Oystercatcher Diaries 2021: Week of April 12, 2021


By Susan Heath

The weather combined with my schedule was a mess this week but Taylor, Sarah and I managed to make it out to check the bays in Brazoria County on Monday. We first headed for the west end of West Galveston Bay with Taylor at the helm.

photo by Susan Heath

That photo needs a redo! It wasn’t as rough as the last time we were out which was a welcome change. When we arrived at the West Bay mooring facility we didn’t see any oystercatchers but I wasn’t willing to let it go at that. These birds are sneaky! We landed and started a nest search. Taylor spotted an oystercatcher that had appeared from somewhere so I figured there had to be a nest. Sure enough I found two eggs! Way to go F2A and E3A!

photo by Susan Heath

I floated the eggs and they sank so the nest is pretty new. It will take about four weeks before it hatches. We headed to Alligator Point Island and again saw no oystercatchers until we landed. Then one suddenly appeared. We searched and searched but we found no nest. Since neither of these is banded, we set up the noose carpets to try to resolve that situation but they showed absolutely no interest. That is quite odd! It occurred to me that maybe their first nest didn’t fail after all and they have a chick that they are more worried about than the supposed intruders. We had floated the eggs when we found their nest and I didn’t think they had time to hatch but maybe they did. We searched for a chick but didn’t find one of those either. That doesn’t mean a thing though. They can hide really well. This situation bears watching!

We headed to Bastrop Bay. J8 was feeding on a reef at the intersection of Bastrop Bayou and Bastrop Bay so I thought maybe his mate was on a nest but she wasn’t on their island so I guess not. J0 & 38 were snoozing the day away along the shoreline so clearly they don’t have a nest. Lazy birds.

We headed across Christmas Bay to check on JK & unbanded. I was excited about this one because their nest should have hatched. When we arrived, we saw the unbanded bird standing up on the shell ridge where the nest had been and below along the shoreline two small chicks! Woohoo!

photo by Taylor Bennett

As we watched one climbed up by the adult and melted into the vegetation and the other one hid along the mud bank. Good job JK & unbanded!

We continued on and found an unbanded pair on a reef closer than I thought JK & unbanded would allow but perhaps since they are busy with chicks they don’t want to take time to run off intruders. Since these birds were unbanded I don’t know where they came from. Mysteries abound! We didn’t find AR & unbanded but we did find K0 with a new mate and a nest! Awesome. He hasn’t been on his territory so I wasn’t sure he was still around but I guess he was just out courting a new mate. Their nest had two eggs also.

photo by Susan Heath

That was the last pair to check in the area so we headed back to the boat ramp.

We had planned to go out to West Galveston Bay on Thursday but the wind was too high so we postponed until Friday. Then on Friday it rained so we didn’t make it out there this week. There weren’t any chicks to band but several nests should have hatched so we will check on that next week.

If you like oystercatchers and you want to support this project, you can make a donation (thank you!) on our website here. And how could anyone not like oystercatchers!

Current Stats for upper Texas coast from Dickinson Bay to East Matagorda Bay: 9 nests being incubated, 14 failed nests, 14 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nest with undetermined status, 2 chicks fledged

Note: All trapping and banding for this project is in accordance with federal and state permits issued to Susan Heath, GCBO Director of Conservation Research. Bird handling by volunteers is only permitted in the presence of Susan Heath and volunteers are trained in proper bird handling techniques.