Oystercatcher Diaries 2023: Week of February 27, 2023


By Susan Heath

On Monday, Taylor Bennett and Taylor Snyder joined me for the first survey of East Matagorda Bay this season. We found only three pairs but I’m pretty sure there is at least one more that wasn’t home. The pair at Chinquapin was unbanded so we set up the noose carpets and caught the female. She is now F8A.

photo by Susan Heath

At the Oyster Farm we found that LF & M4 have a nest with two eggs. Nice!

photo by Susan Heath

I was surprised to find that M4 was paired with someone. She is quite old and hasn’t bred for several years. I banded her in 2011 as an adult so she is at least 16 years old! You go girl!

On Thursday, Taylor, Taylor, and I headed out to West Galveston Bay. Alan wasn’t able to make it this week. The wind was supposed to pick up significantly as the day went on so we got to the boat ramp early and headed up to Swan Lake. I really wanted to check on K7 & unbanded because I suspected they would have a nest. I was right! They did. Only one egg so far but I’m sure they will lay more.

photo by Taylor Bennett

All the other pairs there were on their territories but we didn’t find any other nests so we headed back to West Galveston Bay where it is more sheltered from the wind. On Struve Luci, all the nests on the island were fine but HM & X7’s nest on the rock wall was empty of eggs. Dang mammals. The must have found it. What a shame. We moved on to Jigsaw but found only one pair there, LH & JX. They were out on a reef so no nest for them yet.

YK & unbanded were also on a reef and for the second week in a row we didn’t find 16 & W1W. Where have they gone to? I’m sure they are trying to nest somewhere but we haven’t seen them in any of places we normally check. Some sleuthing is in order I suppose. Next time when we aren’t running from the wind.

There weren’t any oystercatchers at 8 Mile Road or on the docks and we didn’t find C8A & unbanded in the spot we found them last week where I was sure they would nest. Shucks. A4A & unbanded were hanging out on the tip end of their island doing pretty much nothing.

We checked Confederate Reef on the way to South Deer and found a lot of birds feeding there for the first time this season. The gang of youngsters returns!

On South Deer we found A1A’s unbanded mate on the reef that runs out from their territory and A1A creeping around on the island. Nest! Yes, they had two eggs! Woohoo!

photo by Susan Heath

None of the other pairs on South Deer had followed suit though so we headed over to North Deer. The wind had picked up significantly and we were all ready to be done. E8A & unbanded were standing amongst a huge flock of gulls in their territory. We searched but didn’t find a nest. C1A & unbanded were on a mudbank with no indication they had anything going on. YM & JH weren’t even home. Last week they were acting sketchy and I thought they’d have a nest by now but I guess they don’t.

We found JJ & P4 hanging out near where they had a nest last year but we found no nest. Ditto for J6 & UF. The pelicans are already starting to nest and the area where both these pairs nested last year is already covered with them. They have waited too long I’m afraid. The Reddish Egrets are setting up shop too and they are looking quite handsome.

photo by Taylor Bennett

W5 & JC were out on a reef and FR & unbanded didn’t have any action going on either. I’m very surprised that some of these birds don’t have nests by now. They usually nest much earlier. Weird. CA was sneaking around on his island but we only found scrapes.

We made our way around the construction of the Tiki Spoil to E4A & unbanded’s tiny island. Amazingly their nest still had three eggs. It will be an incredible feat if they pull this off! That was the last pair so we headed back to the boat very glad to get out of the wind!

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: 7 nests being incubated, 1 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.