Shorebird News from North Beach

April brings many shorebirds to Seabrook Island’s North Beach. Some are getting ready for long migrations and others are here to nest. That means that Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) Shorebird Stewards, while continuing to focus on educating beachgoers about Red Knots and assisting with Red Knot research, will now have another job of protecting the birds that nest in the area posted by yellow SCDNR signs.

About 4,000 Red Knots are now using the beaches of Seabrook Island and Kiawah to feed on Donax clams to bulk up for their journey to the Arctic to nest. Red Knots are listed as Federally Threatened and many research efforts are under way to measure Red Knot numbers and to identify habitats for protection. Recently, stewards from Seabrook Island and Kiawah assisted as biologists from SCDNR captured some of the knots roosting at Captain Sams Inlet. Most of the birds were banded with the usual lime green tags. A few were also fitted with satellite transmitters that will provide a much more complete picture of Red Knot migration than tracking devices used previously. These transmitters will also last longer than previous devices.

Another recent Red Knot research project was the first Coastal Coordinated Red Knot Count done in conjunction with Georgia DNR. A biologist flew in a helicopter to survey the Georgia islands and South Carolina up to Isle of Palms for flocks of Red Knots. At the same time, other biologists and stewards, like some from Seabrook Island, counted from the ground. Because Red Knots can easily travel from Seabrook Island to places like Harbor or Hunting Island in under an hour, they can also be double counted unless one can coordinate the count to get a snapshot of all the birds in essentially the same moment. The count will be repeated in May.

Please remember: When you walk along our shore and see Red Knots feeding in the surf, please “Share the Beach and Walk Around”.

Exciting news! U5 and his mate have again nested within the Yellow Nesting Signs! As you may remember from a series of Tidelines articles, U5 and mate are long-time Captain Sams Inlet residents who successfully raised two chicks in the Nesting Area last year. A few weeks ago, Janet Thibault, SCDNR Coastal Wildlife biologist, posted the area and found two eggs in the oystercatcher nest. Unfortunately, we saw gulls harass the oystercatchers and steal an egg! Afterwards, Janet confirmed that they only have one egg left to incubate. Disappointing news like this reminds us that North Beach can be a harsh environment. High winds and unusually high tides both erode the shoreline and bury nests in sand. Predators like crows and gulls steal eggs and chicks. The signs give the nesting American Oystercatchers, Wilson’s Plovers and Least Terns some protection from humans but please stay well back from the signs to give the birds the space they need to raise their chicks. If they nest like last year, some birds might have a nest right among the signs!

-Submitted by Mark Andrews, Co-chair SIB Shorebird Stewards.

(Image credit: Mark Andrews. All photos taken at a safe distance well-outside the signs with a long lens and then cropped significantly)