By Susan Heath
It’s time! Welcome back to the Oystercatcher Diaries. We started surveying in January but we didn’t find any nests until today. The weather has not been on our side so far and I’ve had to reschedule every survey from Thursday to Monday just to get them done! Not a good start but the weather out there this Monday was beautiful. We don’t get many days with almost no wind and cool temperatures but not cold.
Alan and I headed out and because it was so calm we were easily able to make it up to Swan Lake. All the pairs there were present but none of them had nests yet. 20 & unbanded have acquired a new decoration in their territory.
I guess that is a huge buoy. There must have been a really high tide for that to float to that location! 11 & unbanded’s chick from last year was visiting with them. I guess it took them so long to fledge a chick that they don’t want to let this one go!
My volunteer Kevin, who lives on the water by Struve Luci, emailed me last Friday that it looked like 12 & unbanded were incubating a nest so I was anxious to get there and check it out. We headed straight there from Swan Lake and found this!
So lovely. 12 & unbanded’s territory is very eroded now and too low for nesting. They put their nest on a higher spot that technically belongs to the pair next door, E5A & unbanded. I guess 12 & unbanded pushed them over a bit! E5A & unbanded were sitting on a dock, perhaps licking their wounds from the battle that must have ensued to make this happen and which they clearly lost. E5A & unbanded’s nest last year was very close to where 12 & unbanded’s nest is this year. It will be interesting to see where E5A & unbanded decide to put their nest this year.
We moved down the island and found that LT & JA also had a three egg nest.
There were some Laughing Gulls hanging around and one of the eggs already had a spider web shaped crack in it! Dang those gulls! We ran them off so they couldn’t do any more damage.
I was surprised to find that L9 & unbanded also had a three egg nest.
They don’t usually nest this early but this is a very good thing. If this nest makes it and the chicks survive, they will be about to fledge when the skimmers show up and take over the island. The oystercatcher chicks should be big enough to make it through the skimmer invasion. Here’s hoping.
We see a lot of other birds while we’re out there and today we saw this Long-billed Curlew doing some yoga! Such a beautiful bird.
After all that excitement we continued on our rounds but didn’t find any more nests. When we got to Gangs Bayou I spotted a Peregrine Falcon sitting on the breakwater. Just as Alan was about to snap a photo it flew.
Gorgeous! It landed in A4A & unbanded’s territory and Alan was able to get a sitting shot.
Most of the oystercatcher pairs are hanging around their territories and sometimes they express their dissatisfaction that we are spying on them. F1A & E2A were out on a reef but they still gave us the business when checked on them.
The Great Blue Herons are already setting up shop on North Deer and one day we counted over 50 of them along the shoreline. Thankfully they have moved into the trees now and started nesting building but the Reddish Egrets are still hanging along the water’s edge. We saw five beauties on the jetty where YM & JH were sitting.
I guess YM was questioning our loyalty when we were looking at the egrets!
As we turned to head toward Marker 52, a Customs and Border Patrol boat whizzed by. What? I’ve never seen them in this area. Wonder what that’s about?
This tide was really low so we decided to check the reefs along the GIWW down to Harbor Walk for youngsters. We found two groups that had five banded birds with them. Good to get those resights! On the way back, some dolphins were fishing in the channel and it was so calm that Alan was able to capture a few photos.
We headed into Jones Bay and witnessed the mess created by the expansion of the Tiki spoil area. It’s kind of amazing to watch this process. There are two giant backhoe type machines, one on a barge and one on a mudbank, moving the rocks around to build the new breakwater.
CA & Y2 were taking advantage and sitting on the new breakwater not too far from all the commotion. They put up with that but not with us trying to get close enough to get photos and they flew back to their island! Oh oystercatchers. You are so funny. We found a new pair (W1W & unbanded) appearing to defend an island that is much too low for nesting. That won’t go well you two! E4A & unbanded were on their island which is only about 50 feet from where the new breakwater is going in. Hopefully the construction will wrap up soon so they can think about making a nest.
There was a fishing boat in the middle of our usual channel back to the boat ramp so we had to go around the long way which took us way out into a part of Jones Bay that we don’t usually go to. Lo and behold we found a pair of unbanded birds defending an island out there. We have some jewelry for you! Stay tuned.
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! You can also adopt a pair of oystercatchers to support this project if you’d like. If you adopt a pair, you will receive an adoption certificate for your birds and I will update you monthly on their progress throughout the breeding season. All adoption funds will be used to fund our work for the oystercatchers.
Current Stats for upper Texas coast from Dickinson Bay to East Matagorda Bay: 3 nests being incubated, 0 failed nests, 0 nests with unfledged chicks, 0 nest with undetermined status, 0 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.