Sunday, September 29, 2013

Parc Perlière: September Bird Fiesta in a Tree

Red-Eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- September 9, 2012

            I know September has arrived when the leaves begin shaking in the Magnolia Tree just 25 feet off of our back deck.  Closer observation reveals the annual arrival of Red-Eyed Vireo who find a tasty treat in the fruits of this tree's cones.  We have counted as many as 7 birds in this tree at a time -- it's a bird fiesta!  I love to start my day with a quick look at the tree before leaving for work -- just a little daily dose of nature before my daylong 'imprisonment' indoors.  

         The tree provides us with the closest views that we have of this species all year!  Though Red-Eyed Vireos breed in relative abundance in our forests, we struggle to see them in the Spring as they prefer the high canopies overhead.  Come September, those yummy magnolia berries bring them down.  We believe that most of the birds who come are juveniles (note the brown eyes) and are migrating through.  With such a close perspective, we cannot resist documenting their presence photographically each year.  The photo above may appear familiar to my regular readers as I did indeed post it last year in the post, "Parc Perlière: Our Birds of the Day for the Weekend -- September 8 &9."   Somehow, I missed on recording these birds in 2011.  My best Red-eyed Vireo photo from 2010, below, shows one on  a rather worn-out cone.

Red-eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- September 6, 2010

         This year, my favorite Bird Fiesta photos of the Red-Eyed Vireo include:

Red-eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- September 8, 2013

Red-eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- September 8, 2013
 This year, also, a few other species were noted crashing the party.  For example, this scruffy Northern Mockingbird decided to give the berries a try.

Juvenile Northern Mockingbird -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- September 22, 2013

Also, this adult White-Eyed Vireo, checked out the tree multiple times.

White-Eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- September 22, 2013

          I did not see him eat any magnolia berries but that does not mean he did not.   Though primarily an insectivore during the breeding season, the White-eyed Vireo ingests fruit & insects during its non-breeding season.  

          September will end soon and the Red-Eyed Vireos will be moving on to their wintering grounds in the Amazon Basin.  I will miss them but I look forward to the fiesta bird's return to the Magnolia tree next September!


Cimprich, David A., Frank R. Moore and Michael P. Guilfoyle. 2000. Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Hopp, Steven L., Alice Kirby and Carol A. Boone. 1995. White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Antidote to a Stressful Week: Friday Evening Birding Brings In Another Year Bird

       The stress of some work weeks can drain you emotionally such that all you want to do Friday afternoon is find your car, drive home and hide from the world .... unless you are a birder who has just received a text message about a special bird sighting (and a possible new addition to the year list) just five miles from where you live!  How quickly the mood can change.  All of a sudden, you feel energized again!  Shut down work mode and rev up your weekend engines!  Nature is the best cure all!  And we are off to get a bird! 

        Such was the case for me this past Friday.  I will spare you the details of my work week.  It is STILL the weekend and I refuse to think about work until Monday morning.  As I gloomily walked out to my car Friday, I read a text from my good birding buddy, Keith McCullough.  He had just spotted a Lark Sparrow at the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve on the North end of Folly Beach.   He had sent the text at 1:20 pm.  It was now 5:30.  Could Carl and I still find the bird?  I called Carl.  Yes, he was on board, gathering up our cameras & birding gear so that we could leave as soon as I arrived at the house.  Then Keith and I texted back and forth as I was seeking more precise information as to where he had spotted the bird.  I also called my friend, Chris Snook, as I knew he would be banding birds there on Saturday morning.  He would want to know if a specialty bird were in the area!

         On our drive out to Folly, the beauty of the high tide in the salt marshes lit by the late afternoon sun lifted my spirits as my wearied emotions seemed to blow away out the car windows.  We finally reached our destination before 6:30 pm and began our walk into the preserve.  We knew Keith had spotted the bird towards the end of the road closer to the beach than to the Old Coast Guard building foundations.  The Lark Sparrow had been a life bird for us in the same location last year and so we were familiar with its feeding habits and its preference for short shrubs as well as feeding on grass seeds close to the ground.  Keith had also informed us of several warbler species that he had also seen that day.  Aside from Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals, and and a few Carolina Chickadees, the preserve seemed rather quiet.  We wondered if we had arrived too late in the evening.  Suddenly, Carl said that he thought he had just seen it -- it was an LBJ -- Little Brown Job -- a birder's code name for unidentified Sparrow.  Soon, he had his binoculars on it again and confirmed that yes, he had the bird.  I then located it and confirmed his ID!

Lark Sparrow -- Folly Beach -- Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve -- September 20, 2013

         We spent the next 20 minutes or so watching and photographing this active little bird.  Though beach goers frequently flushed him as they passed by, still he preferred to feed on the grass seed close to the road.

Lark Sparrow -- Folly Beach -- Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve -- September 20, 2013

Lark Sparrow -- Folly Beach -- Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve -- September 20, 2013

Lark Sparrow -- Folly Beach -- Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve -- September 20, 2013

         What great fun!  This proved to be the perfect antidote to my previously negative, weary frame of mind.  Thank you Keith, Carl and Mr. Lark Sparrow!   This was a great way to start my weekend -- dispel the work week weariness with a little birding and a cute little birdy!  For those of you searching for this bird, my banding friend Chris Snook reported to me today that unfortunately, he did not see it yesterday.  Perhaps it has already flown to destinations south.  Lark Sparrows, grassland breeders of the west and mid-west, are uncommon migrants on the East Coast.  I count myself lucky to have see one 2 years running!   

