Beach Nesting Birds Project 2016: Update 5


By Amanda Anderson

There has been a chickpalooza happening at Matagorda Bay Nature Park the last two weeks! Since the last blog, we have resighted 15 chicks. Just this past week, we banded 8 chicks! Below is a montage of cute Wilson’s Plovers chicks.

chick collage

I was even more pleased that a nest located within the main beach area survived to hatching after a month of severe weather and constant human disturbance. The picture below depicts the vehicle activity that regularly occurred near this nest.

trucks on beach

Even with the recent floodwaters and Memorial Day madness, only a few nests failed at Matagorda and we continue to find new nests. Currently, there are 9 nests and approximately 25 breeding pairs. The success of the Least Tern colony continues to be variable. There are now 2 colonies, one remains in the boat ramp parking lot and the other is on a mud flat near another parking lot. We closed off the back half of the parking lot, but found that a vehicle ran over the signs during the holiday weekend.

run over signs

Luckily, the vehicle didn’t venture further back and destroy nests. However, approximately half of the colony located in the boat ramp parking lot failed. I assume that vehicle disturbance or mammalian predation caused the failure. There are approximately 27 Least Tern’s still nesting at Matagorda.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom at Bryan Beach! Luckily, a nest hatched right before the Memorial Day madness and we have the first chick at Bryan Beach!

chick in hand

There is still only 2 active nests and 6 breeding pairs at Bryan Beach. Before the holiday weekend, I met with the city folks when they were raking the beach. Before every weekend, they push beach debris from the Brazos River up along the dune line. In an effort to limit access to nesting habitat, I had them block off a few entrances.

blocking dunes

However, ATVs continue to create a disturbance and destroy dune vegetation at both of the study areas.

ATV tracks in sand ATV on beach

On a brighter note, we are taking a big step towards protection and meeting with the City of Freeport next week to put up permanent Do Not Enter and Bird Conservation signs. Now that regulatory signs will be present, the Freeport Police can begin issuing citations in an effort to deter people from disturbing the habitat and birds.