By Susan Heath
I was on vacation last week so the oystercatchers had to live without me. I’m sure they enjoyed the week off! Other than the last oystercatcher chick and checking on the skimmers there really isn’t much to do out there this time of year. Alan and I were joined by John Wright this week. We headed out to Jones Bay and found zero oystercatchers. The Caspian Tern chick had flown the coop too.
We continued on to go band W5 & JC’s chick. We found it right where it was supposed to be. John made chase and scooped it up in the net just as it jumped in the water and dove. W5 was standing guard and he was not happy about the abduction of his chick. He was banded as a chick himself so he should know the drill but that was 10 years ago so maybe he doesn’t remember. As far as I know this is his first chick but JC is an old hand at this and she stood off at a distance waiting. We banded the chick Y9Y.
It was pretty chill during the process and when we let it go, it only ran a short way down the shoreline and stopped. W5 was quite pleased to have his chick back.
It is 34 days old and the primary feathers were almost completely grown in so it should be able to fly within days. Yay W5 & JC. Latest chick to fledge ever!
We continued on our way and found J6 & UF at home though they were on separate islands. Not sure what’s up with that. C1A & unbanded and their chick Y8Y were on a reef together which is the first time we’ve seen Y8Y since it fledged. Looking good!
Both pairs were present on Jigsaw and just loafing along the shoreline so we headed to Struve to check on the skimmers. Three of the oystercatcher pairs were not there and neither was the entangled chick. Only 12 & unbanded and the unbanded pair were present. Oddly they were all standing together where their territories join. The breeding season is officially over when they become buddies again!
We found only two unfledged skimmers. One was big enough to band so it is now K48. It wasn’t too happy to be handled.
There were 32 fledged skimmer chicks which is great! They are doing well this year. I believe there is a disagreement between parent and child of some sort here.
We headed along Galveston Island but found no oystercatchers and there were none at 8 Mile Road or on the docks either. Confederate Reef was exposed so we checked there and found a few. It’s getting kind of boring out there! We are usually long done by now but W5 & JC threw a wrench on that with their late chick.
We continued around the bay and found some more birds on the reefs across from Harbor Walk including CA & Y2 and their chicks (some of the missing birds from Jones Bay). There wasn’t anything else to check so we headed back to the boat ramp.
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: 0 nests being incubated, 41 failed nests, 1 nest with unfledged chicks, 0 nests with undetermined status, 17 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.