Beach Nesting Birds Project 2016: Update 1

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By Susan Heath

We kicked off our Beach Nesting Birds project this week! This year we are fortunate to be joining Houston Audubon and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program monitoring nesting Wilson’s Plovers through an American Bird Conservancy grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Our shorebird technician, Amanda Anderson, will be monitoring nesting Wilson’s Plovers at two or three sites in Brazoria and Matagorda Counties. If you recognize that name it’s probably because Amanda worked with me on our oystercatcher project in 2013 and 2014. She spent some time working in Florida after she graduated from the University of Houston in Clear Lake with her master’s degree but Texas called her back!

Our two primary sites are Bryan Beach and the mouth of the Colorado River by the Matagorda Bay Nature Park. We may add a third site depending on what we find. We surveyed both these sites twice over the last few days and we found lots of Wilson’s Plovers! At Bryan Beach we found one site with an estimated 15 pairs and in Matagorda County we found approximately 10 pairs nesting in the area between the beach and the nature park. Both of these areas have significant human disturbance. We found many tire tracks, trash, remains of fires, and even some broken clay pigeons where people had been shooting them over the weekend.

trash in dunes
Trash in the dunes

tracks in mud
Tire tracks through the mud

tire tracks over the dunes (2)
Two tracks over the dunes

fire remains
Remains of a fire

Lessening the impact of this human disturbance is a major part of this project!

At the Matagorda site we found several nest bowls. They look like this:

scrape three

But we didn’t find any nests. The birds are just getting started.

We did manage to catch one bird so we could band it with color bands that make it uniquely identifiable. We banded this female with the EA color band.

Sue and Amanda with EA

WIPL EA

We will hopefully be banding many more so we can tell the pairs apart. This will help us figure out whose paired with who, who has which territory, whether they switch mates during the season, and whether they return next year.

Amanda will be surveying Tuesday through Friday and doing outreach at both sites on Saturdays. She could use some volunteer help with this project so if you are interested please contact her.

As always your donations are most appreciated and will help support this valuable project to protect our birds!

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