By Susan Heath
On Thursday I headed out to West Galveston Bay with Alan Wilde and John Wright. The wind was only supposed to be 10 mph but it was really choppy in the bay and the ride up to Swan Lake was anything but smooth. At least the Railroad bridge was up for a change! 20 & unbanded were acting as though they had a new nest but when I checked I only found scrapes. Maybe they’ll have one next week. LR & unbanded were acting similarly but it was too rough to go look for a nest for them. Both of these pairs have had successful nests late in the season so maybe they do so again this year.
All the pairs in Swan Lake were on the breakwaters including X3 & unbanded and their chick. I can never get enough of seeing the fledged chicks. It’s heartening to know some of them were successful!
We headed back to West Galveston Bay and went to Struve. Alan and John had managed to fix their net gun (mine is still out of commission waiting on parts) so we hoped the entangled chick would be there but it wasn’t. LT & JA were on a dock alone and we didn’t see either of their chicks anywhere. Bummer.
The other pairs were all in their usual spots. 12 & unbanded only had one chick with them and the unbanded pair had their chick with them on the island.
L9 & unbanded were still hanging out on the grassy slope on Galveston island. I sure hope they don’t try to next there next year.
The skimmers have all started renesting. Here’s a typical shot of a skimmer on a nest. The mate stands nearby guarding. They are so faithful!
We headed to Jigsaw but both of those pairs were just lollygagging on the reefs so we went to check on YK & unbanded on Galveston Island. We didn’t see them at first but then YK flew in from somewhere and gave us the what for about trespassing on his territory. Ok, ok! Then he sat down in this weird position.
Why do they do that?! I hoped we might find LT & JA’s chicks at the end of 8 Mile Road but they weren’t there. Instead we found 16 & unbanded and two youngsters – W9W and Y0Y. They were sleeping on the rocks in the sun. It was hot out there! When we disturbed them, Y0Y sat in that weird position too.
We found one more bird on the docks but it wasn’t the entangled chick. At Gangs Bayou, there was one bird on the island but it was just hanging out near the reef and there were wade fisherman over there so we didn’t investigate.
Things got a little more interesting on South Deer when we discovered that A1A & unbanded have a new two egg nest.
It’s right on the edge of the Royal Tern colony so maybe that will keep the gulls away. Most of the terns have chicks now but there are still a few eggs up there too.
A5A & unbanded weren’t home and Y7 & unbanded were around the bend from where they have tried to nest just like last week. I guess there are just too many other birds in their nesting territory with the White Ibis colony and gulls and herons. It is quite noisy there!
F1A & E2A were out on a reef without their chicks again. I guess most of the early chicks are out on their own now. The season is almost over! I was happy to see that C1A & unbanded were still incubating two eggs just like last week. This is their third nest. It would be nice if it would succeed.
J6 & UF were on the breakwater down by the water’s edge and we did not see a chick with them. When we approached they flew in a wide arc and landed in the vegetation behind the breakwater where we couldn’t see them. Do they have a chick back there? Usually one of the adults stays with a young chick so I’m not optimistic but they have certainly fooled me before!
YM & JH and their chick were in the same spot as last week. The chick didn’t seem bothered by us this week though so I guess it is more assured of its flying skills now and isn’t worried about us catching it again.
See those light edges on the feathers? Those will wear off in time and then the chick will look like an adult. I guess that’s an adaptation to help them hide when they are young. Pretty cool.
JJ & P4 weren’t home and W5 & JC were snoozing along the water’s edge. FR & unbanded were just hanging out and FR barely even reacted to us motoring by. Where are your crazy antics Fred? I have to say I enjoyed them quite a bit. I guess since the chicks are off on their own Fred isn’t worried about us anymore. He seems to have calmed down a bit this year! Alan did manage to catch a photo of him appearing to levitate.
When we went to check on CA & Y2, we heard lots of oystercatcher shouting and we weren’t sure what was happening. Then we saw four oystercatchers land on a nearby reef and one of them started swimming. What’s up with that? The chicks are fledged. They shouldn’t be swimming. One of the adults got after it and it took off. It might not have been a chick but an intruder instead. We didn’t get a good enough look to tell. Eventually one of the chicks landed back on the island and the adults landed on the reef.
We didn’t see the other chick so we ran the length of the breakwater around the Tiki Spoil that is right there. We found an unbanded adult so that might have been the cause of the commotion. We never found the other chick though so it must have been hiding somewhere or off on its own.
It was quite hot and I was glad to be done for the day! We headed back to the boat ramp and loaded up. I sure wish we could catch that chick with the fishing line entanglement though.
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: 2 nests being incubated, 38 failed nests, 0 nest with unfledged chicks, 2 nests with undetermined status, 15 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