field with great seed crops for wildlife. The sparrows are plentiful. Do you want to really get to know your sparrows? Well this is the place. There are Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Field Sparrows. Early we both got a glimpse of the Harris Sparrow but it quickly disappeared into the thick brush. Paul got several more glimpses. While we look he talked about where this sparrow might be found in the field. Knowing where to look is half the game. At one point, I flushed a Barn Owl. It was a beautiful owl.

I had the Winter Waterbird Survey. We had to leave. This year, the count was combined with the Piping Plover count. U.S. Fish & Wildlife joins forces with Canada and Caribbean countries to count Piping Plovers. There were birders on the beaches from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all at the same time counting birds at the same time. This is a great snapshot of the number of shorebirds, sea ducks and sea birds there.
So at 10 a.m. We met Chris Cappola and drove over to Sea Island, a private island. Bill Flatau had a beach vehicle. Paul went looking for the large raft of scaup (ducks.) We head south to survey. We did find one Piping Plover and a lot of shorebirds. Paul called to tell us he had the ducks including the rare ones. We were counting so it took us a little time to get to 27th Street. We were not too late. The raft of ducks were over 3000 strong.
I have a counter so I took on the task of counting the entire raft. Bill and Chris started looking for the Common Eider and Long-tailed Duck. They were found and we all got looks. Still that many ducks was a stunning sight.
Still we could not linger. We were on the count so we headed up at the northern end of Sea Island. There were more shorebirds. Yes, I was in my element. By the time we finished it was a little after 2 p.m. Lunch and a quick look at Gould's Inlet and we were headed back to the sparrow fields.
Gene Keferl joined us and we looked and we looked. We looked at a lot of sparrows but none of them were the Harris's Sparrow. Paul did find a Lincoln Sparrow. After the frustration of the Harris's Sparrow the Lincoln Sparrow was a good end to the day. At the end of two day of intense counting I saw 94 species of birds. Not bad, I also saw pine lands, wetlands, weedy fields, beach and ocean and a lot of wonderful birds.

Intense birding Day 1

The past two days I have been intensely birding. My goal was to count birds. Sorry, there was not a lot of time to take pictures.

Birds are important to all us because they are indicator species. They tell us how our planet is doing. No birds around, we are in big trouble. But how do we know when to push the panic button? These bird surveys give us a base line to see if we are doing OK.

On Sunday, I was helping with a winter bird count on the Federal Law Enforcement Center. We had a great day for counting. It was a cold but the birds were active. Here are a few highlights. A Sharp-shinned Hawk started our count. It flew out of the trees in front of us. Sharp-shinned Hawks are small agile birds of prey. They hunt small forest birds. Hawks are equalizer. We counted several species of warblers, the jewels of the bird world. They eat bugs that bug us. We kept going until well after 3 p.m. We finished the count day with an immature Red-shoulder Hawk.

After that count, I raced home. I was invited to a party with some of the birders gathering for the next day's count. But before I could get out the door I got a bird alert phone call. Two Western Grebes were seen off Sea Island. Birders had them in the scopes. OK, I can chase that sighting. Chasing a bird is natural adrenaline rush. You get there and there are other birders there. When new birder come in questions are fired off. "Do you have the bird?" "Where is it?"
Yes I asked the questions. Yes, the two birds were out there. They were way out there on the ocean. Bob Sargent was kind enough to let me look through his scope. I saw the birds but all I saw was a very white cheek, a very black above the white cheek as the birds bobbed in and out of sight. I did see a very long white neck and a very black back. Better view desired, please. But not this evening. The light was fading.
The birders all got to Bill's place to share a little chit-chat. It was a perfect cap to a beautiful day. Thanks Bill for thinking of me. Stay tuned to part 2.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jonathan's project update

Remember Jonathan’s project, well here is a good beginning. It is out of the way down a path. It will be a good outdoor classroom for the Jekyll Island 4-h center. This center has sessions for schools from all over the states. The kids learn about the Georgia coast first hand. They are in the mud. They are on the beach. They see fresh water and salt water. They will learn at this outdoor classroom while birds fly in and out of the feeders. Maybe it will spark some of these kids get out side in their own hometown. Maybe they will recognize a bird and spark a life time connection to the out-of-doors. Way to go Jonathan and the Jekyll Island 4-h center!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hidden Lake on St. Simons Island

Silver Lake is right smack in the middle of St. Simons Island. It is down a quiet lane off Frederica Road, one of the busiest road on the island. But just turn down Silver Lake Drive and you will find a beautiful little lake and lots of Hooded Mergansers. It is an elegant duck.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Start of Something

Jekyll is an island. 65 % of the island is natural (undeveloped) by state law.