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Follow-up to "Watch TONIGHT: Earthflight -- A New Series on PBS' Nature ...

Great Egret -- James Island County Park, Charleston, SC -- August 25, 2013

            In my previous post, last Wednesday, September 4, I announced a new series, Earthflight, (originally made for and broadcast on BBC) being shown on PBS' Nature show for the next few weeks with the premiere episode to show that night at 8 pm.  Carl and I watched it and we were delighted, generally speaking, with the program.  I have become rather discerning about this type of filmography and was indeed impressed with the superb quality of the footage.  Frequently, the film presented a birds-eye in-flight perspective.  It relayed the stories of life-threatening challenges met by different northbound migrating species such as Brown Pelicans, Snow Geese, and shorebirds along various flyways of our country.  They also showed the feeding habits of certain species such as the California Gull feeding on billions of brine flies on the shores of the toxic Mono Lake and Brown Pelicans dining on a Sea of Cortez beach full of spawning Gulf Grunion -- a fish that swims to shore to lay its eggs and then wriggles back into the water!  You will see Bald Eagles hunting waterfowl and family groups of these eagles playing catch with their prey as well as a Snow Goose successfully defending itself from a Bald Eagle.   Again, the footage is spectacular!

           A bit less impressive was the narration which included at least one inaccuracy.  They reported, for example, that certain egrets in our SC coastal area have given up fishing for themselves and rely exclusively on fish driven ashore by strand-feeding dolphin.

Strand-feeding Bottlenose Dolphin -- Morris Island, Charleston, SC -- October 20, 2012
Additionally, they failed to mention the Red Knot as the primary shorebird species reliant upon the spawning Horseshoe Crabs during their northbound migration.  Instead, they mentioned the Sanderling and sandpipers, but never the Red Knot specifically.  Hmmm -- these are the mistakes that I caught due to my familiarity with these natural phenomena in my area.  This makes me wonder what other mistakes or serious omissions were made on the coverage of species of other areas.
Red Knot with spawning Horseshoe Crabs -- Harbor Island, SC -- May 25, 2013

         In all, the imagery in this film is outstanding and it seems that most of the information is generally correct.  I still do indeed recommend the film (with 3.5 stars) and I look forward to what is revealed in the nest five segments in the series.

Red Knots over the Kiawah River near Captain Sams Spit -- Kiawah Island, SC -- March 31, 2013

            If you missed this episode, I recommend that you check your local listings.  Many PBS affiliates re-air the Nature show at different times during the week.  Here in SC, this Earthflight -- North America segment will air again tonight on ETV - World at 10 pm (locally here in Charleston, this is Channel 7-3).  Or, you can watch the entire episode in a low-res version on your computer from this Nature site.

           Myself, I look forward to the next segment in the Earthflight series on Africa next Wednesday, September 11!  The superb imagery of wildlife in action draws me in and, if a fact check, is necessary, there are reliable sites for that.  

Black Skimmers above terns and Ruddy Turnstones on Harbor Island, SC -- May 25, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Watch TONIGHT: Earthflight -- A New Series on PBS' Nature -- 8 pm!

Great Egret -- James Island County Park, Charleston, SC  -- August 25, 2013

          Today, I received this e-mail from National Audubon with the strong recommendation that we watch this new PBS Nature series premiere EarthflightIn this show, you will witness up close and personal "some of the world's greatest wildlife spectacles, struggles, migrations, and stunning landscapes from a bird's-eye view."   Even before I watched the preview, I was convinced.  I love all of the Nature programs!  There would be no missing this one.  I forwarded the e-mail immediately to Carl.  He was so impressed with the preview, that he then forwarded the e-mail with his strong recommendation to at least 50 people in his address book.  If you are not convinced yet that this is the best possible activity available this evening, take a peak at this preview from the PBS Nature site.

Watch EARTHFLIGHT Preview on PBS. See more from Nature.

You will see in the e-mail that I linked above that Audubon and PBS are teaming up this evening to offer viewers an interactive opportunity in which you will be able to engage in a live chat forum with Audubon chief scientist Dr. Gary Langham and Important Bird Area (IBA) program director Andrea Jones.  They will be answering questions live during the broadcast tonight on the PBS/Nature Facebook page!

           Tonight's show is the first in this 6 part series and will cover bird flight in North America.  Subsequent shows will feature other parts of the the planet.  The final episode will present the "making-of" details.  I know where I will be each Wednesday evening for the next 6 weeks!   And if I miss any one episode, no problem -- Carl has said that we will buy this series when it becomes available.   The preview reminds us of the French film Winged Migration (2001) -- aka Le Peuple migrateur -- which we purchased as well as the National Geographic series Great Migrations, which we also purchased.

          Well, I had better post this NOW or you may miss the show!  I hope you enjoy it -- I cannot wait!

Tundra Swans -- Bear Island Wildlife Management Area, SC -- February 20, 2012