New Winter Internship: Learning about birds with Kristen

New Winter Internship: Learning about birds with Kristen

Winter Internship

Kristen Oliver is currently completing a winter internship with us in birding.  Through a partnership with SC Audubon, the Dewees POA, and the Dewees Island Conservancy, Kristen lives in our intern housing and spent her fall working at the Sullivan’s Island Banding station.

Kristen has done two different banding demonstrations on the island, and has given both birding 101 classes and presentations about bird banding and owls.  One Friday night in November, she gave us a synopsis of the bird banding program on Sullivan’s Island.


Bird Banding on Sullivans and on Dewees

On Sullivan’s, in the conservation area near Fort Moultrie, there is a series of mist nets set up to catch migratory birds safely for observation, documentation, and release. This fall, Kristen took the earliest ferry to Sullivan’s to participate in the daily activities. Jenny McCarthy Tyrell is the master bander at that station, and any bird banding on Dewees is under her master permit.

Holding a bird in your hand is an incredible experience: it’s pretty much just wings and a heartbeat.  And once you’ve done it, you won’t look at birds the same way again!

The purpose of banding on the island is to gather information about neotropical migrants: the birds who land here as a stop from northern breeding grounds on their way to the tropics.  The birds hit the mist net’s fine mesh, and fall into a pocket, where the staff checks every 20 minutes or so and retrieves them, putting them into a cotton bag to keep them calm.


Then they process them one at a time as quickly as possible. Banding is like giving a bird a social security number: each band is supplied from the USGS office with a unique number, so we can learn a lot about the birds we capture, and even more if they are captured again.  We stand to learn about their lifespan, dispersal and migration, population estimates, and other information about their survival.

They captured 48 species this fall; 38 neotropical species, 3 winter residents, and another 7 year-round species.  They even caught some big unexpected birds in the nets: a barred owl. a green heron, and an adult male northern Harrier.  Over 3 seasons, the station has banded over 2000 birds.  This fall’s banding more than doubled last fall’s totals, because of more nets, more staff, and more time.

Meanwhile, Kristen has been providing Dewees residents with some great programming.  Birding 101 has helped 15 people over 3 sessions, and her bird surveys on the island have recorded 136 species!

She has also done two banding demonstrations for residents:


You can find more photos of that event here.

Owl Program and Monitoring: You can Help

In December, Kristen did a presentation on owls on Dewees: here is a copy of her presentation that you can navigate on your own.

She shared information about screech owls, barn owls, and great horned owls, all of which have been recorded on the island in the last year.


She is heading up a citizen science project on the island to track where we see and hear owls.  If you see or hear an owl and can identify it, please send an email to and report what you saw or heard, and where on the island.  The more information you can add, the better.

Geocache Course

Kristen has also set up a holiday challenge for us, sponsored by the Wild Bird Center, with a birding geocache course around the island.  Start at the Landings building near the back stairs, bring a phone, and follow along. There are prizes for everyone who completes it.

For more on our island internships, click here.



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