We need to educate folks about the special features of this island. Jonathan Gray is one of the staff of the Jekyll Island 4-H center. The 4-H staff not only believes that this island is special, they are teaching kids about the nature of a barrier island. When I see a 4-H class out, I want to join in the class. They look like they are having a great time learning

Now what Jonathan & I have in common is we see birds as great ambassadors to environmental education. So when he called me at Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop on Jekyll Island and told me what he had proposed, I was excited. Wait let's back up, a lot of people want us to give them set ups and feeders. When we go back we find that the feeders are neglected, falling down. So I asked Jonathan for his plan. Here it is, an outdoor class room to teach a variety of subjects. He told me that birds are not high on most school list of courses when they come to the island. But what if you are learning about forest succession & behind the teacher is a see-through tarp with a feeder behind it? Birds coming and going while the teacher talks about healthy environment encourages a diversity of species. Perfect!
Here is Jonathan with the plan for the outdoor class room. Our store mascot, Jay B Watcher, is giving us the thumbs up on this plan. More will follow as the plan become a reality.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Huddling from the cold

While most of Georgia was dealing with snow, we were dealing with rain and cold. On Monday when driving over to Wild Birds Unlimited to work, I stopped at one of my hidden birding spots. Huddled in the marsh grasses were Willets, Greater Yellowlegs and a few herons & egrets.

There was not a lot of business at the shop so I did inventory and watched the feeders. Even when it rains on Jekyll, it is still fun.

Friday, January 7, 2011

It just Beachy

Yesterday, the ramble group spent the morning exploring the south end of Jekyll. We started with a walk out the Glory Boardwalk to the Atlantic Ocean on the south east side. There were tons of Willets, in fact there were tons of Willets at every beach spot. Willets are elegant birds so I was in heaven. As we looked out over the Willets, we pick up other shorebirds. The one bird that stood out was the Marbled Godwit. It was smack in the middle of all those Willets adding just a hint of color.
Looking north there was a huge raft of ducks. Most of them were Lesser Scaup so we went back to the van. We needed to get to South Dunes Picnic Area to see them all a little closer. Once out on the dunes crossover we could get scope looks at the rafts. It wasn't all Lesser Scaup there were Greater Scaup mixed in the flock. Off to one side was a tiny gathering of Black Scoters. It is nice to see so many ducks. Priscilla's favorite birds are American Oystercatchers. The tide was right but the time was late. I thought we would do a quick walk out to Jekyll Point. Jekyll Point is on the south west side of Jekyll. From there you are looking at the Jekyll River and St. Andrews Sound. Dolphins were feeding out in the river. It is always fun to see a dolphin break the surface of the water. We were on a quest but birds keep getting in our way. Dunlin and Sanderling were madly feeding on Surf Clams. They were so busy feeding that they didn't want to move. More Willets with some Red Knots mixed in with them slowed us down. I had to look for bands but none of the knots were banded. Then at the point we saw the oystercatchers.
What a bird!
Needless to say our quick walk was not quick. Why waste a good bird for the sake of a clock? We took our time and enjoyed all the birds at the south end of Jekyll.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jekyll Island's Westside part of the Christmas Bird Count

January 1, 2011 found me out on the north west side of Jekyll. It was Christmas Bird Count time in Glynn County. I was joined by Rockett, Carol, Priscilla. We had a great time but did not get to some places I wanted to go. Still at the end of the day our little group found 75 species. Pam allowed us to come in and see the Buff-bellied Hummingbird. While we watched that bird, a Woodcock showed up. Here are a couple of photos that Pam took for me. Thanks Pam for sharing. I was told we had 151 species for the entire count area. Wow! It has been years since we got that many species. It was a wonderful way to start the year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ending the year with an Amazing Day

It was an amazing day. The people made the day a delight. I met my Bird Ramble group at 8 a.m. Amanda from Canada and Katy from Chicago joined me. There were lots of Sanderlings, Dunlin, a few turnstones and six Red Knots. While we watched, a Merlin flew by and took one of the birds. Whoa, it was quick!. It became very quiet after that incident. We moved on to see White Pelicans at St. Andrews Picnic Area. These birds are a challenge for they move up and down the Jekyll Creek. The Buff-bellied Hummingbird was a life bird for both Amanda & Katy. Thanks Pam for being so nice to see this bird.

When we arrived at the amphitheater, Blue Jays were going crazy. Amanda spotted the reason. A very large Great Horned Owl was eating a immature Little Blue Heron.

It was lunch time so I say goodbye to Amanda, Katy had to leave a little earlier. I had a little extra time so I went to the campground and watched for titmice at the feeders. Chickadees and titmice just brighten the day.

I ended the day meeting Bret and Mary of Green Global Travel. We were off on a late afternoon Golf Cart Nature Tour. A couple of highlights made the short tour special. One the adult Bald Eagle soared over our heads to land in a pine. As the sun set, we watched as hundreds of egrets came into roost. It was a great way to see the old year out.